The creative survivor

Dinesh Kumar sells balloon around Lautoka city. Picture: REINAL CHAND

Dinesh Kumar epitomises the true meaning of creativity and perseverance. For the past 15 years, he has made a living by selling balloons in the city of Lautoka.

While the sight of balloons on the streets may signal the arrival of a festive season, for Kumar, they are his source of livelihood. Kumar was born in Varadoli, Ba.

He grew up facing the harsh realities and at a very young age he realised that he had to be creative and innovative to survive in a tough world.

“We moved to Nadi when I was young because our house in Ba was burnt down in a fire.

My parents struggled, with cane cutting being the only source of income for the family,” said the 55-year-old.

He says, to make matters worse, there were nine siblings in the family and this caused financial constraints.

“After completing my Year 13, I went to Suva as my elder brother was already working in the capital. I started working at a prominent retail company as a salesperson and remained there for around 15 years.”

Kumar says he went back to Nadi and worked at a garment factory.

“I landed a job as a supervisor in a garment factory after I undertook a course at the then Fiji National Training Council and worked there for 10 years until the garment factory closed down.”

He says, shortly after his dad passed away and the responsibility of taking care of his younger siblings fell on him. To support them, he had to work even harder than before.

“I did not get married when I was of marriageable age because I prioritised my younger siblings future and meeting daily household expenses.”

Kumar says he even worked as a fisherman for five years and left because it was a very energy-sapping profession.

His turning point in life came when he saw a YouTube video where a man in India was selling balloon with sticks.

“I went around looking in shops for materials and I found them in it one of the shops. I bought 100 pieces of balloons with sticks and to my surprise they sold like hot cakes.” Kumar says kids love balloons and find it very attractive.

“From then on I developed more ideas, like selling the coloured plastic horn ‘Vuvuzela’ at sporting events, especially at rugby matches.

“I am more of a seasonal seller of different things that can earn money, like selling mango pickles in the mango season and selling waterlilies during Diwali.”

Kumar has been living in Lautoka for the past 15 years and is appreciative of the help from the Lautoka City Council, which allows him to sell things around the city at a marginal fee. “To earn money, you need to have good ideas and work hard.”

“In life, no matter how big the struggles you go through, never lose hope and keep on going.”

He says when parents do not have enough to buy balloons he gives them for free as treats for the children.

“Never at any moment in life, have I felt ashamed of the way I earn money because I don’t beg and I am not dependent on anyone. I am earning money the honest way.”

Kumar says people who are ashamed of their jobs need to realise that sweating to support the family is rewarding.

“Sell mango pickles in the mango season or roti parcels, pancakes or whatever. You cannot die of hunger if you make an effort to work.”

He says his hobbies include swimming and meeting people and his dream is to have a house of his own.

“I have been renting here in Lautoka for around 15 years now and I wish to buy a house for myself one day.”

Kumar says his role model in life was his elder brother who taught him valuable lessons in life.

“Youngsters should stay away from bad influences, minimise on the use of gadgets and most importantly be honest with yourself.”

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