Hob, The Protector

This is Hob. Formerly known as Hobbes and now renamed Hob by Isha, my six-year-old daughter. I’ve owned Hobbes for about 15 years or so now. Two nights ago, I officially handed him over to Isha. Here is how it happened. This is going to be a bit long but I really want to remember this in detail even years from now.

I had just put Isha in bed, kissed her goodnight and turned off the light. I was heading to the other room to watch a movie when…

Isha: DAAAD! DAAAAD!!!
Me: (Rushing back) What? What?
Isha: Dad! I’m scared!
Me: Of what? You’re not scared of anything.
Isha: I don’t like it when it’s dark. It scares me. Shahaadhai ves kiyaafin but still I’m scared.
Me: (skeptical) Really? You roam all over the room at night when we are asleep, without turning on any lights. How can you be scared of the dark? Still, I can turn on the light if you want.
Isha: Dhen eyrun I can’t sleep ennun, stupid!
Me: sigh… so what?
Isha: Stay with me. Aadhey Isha kaareega onnan. You can go when I sleep.
Me: Oh dhoonee, I really want to but I have to do some work…
Isha: Movie balan?
Me: What? Noooo? Office work… very busy stuff.
Isha: But dad. I can’t sleep.
Me: Just close your eyes. That’s the first step.
Isha: But dhen eyrun I will see many scary things.
Me: But even if I am here with you, you will still see them when you close your eyes.
Isha: No. Dad mithaa ineema I won’t be alone. With you I’m not scared.
Me: oh you sweet little kid.
Isha: So aadhey!!!
Me: Hmm tell you what. What if I there was someone else here who will protect you while you sleep?
Isha: (gets up from under the blanket, intrigued) Who?
Me: It’s an old friend of mine. You’ve met him already.
Isha: DAAAD! KAAAKU THA??

I take Hobbes out of the drawer where he is kept and show him to Isha, who squeals in delight!

Isha: (jumping up and down on the bed) Really? I can have Hobbes?
Me: Yep.
Isha: (jump-hugs me and grabs Hobbes) YAY! Thank you, daddy.
Me: Good. So go to sleep now.
Isha: But dad. Are you sure Hobbes can protect me? He’s not real ennun?
Me: Of course, he’s real. He’s a ferocious tiger!
Isha: But he’s so small.
Me: Only when you’re awake. When you’re asleep, Hobbes becomes really big and will protect you against all monsters.
Isha: Really? He will protect me against the curtain monster? And Santhi Mariyambu? And the zombies? And the sharks around the bed?
Me: Yes… wait, what curtain monster?
Isha: What about the shirt monster in the cupboard? And the wheezy monster who goes “snnnnrrrrrrzzzz sssssnrrrrrrrrr”…
Me: eh? Shirt monster? What is…
Isha: And the…
Me: Isha! Yes! He will protect you from all those… but I don’t think I’m going to be getting any sleep tonight. *looking around* What wheezy monster?
Isha: What about dreams. Hobbes will protect me from bad dreams too?
Me: Of course!
Isha. He’s like a dreamcatcher dho?
Me: Yup! Exactly.
Isha: Did he protect you too? When you were a little baby?
Me: hehe no. I wasn’t a little kid when I got Hobbes. When I was little, I didn’t have anyone or anything to protect me from bad dreams. I had to do with a towel over my head.
Isha: hahahah… that’s funny, dad. But you love Hobbes dho?
Me: Yea. He’s special. He did cheer me up a lot of times when I was really unhappy. How can I be unhappy when he looks that cute?
Isha: (laughing) Awww he’s so cute dho, dad? Dad. Why is he called Hobbes? He is only one tiger ennun? Not many.
Me: He’s named after my favourite imaginary tiger. It’s from one of my favourite comics.
Isha: Like a cartoon?
Me: Yes, a bit. When you’re older you will read them too… maybe a few years from now. Or even sooner if you want.
Isha: Ok, dad. But since he’s mine now. Can I name him?
Me:… um… yep. He’s yours, only fair that you should name him. What are you going to call him?
Isha: Hob. He’s just one tiger. So Hob.
Me: (smiling) Right. Hob it is then. Now off you go. I’ll keep him near your pillow so he can protect you from everything.
Isha: Ok, dad. Good night, dad. Good night, Hobbes. I mean, Hob.
Me: Good night, Isha. Sweet dreams, dhoonee.

Within a few minutes, she’s asleep.

Next morning, Isha shakes me awake.

Isha: Dad!!! I didn’t have scary dreams last night. Hob saved me! He’s awesome!!!
Me: Told you.🙂
Isha: Dad, I love you (hugs me). And Hob says he loves you too.

If there is a more beautiful moment in a parent’s life than when your child hugs you and tells you she loves you, I can’t think of any.

The Lure of Night Fishing


Among the various relaxing activities that guests can indulge in during a holiday in the Maldives, night-fishing trips clearly stand out as a popular way of enjoying a distinctly Maldivian pastime. Or so the promotional brochures and resort leaflets will have you believe.

I was on a two-day trip to Fihalhohi Island Resort, an idyllic resort island in South Malé Atoll more suited to budget-conscious travellers seeking a “pure” Maldivian resort experience without being distracted by the glamour, extravagant pampering and luxurious accommodation available at the more high-end resorts in the country. I was going through the list of available services at the resort when the words “night-fishing” caught my eye.

According to much of the promotional literature available at the resorts of the Maldives, night-fishing as a form of leisure activity was a long-running tradition in the country that could be traced back to when the Maldivian forefathers (who were apparently mostly fishermen) had first figured out that fish don’t necessarily tuck themselves in for the night when the sun sets over the horizon, and could still be caught just as easily as during daylight hours. I’ve always had difficulty imagining that my ancestors would willingly go back to the sea at night with the sole intention of catching more fish, when they already spent most of their day in a dhoni (boat), labouring under a mercilessly hot sun, trying to hook the tricky and elusive fellows while being constantly rocked and tossed about by the huge waves on the open sea. Why anyone would choose to head back out there again – particularly at a time when they would be at a clear disadvantage given the fact that visibility would be limited to a few feet around the boat – was beyond me.

However, my opinion changed somewhat when I experienced firsthand how soothing and relaxing a night-time voyage on a traditional Maldivian sailboat can be, especially if it’s a calm, starry night with a full moon above, and its slightly rippling counterpart reflecting off the surface of the ocean. So why ruin the mood by engaging in a frustrating activity like fishing, I wondered. At this point I must admit – if it hasn’t become apparent already – that I am a bit biased against night-fishing as I’ve tried my hand at it three times in my life and those experiences had not exactly been successful.

The first night-fishing trip I went to was back when I was a teenager. The group of friends who had organised the trip had each chipped in an equal sum from their pocket money to rent a small mechanized dhoni and a crew of two to take us out to sea. At sundown, equipped with freshly purchased fishing equipment, we anchored off a reef near Hulhulé (where the country’s first international airport is located), dropped our lines over the side of the small boat and settled down. Before the hour was up we had caught more than a dozen reef fish in varying sizes and colours. I say “we” in the loosest sense of the word since even though everyone else had caught at least one fish, I had not been so lucky – unless you count the rock I snagged with my hook and line. A crew member eventually had to cut my line with a knife after I nearly capsized the boat while futilely pulling, releasing and yanking the line in an attempt to dislodge the hook from whatever immovable object it had caught onto down in the depths of the dark water. By the time we headed back, nearly three hours later and almost two dozen fish richer, I had managed to cut my fingers in three places with the fishing line, hook a friend’s shirt and land a huge black eel (which my friends to this day claim was a small black spotted eel, not even a foot long, despite my assertion that it was actually a giant moray eel about five feet in length). We finally managed to throw the wildly snapping and flopping whirlwind of razor-sharp teeth back into the water after several intense minutes of screaming and hopping about on the wobbling boat, struggling to avoid the eel’s maw and grab it by its tail.

The second time was several years later, when I was on an uninhabited island in Baa Atoll with another group of friends. We were all lying back on the beach, relating funny stories we had all heard many times before and staring up at the beautiful starry sky above when someone floated the idea that it would be beyond brilliant to have a beach barbecue of freshly caught reef fish for dinner that night. A chorus of agreement and an hour later I found myself in the middle of the ocean, throwing out a baited line from the big dhoni we had hired to get to the island. The storm hit us from out of nowhere. Within the span of a few minutes the starry sky was replaced by ominous dark clouds and the full moon disappeared behind a huge thunderhead. Being the “macho” men that they were, to a man my friends refused to head back without catching something. At least they got that wish for they all had come down with severe colds by the time we somehow managed to navigate the rough sea, the pouring rain and the powerful winds to make it back to the island in one piece.

My third night-fishing trip ended up with the speedboat we were on crashing into a reef before we had even arrived at one of the many “fishing hot spots” purportedly located near a popular resort in North Malé Atoll. Everyone onboard, severely bruised but otherwise unhurt in the crash, were stranded hip-deep on the submerged reef for one extremely long and suspenseful hour while the Coastguard tried to locate us before the wrecked speedboat was pushed off the reef and into the deeper waters by the crashing waves. Needless to say, no fish were caught on that trip either.

So, as you can imagine, my past experiences in night-fishing were a very far cry from the fun-filled but relaxing activity generally advertised in resort brochures. Despite all that I still found myself intrigued enough by the very concept of night-fishing, what was by now beginning to sound like a Zen-like meditational activity to me, to sign up for the resort’s night-fishing excursion that night.

I arrived at the resort’s jetty around 5pm or so. Two dhonis – one painted a bright blue and the other a light brown – were already waiting with their engines idling, ready to whisk the clients off to the predefined fishing positions beyond the resort’s reef. Those who had signed up for the excursion, two groups of six guests each, started boarding their respective vessels as soon as I arrived. I was assigned to the group that boarded the blue dhoni and sat down on the wooden seats that lined the sides of the boat on the port and starboard side. There are no fishing rods, poles or spinning rules used in night-fishing. It was the lack of modern equipment that made night-fishing in the Maldives such a fun pastime, we were told. Each of us picked up a yellow plastic reel – roughly six inches in diameter – that had been placed on the deck. The fishing line had been rolled around it and the crew had even attached a hook and lead sinker to the line. During my first fishing trip as a teenager, I had to roll the fishing line around an empty plastic bottle as we had only enough money to buy the fishing line. It was crude but had worked surprisingly well. “How convenient it is now”, I thought to myself. Properly attaching the hook to the fishing line and looping it through the hollow middle of the cone-shaped lead sinker was a skill I had never managed to master. Usually the process would take me the better half of an hour, so I usually did that during the time it took the boat to travel to its destination. It was at that moment that I realised that things were going to be much simpler and definitely more enjoyable this time around.

We reached the “fishing spot” after about 15 minutes of travelling west from the resort. The sky was just turning orange in that direction as the sun slowly sank lower and already there were hints of purple and red on the eastern sky. Only a few clouds covered the sky near the horizon and they were fringed in bright gold. We were still pretty close to the resort and could even make out people walking along the resort’s white beach. After weighing anchor the captain shut off the dhoni’s engine, and the crew members revealed a large Styrofoam box on the deck that had been covered by a wide-mouthed bucket. The bucket was empty at the moment but would be used to keep the day’s catch, providing there were any. The box was filled with fish guts and strips of flesh, mostly belly cuts from tuna. This was the bait. The crew clustered around the box and began hooking the strips of fish onto the fishing lines. One by one the guests collected their lines and moved to a preferred location around the boat and threw the weighted lines and bait over the side.

According to the resort brochure, from this point on, the expedition could go one of two ways. The first option is available if the fish are really biting. In that case, the brochure tells me, there’s less talk and more excited shouts as guests begin pulling in snappers, squirrelfish, jacks and other reef fish one after the other. Well, that wasn’t how it went that day so I was left with the second option which states that “if the fish aren’t biting, then things are less exciting as everyone finds a comfortable spot on the deck to stretch out their legs and starts swapping fishing stories while enjoying the beauty of the starry night sky or the moonlit night, the gentle breezes and the peaceful sounds of the ocean waves”.

Looking around the boat I saw a couple, possibly honeymooners, necking at the bow of the boat, their fishing lines entangled as much as their limbs were. There would not be much “fishing stories” forthcoming from that section, it was safe to assume. Behind me, on the port side, sat a man, probably in his sixties, with a jolly-looking face whose whole attire and personality practically shouted “I’m on holiday and I’m having a blast!” He reeled out his fishing line nearly to its entire length and then began pulling it back in, even faster than he had released it. Halfway through he stopped and released it again. He looked at me and winked. “Have to keep the fishies guessing,” he told me in a British accent, and suddenly released his hold on the line entirely. He watched the line stream out into the sea and then grabbed it just as it was nearing the end of its length. He wound it around the leg of his chair twice and then he leaned back against his seat and closed his eyes, smiling jovially all the while.

Two men were standing at the stern of the boat, flanking the rudder on both sides. The boat’s captain was explaining something to them, fast-talking in what I can only assume was Italian. I wasn’t able to figure out whether the captain was giving out some expert tips on fishing or explaining what exactly you were supposed to do with the fishing line, but one of the Italians made a gesture, miming using a fishing rod. The captain laughed and answered in a stream of Italian that I probably wouldn’t have been able to comprehend even if I knew more than a few words in the language. So much for swapping fishing stories, I thought to myself and turned my attention back to my line… and the waiting.

The boat was quiet after that. Everyone was just concentrating on their line, waiting to feel that sudden pull that would signal something had taken the bait and was nibbling on it or, better yet, gulping down the entire bait and hook. I’m not sure exactly what I do wrong at this stage but my past experiences have convinced me that fish seem to be able to sense which line and hook was mine and avoid it as if their life depended on it, which I suppose it does. I’ve tried telling myself that I don’t do anything different than what the others do so it’s quite unfathomable to me why fish wouldn’t take my bait when they would happily chomp down on my fellow fishermen’s bait. There was probably a fish school somewhere in the depths where a teacher fish conducted hour-long classes on how to detect and avoid my bait. Judging by the results through the years, the class was probably very popular.

So I wasn’t really surprised when one of the Italians suddenly shouted out and began pulling on his line. His friend joined in to help his fellow countryman pull in the fish, handing his own line over to the captain first. After about half a minute of excited chatter and pulling, the two Italians pulled out a large, purple and yellow fish; a surgeonfish, I guessed. The crew immediately went to work, dislodging the hook from the fish’s mouth and re-baiting it before throwing the flopping fish into the large bucket. All the guests gathered around to see the day’s first catch. It was a very colourful fish, no doubt very popular among divers and the kind of fish I would be looking forward to encountering if I was exploring the reefs of the Maldives with a snorkel. The captain identified the fish with its local name and the Italians tried unsuccessfully to pronounce it correctly before laughing and giving up and returning to their lines to catch some more.

Not even five minutes later, there was another shout; this time from the couple on the bow. Their excited squeals ended sharply as the woman lost her grip on the line, despite the encouragement from her husband. Luckily, a crew member was there to help and he snatched the line up again and began pulling the fish in. This one was a red-snapper, considered a delicacy when properly cooked. The couple kissed and congratulated each other on their skill, posing for photos with their catch. Even the crew seemed impressed with the snapper. Within the next half an hour so, five more fish were caught: two by the Italians, another by the honeymooners and two large Harlequin sweetlips (which must have measured nearly two feet in length) by the Briton behind me.

By then the sun was setting and the captain decided to move to another location more suitable for fishing in the dark. With seven fish in the bucket, and none of them caught by me, I was feeling the familiar frustration welling up within me. Surely, there must be something – some secret fishing technique – which everyone but me was aware of. However, despite long and careful observation, I was unable to detect the secret fishing technique. Whatever it was, it was really subtle. Of course, I’ve felt a few nibbles on my line too during the first hour but the four or five times I had actually reeled the line in thinking I had caught something, I had found an empty hook – the bait was missing. Whatever kind of fish was brave enough to make a go at my bait, it was being extra-careful. Either that or it was a very delicate eater.

By the time we arrived at the second location to the south of Fihalhohi Island Resort, the sun had set and the bright oranges, reds and purples of a typical Maldivian sunset were fading to darker shades. A few stars were twinkling in the sky and the crescent moon, with Venus to the side, shone down brilliantly on us. As before, we baited the hooks and dropped the lines over the side of the boat. I had reeled out almost half my fishing line when I felt a slight pull on the line. Unsure if I had simply imagined it, I stopped and concentrated on the line in my hand, waiting for the telltale pull to be repeated. The line jerked harder in my hand, and I immediately yanked on the line and began pulling for all I was worth.

“Don’t let him go, son! Keep pulling!” the Briton called out, seeing me pulling at the line. I could feel the fish – it was a big one, I could tell from the weight and the fight it was putting up – trying to escape and began pulling all the harder. By now the Briton was my side, shouting encouragements.

“Oh this will be a whopper of a fish!” he said, the excitement clear in his eyes. Of course, his excitement couldn’t possibly compare with mine at the moment. In the distance, I heard a splash.

“I can see it,” the Briton said, squinting into the fading light. “It’s huge. Get the camera ready, cappy! I want a picture of me with this fish and the man who caught it!” The captain rushed forward with the camera. Even the two Italians and the honeymooners came over, excited about the first catch from the second location for the evening. Even though I heard the splash I couldn’t see it, but that was fine. I could feel its weight from the pull on the line and it was the most amazing feeling ever. I pulled harder. And suddenly, I felt the line go slack in my hands. I nearly fell over but stopped when I bounced off the chest of the huge Briton behind me. I gritted my teeth in frustration and shook my head. I felt a big hand on my shoulder and the Briton said, “Don’t worry. There’s always one that gets away.”

I nodded and continued to pull the line in. As I suspected, the bait was gone and even the hook looked a little twisted this time. Was it a shark? I would never know. The Briton came over and sat down next to me. I started winding the line around the plastic reel but he stopped me.

“Don’t do that,” he advised. “The length you rolled out the line when you get your first bite gives you an indication of how deep the fishies are. You have to mark that length and drop your line to that depth again.”

I nodded. After a crew member helped me replace the hook and bait it with a strip of tuna belly, I began releasing the line again to the previous depth. No one caught anything for half an hour or so, even though there were a few false alarms. I had two nibbles but nothing major and had to replace my bait twice. After a while the captain decided to move to a new spot as the fish in that location were probably too small, because they kept eating the bait without getting caught. As I was rolling the line in, I felt a little pull. I yanked it back, more out of frustration than anything else. To my surprise the line went taut – I had hooked something! Immediately I grabbed the line with both hands and began pulling. Whatever kind of fish this was, it wasn’t putting up nearly as much a fight as the one that had gotten away from me previously, but I was happy that I had caught something again. Now if only I could pull it in before it got away. Soon I heard a splash as the fish surfaced. I pulled it aboard and in the light of the boat’s lamps I could tell it was a comparatively small red-snapper. But the oddest thing was that I had caught the fish by its tail! My first real catch, and my hook had caught the fish by the tail!

“I’ll be damned!” said the Briton, laughing loudly. “I’ve never seen a fish hooked by its tail before.”

Everyone burst into laughter and gathered round. The captain came over and scratched his head.

“You must have hooked it as it was passing by or something,” he said, still looking at the flopping fish with an amused smile. “Definitely one of the strangest techniques I’ve seen.”

I couldn’t agree more, but I didn’t care. I had caught my first fish! And nothing could beat that. My luck was changing, I could feel it. When we moved to the third and final spot for the night, I managed to hook one more; a bluefin trevally, about three feet big. It put up such a fight that it took both me and the big Briton pulling together on the line to pull aboard. The others caught a few more at the location, but none were as big as the Trevally I had caught. At around 7.30pm the captain decided enough had been caught for the night and set a course back to the resort. Everyone gathered around the bucket filled with different varieties of fish they had caught. They were talking at once, recollecting their experiences and grinning from ear to ear. By the time we arrived back at the resort we had all become better acquainted with each other and were laughing and sharing stories.

I wondered aloud about what would happen to our catch when we got back to the resort. The captain said that if we wished he could set up a beach barbecue on arrival and we could all hang out together and have some fun at the beach. Everyone cheered! The resort brochures had failed to mention this part, I realised. I was finally beginning to understand just how exciting and relaxing a night-fishing trip was, and why my forefathers might have chosen this as a way of relieving the accumulated stress of a hard day’s work.

Originally published on http://www.maldivestraveller.mv

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Room With a View: Anantara Veli

NOTE: This review of my short stay at the Deluxe Over-Water Bungalow at Anantara Veli was originally written for the Maldives Traveller website.

Standing on the edge of the sundeck on one of the 14 Deluxe Over-Water Bungalows at Anantara Veli Resort and Spa, I took in a deep breath and filled my lungs with the clear sea air. It was almost noon and the hardwood planks under my bare feet were hot… but I didn’t mind. The breathtaking view of the resort’s turquoise lagoon stretching out before me in all its glory was worth the minor inconvenience. Around 100 metres away from me, separated by the blue lagoon, was a narrow stretch of sandbank dotted with coconut trees, various kinds of bushes and other vegetation. A hammock hung between two of the coconut trees which had been planted close together, possibly for that very purpose. For a second I fancied leaping from the edge of the sundeck – or the “sun terrace” as the resort brochures call it – and diving into the clear aquamarine waters below. Maybe even swim across the channel to the sandbank and climb onto the hammock to doze off under the shade of the two coconut trees. It was tempting. However, I instead climbed down the stairs to the lower level of the sundeck and sat at the edge, dipping my feet into the cool water near the metal ladder which provided direct access to and from the lagoon.

Various species of brightly coloured fish flitted about around the columns which supported the water bungalows; pecking and feeding. Occasionally a bigger fish such as a napoleon wrasse or a small blacktip reef shark would enter the area, sending the small schools of fish into a sudden frenzy as they executed various defensive formations and manoeuvres to escape the predator. Strangely, the appearance of considerably larger shapes, tourists in snorkelling and diving gear, did not seem to cause such an adverse reaction. In fact, the little creatures seemed more curious than scared, darting in out of the coral beds right in front of the divers and occasionally passing inches away from their masks and nibbling on their outstretched hands and fingers, much to the delight of the guests.

Despite the cool breeze, it eventually became too hot to stay on the sundeck. I had the choice of either jumping into the lagoon to cool off or going inside into the air-conditioned room. I chose the latter and opened the sliding glass door which separated the room from the sundeck. The spacious room was luxuriously furnished with all modern amenities while incorporating some elements to give a rustic island feel, such as hardwood floors and coconut-thatch roofs. The king-size bed took up most of the room and I hopped up onto it, propping up the pillows and making myself comfortable before turning on the widescreen TV in the corner. A DVD player was also provided but I was not in the mood for a movie on this occasion.

After surfing through dozens of satellite channels I eventually settled on a music channel I liked and then began exploring the rest of the room. It was chock-full of delightful surprises. Near the entrance I found a tray filled with snacks. Further exploration turned up a mini-bar filled with various goodies and drinks, a tea/espresso machine and even a small “wine cellar”. A small table near the bed had a chess and checkers board carved into it. A halved pineapple with the inside scooped out to form a bowl was filled with pieces of various fruits such as kiwis, strawberries, apples and water-melons. The only desk in the room was located right next to the window so that it offered the same view as that from the sun terrace. I suspected there was high speed WiFi internet access available too, but what’s the point of getting online if you really wanted to get away from the dredges of daily life?

At Anantara Veli Resort and Spa, the focus is on offering guests the ultimate in privacy and luxury and nowhere is it more apparent than in the bathroom. The walls of the bathroom are made of glass, with the areas above neck-height made of clear transparent glass and the lower areas given a frosted glass effect. The intent was to give the bathroom area a private but open-air feel, and it worked. Hot and cold water was available in the shower and a luxurious infinity-edge terrazzo bathtub, big enough for two people, was positioned right at the edge of the glass wall, giving the occupants an unobstructed view of the amazing lagoon and clear blue sky. A relaxing bubble-bath never looked this inviting! Another sliding glass door made the sundeck directly accessible from the bathroom.

After taking a refreshing cold shower, I pulled on a bathrobe and headed to the tiered sundeck. The sun was lower in the sky and the heat of the day was becoming a fading memory. I stretched out on the daybed on the terrace and watched the clouds form various shapes as they slowly passed by above. The sky was already turning orange. Soon night will fall and the view from the room will change. The sky will grow darker and the stars will begin twinkling. This far from any bright sources of illumination, the night sky will present an incomparable view filled with millions of stars. Could there possibly be a more idyllic place to spend some time just resting, relaxing and rejuvenating? I couldn’t think of any.

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In Eydhafushi for the Eid Holidays

NOTE: This article was originally published in the Maldives Traveller blog.

“Oh, so you’re from those beautiful tropical islands.”

Whenever I’m visiting another country, that’s the usual response I get from people when I introduce myself and tell them that I am from the Maldives. Obviously the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board has done an excellent marketing job, but the response always jolts me a little as I try to take the phrase “beautiful tropical islands” and apply it, with some degree of difficulty, to the island where I live: Malé, the Capital of Maldives. The refreshingly enticing postcard image of tall coconut trees swaying in the breeze under a hot sun while gentle waves lap against white sandy beaches is true for every single tourist resort in the country, but the same cannot be said for the Capital.

Malé is an entirely different kind of beast. It’s noisy, dusty, and there are only a handful of places in the entire island where you can actually find a coconut tree or a white, sandy beach. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, Malé is definitely not the place. So it’s no wonder that most people living in Malé would find any excuse to take a break from their frantic lifestyle and set off for one of the numerous inhabited or uninhabited islands – or if you can afford it, one of the resorts. It is one of the ironies of life in Maldives that the average Maldivian can’t afford a relaxing holiday in the very islands that their country is so famous for. However, the hundreds of inhabited and uninhabited islands have a lot to offer to the weary local traveller, and it’s a lot cheaper too.

Take for instance the islands in Baa atoll. Roughly around 100 kilometres away from Malé – two and a half hours away by speedboat – the atoll hosts several world class resorts such as Soneva Fushi & Spa, Royal Island Resort & Spa, Reethi Beach Resort and Four Seasons Resort. The atoll has over 75 islands and only 13 are inhabited. The Capital of the atoll is Eydhafushi.

The population of Eydhafushi is about 3000 and it is a very popular destination for holidaymakers from Malé during the two Eid holidays that occur every year. Several activities, including many traditional ones, are held in the atoll but Eydhafushi is usually the hub of activities. Local celebrities such as actors, singers, dancers, and whole entertainment troupes tour the atolls during the holidays and while they may skip some islands due to their busy schedules, it’s rare that they would give Eydhafushi a miss.

The first time I visited Eydhafushi was in November 2004, just five weeks or so before the Asian Tsunami swept through the country, destroying several islands and causing untold damage to Eydhafushi and several other islands in many other atolls. The day I arrived in Eydhafushi also happened to be on the eve of Eid al-Fitr, or ‘Kuda Eid’ as the festival is usually called by locals, which roughly translate as ‘The Lesser Eid’. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. The other religious holiday that is celebrated in Maldives is Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated after completion of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage of Muslims worldwide to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is the most important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God, but instead was able to sacrifice a ram (by God’s command). Depending on the country, the Eid celebrations can go on for days. In Maldives, the holidays are marked on a national level and the festivities during both holidays can continue for three or more days.

Compared to Malé, most other islands of the Maldives can only be described as ‘sleepy’ and Eydhafushi is no exception. Sure, the harbour area where the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company’s ferry docked was thronged with people looking to welcome friends and relatives or to collect cargo and other goods that had been sent to them from Malé. But once the ferry was empty of cargo and passengers, the area became deserted in no time at all. A friend from the island, at whose house I was staying while in Eydhafushi, met me at the jetty and after exchanging greetings we started walking towards his house. The short trek to his house was uneventful. Since it was almost noon only a few people, mostly children, were out and about on the roads, playing under the shade of a tree or taking turns riding a small bicycle across the uneven ground. As someone who had grown up with the noisy bustle of Malé as a backdrop, it always takes me several minutes to adjust to the stillness and silence of the rural islands. I commented on how peaceful it was and my friend explained that there were only a few vehicles on the island, mostly taxis, motorcycles and a few trucks. As if to accentuate his point, a motorcycle turned the corner, skidding slightly in the soft white sands, and then roared past us. Long after the motorcycle had disappeared from view down the road, I could still hear the distant thunder of the engine’s roar.

After stashing my travel gear at my friend’s place I headed out to explore. A trek around the island was over too soon and after capturing some shots of a spectacular sunset on my camera I headed home and spent the rest of the day in bed, watching TV and reading a book. After a traditional rice and garudhiya dinner with my friend and his family, I decided to call it a night so that I could be up early to attend the Eid prayers the next day.

The next day, after attending Eid prayers, I made a beeline for the harbour area. Another ferry had docked and the place was bustling with activity: the holidaymakers had begun arriving. The first ferry had not even finished unloading when another entered the harbour, and then three more arrived in quick succession. Just like that, the sleepy atmosphere began to melt away.

In the span of a few minutes, groups of children armed with water pistols and water balloons transformed the main roads and alleys into major warzones. A road that appeared to be deserted would suddenly turn out to be a well planned ambush point, and many an unwary pedestrian found this out the hard way after being hit on the back of the head with a water balloon or being doused with a whole bucket of water by giggling girls hiding on rooftops. More often than not, the ammunition used was coloured. Soon it wasn’t just the children taking part in the “Fen Kulhi” (water game). The sight of middle-aged men and women with their arms loaded with water balloons chasing someone while their own face and clothes were covered in multihued splashes became more common as the day progressed. When the older boys joined in on the fun, things took another twist as instead of coloured water they began using a more potent mix of paint, oil colour, glue, flour and anything else that could not be easily washed away. It apparently worked, as even after three days some people could still be seen sporting multicoloured hair and traces of bright colours on their faces and hands.

The ‘Fen Kulhi’ participants, those who joined voluntarily and involuntarily, called a truce around noon, as time for the mid-day prayers neared. As the men prepared to attend the prayers, the smell of cooking, usually involving chicken that had been slaughtered in ritual sacrifice earlier – or as has become more commonplace lately, bought from stores – wafted through the island. Every household prepares a scrumptious feast and invites neighbours, friends and relatives, and sometimes total strangers, to share the meal. Some families would even get together to host veritable banquets in their courtyards or on the sides of the roads. By the time the men return from the mosques the tables are set with dozens of varieties of food. Once the men have eaten their fill, the women dig in. A short siesta follows before activities resume.

Earlier, while the water fights were ongoing on the roads, other activities such as ‘Koadijehun’ had also been taking place. ‘Koadijehun’ is one of the oldest traditional games that have been played among men and women of Maldives. It begins with the womenfolk preparing a special ornately designed hat – the koadi – and placing it on the head of one of the men that they selected as the bearer. In order to get rid of the hat the man has to climb a tall coconut tree and place it there. When this happens, the womenfolk will have to “convince” one of the other men to climb the tree and get it back. The catch is that if the “hero” the womenfolk had convinced is discovered to be conspiring to get the ‘koadi’ back for them, the other men will surround the tree and paint the trunk with all sorts of slippery, gooey, disgusting and smelly stuff so that the person who climbed the tree will have to get really filthy if he climbs down. Usually, the man will have no option but to jump off the tree to avoid a sticky and smelly end but that doesn’t mean he will get away easily. Men and women will surround the tree with the men trying to ensure that the traitor is properly punished for betraying them and the women trying to save him. In any case, in the end the traitor will be carried off by the women and washed clean near the beach using sand and seawater. Traditionally, he will then be carried off to a gifili – an open air toilet – where he is given a special shower by three young ladies. In some islands, the special shower is delivered by three older women. If the man happens to be married, the women have to get permission from the wife before he’s taken into the gifili.

Later, with the koadi on his head, the hero will be pampered from every side by the womenfolk who will attend to his every wish while a huge feast is prepared especially for him. This ancient custom obviously includes a lot of subtleties that is now lost to the mists of time. Some historians even argue that ‘koadijehun’ had initially been some sort of mating ritual and not surprisingly, if you were to inquire about the game and ritual from senior citizens in different atolls you’ll likely end up with several variations.

A large percentage of the holidaymakers, especially the young boys and girls, also like to head out on hired boats to go fishing or visit nearby islands. The rhythmic banging of bodu berus (traditional drums) and singing accompany the boats as they head out into the open sea or towards other islands. The boats will return within a few hours or by sunset, depending on the whims of those who had hired it out.

As the heat of the day begins dissipating and the sun sinks lower in the western horizon, the official games begin. Most of the games organized are competitive games between different wards, districts or sports clubs in the island. Football, volleyball, baibala and bashi are the most popular games and supporters from nearby islands arrive in droves to cheer their teams. Baibala, similar to kabaddi played in India, used to be a men’s sport but now several women’s teams have also started taking part. Bashi, however, still remains a women’s sport. It was traditionally played with a ball made of woven coconut leaves. The game is played between teams with a player from one team hitting the ball across the net with her bat while the fielders from the other team try to catch the ball. During the time of the country’s first President, Mohamed Amin Didi, he introduced a modernized version of the sport by using a tennis ball instead of the woven ball. Later the wooden bat was replaced with a tennis racket and now the sport has become so popular in the islands that bashi teams regularly travel within and outside the atolls to play competitive games. The football field at the heart of the island is where most of the football matches are held while the huge playing field in the eastern side of the island hosts most of the other sports activities, usually several events simultaneously.

By sunset, most of the sports events had concluded, although some of the competitions would continue for two more days before winners were announced. With the coming of the night, the celebrations turned more festive as the island prepared to host the stage shows and other musical events that would continue late into the night. While visiting celebrities took the main stage at the island’s stadium area, other smaller musical events organized by local talent were preparing to rock the night in various corners of the island. Most people would flock to see the dances, songs and plays being performed by the most popular artists in the country, but the younger crowds usually eventually gravitated towards the several music shows hosted by the youth clubs from the island. The music and stage shows would continue as long as there were an audience there to cheer them on and it isn’t rare for the shows to last way past midnight. After checking out the stage show at the stadium I came upon three music shows held just blocks away from each other. As expected, the audience here were mostly young couples and small groups of teenagers huddled together in small isolated groups. Feeling the effects of an exhausting day sightseeing and walking all over the island, I returned home and went to sleep. My first Eid holiday in Eydhafushi had turned out to be as eventful, interesting and entertaining as I had expected.

Since that initial visit to Eydhafushi, I have visited the island several times over the years. Although the island has gone through many changes, mostly due to the after effects of the Asian Tsunami and the evolving political climate of the country, it continues to be the hub of activities in Baa atoll during the Eid festivals and is still one of the best places to experience Eid holidays in Maldives.

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A Helping Hand

You might not know this but I was in the Boy Scouts way back when I was in school. That’s right folks, before dinosaurs got it into their thick heads that it would be a good idea to roam and rule the Earth, I had given education the old college try and and even mucked about trying to be a Cub Scout, a Scout, and a Cadet. For some reason (actually several reasons, but that’s another story) they wouldn’t let me near any musical instruments so the School Band was off limits.

‘Be prepared’ used to be my motto… although, come to think of it, I can’t remember a time when I actually was prepared for anything in my life.

In those days our Akeyla, (that’s Scout Leader I think, or it could mean ‘grumbly old coot’ since our Akeyla happened to be Mrs. George — who some older Majeedhiyan’s might remember — used to gather us around in the playground every day and ask us what our good deed for the day was.

Now, I’m still not sure exactly what it is that Boy Scouts are really supposed to do besides learn to tie a lot of complicated knots (the best I managed was to tie my hands and legs together in particularly complicated knots that ended with me crawling to the Scout Master for help in getting free) and go on Jamborees (that’s sort of like a picnic in an uninhabited island and exclusively for boys. Very gay!) but I do remember that the official promise of the Boy Scouts ended with the phrase: “…and I promise to do a good deed every day.”

Ergo, (Yay! I’ve really wanted to use that word ever since I saw “The Matrix Reloaded”) the question by Mrs George. Ergo also the reason why the gathered cub scouts furrow their brows in deep concentration as they quickly tried to come up with something that could be considered a good deed.

For myself, I usually went with the ol’ reliable, which was: ‘I helped an old lady cross the road today’, never mind the fact that she never wanted to cross any stinkin’ roads in the first place and would beat me over the head repeatedly with a closed umbrella or a rolled up newspaper while I navigated through oncoming traffic. I played it safe, as do a couple of other kids, but there were also those overachievers in our midst who just had to stand apart from the dweebs (that’s me and a few other kids) and draw attention to themselves by their breathtakingly adventurous good deeds. Saving infants from burning buildings, landing stricken airplanes about to blow up, snatching drowning babies from the jaws of death in shark-infested seas, it was all in a day’s work for these young heroes who apparently lived to do good deeds and help their fellow men and women. Man alive, how I hated them! If I could have come up with stories half as good as theirs I would have been able to pass English with better marks in Grade 7 and 8, instead of barely making a C.

All this ‘good deed’ stuff came back to me today, as I opened the door to the house where my office was located, and mentally prepared myself to climb the stairs to the fourth floor and saw a pile of boxes with a pair of human legs below it coming slowly down the stairs. Due to the boxes I couldn’t see above the guy’s waist, as they were piled one on top of the other so high that it went well above the man’s head, but judging from the tremble in the man’s hands as he carefully put one foot down on the stairs below the one which he was standing, he must have been carrying the boxes from some time.

The man took another slow step down and I could finally see his face from a side: a middle-aged man with thinning hair, a moustache and sweat pouring down his face in rivulets. The staircase was located straight in front of the door and there was no way I could have gone past the man because of the wide load he was carrying. I could have ducked under the boxes but that would have been so impolite, right? The dormant Boy Scout instincts in me kicked out and I realized here was a chance for me to do my good deed for the day. I immediately opened the door as wide as it would go and held it open for him so that he could easily make his way out without having to pull the door open with his foot or something. The door was equipped with an automatic door closer that kept the door from slamming shut. Due to that I needed to hold the door open until he could go out.

So there I was holding the door open, with a smile on my face that would have shamed a Halloween pumpkin, when I realized that it had been a good minute and the man carrying the boxes was still standing at the bottom of the stairs and not making any effort to go out. The slight tremble in his hands had progressed to full blown shaking and even the boxes on top were now teetering. I could even hear his breath coming in short gasps. In that small enclosed space at the bottom of the stairs there really was no room for any maneuvering and I wondered whether he had even seen me opening the door for him.

“Er… I’m holding the door open,” I said, finally. “You can go out. The door’s open.”

The man said something but it was too muffled by the boxes in front and I had to ask, “What?”

“I’m not… taking the… boxes… outside,” the man gasped.

“Oh?” That’s strange, I thought, maybe he’s exercising. I wondered whether I should close the door or not but the Boy Scout instinct in me wouldn’t have none of it. Help the man at all costs and do your good deed for the day, it said.

The man said something, I wasn’t sure what, but the boxes were definitely keeling over now. The man drew a sharp breath and pitched forward slightly to straighten the pile, inadvertently taking another step down the stairs. “So…” I said eventually, seeing as I was now face to box with the man and he was not making any move to go back up. “What are you doing with the boxes?”

“Could you… close the… door? — wheeze! pant! — I need… to put these… in the storage space…. under the stairs!”

The what now? Oh right. The storage space under the stairs. Finally, realization dawned on me. He wasn’t taking the boxes outside. He was trying to keep the boxes under the stairs! But he couldn’t get past me because I was blocking his way in my effort to hold the door open. Yeesh! Just my luck, I thought. Try to help a man and you end up doing the opposite.

“Sorry,” I mumbled and after deliberating about it for a second, ducked under his arms and started climbing the stairs behind him. He should be able to drop the boxes under the stairs now. Too late, I realized that the door was equipped with a door closer and it was now swinging shut, with glacial slowness, forcing the man to wait, holding the precariously balanced and heavy pile of boxes on his hands, until the door closed completely before he could move down.

Should I go back, duck under the boxes again and close the door for him? I scrapped the idea. I had done enough damage already. The man was sweating buckets now even his legs seemed to be very shaky.

Yep, definitely time for me to go, I decided, and began bounding up the stairs. I had reached the fourth floor, where my office was, when I heard a loud scream from downstairs followed by a tremendous crash. A few seconds later I there was the sound of the door closing softly.

NOTE: This is an old blog entry from my Multiply account. I’m transferring some of the old blog entries here to my new blog at WordPress.)

Fun with Spam: Mrs Linda & I

I don’t get a lot of spam in my email account coz, quite frankly, the spam filters at Gmail are darn effective. But once in a while one gets through and one of the quirky things I do for fun is reply to these spam mails. Bigger penis? Let me have it! More women? Order me a dozen! Fake Rolexes that look exactly like the real thing? Please, you don’t even have to ask.

I’ve been doing this for years but over time, I’ve noticed that the amount of people who actually reply to my replies have dwindled a bit. Once I used to have regular correspondence with scammers. It almost became part of my “office work”, as far as I was concerned. But lately I haven’t been giving my spam mail the attention it deserves so when I saw this recent message that somehow leaked through the Gmail filters, I leaped at the chance to talk to these blessed good Samaritans who were just aching to make me wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

This was the mail I got:

On Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 7:57 PM, THE SENATE HOUSE <library@iscbrazil.com> wrote:

OUR REF:FRN/ATM/822

YOUR REF:CLAIMS/ATM/822

This is to officially inform you that(ATM Card Number 4278763100030014)has been accredited with your favor.Your Personal Identification Number is 822.The ATM Card Value is $6.8MILLIONUSD.You are advised to contact Mrs Linda Hill via Email:mrslindahill2030@gmail.com)with the following information’s;

FULL NAME:

DELIVERY ADDRESS:

PHONE NUMBER:

COUNTRY:

OCCUPATION:

SEX:

AGE:

Regards,

Mr David Mark.

Direct Tell: +234-705-818-1696


I immediately shot off a reply:

Hi,
Send the money soon.
Regards,
AM.

She sent me back a reply that was a copy of the earlier mail, asking for my details again. I decided to ignore it and replied by simply asking: “Thanks for the prompt reply. When will I receive the money?” She must have figured I was a bit thick so she sent me a proper reply this time:

Thanks for your email, in sequel to that you are advice to make payment for the delivery fee of your package via Western union Money Transfer,The Delivery fees is $50.

Right now we have concluded the delivery arrangement with FEDEX Express Delivery, so you will have to proceed with the payment for the delivery fee of your package so that we can conclude this transaction once and for all upon your meeting up with the requirement and statutory of the FEDEX Express Delivery Courier company.

Find below the payment information you will use in other for you to make the payment for the delivery fee via Western Union Money Transfer for easy pick up by the receiver, after the confirmation of your payment your ATM CARD will be delivered to your address Within the next 24 hours after your payment confirmation, your package will arrive your address and you can start making withdrawals immediately because the card has be configured in your name and you can make a maximum withdrawal of US$1500 daily from any ATM machine in your country.. Just proceed with the payment for all is well.

Payment Information

Receiver First Name : Ufuoma

Receiver Last Name : Obogariemu

Address : No. 37 Marine Road Apapa, Lagos Nigeria.

Test Question : Best Colour?

Answer : Blue.

Amount Payable : US$50

After making the payment via Western Union Money Transfer, do well to email me the following sender information’s,

Sender Full Name

Sender Address

Sender Phone Number

Money Transfer Control Number (10 Digits) :

I look forward hearing from you soonest with the all the requested information’s above.Please note that there is no deduction of funds from the ATM CARD because it has already issued. If you cannot pay the fees then declined the email,The ATM CARD is sealed with a hardware Government policy which nobody can access beside you. We don’t accept COD.Once your payment is confirmed you will get the card within the next 24 hours.

Regards

Mrs. Linda Hill

CC.

Mr. DAVID MARK

Aha! So now we were getting somewhere. But even so, I wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t just having a correspondence with an automated system. I decided to find out:

Hi Linda,
Just deduct the 50 from the amount I’m getting. I don’t mind. So how soon will you send my brand new ATM Card?
Regards,
AM

I got an almost immediate reply:

“i am very sorry the card is sealed with policy with some certificate attach to it. so i am really sorry you will have to try and send the money so that you can get your card as soon as possible. That the only option we have now.”

Well that wasn’t too bad. This seemed like a real person. It could get interesting. But before I could send a reply, I found that she had sent me a message via the Google chat app. My day brightened up considerably:

Mrs Linda: hello. how are you?

AzMyst: i’m good

Mrs Linda: ok

AzMyst: how r u?

AzMyst: are you ok?

Mrs Linda: sorry

AzMyst: i asked how you were

Mrs Linda: i am fine. why did you want us to deduct from the card i am really sorry we cant

AzMyst: why not?

Mrs Linda: i saw your email i just reply

AzMyst: it’s only $50

Mrs Linda: i am sorry we can not

AzMyst: but whynot? You could do this as a personal favour to me. i don’t think we even have this money transfer thing here

Mrs Linda: i know you might be thinking i am joking right? any i am not

AzMyst: joking? no. of course not. why would i think you’re joking. money is serious business. i need it. you have it

Mrs Linda: you have to send the delivery fees to the FedEx company so that you can get your card

AzMyst: can’t i pay them when they get here?

Mrs Linda: thats policy we have to follow instruction

AzMyst: ok good, then follow my instructions. Just pay the delivery fees to them on my behalf I’ll reimburse you when I have the money.

Mrs Linda: there is no way you can get it. if the money is not sent

AzMyst: so i’ll pay them when they get here with my card

Mrs Linda: is not possible. you will have to pay b4 they can deliver any package to you

AzMyst: but this money transfer thing is so unreliable in this country

Mrs Linda: i understand your pains now. listen i am giving you my word

AzMyst: and I believe you. Absolutely. You don’t look like the kind of person who will lie to me. But look, i really need this card. could you do me a favour and pay the $50 to the Fexed company

Mrs Linda: as soon as they confirm your payment they will send you the tracking number

AzMyst: I can confirm tot them that u will pay for me. i give you my word I will pay you back somehow. you can send me your address or something. scout’s honour

Mrs Linda: i am sorry i am only do my duty by giving you more info

AzMyst: oh wait, I was never a scout. Anyway. please have a heart

Mrs Linda: i cant help you with that sorry

AzMyst: i really need the card. i promise cross my heart and hope to die

Mrs Linda: then you have to get the money and send it

AzMyst: i will send you the money in an envelope by post even. yeah, when i get my atm card i will send you $100! you have 50 for yourself. so what do you say? Be smart. you’ll have my undying gratitude

Mrs Linda: i am sorry this is not I can do

AzMyst: comon please. it’s only 50. i’m only asking coz i don’t trust our money transfer people here. people are always complaining that their money disappears

Mrs Linda: i understand but you will have to trust me in this thats all i can say for now

AzMyst: i do trust you. Absolutely. I always trust random unknown people I meet online. It’s just one of those things I can’t help. that’s why i’m asking you to pay the delivery charges. so that i can get my card. then i can pay you back double

AzMyst: ok fine I’ll give you $200. how about that? will you do it for $200?

Mrs Linda: i am sorry i cant

AzMyst: ok fine

AzMyst: wait. name your price

AzMyst: when i get the 6.8 million dollars i am willing to give you a large amount

Mrs Linda: i dont need any money

AzMyst: what do you mean you don’t need any money!>?! everybody needs money. how about 1million? i can live with 5.8 million so i am willing to transfer 1 million to you if you do this for me. come on please. i really need this money

AzMyst: i don’t think i’ve ever even seen a million dollars in one place in my life. i have eight children and five wives a giraffe and two cats that I need to care for. One of the wives she needs regular physiotherapy. please

AzMyst: i’m beggin gyou. also need to buy an expensive treadmill for giraffe coz there’s no room in my house for it to take its regular walks.

Mrs Linda: i dont need money ok. dont force me cos i wouldnt take

AzMyst: Did I mention the sick giraffe?

Mrs Linda: yes you did

AzMyst: what about the two dead kittens. i need money to give them a proper burial.

Mrs Linda: what kittens

AzMyst: you must need money think of what you can do with 1 million. i bet its more than you get at your current job. besides i;m not forcing u.

AzMyst: 1 million. no questions asked, if you do this one small favour for me. it’s only $50. pleeeeeeeeeeease

Mrs Linda: i am ok with the one i have. do you realise that i am a married woman. so stop saying this thing. i dont meed it

AzMyst: what has you being married got to do with it? i am a married man too. We could go on double dates if u like. once two wives and three dogs are out of the hospital we can all go to an expensive vacation. u can take ur husband. Or not *wink* but right now my wife needs to pay her hospital fees. i’m almost broke. i need the 6.8 million dollars in my card. Its mine. u can’t keep it from me. i will complain to the united nations.

Mrs Linda: i’m not interesting in vactions.

AzMyst: I will call the FBI. And the CIA. And Anni. Maybe even Umaru naseer..

Mrs Linda: what is Anni?

AzMyst: never mind that. please help me. you’re the only who can

Mrs Linda: so i have told you i dont need it

AzMyst: ok what do you need? just tell me. you must need something everybody needs something

Mrs Linda: i need you to pay the money so that you can get your card deliver to you thats all i need

AzMyst: and i need you to pay the small amount for me so i can get the card. it’s nothing for you

i will pay you back. you have my word on that. u can trust me. Linda, can I call u linda… I feel a special connection to u. maybe its fate that we met like this. How old are u? u aren’t bisexual r u.

Mrs Linda: i am really sorry if thats all you have to say. i may say you are disturbing. when you are ready you know where to find me

AzMyst: please. How long have u been married? I can provide other services if ur not interested in money. i’m a very well endowed guy, if u know what I mean *wink*

Mrs Linda: please stop u r disturbing me now

AzMyst: how can i be disturbing you? i’m asking for a simple favour

AzMyst: Please Mrs Linda Linda… can I call you Linda.

AzMyst: Linda please, have a heart. i’m not asking for much. just a small favour. And you won’t be losing anything

AzMyst: pwetty please with honey and biscuits. please

Mrs is not available to chat

And with that she was gone. And here I was just getting warmed up. Sigh. Anyway, I thought it would be rude to leave without a parting message at least so I sent her an email again:

Please Linda… I will be in your debt forever if you do this for me. Please pay the delivery fees for me. It’s not much at all. Please. I hope you will come to your senses and reconsider my offer. Think of my sick wife and kids.😦

Much to my surprise she sent a reply around two hours later:

the only way i can consider you is to allow you to send $35. i will talk to them about the rest so that when you get the card you can give them the balance are you ok with that?

I waited for a while to see if she would get online again for a further chat. She didn’t. Must have blocked me or something. So I sent her a reply in email again.

Thank you thank you thank you somuch. Once I have the card I will send you your $35. And a bonus if you want. Whatever you want *wink*, if u know what I mean. *wink* *wink* I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if I add a couple of hundred to the $35 I owe you. Plus some nude pics of me🙂 I think you will find them very interesting. Thank you again. You are an angel. (And I hope a really hot MILF) Can you send me some naked pictures of yourself when you reply? Thanks in advance.

For some strange reason, I haven’t heard from her (or him) again.

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Seventy-two Reasons

Some months back, during a short vacation I took to visit some islands with my family, I met a married couple that was going through a really tough time in their marriage – or to be more accurate, as they themselves said: ‘varifashah araafa’. I guess there are good reasons and bad reason why couples breakup or get divorced but I found the reason to be quite funny in this particular case. I’m no religious scholar (why does that sound like an oxymoron?) so I have no idea how religiously or legally sound the reason was. I’ll leave the judging to people who do that for a living and just relay what they told me.

Mariyam and Moosa (obviously not their real names coz quite honestly, I really can’t recall their names anymore) were in their late fifties and had been married for around 30 years when I met them. Moosa owned a small shop in the island and, judging from how spacious and modern his house looked, seemed to be quite well off. I’ll skip over most of the boring details about how I met them and go straight to the point. The point being that despite the outward appearance of a happy and content family, Mariyam had tried to get a divorce from Moosa, failed, and was still seeking to end their marriage.

She told me that she had gone to Court once to get the divorce but that the Judge (or whatever) had thrown the case out. At first she wouldn’t tell me the reason she wanted to get divorced. I guess she was ok with telling a total stranger about her domestic problems but drew the line when it came to explaining her reasoning. That’s what I thought at first. Eventually I managed, with some help from the strangely jolly and snickering husband, to get the whole story.

Mariyam had always been a religious woman, not in the extremist sense way but she had the basics down: buruga (not the ninja garb), prayed five times a day, recited the Quran, gave to the poor, the works. Her husband on the other hand was very lax in his religious duties and tended to be more business-oriented. For years Mariyam had tried in vain to get Moosa to take some interest in saving his soul and keep it from entering eternal damnation in hell.

Amusingly, she told me that she would have even settled for a Friday prayer every now and then.

After the tsunami hit the Maldives some years ago, men from the Brotherhood of the Lengthy Beards and Truncated Trousers visited the island, seizing the moment and successfully converting many over to their fashion sensibilities with their tried and tested fear-mongering techniques. Moosa and Mariyam had however been immune to their charms for some reason at the time, but unknown to Mariyam, Moosa had struck up a friendship with one of the bearded desert men and continued to keep in touch with the guy long after the Brotherhood had left the island in search of greener pastures.

That was some background info about the couple for those of you who might have wondered about their history. One more thing you have to understand before we move on. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me that Mariyam was absolutely smitten with Moosa. I mean totally devoted and possibly even unconditionally in love with the guy. It was obvious that she had deep feelings for him even thought it was Mariyam that wanted the divorce. Feel free to chime in with more clichéd lovey-dovey stuff to press the point home. Don’t you just love conflicted characters? Moving on.

Several years later, Mariyam was delighted beyond words when early one fine morning, Moosa pulled on a skull cap and made a beeline to the mosque just as she woke up for her morning prayers. From that day on Moosa was, as far as most people were concerned, the perfect Muslim. Following the abrupt change, the couple made one Hajj pilgrimage followed quickly by plans for another pilgrimage just to confirm reservations at their destinations in the afterlife. Sounds like this was as good as it would get, right? Yeah. At this point I had to ask, “so what the heck went wrong?”

What went wrong was that Mariyam couldn’t control her curiosity about what had made Moosa change into a religious powerhouse overnight. And she continued to ask and pester him to explain the sudden transformation. She just wouldn’t let up; such was her curiosity. Moosa held back against the onslaught for a long time but eventually she wore him down and he relented.

Apparently his dalliance with the desert Brother, who had visited the island after the tsunami, had blossomed into a full-blown bromance and he had been invited to join their book club where they read, translated, discussed and dissected a lot of ancient poetry and debated the validity of numerous historical anecdotes. Anyway, during one of these book discussions Moosa experienced an epiphany of sorts after hearing the translation of one such anecdote. I can’t remember the exact verse and phrase, but it was something about jewel-encrusted palaces and a harem filled to the brim with young nubile ladies whose only desire was to please you. I don’t want to go into too much detail so follow the link to get the gist of it.

Being the honest man that he was, Moosa had told his wife quite truthfully the reason he had decided to become a devout believer. Surprisingly, to Moosa at least, the reason didn’t go down too well with Mariyam. Apparently she had her own plans for the afterlife and it didn’t include watching her husband’s eternally stiff soldier repeatedly conquering 72 perpetually virgin territories all day long. There was of course more to the story then this and the debate went on for quite a bit but I believe this was the basis of their argument and the underlying reason Mariyam wanted the divorce. You can call her silly, religiously ignorant or whatever but it occurs to me that she must have actually felt quite cheated when the love of her life, her husband, revealed the true reasons behind his makeover.

Sex sells, you can’t deny it (well, you can but you’d be wrong) and the most interesting thing is that most times it’s even more effective than the fear of eternal torment. I doubt Moosa was the first, and he most certainly won’t be the last, to make such a drastic changes to his principles and beliefs for the singularly enticing promise of an eternal orgy.

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A Matter of Imagination

Either I’m getting too old to really enjoy PC games or the games have become a lot less interesting lately.

Leisure Suit LarryBack in the days when Sierra and Roberta Williams ruled the gaming world (or at least it seemed that way to us in Male’) with the King’s Quest series, and Al Lowe’s Leisure Suit Larry series was a must-play game for every teenage boy, the games and the graphics might have seemed like crap to anyone used to the spectacular 3D graphics of today but in a way I think the blocky 2D graphics actually made things more fun back then. Maybe because imagination had to play a huge part in order to compensate for the lack of stellar graphics. 

Betrayal at Krondor I remember being amazed by the graphics in King’s Quest 5 and then being completely blown away by the 3D-animated intro for King’s Quest 6! The only thing I could compare it to back then was the ballroom dance scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast when the camera swoops down from the chandelier to the ballroom dance floor. The first Role Playing Game I ever played was Betrayal at Krondor, and even back then it wasn’t much to look at, but the gameplay and story was so involving that the parts of the game that I recall now seem to me to be more real than some memories from my actual childhood. The graphics of Betrayal at Krondor seem, in my memory, to be better than the visuals of the latest 3D games available now. I was actually rudely shocked recently when I saw some screen captures of the game and realised that it looked so much worse than I recalled the game to be. Such was the overall experience of playing the game back then.

These days you don’t have to use your imagination much when playing a game since the graphics are so amazing they really leave no room for imagining; in most cases the graphics are far more spectacular than what you could have probably imagined. Controls and interacting with the games have evolved to such an extent that the mouse and keyboard feels like an extension of your arm in the game world. No longer do you have to type commands like “open door” or “pick up rope” to get your character to do things.

I remember a stage in Leisure Suit Larry where you were required to put some bars of soaps into a bra to disguise Larry as a woman to get past a spy. The whole game-playing gang got together at a friend’s house for days to brainstorm a solution and we tried every combination possible (including using a hex-editor on the game executable file to see if we could find a clue in there) but in the end it was the simple “put soaps in bra” that did the trick. Our mistake was that we had never thought of using the plural form of the word ‘soap’. Well, the Internet and downloadable walkthroughs has solved that problem. It’s probably impossible get stuck in a game these days.

The Elder Scrolls 3: Oblivion Anyway, I was going to rant about how I don’t enjoy playing games that much anymore. The last game I really enjoyed playing was The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, and the other games I really want to play require a heck of a lot more powerful PC and graphic card than what I have. I can’t play games with a joystick so Play Stations and X-Boxes are out. Wii is really fun but I’m the kind of guy who needs a keyboard and mouse if I really want to enjoy a game. Aside from that, I’ve sadly realised recently that I really don’t have the time to spend on games anymore. There’s just too much work and other stuff that occupies me. But maybe if something like the original Myst or Riven came around again, I would probably be willing to invest some time in a game again.

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Moving On…

It’s been a few days since the former President’s body was brought to Maldives and buried with all the fanfare reserved for a once-President. From the moment I heard the news of his death I’ve felt like I was watching a tennis match.

On one side were those who considered President Nasir to be a dictator and tyrant, directly responsible for the death of a large number of Maldivians and only a step behind (or forward, depending on who you ask) Maumoon in ruthlessness and hunger for power. On the other side were the people who seemed to think he was the best thing that had happened to the country. So… there were people who thought he was great and almost an equal number of people who thought he was nothing but a big tyrant. There were even those who thought he was a bit of both: a great big tyrant!

Despite the fact that he was a former President I didn’t feel compelled to go and take a look at his dead body while it was displayed for the public inside the Presidential Palace. It was nothing personal since I really felt nothing against him; I was just not interested and there more immediate things that required my attention. The thought of checking out the much hyped about “wonders” inside the Presidential Palace was a big draw, I admit, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

Considering the amount of people who went to see the body, I’m inclined to think there were those who went there just to brag about having seen a dead president, some who genuinely wanted to pay their last respects to a person they considered to be great, some who just wanted to grab the chance to enter the Presidential Palace and those who just wanted to make sure that Nasir really was dead.

Even on the MVBlogs it was the same. There were several blogs that praised him while an equal amount seemed to say good riddance to bad rubbish. The media however seemed entirely focused on portraying the former President in a good light. Every positive aspect of the development of Maldives has now more or less attributed to him, leaving ex-President Maumoon with egg on his face.

There were some who were on the fence too. I think I could be counted among those. Some of my friends hate Nasir because of the Havaru Thinadhoo incident. Those friends whose relatives were directly affected by the incident hate Nasir with a vengeance. To me Nasir was a non-entity. Maumoon came into power long before I was old enough to even understand what a Government was. None of my family members were affected either way (as far as I know) by the change in Government and so I wasn’t raised in an environment where people discussed the heinous crimes said to have been committed by Nasir. Even if it was discussed, I have no recollection of it.

While rummaging through the Dhivehi book shelves at the old National Library I saw many issues of “Aabaaru” (I think it was called) which had cartoons that depicted Nasir as a demon intent on amassing as much wealth as he could before Maumoon the Saviour sent him packing. For many years during my childhood I thought Nasir was a fictional monster, like Foolhu Dhigu Handi or Rannamaari (ok, so they seemed pretty real at the time). Then later, during Social Studies classes in school, I did learn some of the history of Maldives including the bit that the President who was in power before Maumoon was residing in Singapore — but to me that was nothing more than a fact to memorize to ensure an extra mark on my exams.

During the last few days I’ve heard more about how great and how evil Nasir was than I want to know and that has really left me conflicted. So will the real Nasir please stand up? Oh wait. Too late.

Final Round: Mau VS Anni

It’s the final day of campaigning and I can’t help wondering how things will turn out in two days time. I’m excited, and at the same time a little cautious, at the thought of what changes Maldives would go through if Maumoon is voted out. It’s a big ‘if’ though.

As the first round of the election proved, not everyone wants a president who was already extremely old when some pharaoh came up with the idea to build pyramids. Watching our geriatric leader talk about the new heights that he’s going to take the country to and the tough decisions that the next president will likely have to make, I can’t help but wonder what makes him so sure that he’s even going to be around in a few years time. Sure he’s managed to make it this far (a remarkable achievement, I’m sure) but how much longer can he hold out against the relentless flow of time? He’s likely to just keel over any day now and doctors will find that, no matter the circumstances surrounding his death, he had died of extreme old age. How’s he gonna make tough decisions about the future if he ain’t gonna be in it?

As Chris Rock says “I don’t want a president with a Bucket List!”

I have no doubt that, given the current state of Maldives, Anni has a very good chance of beating Maumoon in a free and fair election. But that’s the thing, right? Is it going to be a free and fair election? From what we’ve seen in the past I have a suspicion that Maumoon is going to win the election with over a 60% majority, regardless of who gets the most votes.

What do you think?