With roughly over a population of 330,000 people, one might say that events happening in the Maldives may not seem so festive. However, since the presidential election of 2013, the country is still in an unending period of festive celebrations and campaigning.
During the span of just six months, the country has seen three major elections taking place along with several rounds of ballot casting and delays. First in October was the presidential election, which extended till the constitutional deadline of November 11th in electing a President. Next in January came the local council election.
And now once again, on 22nd of March, the country’s 18th parliamentary election has taken place and the results are yet to come. Here are some of the things and people I saw on the final day of campaigning, 21st March Friday from 4:00PM to 6:00PM in different areas of Male’ City.
On the 22nd of February, Saturday, the final day on Alifushi Island, I wanted to make sure that the last moments I spent on the island were memorable and valuable. So I headed to the eastern side of the island, trying to get a glimpse of the beach. However, I was disappointed to see that the island does not have much of a beach area.
There were a few children playing near the breakwaters, some of them on top of it, trying to catch fish during those early hours of the day. Even with the lack of a beach, the sight was overwhelming. There was a low tide and the water had dried up, leaving a pathway to walk up to the breakwaters.
I had an interview appointment with the Chair of the island council at 9 AM and a few minutes to spare before that. So while wandering through the island, I met these little boys who were so eager to tell me what they know about the Bermuda Triangle.
The speed ferry back to Male’ was scheduled to depart at 12:30 that afternoon. So during the remaining few hours, I visited a historical shrine that has been on the island for hundreds of years. It was a monumental shrine of Tabrizi, who is reported by some historians as the man who converted Maldives into the religion of Islam.
At 12:30 I got into the ferry after paying farewell to the many people I had acquainted with in the past two days. I knew I was going to miss the stress free environment of the island, but at the same time, I was eagerly looking forward to arrive in Male’, to see my family and loved ones.
The ferry made several stops in many islands of the Raa Atoll and I had my mind set on not dozing off during the five hour journey. And the reward for that choice was utter amazement. It was very sunny in Alifushi Island but as we began our journey back to Male’, I was fortunate enough to experience diverse weathers in different regions of the country. It made me realize the vastness of the Maldives, despite the few land masses.
At one point, the sea was so rough I thought I would throw up. There was a time when it was raining so heavily that we had zero level visibility. The islands and vessels just a few meters away were not visible to the naked eye. After about three hours of travelling, the weather had taken a completely different turn. The sun began shining brightly, and I had the chance to view triple rainbows over the islands. Flying fish and dolphins were also enjoying the sun and showing off to us “inhabitants of the land”.
We were lucky; the ferry arrived in Male’ an hour earlier than anticipated. Once again, I was surrounded with huge buildings and the non-stop traffic of my country’s capital. And I thought to myself, the inhabitants of Male’ are missing so much from their lives compared to the people in the island, but then again, the people living in the islands must be feeling they are deprived of the wealth and ease, common to the city dwellers.
Friday, 21st of February was the second day I spent on Alifushi Island. The most important event of the day was the Friday prayer. There were four mosques on the island with a population of roughly 2600. We stationed the camera and began shooting near the main mosque situated at the center of the island.
After the prayer, I met several people (only men are obliged to go for Friday prayers in Islam) including the leading religious scholar (Imam). Some of them were curious to know what two lone strangers were doing on their home island.
We headed to the Alifushi Health Center. I talked to some of the nurses on duty and came to know that 2 doctors and 3 nurses were attending to the 30 patients reported on a daily basis. Just next to the health center was the Pre-School.
A few streets away was the police station of the island being run in a residential home due to the lack of a building. The police officers on duty refused to talk to us, citing a strict policy under which the police media officer will only be relating details to the media personnel.
While we were headed home after a long day of work, it began raining lightly. According to the locals, the island has not had rainfall for half a year. Some of the children were rejoicing along with the light shower, playing in the rain and running around the streets.
We went for dinner at a local café and by the time we were headed back “home”; the light rain shower had transformed into a raging thunder storm. It must have been around 10 PM and without any street lights, the lightning continued to brighten up the streets every once in a while along with thunder the crackling. It was quite eerie, I would say.
When I reached “home”, I was fascinated by the rainfall as it became a reminder of my early childhood days. I relate that sound to happy and comfy times. The continuous drip-drip sound of huge droplets of rain on the roof is something I rarely hear in Male’ any longer. I thought the sound would help me get to sleep faster than usual.
But the night did not turn out as I hoped. I barely had a few winks of sleep. The thunder storm raging outside was startling me from my sleep and kept me up all night long.