10.1 Hakra Fair
In the scattered rains of the monsoonal change, Malé roads filled with pits and puddles. Muaz walked to Hakra Fair on foot negotiating the dirty water filled in the narrow lane, frogs and bogs, dumped bags of rubbish. On the white walls of the narrow lane where gratuitous sex took place in the nights, vandals sprayed obscene graffiti depicting male and female genitalia in symbolic art – one most common portrayal was the triangle with a hole in the middle and a pendulum linked to the top angle. Then the gun on wheels, of course. Red marks of spit scattered on the white walls.
There was a good crowd queued outside the gate and streaming through the turnstile one by one.
Soon, Muaz was in. Stalls around the compound with covered walkways, first housed unit was the cinema and the roofed stage in the centre. Meanwhile, his ears caught the screeching noises of the Ford Gran Torino, red car with a wide vector stripe, chasing a villain. He loved to watch those chases on the televisions hanging around in the fair. He was glued to the screen when a light drizzle started. A good crowd remained under the televisions in the rain while a large portion took shelter under the roof. He did not know when the colour bulbs lit the stage and the band began to play.
A steady shuffling rhythm caught his nerves, the drums strokes and the guitar licks. When the bass kicked in, he jumped around and grabbed his stand.
TT Bum Blues Band on the stage playing Bootleg and the crowd singing and dancing in the rain. He was so lost into the music that he failed to notice Bilqis dancing with another guy. Then someone tapped on his shoulder and pointed her. She wore dark blue bell-bottoms and a floral cropped top.
“Who is that guy?” he uttered.
“A new date,” replied Hassan Zahir.
“Let me talk to her!”
“Wait!” Hassan grasped his arm, “Leave her!”
Muaz flung an elbow and tore through the crowd to reach the girl. He grabbed her wrist.
“Hey Muaz!” she cried wiping a hand on her wet face, “I did not know you were here!”
“Come with me!” he demanded.
“I cannot go. I’m with a friend.”
Muaz glanced at the tall guy and slowly released his grip. It was the sound boy of The Pink Sharks. He was told about his misdemeanour but the girl didn’t know she was with bad company.
Muaz withdrew and joined Hassan.
“Who is he?” asked Hassan.
“He’s Sonny, he’s a homo,” retorted Muaz.
This was 26th of May. Nobody could image what would happen tomorrow, 27th of May, Saturday.
The band was playing Feel Like Making Love.
There came an announcement in the drizzle and names called for a Beauty Contest to choose Miss Hakra Fair. Twelve girls stepped on the stage and lined up.
Farida Ikhtak paused third in the row in front of Muaz who stood a couple of feet from the stage with his friend. All the contestants wore high waist white denim hotpants and off shoulder bustier crop tops in different colours and designs – some with frills and some wore bell sleeves.
Nobody could miss those red lips and dark eyebrows on an inverted triangle face framed with strong black hair. Pointed shoulders, thin but shapely legs with cheeky round buttocks – an athletic build.
“She looks terrific!” he whispered to his friend.
“She has a slight belly pooch,” uttered Hassan.
“Look at that tall girl!”
“She has hair on the legs!”
“Her name is Fathimath Ahmed.”
“Do you know her?”
“I do. She’s very popular on the Dollar Road.”
Most of the contestants were younger than those two they stopped their focus at. With all those flashing rears, it was quite a revealing show. No one wore a girdle on the hip. It captivated the crowd standing in the light drizzle.
When results came revealed, Aisha Rana picked the crown and a sash was pinned on. She got smooth long hair, high hipbones, an average build with a conspicuous backside. She was terrific. First runner-up was Fathimath Cocoa, a frail-looking girl, extremely thin in the legs and a type crowd liked, with shoulder-cut hair and a striking shine on a chocolate brown skin. Then a much older girl climbed the podium as the second runner-up and it was Farida Ikhtak.
“Badi! Badi! Badi!” crowd in the rear cheered.
Muaz began to shout, “Farida! Farida!”
She was more conscious than the rest, puckered her lips and winked, dropped a smirk at him.
The winners took cash prizes; 300, 200 and 100. The remaining nine contestants also received gifts. Miss Hakra Fair received a special prize from Moonlight – the news agency.
The pageant was over and the band resumed to play.
And then the most awkward moment happened to him when Farida Ikhtak came penetrating through the crowd in the rain and picked his hand. It shocked Hassan. It shocked everyone.
“Muaz! I am glad you came!” cried Farida Ikhtak the Libran, “How did I do on the stage?”
“You did great,” returned Muaz.
“I was nervous,” she released in a flat tone.
“Not a clue.” Of course, she would be trained by the First Lady before posing on stage.
“I have to go to the VIP,” she expressed, “See you soon!” She strayed back into the crowd.
The VIP; a private room located at the southwest corner, next to a liquor shop, belonged to the royals. And this liquor shop that turned water into law also belonged to the royals.
Students were mobilised in daily chlorination of household wells with bleaching powder.
On 3rd June, he attended the Rock N Roll Concert at Nasiriya Montessori School Hall with Farida and their children. The Pink Sharks played at this rock show and Naífaru Dohokko made an appearance as well.
Meanwhile, the Kudahuva mother and daughter walked to Hadeeja Kamana Mosque since it was reopened on the first of the month under a new name. He was still unable to grab her attention. One day, he asked her if she would go to watch Shailendra Singh. She paused in the back alley trying to give him an affirmative response but the answer did not come out of her mouth. He repeated and still she was unable to say no matter how much she wanted to go. Then she heard footsteps and moved out of the way turning briefly to smile at him.
WHO declared the epidemic to be under control on 6th June. Over 11,000 were affected – one in twelve of the country’s 140,000 population affected. Over 200 lost their lives.
In the end, 95% of the population was vaccinated against cholera. Follow up measures were in place such as daily chlorination of drinking water, booster doses of cholera vaccine, supervision of food vendors, harbour surveillance and environmental sanitation.
Cafés and food markets were routinely checked to maintain certain hygienic standards, housefly nettings required on vents and windows. In the islands, habits and lifestyle changed and open privy on the beach prohibited. They still used the beach but now it required to dig a hole and cover the waste from houseflies. Nobody would then wipe a spoon with her dress or drink water from a glass unwashed or use your hands to eat without sanitising or spit on the wall.
The public grew aware of how diseases spread mainly because they heard it on the radio. It was Radio Maldives that played a vital role in creating awareness among the island folks who were quick to grasp and heed to correct themselves, change their habits and change the course.