15.1 The Slit
One more time, he was back in Thora. Seated in the dining when the girl surprised him with a broad smile and a wide mouth. “Does mosquito bother you?” the girl teased dropping her arms around his shoulders.
Now this – a common kind of a typical tease to ask ‘if mosquito bother you’. In the native tongue, ‘madiri’ split into two words ‘ma diri’ reads ‘my life’ and she was literally asking ‘if my life bother you’.
“Oh Nazima!” he responded grabbing her hand, “You have grown big enough to bother me.”
“She is a dancer in Moonlight Club,” her mother disclosed with the gown tucked on the midriff, “and now we have electricity.”
“You have not come out of age to caution with a tendency of shyness!”
“She met a guy!” cried her mother, “He removed her ticklish bone! She’s not a virgin anymore!”
“Ouch!” he burnt his lips with hot tea.
Firasha left Mesquite with her family and lodged in Mafannu. Bilqis Adam married during the holidays and she would no longer go to school this year. Almost all the dancers of Club Rehendi were back in Thora and joined the two societal clubs of Moonlight and Sunlight. Ashwar was in Thora taking a break while Gulish did not reunite with him. She remained in Malé at a different address and joined a resort office. Muaz had last seen her in a Beauty Pageant in Hakra Fair on the 10th November, Friday night, standing fourth in the line-up of ten girls posing for Miss Galol. She was incredibly beautiful wearing a white maxi though she did not win a podium stand.
Muaz visited his half-sister and presented a gift of a golden necklace.
Mantha suffered a fall and she was ailing in bed. This was the reason why Muaz paid a visit but she would live another ten years.
Farida Ikhtak was in Thora this January planning to build that house of Badi. Her father still rolled the bidi. Muaz did not know how he got them but there was a son, Farid Ikhtak, who was a seaman in the indoor seas.
With the new government in effect, things began to change. Sufi practices were abolished, no more Mawlid rituals. Fanditha and venerations grew taboo but sorcery continued in the mainstream because it was blind faith. Reverence to prayer calls by stopping movement on the roads ceased because that was not the Arabic formulas were calling. Those calls, often on loudspeakers, call the followers to hurry up and enter the prayer instead.
Nudism was banned in the resorts and tourists visiting the island capital should wear a T-shirt. Bars and liquor sales were banned in Malé. Entertainment ceased, carnivals and fairs terminated. The new order in its complicity is ignominy to the people and taboo to dance.
A beautiful Sunday morning, Muaz stood under the gooseberry tree. Easterly breezes rolling down Giruva Magu. He saw Nazima heading from Irshad Magu carrying a stick in her hand. She wore a light green libas frock and a blue long skirt – quite islandic.
“Shall we go to the beach!” he asked as she came up, “I want to go to the south beach.”
“Come with me,” said Nazima.
They walked towards the mosque and turned to Sirat Magu, a straight long road, heading south half a mile to the beach. They were in no hurry, she kept kicking the ground with the stick in her hand.
“Today’s my birthday,” she began a conversation checking her wristwatch, “Nine in the morning.”
“How old are you?” asked Muaz.
“You can’t be that old!”
“Today is twenty-eighth Safar. I am sixteen.”
“You must be mistaken. Twenty-eighth January.”
“Twenty-eighth Safar, thirteen ninety-nine.”
“What is your birthday in the English way?”
“So, you are still fifteen.”
“No. I’m sixteen. I count my way.”
“Where is your boyfriend.”
“Which one? I have three boyfriends.”
“Noxious!” he uttered, “You can’t be serious!”
“I have dated five boyfriends,” assured the girl.
“When I was your age, I did not see a woman.”
“She’s my sister and I was seventeen then!”
“Take her to Malé,” she suggested.
“Would you like to go to Malé?”
“Definitely,” she said.
“Why?” he asked.
“To find a job.”
“You are dancing!”
“I don’t get money.”
On the beach, it was very windy yet a lot of folks in water. “What is going on?” he asked Nazima.
“See that boat! They want to berth it ashore.”
He ran into the water and Nazima joined a bunch on the beach to have a coconut drink.
Forty minutes later, Muaz walking on Women’s Lane had that feeling he was on that path. How the hell did he get into this way? He could see the palm rows and did not want to go any further. Not prepared to face with a hundi in a red libas – if you do not disturb, they do not disturb. He turned back, in other words, back towards the way he climbed. Muaz entered the brushwood following his footsteps to get to the beach when he saw something that he never ever in his life mentioned to anyone. A story that’s never been told.
He saw a pair of legs, yellow legs, exposed from the underbrush. To be precise, only the feet below knees. Muaz felt a shiver release from his body. He took his eyes away and steadily walked straight through the brush to come out on the shore.
He looked for Nazima but could not find her. He asked around. He would not walk alone Women’s Lane or Sirat Magu or Immagu to go home.
Muaz dropped beside the girls in sea-shorts and rejected a Portello, instead chose an orange. Meanwhile, those guys in water aligned the ship towards the shore where it would be berthed. They dropped the lines and prepared for the folks to pull. Usually, womenfolk did the tugging.
“Ahoy! Ahoy!” there was a scream and everyone looked up that way. A girl screamed out of wits, “Come quickly! Come quickly! A woman in the bush! A woman in the bush!”
Everyone ran that way towards Women’s Lane.
Nazima entered Women’s Lane following Muaz but she lost him. There she caught sight of a woman in a red dress in the watermelon fields. It could be very tricky to differentiate an apparition beside a woman. Therefore, she turned back.
When she turned back, she saw those legs, those two feet, exposed under the brush. When she looked into the pit, it was a woman, five feet four inches, lying in the dirt. She wore a blue dress and its bell bottoms gone up over the knees. For that matter, her legs were exposed. She saw blood all over her chest, on the dress it appeared rather black. Nazima saw her throat cut off.
Abruptly, everyone rushed in and the body was removed from the pit and taken to Women’s Lane.
It was Farida Ikhtak, killed in a cutthroat murder – slaughtered.
A murder weapon was found tossed in the bush. A fish knife coated in blood. A fish knife is a forged cast iron tool with a narrow blade about 16 inches long.
A day later, Ashwar turned in to confess that he killed the woman. Island chief enquired, “On what motive did you kill Farida Ikhtak?”
Ashwar replied, “Ask her?”
“Badi is slain.”
“Ask the dead body.”
Ashwar was sentenced for life in jail.
Farida’s body was brought to Malé for burial and examination. Doctor’s report indicated a left-handed job. After knowing the felon, it was obvious. She was laid to rest in Galol Cemetery in Malé on Tuesday, 30th January, after dawn prayer. A lot of Club Rehendi dancers arrived and paid their respect.
Many years later, Mannan deliberated over those events, “It took me eleven months to heel and two years to sing. I turned solo and started recording albums.
“Who would be able to see that golden logo on the ship’s casino counter! ‘HW’ is the Harland and Wolff logo, the ship builders,” he chuckled, “First time I saw, I thought it was a symbol of a man and a woman. Now that ship is scrapped in Karachi in ’83. Maldive Courage…I be damned!”
“There is no Grand Devil’s Claws when you come faced with the Devil’s Claws. You are a dead man. I swear I saw her eyes white. One moment, Huda lay in bed with white eyes. That Moonlight journalist wrote in his article on the paper that he could not see the girl with her when the lights went out.
“Salt’s wife was killed on a Sunday, 28th January 1979. It was horrible and cruel. A long fish knife driven into her neck from the left and out through the other side while holding her from behind. Her throat slit outwards, so brutal, outrageously wicked and vile that we don’t talk about it anymore.”
– End –