I stumbled into a bickering woman first time I climbed on the island of Villingili in 1992 on a holiday with a friend. I could hardly understand the Suvadivan dialect so the wrangle became meaningless. I found out soon from my friend that her problem was about a son receiving a letter from the island chief’s daughter. One hotspot for zuwab was Villingili where usually women stepped into furious oral fights clapping hands, singing aloud, dancing about, use grim language, hoots, cries and indecent exposure. In this case there was nobody to argue with. It was merely an overexcitement to cry out to the community that she got the most handsome boy the girl liked.
I could remember one night when three sisters had a wrangle with someone who did spill outside their cottages on the beach. One of the huts got a 200W bulb lit outside. I asked the children around, “What are they shouting about a dillé with plenty of light?” The girls giggled because even if it meant ‘light’ for me – a Malien, in Suvadivan tongue it referred to the ‘pussy’. Then one sister got undressed in Suvadivan style getting stripped. She got the long silver girdle on her hips wound in folds with heavy silver lockets. Her husband sat in the house taking care of the baby helping an all women effort to continue with wrangling. In a while, the naked sister was taken to the island court and released when she got cool down after hours.
Another day I heard a cry, “Dora hàkota hèì, Iké gora handan hèì!” A girl stood squeezing her crotch and folding legs in the backyard of the house front of mine. She called someone in a gifili to open up, she wanted to pee. For me – a northerner, it sounded grimy and hardly could understand their dialect. Her name was Munira.
Two years later, in 1994, I arrived at Villingili Island because another good friend wanted me to run a home school tuition class. I did all by myself teaching two subjects for 112 middle school students. I did not have time to visit my friends on the northern side of the island where I stayed before other than on weekends. I actually knew nobody on this side still I spent a good time with the neighbourly girls who came to find out ‘who the person you are’ and the hoots I heard from my flipside of matured girls sending flowers through kid-messengers – stranger, try me…
Besides, my landlady seemed forgetful to hook the loop over the door knob. Many times I walked into a gifili while she took bathe standing wet with silver on the hips. Her husband was a captain and away. So I got part time – like in the nights of mosquito bites I put her daughters to sleep on the swing. And during the dawns I observed through my window – those girls go down to the beach for morning wash by the early dawn. I was the outsider – a Malien from Malé, I shan’t have to bother about where the girls get down…
In the month of October, I was invited by the school supervisor. I could remember the dusk I entered the newly built community school with orange beacons and the whole place empty – oleanders planted by the white boundary walls in full blossom. I met the school supervisor in his office after crossing several corridors. On an island like this – the whole place belonged to him. School was preparing for a fundraising concert and he asked me to write a play which I did but I only visited the students few times during the rehearsals. I wrote a drama about some wrangling girls by the water-well.
On 3rd November, ‘Victory Day’ and Friday night I attended to watch the show.
A wrangling girl supposed to tuck her kandeki up in an irate oral fight that ended up in brief physical wrestling to drop her kandeki and run out of sight. As I watched the play Munira appeared on the stage, in the bright lights, carrying a bandiya pot to fetch water from the well. She wore a black kandeki and a red libas of a hidebound native girl. Two girls of the new generation wearing skirts and slacks began the tease to provoke her into a full-blown zuwab of an extremely dramatised sensation of tribal hoots and simbi - kind of toot created in a falsetto voice doing a tremolo with a finger between lips. It took to new level of a typical roadside squabble though the dialogue contained humour rather not of the ordinary.
When it was over I went to the backstage to give a big hand of praise but to my surprise she wasn’t the girl who actually appeared on the scene. So I was making matters untidy asking about a girl who never took part in a school event although some old students always participated.
Munira was nineteen years old and so tall that I felt reluctant to talk to her sometimes. I learnt of her marriage followed by divorce in three months. It gave me an encouragement to visit her in the weekends and rather comfortable with the family. Mistakenly, I asked for marriage before the special cocktail and she gave me the big no answer – finding an excuse for I was a Malien. Our relationship suddenly changed.
My hangout soon became the three sisters who lived by the eastern coast near Munira’s place. Because of their mischief I stupidly stepped on the beach like a cameo on a breezy morning and absolutely ruined our relationship. The three sisters tipped me of her morning wash by the seashore.
It was daybreak. I followed the girl down the powerhouse and so few houses in the area. She climbed down to the beach and hid behind some bushes doing her private thing with her fingers in the sand. Nobody would disturb anyone in such a state. I just could not have manners or discipline my ego. I felt like I got guts – something of course I didn’t have. I climbed down to the shore and sat down within a yard next to her. She suddenly tossed her hair to cover her face and dropped on her buttocks meticulously in a manner correcting her blue wrap to hide those white legs. Two big silver boxes of lockets hanging on the silver girdle around her hips left attractively disclosed. Munira landed on top of her discharge. I did my own private thing. She kept flicking a red tongue at me, “Go away!” a whisper I heard in a cavernous and dangerous tone that exposed her whitish gums. Unfortunately, I never decided to go away.
The sun rose in my eyes. A breeze kept teasing my ears and turning the cilium near the troubled waters of the brackish lagoon. Flies found breakfast buzzing around. A big-beaked bird of some kind of wildfowl also found breakfast in the flies and came terrifyingly close to me. I tried to push her away but she seemed keen on a lofty odd something. Another one of the same stock, maybe her cousin, joined from the rear. I tried to chase them both, swinging my arms in a motion and throwing stones. She found that animating and took the nick of time to scramble to the waterline, waddling like a duck, rooted to the ground to sander the surface of a sandy beach, squat on heels and down on knees. She dipped neck deep in the waters for wash – in the safe side of sea bottom. The three sisters ridiculed her with children around. I knew I shan’t be there. Men were not expected in women’s areas – islanders maintained good rules.
Munira stayed away and she never gave me that special something. I got no chance to ask her about that incidental appearance on the stage.
In another formula one attempt, I hid inside the shower garden at her place knowing Munira entered the gifili close to sundown. There stood a chicken house by the corner and I hid inside. And after a long expectation some girl walked in with towel and toothbrush, fastened the door and stepped on the bath-floor. Her long black hair reached the buttocks and I could not see her face. She stood with her back on me. She removed that top-tight gown we called a faskuri-hedun. She wore silver on her hips but unlike other indigenous islanders she got something else – a pair of white panties. Munira never wore that kind of a motherly dress. I stayed anxiously to catch a glimpse of her face. And eventually when I did I could hardly notice her – I had never seen her before. It had fallen dark by the time she got out. I climbed over the wall to collide with a white cat and that terrified me nearly to miss a step and hit the ground. I surely missed a heartbeat. I wondered who she was and until this day she reminded me of Emmylou Harris singing back in the sixties.
I knew Munira’s friends from my previous trip. I talked about her with them. I didn’t totally quit visiting her place though she felt embarrassed to sit with me. I should have never treated a conventional girl in such a manner. One of the husbands of the three sisters began to show his concern. His name was Ahmed Rasheed. He told me he could do black magic that would bring her to my door.
I asked with some interest, “A cockroach-on-a-string?” I’d been through such an experience I wrote in ‘White Orchids’ and told him a bit about it mentioning the name of Anzala Fahsha. He seemed to know more about the apparition but then he did not tell me about the case of ‘Oleanders’ and the story of Muin.
“If you prefer, I’ll do it for you,” he said.
I sensed that was too harsh, “Can’t you think of something simple?”
“I can hoist a windrose. It’s very easy, just write down your name with hers on a sweet fruit and hang in air outside your window.” Perhaps he thought I believe in magic.
“Gosh! People will see it!”
Perhaps he knew I would fall in, “I can make it simpler…”
“No. I dare not. I don’t believe in these things.” I didn’t agree with him to do a charm for sometime.
“I make a talisman, you visit her wearing it and in seven days she falls in love with you.”
I still refrained.
One thing I didn’t know about these magicians was the fact that they were clever negotiators. Talking with him in the following few days really turned me on. Rasheed and the three sisters never mentioned of the ‘Oleanders’ – a story that got a connection to this one of mine.
He began to tell me about Munira’s eccentric behaviour. I didn’t know her like the way I really should. His talks went on with conforming nods from the three sisters and their husbands that made me go believe in them. It didn’t have to be programmed because gossips stimulated these laidback islanders that it became part of their habit to tell lies and nod in harmony to things they didn’t know about. I got caught in a trap with their firsthand genuine knowledge.
According to him and the three sisters, he was the sorcerer who made her fall in love with Zaman to whom she got married. Good girls, he said, mostly the domesticated type fell easily to the magical bug. He was also the man who forced them to divorce. He did magic that made her sleep with another guy. It was him who tipped Zaman of their secret affair. After their divorce she turned into a slut calling in many men to her place. Her mother was a cancer patient and Munira had taken her to India for treatment. A fifty year old man by the name of Abdul Gani from Malé backed her financially and took them on the trip to India. He used her like a slave. Gani visited Villingili and stayed at her place. She got mental problems additionally, addicted to drugs and antidepressants prescribed by the health centre. Finally he said that he slept with her many times and would do whenever he wanted.
I got terribly disturbed after hearing the odd side of the good girl. Some of those stories I knew were true like her mother’s health condition. I didn’t know if they made a trip to India. I promptly decided not to talk about her, not to mention her name to anyone. It could be perhaps I believed in him and his magic or just grew too guarded after knowing the truth about her. I began to worry and often angry.
“If you don’t believe me, I would bring her out one night just to show you how magic works.” Rasheed got a very strong point.
Perhaps I believed in him too much, “Show me that magic with someone else and leave her for a while.” Perhaps I was blind.
“Okay, name somebody.”
“Faruzana,” I mentioned a big girl living next door to Munira.
“Friday night, I’ll come around midnight to pick you up. I’ll show it all in your eyes.” Perhaps I’d believe him only then.
Monday afternoon a wrangle surfaced between two neighbours. One of the houses stood few blocks on the west and the other adjacent to the tuition class. A girl in the west house stole some garments hung on a drying line. Such wrangles could last sometimes a week or two.
Tuesday morning a quiet girl came pretty early to find the classroom empty. She started to scratch out her name on the desks where the students scribbled a boy’s name along with a girl. I was in my bedroom that opened to the classroom. I walked out abruptly and did something I regretted now. I started scolding at her for writing on the desks.
I saw Munira walking by carrying a bundle of firewood. She wore a black kandeki and a purple frock. I called her and she paused by the far corner away from the classroom. I reached and told her, “I have to talk to you, nothing about marriage, it’s about Rasheed…”
“Rasheed?” Munira enquired, “What about him? I really don’t like them. It isn’t nice to behave in such a poor way and do things they ask you.”
“I’m sorry about that.”
“Promise me it won’t happen again!”
“I promise,” I said promptly leaving behind my curse about these girls – if they wished to tease a guy, they won’t mind crossing someone down on the beach or to throw water on anybody. That was precisely Queen Rehendi’s justice – only women should rule.
“Tell me, what did he say about me?”
“I just want to say I am sorry. I want to see you around sometime…”
Munira nodded and for the first time I spoke a language she understood. Some guys back at home kept telling me how smart they were after the island girls in their jaunts. It certainly did not happen to me. I felt the quietness of the island. Usually, in the morning hours nobody came out on the roads. I returned to the class.
Two sessions in the morning ended at twelve. The pupils went home. I entered my room to relax until my landlady called for lunch. Abruptly it began – the wrangle which I had forgotten about. It continued from yesterday afternoon and lasted until one-thirty in time for the afternoon session. Their bickering lasted three days and both women entered the houses politely when the tuition class was on.
That evening Munira dropped in, unexpectedly, to find out what I knew from Ahmed Rasheed.
There I got my lead, “Did you go to India with a man called Gani?”
“Yes I did and took mother for treatment.”
So he was right, “Did he visit this island?”
“Yes, he did.”
True again and most likely he stayed with her, “Did you have an affair with him?”
“Who told you? No, never…” she was shocked.
I got to be careful, “Ah! Was it Rasheed who did magic on your divorce?”
“Yes, people say that and I do strongly suspect him.”
“Ah! Was there another guy involved?”
“Hmm! No…” she shook her head.
“Okay…but do you know Rasheed personally?”
“How do you mean?”
I picked words very carefully, “He said he dated you.”
“That’s a lie. He’s a liar. And you should not be listening to him…”
“Hold on! Don’t get so excited. I don’t believe a word he says.”
“I think you do. They are fooling you. He told you about Gani having an affair with me…that is worse than watching on morning wash.”
“I am sorry. Just don’t be mad at me. I know he talks a lot.”
“And you listen too much,” she snapped.
I wrapped up the argument and told about my first experience to bog in an open-air gifili to a low toilet seat in the floodwaters during the last rain. Only I knew the curse I’d been through. She grinned to show whitish gums and little teeth. Few of my first-time-on-an-island experience jokes and I got more prepared to losing her than leaving. I made my one last wish finally and it was so rude because I said I wanted to see her nude. Munira stared at me with big brown eyes. She was utterly lost and staggeringly ran away.
Friday night Rasheed came to fetch me. I told him, “I believe you have arranged it with that woman to come somewhere.”
He said, “Yes indeed. It’s arranged according to my plan. I want you to come out with me one night and stop that brawl for a moment.”
“Okay, I’m ready.”
“My wife cooked curry of green bananas just for you tonight. Let’s go and eat first.” So we headed to Rasheed’s place for the meal. It really was tasteful and followed with pretty neat ripen bananas and coffee. His pretty wife squashed the plates with rice for both of us. Afterwards, we went out for a walk stopping by all the dimly lit houses where girls slept in rows on the decks of ashi. Rasheed carried his knife – his magic knife. It was a full moon night and not required of a torch. We went west up the main road and then turned north on the long Cemetery Road that led to the playground still ahead. Halfway up, we reached the empty big mosque with whitewashed walls. Suddenly, I felt the night was warm perhaps for walking too much. Rasheed entered the mosque yard. I followed by the octagonal well in the forefront for prayers to perform ablution. He climbed the flight of steps that lead to a carved swing door with a brass beam support dropping in an angle from the doorpost to the edge of the low gate. He didn’t enter. It was dark inside. Instead, Rasheed walked up the smooth platform to the northeast corner. He pointed at a ripen momordica charantia hanging under the gutter. It got some writing on it.
I asked, “What’s it?”
Rasheed replied, “That’s the windrose, I made on the fruit. It is written in Divehi with your name and hers together along with the mothers’. We are expecting Faruzana to follow you tonight. I put it in the mosque because nobody will be around here at this hour.”
I trained my eyes on the tombstones lit in the moonlight standing on either side of the mosque yard. He preferred a sacred and a horrific place to do magic. So what got on his mind, “Why did you use my name?”
“She’ll be under the influence of an occult and she’ll do whatever you ask. I’ll show you evidence that I did not arrange by talking to her. That’s one girl I don’t ever speak.”
“I’m scared to do this.”
“I’ll be with you. Let’s move out of the mosque area. We stand by that wall to watch the road when she comes.”
Suddenly, I saw a movement behind one of the tombstones. I got a shiver run down my body, “Someone down there! Look!”
He too saw them, “There are two girls! It cannot be her.” He called aloud, “Who’s there?”
And the girls replied, “Don’t shout!”
Rasheed stepped down and reached them. He chased them away, “Do not climb into the graveyard.” and returned to tell me, “They are girls playing pachas.”
“Gosh! That almost killed me.”
Pachas – that was a game some of these island girls, usually juveniles, play around in the moonlight. A group of females would play hide and seek with another batch of girls. In play they might wear any costume, of a man or woman, of anybody, quickly change costumes, stay at anyone’s house, sleep on any deck and the whole point was to fake to whom they were hiding. If a girl got caught the rival cried, “Pachas!”
We moved out and paused by a black boundary wall that stood facing the mosque. There stood a gate with a threshold. We sat down quietly on the stone and I lit a cigarette. We waited for Faruzana to show up.
Probably, he’d ask me to go after and catch her up shouting, “Pachas!”
It was an exceedingly beautiful moonlit night. White sand carpeted the roads gleaming in the bright moonbeam. It was indeed warm and the stone we sat on still got warmth of the day. It was deep blue up in the sky and the palm leaves appeared still and black.
A round-faced moon that appeared unusually smaller had dipped a bit further to the west. It would be almost three after midnight. There was a road right in front of the mosque gate out of sight from the point we got positioned. This island was sleeping.
Just then I noticed a blurry shadow that fell on the whitewashed wall of the mosque. “Look!”
“Oh yes she’s coming,” he said and he was little taken aback.
How strange it was – a shadow couldn’t appear so tall up on the mosque wall touching the roof edge without another flash of light. If you thought of a light post – there was no light post on that road and if it was, the shadow could only fall around the figure for a light on a post would be elevated. Think of the moon – that climbed opposite sky so it was not definitely a shadow created by moonlight. Amazingly, it was a shadow of a moving figure – arms swinging and long messy hair.
We hurried to the corner by the black boundary wall and peeked down on the road but there was no one standing to create a shadow.
By then this shadow grew sharp, rather dark, still moving like a figure walking and it was an image of a woman up on the wall. Then in a moment the shadow faded and disappeared totally. We returned to the stone. Nobody said anything between us, it was deadly quiet. I lit a cigarette.
After a while, he grasped my hand and pointed. Further up from the north a girl in all white showed up. She was almost by the school wall under the oleanders. “She’s coming,” he said.
“Oh! What must I do now?”
“Go and hold her hand when she reaches the mosque. Start talking and take her behind the mosque or just go to your house. Do anything you like.”
“Start walking towards your house and she will follow you.”
“Stop her now.”
“Come on! There’s nothing to fear. She is now under a spiritual influence and mad about you.”
“Look, you better stop her.”
“She’s over thirty.”
“Why then did you ask for her?”
“Damn! Just stop her.”
He understood me, “I got my knife to dismantle her power.”
“Alright, sit and watch.”
She wore a top-tight, long-sleeved, white gown that locals called a faskuri-hedun – the national dress, with an oleander attached to her long black hair. She was probably the image behind the shadow I saw up on the mosque wall – her hair was long but not messy.
He got up and reached her right in front of the mosque gate and picked her right hand. They exchanged few words and I could tell from their facial expressions, something was really planned here. She kept glancing at me with that wide mouth. So I felt rather cool. Probably he sent the pachas girls to tell her we were down here.
He took her through the gate and disappeared behind the mosque. For few minutes things were quiet.
I saw them reappear from the far corner. It was dark. I stepped on the stone standing to capture their posture over the low boundary wall. They were turning and bumping against the mosque wall – both naked and standing.
Moment later, she appeared in the moonlight in front of the mosque by the well. She got the silver girdle around her hips. She picked the dani and dipped into the well and washed her legs. Rasheed passed her white gown. She slipped it on standing on the water stone.
In a minute they joined me outside the mosque gate. She stood bitchy steps behind. She got no flower on her hair. I didn’t want to make her feel a stranger at that moment so I stepped up and shook hands with her, “Clever…”
“Now it’s your turn…” Faruzana said. Her face was long and jaws cut that looked like a skull. Her wide mouth showed rows of white teeth.
“No, not tonight but I am your friend. Let’s go home!”
Somehow I went to the mosque the other day and found the oleander dropped behind the mosque. I picked it and brought home, placed it inside a book. I still got it dried. I cared not to ask Rasheed or Faruzana whom I never talked before because I knew this whole thing was prearranged. However, I could not figure out how that shadow got formed up on the mosque wall. It was possibly not a projector placed at the end of the road that lay direct before the mosque gate instead, it came from somewhere behind the boundary. In such a state it could be very tricky. I sure did not bother at all to worry about it. Later I laughed about this whole affair and the magician. Sometimes I wondered why I couldn’t think of writing such a play. I wrote…
Eh rè gé danvaru! Elli kali eh!
Magumathi jehi bodu ethi faharugā!
Ethi faharugā! Jehi faharugā! Faharavā!
Almost three weeks past. Munira hadn’t turned up. I still visited her but Munira maintained a distance other than to pass a glass of water. Her family there was alright, I talked to them. I called Faruzana one day and asked if she ever remember anything she did behind the mosque. Obviously, she gave that big grin and said no.
I felt desperate and eventually surrendered. I asked Rasheed to make an easy little charm – a talisman to wear and in seven days she falls in. Exactly that was what I asked him to do. Often with these islanders, it’d be unhelpful to argue with old beliefs mainly because superstition was part of their faith. Rasheed came with a silver locket the next day. I was wearing it on my waist when I met Muin on Friday that happened to be the 16th December. I saw the spirit of Anzala Fahsha inside his house called ‘Kaneer’. I wrote the twinning story about the ‘Oleanders’. On the following day I had a discussion with my landlady, Shafiya.
Sunday night, that was 18th December, I was in my bedroom with two of the landlady’s daughters, one was nine and the other seven, they were loud with me. It was close to midnight.
Someone appeared by the window. It was a full moon night. I could have seen anybody standing outside on the white sand but I only heard taps. Then I saw a white arm reaching for the glass panel to tap again. The girls heard knocks. The youngest reached to the window and called back to me, “It’s Munira.”
I got up and reached the window. Munira stood leaning by the wall. “What are you doing here?” I asked precisely like Muin did two days ago.
“I came to fulfil your desire,” Munira said.
“Do I have a desire?”
“To show my nude,” and the two girls giggled.
“Don’t be ridiculous!”
Then she expressed something that sounded precisely like her, “I will not have sex. Will you promise that?”
“Of course, I promise, come in.” I turned to the girls, “Get out!”
I expected her to walk in through the door that stood open to the classroom. Instead, she took her foot over the low window sill and entered through that way. She wore black kandeki and purple top. She got a flower on her hair – an oleander. I locked the windows and the door.
Like she said she took off the two pieces and lay on my bed. It wasn’t twelve so the light was on. They put off the electricity by midnight. Munira wore silver on her hips. She tapped the mattress with a gesture and I got prepared to lie down next to her when the landlady knocked on the door. Shafiya came to light the kerosene lamp. “Is someone in there?” she asked.
“Oh yeah…a girl,” So I passed the lamp through the doorway and paused until she returned the lamp.
Soon the electricity was out. I lay next to her soft skin. She was beautiful and smelt sweet. I could see the white sand outside the window through glass and few people passing. I asked, “Why are you wearing this armband and so many amulets on your waist?”
“For protection…” Munira told me as she was told by her parents.
“From what? From Me?” I asked.
“Disease, evil, wrongdoing, from getting lost on the sea…” and she continued the tail of beliefs behind the tale of superstition.
She was talking a lot that night. She said, “You won’t be able to leave this island.”
“What do you mean? I marry someone...”
“No. You’ll find transport problem. Maybe bad weather when you try to cross the Suvadivan Sea.”
“Will I return home safely?”
“You will by air,” she laughed in an undertone and said, “I will make sure you do.”
In the dark, there was a moment I thought she got green eyes. In the wavering light of an oil-burning filament I checked them – normal brown. After all she was human, in flesh and blood – Munira Ismail.
It happened close to dawn when she decided to leave. She said, “I must go before dawn.”
“I will take you home.”
“No. Nobody must see me with you.”
“Nobody is up at this hour. Your place is too far. I don’t like to let you go alone.”
“I’m used to it.”
“Are you like this all the time?”
“No. I must go now.”
She picked her two pieces of clothes – top and bottom, walked out of the bedroom into the classroom. I thought she would get dressed there in total dark. She disappeared like the apparition I saw two days ago at Muin’s place. I came out to unlock the classroom door to let her out but she was not standing there. I checked the windows on the wall – none were unlocked. I could not understand how she got out. There stood a corridor that lead to inner quarters of the house. I reached the backdoor that let to the backyard of the house. It was locked from the inside.
Strangely, I did not have that thing called fear that night. It was just too much to bear or to believe. I remembered she left the oleander on my table. I rushed to find it but it wasn’t there either.
Whatever happened there I did not want to ask anybody. I didn’t even discuss this with Ahmed Rasheed or my landlady, Shafiya. I visited Munira but she looked quite normal. I didn’t get a chance to ask her about that night. I thought about a way how to ask. All that I asked was, “When will you drop in again?”
She timidly replied, “No yennè…” She probably thought I asked this because she did one night to find out what I knew from Rasheed.
I almost found myself waiting all night with an expectation for her.
Few days later, I visited Sadna Ishaq, one of the parents of the pupils I gave tuition. She asked me about Munira Ismail and everyone knew I got an interest in her – there’s no place to hide a little secret on an island full of gossipers but all broken virgins on the moonlight beaches get washed by the waves.
I visited Sadna because I wanted to hear about Muin. She told me his story and the case of ‘Oleanders’. I told her about Munira. According to Sadna, “It was not Faruzana Mohamed who appeared by the mosque that night. She’s a cameo. Nor was it Munira lying down next to you.” And Sadna got no reason to know, “You’ve been approached by Fariké Handi. You actually saw someone else on the stage during the concert and in the gifili you peeked.”
“How did you know I peeked?”
“I still have dreams.”
“Am I safe?”
“Remove the talisman.”
I was wearing the amulet Rasheed passed me. I removed it as soon as I returned home.
I tried to leave the island by sea and failed on two attempts. Last time I was on the top of a boat called ‘Jazeera’ with thirty students going to sit O’ level exams in the capital of Malé. As we moved into the Suvadivan Sea, the waves grew huge and the boat rolled from side to side. All the girls felt weak and vomiting. There was a hot quarrel on the top deck – some guy saying you don’t call it rough. Eventually, one guy who was with the kids said, “Turn the boat at once! We don’t want our children to reach Malé and sit that exam with their heads going spinning. We fly...”
Fortunately, the captain turned the vessel and returned from that risky journey. I joined the students’ batch to fly home. We took off one day on a boat to an island called Gemenefushi for an overnight – and it was an interesting trip. Next dawn we headed to the island of Thinadu, the administrative island. Inland seas were not rough.
Once again we left by boat to the nearby airport island called Kandeddu. I observed the flight guy who got a cigarette in his lips. He called us to climb that boat that took us to the airport island. Nobody was in sight. A brand new fire-engine on standby got nobody in it, so it remained still. The flight guy lifted the rain gauge to make the weather report. He was the one who checked our air-tickets, sorting out an overbooking we faced. He was there to check the luggage and used a detector on the passengers. He was still with a smoke in his mouth standing on the tarmac when the aeroplane landed and approached the parking. It almost ran over the terminal and parked sideways like a sports car. The passengers came down and he climbed with a broom and dustbin to clean the aircraft. He carried the weather report and the passenger manifesto in one hand. Certainly, there was not a soul in the ATC for he carried a communication equipment to talk with the flight, no security guards, no cops and nobody on a deserted island – in the real Third World.
I could not fly on the first flight because the seats were full. We tried to send the students first. So I returned to Thinadu after entering my name on waitlist for a late afternoon flight.
It was very hot in Thinadu – an island crowded of people and houses, no trees. There were many cafés and I had meal. I came by the playground in the blazing sun. I saw a girl on the opposite side of the playground. She wore a black kandeki and a purple top. She was no doubt Munira. It was too hot for me to walk around the playground and reach her.
However, I knew she won’t be there by the time I catch her up – it’s just a cameo.