STATUE OF BUDDHA
Yahya Ismail Hadi with folks and crew reached Mathirah Island in Ihavandippol Atoll on his new batel – a boat bigger than a doni. In traditional belief Mathirah was a sacred island where new boats on maiden voyages were beached in a ritual that was supposed to drive off evil and bring about good luck.
His new boat named Hirigau laid its keel on a good day according to horoscope the sorcerer obtained from fanditha practice. It was lowered in water after the sorcerer placed talismans under its rafters and furrows, in the proper places, reciting holy verses and burning an incense to spawn a smoke. Eventually, the boat-owner’s youngest wife hit the hull with a coconut and split it in halves. If it didn’t a curse cast on.
On its maiden voyage Hirigau ran smoothly in the emerald waters around the breathtaking island of Mathirah. Suddenly, they caught sight of something out of the blue on this bright sunny morning; a huge skull rising over the bushes in the lower undergrowth.
“What the hell is it? Someone piled a mountain of sand!”
“No.” Yahya stood astounded with his foot on the rudder. “It is a carved statuette of a human head.”
“It’s a ghost!” a woman cried in shock.
Then the women and children got terrified and begged to turn back the boat and go home. Certainly it was not a ghost but islanders habitually believed in jinni and evil spirits. Another fear was that of a Bodu Meeha (Giant Man) sighted in the islands according to the folks. Usually, it described a figure hanging 18 foot tall and a black form. Yahya uttered, “No. It can’t be Bodu Meeha but that thing is watching us. It’s entirely white.”
“Watching! Did you say it’s watching?” his wife cried tapping her feet on the planks, “We leave now!”
The keyol (captain) agreed, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to beach here. Let’s just pass by.”
“We must beach the craft today,” said Yahya.
“Like hell you do!” cried his wife, “There is no way you stop while that thing is up there.”
The captain added, “That thing is taller than a palm. It’s a statue.”
“A statue?” echoed Yahya implausibly who said it was a statue. On the maiden voyage, the boat ran over the waters and aground beaching its nose in the sand by the waterline.
“We can’t pull back if we beach the boat.”
His wife cried, “We can’t beach here with all the children onboard. If that thing comes after us, we can’t run away. We’re all boarded on a piece of driftwood and water around.”
“Stop calling it driftwood!” Yahya snapped back the crowd to silence.
Yahya decided quickly, “Okay, okay, we get out of these waters. Stay there by the reef. Somebody get on the island and find out what it is.”
Two juveniles jumped into the water and swam towards the island. Yahya turned the boat to move out of the lagoon. He called on his mobile to a contact in the nearby island of Horafushi. The captain passed news on radio.
The boys returned in twenty minutes to report it was indeed a statue carved from a mass of coral rock entirely white. In the native tongue they called ‘hirigau’ to this type of coral sediment rock. Yahya’s boat was also called Hirigau by coincidence.
Men on the boat followed to climb the island to witness for themselves. There seemed not a soul around but that load of mass of fifteen feet in height could only be erected with some effort.
Meanwhile, news reached the islands around Ihavandippol and Thiladummathi atolls. In no time they spotted quite a number of boats heading this way to see what was on Mathirah.
Mehdi observed the dig site at a location where a coastal wall project was going on in order to unearth the submarine cable to connect the energy distribution station on the island of Kela. A major from the MNDF was with him when a call buzzed the officer’s cellular and someone passed on the news. Mehdi decided to see the statue for himself. He climbed his Marko SUV on the island and Major Shafeeg joined him. In the meantime, a coastguard vessel left to Mathirah lying approximately 27 nautical miles northwest of Kela.
The Marko SUV cruised in water and climbed the beach on wheels. An amphibious car was strangely a new thing in this part of the world. Mehdi disembarked with the major. He noticed it was indeed a sculpture of Buddha. Many islanders and military personnel gathered here. A yellow ribbon marked ironically the crime scene – police line. Many Sri Lankan and Buddhist employees working in the region arrived on boats and some began worshiping the Lord already.
Major Shafeeg said, “What’s going on? Nobody should be allowed on the island and this island must be under scrutiny for forensics to find out how that statue got erected in the first place.”
The officer in charge replied, “I have orders to call off visitors, stop cameras and mobiles but how! The pictures are already out with them.”
“Of course, you cannot stop them from taking photographs but you can call them off. Take the visitors out to the lagoon. It’s almost two hours since the find.”
Mehdi asked, “What are you going to do with it? Blow it?”
“No. Orders are to lower it down,” he replied.
“It’s carved from stone, probably the handwork of a Kuluduffushi chap. It’s rare.” Islanders belonging to Kuluduffushi maintained a profession to craft hirigau and an outstanding bunch to carve tombstones.
“That thing is damn heavy I can’t even imagine its weight,” another officer with a camera joined them. “I bet they used a crane to lower the pieces down here. They are blocks put together. Each stone would weigh a colossal tonne.”
Officer in charge told them, “There’s not a trace of how they brought it up sixty feet from the shoreline. It could be a tugboat and a barge in the shallow waters to pull the load. The marks are gone. It must be here for some time.”
“That’s what Stonehenge did to rocks. Dropped from the sky, phenomenal,” Mehdi uttered sarcastically, “Teleported!”
“You mean tear it down!” Major Shafeeg asked. His eyes still fixed at its crest. “You need to dismantle it block by block. This sculpture is not done here. Nobody in this country got the guts or skills to craft it like that. Are you expecting someone?”
“No sir,” replied the officer in charge.
“Huh! They want to remove this quickly. Damn quickly like it never cast its shadow.”
A loudspeaker exploded calling unauthorised persons to get out of the island immediately. Mehdi and Major Shafeeg climbed the vehicle. Mehdi drove the SUV slowly into the lagoon. A couple of boys jumped up its rear bumper. Mehdi’s cell phone buzzed. He grabbed it from the pocket steering the wheel with his free hand and answered the call. He rolled down the window glass on automatic motor, pulled his head out and shouted at the weather-beaten boys, “Get off! Get off my car!” One by one they dived into the crystal clear water.
Scores of boats arrived from the nearby islands carrying sightseers so crowded they continued to stand on the floats during the trip.
Yahya Ismail Hadi and his family got engaged to wash down his new boat.
The person on the line told Mehdi, “One of the boys we sent to Brazil to do a cookery course is found dead, mutilated and body parts removed, Estado Mello called to say. It is midnight over there. I’m informing his family, next-of-kin.”
“Who’s he?” asked Mehdi.