December 27, 2011

More health care but less health!

A contradiction of our present times is the fact that we have a huge proliferation of health care facilities in the form of clinics and hospitals which house ever more sophisticated diagnostics that can detect every bit of an anomaly in our bodies. Yet we continue to be mired in ill health indicated by the never ceasing streams of lines and throngs in emergency rooms of hospitals of the booming medical industry and medical tourism that we witness. Why is this happening? Are we nations of hypochondriacs; or sheep that just follow the shepherd in blissful compliance? In a world where information is rife on everything, where one can Google anything from how to make chicken noodle soup to the side effects of a heart valve replacement, we have the means to know also how to keep ourselves healthy. Is it that we just want to know and not do? Do we want some one else to give us our health on a platter? Do we want someone else to force us to stop our smoking even when we know that it eats up our insides ever so insidiously, even as we are knowingly carried away by the crafty advertisements that show the seeming coolness or trendiness of the portrayed smoker? It may be too late when we realize that the cilia lining our bronchi and trachea have died and become dysfunctional and we are in for lifelong emphysema. Or that we are into advanced stages of lung cancer before reality kicks in and discover we have spent a fortune making cigarette companies rich for making us sick.

The solution to our health lies in prevention; the simple acts we can do on our own that will give us health benefits to last a lifetime; Walking, regular exercise, eating wisely, shunning the risky lifestyles, and learning to love our fellow human beings (to reduce our stress). There are age old methods that we have just forgotten in the mire of the glitter that we call modernization. Our Muslim prayer is undoubtedly for the holistic elevation of our spirit, mind, and body we can pursue throughout our lives. Just imagine, if done in its completeness, it is physical exercise that adds up to about an hour of body movements in poses that are perhaps yogic in nature. And the time for silence and meditation our prayers embody gives us the silence we need, away from the constant chatter of our head. And now the ever increasing chatter of our mobile phones and other handheld electronic devises that strive never to give us a moment of silence. The Yoga and meditation as special features that have come out of the need for human beings to reach in to touch the spirit within is also there to offer us time away from the stress of life.

The practice of preventive public health measures doesn’t require us to spend our monthly income on hospital bills. We can save a big portion of this by just doing what was mentioned above. We need to be wise and respectful of our bodies much more than we do now. It’s the only one we have for a whole lifetime. Starving our bodies to make us feel good because looking thin is the style of the day, may not be the right attitude for us to carry in a regime of respecting our bodies. Keeping to good body-weight to height standards because that will reduce the burden on our joints, or lessen the stress of the pumping our hearts do to keep us alive is the way to think if we respect our body. True, it’s just a tweak of mindset. But that difference in intention makes a world of difference in the way our bodies react to the cosmic request made.

Ultimately, the health of a nation must perhaps be measured by the number of people who don't have to go to the hospital rather than the numbers who visit them. Invest in public health and you will have more money in your pocket too and the government will have less to spend on for the so called medical insurance. Both ways, Maldives will benefit as a Nation.

December 26, 2011

The legacy of nationhood

In a democratic Maldives, we have a lot of adjustments to make to reap the advantage of democracy. The measure of the practice of the rule of law is one of the indicators of good governance in a democratic society.
True, our nature is to be free and so rules and regulations tend to stifle us. When these confront our desires we bend them, and if the strength of our emotional attachment to the desire in question, if strong enough, we even go onto break the rule. Some say that rules are made to be broken. While that adage must be taken with a grain of salt so to say, the over emphasis modern society places on rules and regulations to be the panacea for social ills is very ill placed. Often, we do little to uphold good laws ourselves as citizens of society, and of greater concern, the powers that be promulgating our laws don't provide the space to enforce these with the impartiality and sagacity required. Yet again, the ego’s call for selfish ownership comes in the way of good laws that are there to govern our behavior as a society. Where enforcement is practiced, the carrot and stick is the accepted one in most societies but more than the carrot, we are given the stick. As societies grow into urban communities, law enforcement becomes ever more complex and as the ever pervasive human foible of greed takes hold, corruptive forces sink deep to take away our dignity.
So when looking for alternative approaches of enforcement, it is not perhaps the traditional carrot and stick that will be the sustainable alternative. It has to be the good old nurturing of social values that must come to our rescue in building a caring society. Our schools and our homes must be made the support base to nurture these. We need to also come away from our assumed views that it is the government that must be solely responsible for it, yet we can’t shy away from selecting the right ones. In a democracy, it is ourselves that are the sources of the wisdom that will help our communities to be what we want them to be. We need to practice the values of good stewardship and good model behavior that our children will be incentivized to emulate. In the ultimate analysis, even our leaders are also at the same time parents, teachers and potential role models for our children. Our children can only learn from what we show them. They cannot be inspired otherwise. A good citizenry is what we must yearn to build and also hope to leave behind.

December 19, 2011

Being good is easy when we trust our spirit

What we perceive as good always relates to what seems beneficial to us. What you feel good is what benefits you and likewise what is good for me is what I perceive what benefits me. In all these cases what is seen as good seems to harbour on selfishness. Therefore there is the fear of subverting another's good. How do we move from these nigglings of selfishness to working for the greater good? Unfortunately, even the greater good is tinged with selfishness. But we can indeed improve on this by thinking of what is good for society - ie. turning from MY good or YOUR good to OUR good. But even then this societal good is also tinged with selfishness. We just don't seem to get out of this all pervasive desire to own! Perhaps that is to be human! Yet our resolve must be to rise above the pettiness of being human and regain some of the universal spirit that is dormant within us which is our element and that which has been covered up by our years of social nurturing. While we can never be devoid of craving that is the hallmark of being human, our move towards societal good will mean a moving towards our inner spirit. And in doing so, we will be seeking the commonality that binds our seemingly separate existence. Our service to society is a way of regaining this inner essence and the universal principle that we all are ONE. Suddenly, there are no differences and no conflict. So the further we stretch ourselves towards serving another's benefit, rather than just our own, the ever closer we evolve towards our inner spiritual essence which is what we really are, shattering the mask we wear every day. That is the real homecoming!

November 24, 2011

Parents - nurture your child's love for reading.

In this world of social media and video games, our children's proximity to books is a dwindling reality. With every other teenager and children as young as 10 yrs old having their own swanky handhelds, texting, tweeting and chatting occupy the larger part of their day -- its use is for anything but reading as in the more formal sense of it. Chat, twitter and facebook all cater to the brevity of the written statement and a demise of large blocks of text as attractants to youth. In a time where speed is glorified, from the speed of internet access, the acquisition of wealth, power and position and any other human aspiration, the refreshing tantalizations that reading embodies is being soon forgotten or dumped as baggage from the past. "We don't need to be tantalized and kept waiting" seems to be the pertinent refrain --- for the order of the day is instant gratification.

Parents, let's look at the consequences of this pervasive culture on the growth and development of our children's sensibilities. Books give childen a peek into the experiences and values of our past through the experiences of those who have inhabited our spaces before we came into being. The enormous library of knowledge, awareness and experiences aggregated in the written body of knowledge provides our link to this past and gives our children the bearings to be good citizens of tomorrow. As we know today, our success in life depends more on our emotional intelligence or emotional quotient than on our intelligence quotient. That is accepted as truth today and is starkly rational, for our ability to make relationships work is what makes us better sharing human being rather than just selfish human objects. The building blocks of making and living in such sharing relationships is a good comprehension of our world from various angles. That is the gold mine of opportunity reading provides to our children and their love nurtured for it will be the good harbingers of a successful future - success defined as a satisfied journey through our life on this earth.

It is said, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Parents! Please don't lose this opportunity to chart a cherished future for your children. Even as you give them those shiny handhelds, please don't neglect offering them the edge reading will ensure.

November 22, 2011

To be in a hurry is to be selfish

In community development we cannot be in a hurry for as they say haste makes waste. People in a hurry often are very tied to their own opinions as being right. Rightly so; It is only logical in their minds that they rationalize it to be so because it is only then that they can go ahead with that decision and so contribute to the fast pace they want to create in life and in society. However this attitude of "I know what's best" even by a collectivity of decision makers may not provide a wise decision. Just as many wrongs do not add up to making something right, the result of a collectivity of flawed decisions cannot also be right. The result of such muddled or self-laden decisions would be conflict and impasse. A more practical way, but not necessarily the fastest, for the preferance of many, is the option of dialogue with the community. Ultimately our decisions of community development is for the benefit of society and so it stands rational that we seek their views to be the very foundation of our action - not just a mere sounding board for comparing the degree of fit with our opinions. It is this acceptance by the community that will sustain the actions we roll out. Such consultation will also supply the strength we would need in moving forward that action as many would, by the very fact of the decision being theirs or being involved in making it, give of themselves  -- sometimes in abandon -- for its success. Unfortunately, much of the decisions we make for our community development are made in haste and so lack this important facet of community legitimacy. Given the power of the decision maker and the size of ego involved, such hasty decisions can leave society in tears for generations to come. So how much leeway should democratically elected leaders strive to exercise. The answer is only found in our own reflections about the implications of such decisions we see in our society through a budding awareness of the principles of democracy and what powers it gives to the people. Let's not make haste. While it may bring windfalls of benefit to the perpetrator of the decision in the short run, it can however be a waste and a burden to the generations we hope to nurture in our future.

November 14, 2011

Soft bridges

The theme of our 17th SAARC summit was very profound yet fitting. Building bridges is a theme that is so appropriate to the context of socioeconomic and human development. Bridges make possible access to goods and services just like roads do. And for an island nation such as ours it is no doubt essential for getting from one island to another. Even in our larger neighbors, this is what we find across every river, pond or lake and have served their economic development by leaps and bounds. While this physical dimension of bridge building is highly desirable, the social aspect of bridge building I think is even more desirable in a conflict filled world, which does not spare our little nation. Even in our little corner of the world, the disease of conflict has surely raised its head and is consuming a large part of our society. True, with freedom of expression comes an inevitability of conflict as we vie for space to be heard and the competition for visibility or loudness intensifies. But given our situation of the blessings of freedom we have to exercise this with some restraint and responsibility - for with great power comes indeed great responsibility. Unfortunately in our choice of the process of exercising our democracy being a party-based system, this divergence of views is inevitable. But with the degree of polarization that has resulted in these couple of years, the rancor seems to be taking on pathological proportions and hindering rather than facilitating any egalitarian dialogue. The result as we all now witness is a plethora of conflict conditions and a divisiveness in our society as never been seen before. Something needs to be done for sanity to prevail; digging our heels in confrontation cannot draw us closer consensus or compromise. So where does this leave us as to our priorities of building bridges?  I would say lets focus on softer options; let's begin building bridges to our hearts -- bridges of love and brotherhood that will again connect the collective warmth of spirit in our communities and the sharing that Islam so advocates. 

November 8, 2011

Culture to keep us anchored

Everything we do has culture associated with it. In fact we may say that culture is the way we do whatever we do. It gives us a sense of control, identity and security. Playing music, buildng a home, how we take care of our children, what foods we eat and how we prepare it - all have a culture associated with it. Everything we do has a context in which it is done. So in the same vein, we may say that culture developed as the most fitting way to do whatever we do at a certain time and place, given our available resources and the skills we have learned from that environment. Thus this skill comes from learning the most relevant, practical and most efficient way for us at our disposal. In Maldives we first built our homes with sticks and thatch, then with coral stone, now with bricks and motar, and tomorrow perhaps with glass and steel as the norm. As the context of our existence changes, our culture of doing each of the above - also changes. So, music which we used to play one way in the past changes as our attractions and thus our beliefs of that being the best way to do it, changes. Food and cuisine also go this same way and so do how we build our houses and homes and how we manage our relationships with our friends and loved ones - perhaps even how we deal with our foes. We were masters of our setting given a culture of our own making.

But in the buzz of the modern world, every culture is hostage to the burgeoning wave of globalization. Even though overtly we feel centered and in control, the blindingly fast array of events inherant in this movement, shakes the ground of our traditional berth and leaves us vulnerable. So how is this blindness able to get to us? I would say it is the yearning for the new that attracts us inexorably. While changes in our past held us with familiar values as their underpinnings that emanated from within our communities, the new stimulants are from the outside. The anchors that held us to our ground is loose and we are like floatsam in the flowing tide taking us in the direction that the tide dictates. However, this loss in our grounding is a welcome moment to our senses which are always looking out for new stimulants as we get bored with the old, wherever that may come from. The attractant is indeed what is fashionable, where fashion is what is deemed by most as the way to do anything. How fashions change is very well explained in Malcolm Gladwell's book the tipping point. It is a crescendo of acceptance that make for the tipping point to occur and soon our actions become asymptotically alignend- everyone doing that same thing. That's what we call fashion - like blind ants following blithely one after another, without a care for the consequences. And now more than ever, fashions orchestrated by global big business and other such influences come and go ever so fast leaving us vulnerable to the vagaries of such demands. It doesn't allow us a moment to think of what a farce we may be subject to just to keep us vulnerable and keeping us spending to fuel the advent of alien cultures into our midst with no time to think of consequence.  So where does this leave us as regards national development? In this scheme of things that we call globalization, it must be the recipe of the day - materialism where we forget the idea of community and nationhood and bring in competition and conflict. Who is seen mightier in the world by whatever standard we measure it, leads the pack and we all follow just because it is the in-thing. Not because it is the right thing or the most rational even. That's the story of our food, our coffee, our clothes, our values, our music, our family life too. When can we wake up?

November 1, 2011

Pre-teenage is the best time to build character

A child is dough in your hands. You can mold it in any way you want, shape it any way you want, or give it any taste you want. The mind of a child is so receptive by its very nature so much so that we don't really have to try to make it so. It just is so. Therefore, the onus is on us to craft ways to mold that mind. The effort must come from us through our sense of responsibility for shaping the future of our family, community, society or nation. Looking at this process even beyond to encompass even humanity as the great prophets and compassionate leaders of yore have done with the grace of God.
In our own small way, it is therefore incumbent on us to mold the future of our children who are in fact God's trust to us. One way of looking at it is that these beautiful little lives we have that we call our children are seen as ours and what's ours must be, by the very fact of our selfish nature, things to protect and secure. Another way to see our children is as a trust from God, and in this perception, we having to be ever respectful of that trust. Either way we cannot absolve ourselves from the arduous responsibility of bringing up our children for building posterity. Breaching this would be ignominy, and a deep travesty of the blessings we have of life. Humanity is nurtured through us - parents - as we build each successive generation. As I emphasized in the last blog, we need to build character in our children and that comes from good consistent example and the experience of some hardship in life. Rich parents are generally averse to their children going through hardship - as if loving a child means giving everything they want. Unfortunately that will inevitably leave for the world a not so fit citizen of whom society will have more problems than benefits. We need to breed children who will when they are adults "ask not what my country can do for me, but ask what I can do for my country"

Parents please use the beautiful pre-teenage years to nurture this character!

October 12, 2011

Our salvage is within us

My friends tell me that all the woes of Maldives lie in the leadership. That allegation seemed to be a bit narrow-minded and so on a recent occasion we had some deeper discussion on this. Our spirited debate on the causes of our national anguish and despair ultimately revealed a broader net beyond just that of leadership. We came to place the reasons for this on the selfishness of other people, the pervasive and polluting global environment, on tourists and tourism, our uncaring parents, hedonistic friends, the cunning and pervasive media, and of course on selfish politics.

The common thread in all this as I reflect, is the placing of blame outside of ourselves. This attitude, one could say, is borne out of human nature --- to be defensive and not hurt ourselves or feel vulnerable. Maybe we feel our leaders are there to do things for us and we are entitled to wait passively for the mandatory handouts doled out. Thus we have learned to live on patronage. Over generations, this attitude has perhaps become hardwired into our DNA. And why not? This seems to be the most natural way to survive. The strong take the stage to govern and the obedient serve, in a continuous replay of the divine rights of kings so to say. So even with all our deep reflection and reasoning on the woes of our nation, we can only come up with those that absolve us from the blame.

But perhaps this is what needs to be worked on – changing our primeval defensive human nature to an attitude of civilized acceptance of our part of the responsibility. Otherwise, what is the meaning of democracy? Our nation has now espoused democracy with a new constitution and independent institutions to guide it; but without a matching mindset of a democratic attitude in ourselves, we will be wasting the freedom that this new call of governing gives us. So, could it not be that the cause of our anguish is of our own making – the fabrications of our own mind? We witness despair because we continue to feel the sense of helplessness that centuries have nurtured in us, but still it is an aspect of our “reality” that our national mindset still harbors. The profound change in concept that democracy brings must be fathomed to value its opportunities. We must realize that democracy turns the pyramid upside down; that leaders are now the servants of the people, and unless the boss can direct the servant, we are bound to have the servant dominate us. This notion of people supremacy must be stamped into our minds, and that we must be wise employers, who can invite and persuade difficult servants into doing a good job in our household.

For that we must learn the boundaries of rights and responsibilities inherent in democracy and not take its advent into our midst as an invitation to insolent arrogance (a misplaced notion of freedom) but rather respectful tolerance. Our youth must learn that building a responsible polity is what will get them to a safe berth of a good community in the future they will inhabit. And our leaders must provide the space for the youth to start being that – by leaders demonstrating the good example and role model in democracy and just what is so different in this new scheme of things to what was before.

October 10, 2011

Good citizenship begins at home.

The hallmark of a good citizen is good character. Within the remit of this good character comes the inherent social values that aid in building a compassionate society-- truth, honesty, respect, commitment, caring, concern and love. Clearly, these are the prerequisites to having a happy community that we all yearn for. The voice grows louder that our Maldivian society is loosing that value-based character we had, and a tipping point may arrive when the very fabric of our society may soon flail in tatters in a case that is unredeemable. In this kind of a situation, a reversion would indeed be a painfully uphill task (or perhaps even an impossible one) that can take generations yet again to build. But there is hope for us if parents wake up to the insidious external influences facing our society. The tidal wave of globalization that Maldives too is experiencing must be viewed with caution and wise reflection. We should not be bowled over by it in ignorance or blinded by its intense glitter. We can't blame the children later for their learned irresponsibility if parents don't exercise their parental prerogative and don't model that good behavior today. But children are the citizens of tomorrow - no one can dispute that - and it is the degree of responsibility that parents are willing to exercise that will leave for their children later a safe and happy society; every parent will have to make the exit one day leaving the child to make it in the world by themselves ultimately. So an immediate imperative is to build caring and character building home environments where parents wisely exercise their parental prerogative. To avoid tears later, parents please take heed!

October 3, 2011

Healthy heart in love and life

The 29th September was World Heart Day. It’s a very important day for all of us! Why is that so? Because we are all living now to be older and so need to take care of the organs that keep us alive. In other words, if you don’t take care of your heart, you will die much sooner, and may deprive Maldivian society of the magnanimous contribution you may contribute to it if you were to live a bit longer. Actually, there are two ways of looking at our blessings of being alive; is our lives to be lived for our own personal benefit or for the benefit of others? Of course, which one you select is your own choice, but I can only suggest to you to start feeling the joy of service to others. So even just for that, trying to live longer for the benefit of Maldivian society would be a very wise decision that we all could really cherish in our collective conscience.
But of course turning away from this ethereal aspect of our lives as some of us would like to believe because it seems unimportant or too distant a possibility, the mundane aspects are also important, and particularly more so for the more hedonistic. In this age of non-communicable diseases, the need to lead a healthy life throughout our lives – including the period we call old age is as important as being healthy when we are young. We just don’t seem to know it because old age comes after being young, and when young, the idea of old age never occurs to us because we are young. In fact we even divide society into two distinct groups called the young and the old, without giving an inkling of thought to these two aspects being on a continuum. When we are young, we can afford to think this way, because of the vanity that pervades our very being, but when the wisdom of life lived dawns on us, what we did to our bodies in those vain and narcissistic days cannot be redeemed. It will be too late. As they say, no need to cry over spilt milk!

The heart that gives us these blessings of life must be cared for, just as we would for any other organ of our body. Unfortunately, keeping the heart healthy requires a good preventive regimen of daily action on our part. No pain no gain they say, and often this entails having to give up some of the things that we hold close to our “hearts” (what a contradiction!!): things such as smoking (we may delight in the ‘style’ it projects, as we burn our insides); those tasty fried and fat-loaded, and the sweet foods (keeping cautious of the Macs, the potato chips, and the cokes etc), and of course the constant batch of worries that some of us seem to indulge in daily. This worry is the stress factor in life that is the most worrisome for the onset of heart disease. The smoking that can give you a clot in your cholesterol filled artery can be the final plug too. How can we get away from worry and the stress it generates? First of all worry is 90 percent your own mind’s fabrications. If we can learn to accept that and become more aware of the profile of our worries, we can eliminate it or never ever let it bother us. So you will just have only 10 percent of the worries left to deal with.

I guess this blog is getting too long already, so let’s talk about how to deal with worry in another of our meetings. So please take care of your heart through this multi-faceted prevention regime, and be sure it will serve you well and long. We all need each other to live long -- to give your voice to creating a healthy community of Maldivians.

September 28, 2011

Getting out of our bind

With democracy blowing like a fresh morning breeze through Maldives, to truly feel the difference it brings to our hearts and minds, we need to breathe this in deep and long and feel the energy it gives us. It is said that a democratic culture shatters the bonds and shackles of oppression. These shackles have always been a part of Maldivian life as evidenced from the writings of our history - both from those indegenous and those foreign. For us it has been a long history of kings and queens who filled our lives with fear and intrigue when it came to the discussion of the distribution of power in our society - nowadays called politics. Since 2008 all this seemed to have come to an end - at least on paper. And it is time that our hearts and minds begin to internalize the ideals of democracy. What is the ground-breaking split with that past this new concept of democracy signals? How has the power of the people transformed and what is the blessings of the precious vote that we have for selecting the best people to lead us? All in all one word describes the essence of this new found freedom. Its called responsibility. It is said that with great power (that comes with this freedom we call democracy) comes also the need to exercise great responsibilty. Needless to say, this power used without the rationality of responsibility will land us again into an age of oppression . Let's exercise this responsibility with the foresight and resilience that can build a similarly resilient society in Maldives. Let's wake up and become true stewards of democracy!

September 23, 2011

Community harmony: the essence of development

Community harmony is the essence of development really. And the result of harmony is happiness and contentment. But what keeps us away from this harmony is that very human aspect of desire, which fuels greed. This desire is manifest in us as the greed for power, fame, money and control; and ultimately the finality of possession – we just don’t seem to feel satisfied unless we “own” whatever we desire. Unfortunately, that is the essence of desire; we can’t seem to enjoy something just by beholding without owning. Because we see our material world’s “resources” as scarce, we scramble for whatever we can get of this seemingly short supply. But in doing so, we alienate each other by being competitive rather than cooperative. The resulting feelings of not getting what we want emerge as anger, hatred, jealousy, and resentment. These burn up our insides and continue to keep the fire of discontentment and longing burning inside us as long as we don’t achieve what we desire or observe others succeeding. How can we find peace and harmony when a fire of resentment is burning within us? We need to squelch this for love and sharing to permeate, which is the actual yearning of our inner selves. Where is the solution to reducing desire? This seems anathema in an age when materialism is our goal. But there is no way around this to peace unless we can learn to change our daily habit of fueling our selfishness to a task of serving others. Just experience the joy of unconditional giving! Try it actively, and experience a pleasurable shift in our consciousness.

September 13, 2011

Linking to the past is about accepting our essence

Linking to the past gives us balance and a sense of security of knowing where we stand and what psychological resources to tap in our life ahead. So in that sense, this connection with the past is a primeval need of all human beings for growing up in a life of peace and security. Knowing where we come from gives us a sense of comfort and belonging. The whole idea of nationhood and home is related to this. In the case of Maldives, we have grown up with our sense of belonging as from this island or another, or this atoll or another. We always feel a sense of warmth and friendliness when we meet someone from our home island or atoll. This can be translated into how we feel about our family too. Even a distant relative makes us feel a sense of connection even though we may have never even met.

However, in this changing and mobile environement, this loss of contact with the past is becoming more of a reality, and many of us seem destined to live far away from relatives and childhood friends with whom bonds have or needs to be strengthened. In Maldives, the mobility and relocation by many to Male from the islands leave behind such loved ones especially the elderly who remain back in the island devoid of the loving touch their children and grandchildren could offer. For the elderly this can be emotionally devastating, and for the children who grow up without that time with grandparents unknowingly forefiet an evolutionary step of connecting with the past. The deficits of growing up in such emotional deprivation would show up in later life. The lack of appreciation or respect for the elderly, arising perhaps out of this lack of connection with them in the children's formative years is a gap that will be difficult to fill with the conscious mind. It is the subcounsious that nurtures such lasting feelings of love, affection, and respect imbibed during the formative years of childhood and youth -- that parents can encourage. One thing as sure as the sunrise of tomorow is that we will all grow in age and before we know it, we would be at the receiving end of that lack of appreciation that we ourselves were nurtured with as children. The continuum of life is real, tangible and inexorably sustaining; its time will indeed come for all of us. Lets think of appreciating the elderly and not divide ourselves into a dichotomy of youth and the old as two distinct categoriest that will remain that way for ever. Our Holy Quraan reminds us repeatedly to appreciate our parents (the elderly) and care for them with compassion, for they looked after us when we were young and helpless. Building a more compassionate Maldives begins with appreciating the past, and those who populated our lives in those times.

September 9, 2011

Moving to Carbon-Neutral

Development of a community depends on how critically it can look at itself. Most communities have their inherent values and mores, and often in cloistered social conditions, we loathe any external influences. But globalization has changed much of that. Maldives is no different. With opening to tourism in the early 1970s, external influences streamed into Maldives, and until now cultures foreign to us have taken over our minds  quickly – most of the time without much reflection of how such changes affect our fundamental social basis. One simple example among others, is the traffic congestion in Male. Motor vehicles are a very useful machine of modern invention – to go places quickly and make transport of goods and services more efficient. But in a place like Maldives, such rationality may not be quite so. Here we see the larger use of our motor vehicles for pleasure, and no doubt, pleasure in the right doses is necessary for human functioning. But when that pleasure is at the expense of another person’s displeasure or utter inconvenience, we are then stepping into the realms of rights and responsibilities in a democratic society. Recent publication in Maldives "To walk or not to walk: a pedestrian’s dilemma in Male", by Clean Air Initiative Asia, EPA-Maldives, and the World Health Organization, provides a peek into the substantive difficulties pedestrians face in Male where one may say an irrational pedestrian culture transformation is taking place. The consequences of injuries to pedestrians from speeding motor vehicles and the inconvenience of narrow pavements make walking in Male a growing physical hazard. In a country that is touting the plans for a carbon-neutral Maldives by 2020, the priority of making Male a pedestrian friendly city stands out stark.

September 5, 2011

at the grassroots

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of facilitating a workshop on decentralization of health services in Maldives. This is a decision the Maldivian government recently took to bring public decision-making closer to the community. Laudable is this move, and I must say is the essence of democracy. People must be the deciders of their fate in the ultimate analysis. That is what we understand by the concept of democratic governance. Hopefully, this will be the first step to our local voices being heard in the mainstream of public decision making. As a nation that has espoused full fledged democratic governance only just about three years or so ago (with the separation of powers etc.), this decision must necessaritly go with an understanding of the power of our voices to shape the future. This is what democratic governance claims to bring in. But it must also be said that much of our past Maldives history is crowded with top-down approachs to public decision making and so to get voices to emerge from these layers of public silence will take a lot of doing. Especially at the island level to which this devolution has taken place, needs a lot of coaching and coaxing to bring the leadership there to both understand this sea change in the way we would now help people lead their lives, and change their style to truly seek the voice of the people. "To each one a voice" is the drive that is needed for a refreshing beginning that must lay aside the centuries old silent and passive generations.

September 2, 2011

what is Rukkuri?

Rukkuri in Maldvian language means the tip of the growing coconut tree. The coconut tree is our ever present national symbol. This metaphor is thus very expressive in our local context and gives deep meaning to the idea of continued growth and sensible development to the multitude of communities in our many dispersed islands. Rukkuri refers to the essence of growth in Maldivian parlance so to say. It signifies freshness, renewal, regeneation, and continuity. Thus, this blog takes inspiration from this metaphor, to promote the idea of social reform and renewal. Together with ENDEVOR's tag line " to each one a voice", rukkuri seeks to link with the essence of democratic thinking -- the plurality of voice; that which will make our social, economic and health decisions ever richer because we have the inclusiveness of many viewpoints. May Allah Bless us all!

August 31, 2011

To each one a voice

This blog is to promote civil society involvement in public decision making. In the Maldivian community, in the environment of our new democracy, this aspect is a necessary ingredient to make our decisions truly the stuff of the people. Lets all make this happen to make our society a happy place to be.

Why "To each one a voice?

In pursuing good health, as in any other social endevour, the power of our own voice cannot be discounted. Actually, being healthy is our choice and by exercising our choice we can create the environement where health can be created for us. Some people say that we have to have all the sophisticated medical care facilities available for us to have good health. This is not quite true.We need those who take care of our disease to be a part of our health system as key partners. But actually, we ourselves are the prime movers of our health. In fact our choice of keeping our homes and our streets and our air clean is what will make us healthy people. Eating clean or well cooked foods will make us not get sick. Drinking clean water will keep us from getting upset stomachs and infestations with worms and the like. So it is how we exercise our choice that will keep us healthy. I am trying to make Maldives a healthy country. That is my goal in life. My work in the past 30 years or more has been to make Maldives a heatlhy place for us all to live a happy life. Environemental sanitation is the first step.We have always tried to maintain a clean environemnt in Maldives. This is however translated in those days as a neat environment. The coral streets were swept well and neatly, the houses although simple and modest were also kept clean -- just as our Islam advises. But we did not know the dangers of what we didnt see. As such we didnt see the germs in the water that may have come from the seepage from our defecating in the open, or what festerd in the food we kept leftover for later. Or we didnt even know the danger of mosquitoes and flies. Fishing was our daily life and so with fishing flies seem to be always around. It was with knowledge and awareness we began to know why flies and mosquitoes and cocroaches and rats etc are dangerous to our heatlh -- because they carry the germs to our food and water that makes us sick when we consume these as contaminated items. Our pervasive knowldege over time has made us rid our country of much of those early diarrheas, and malaria. This has given our country a respectable name in health circles. Our little babies don't die now in the scores they did in those days, and we hardly see a child who has to live with chronic diarrhea; there are medicines when one does get sick and we are so much more aware of what to do to keep our environement clean so that disease can be kept at bay.

But now we are slowly beginning to see our enviornment revert to some of the unkepmtness that signified earlier times. But of course with modern dirt like empty plastic bottels, coke cans, candy and chocolate wrappers, receipt stubs from checkout counters, empty gutka packs, and the like just thrown on the streets of Male. And the spitting! What an increase in spitting! Red and green and frothy! Do we even know what kind of germs those thick blobs of sputum contain? What can give you all kinds of respiratory infections!When these dry, and gets mixed up with the dust, what kind fo spores may remain in the air to be inhaled? How much are we aware of all this? Those cans, bottle caps and plastic wrappers that linger unswept on the side of the road that can harbour bits of water after a rain and breed the mosquitoes that we so complain about and are upset about with the advent of dengue in our cities. It is we who must be answering these questions. Responsibility is a part of what voice gives us in a democratic society. We msut be the voice of conscience that can make our streets clean, keep disease away and feel the sense of wellbeing. To each one a voice!!

Eid -ul-Fitr


Eid Mubaarak! For Maldivians, today has always been a day of joy and celebration after a faithful observance of month's fast. It was a month of spiritual cleansing that makes us ready for another year of life in service to our communities. It is a month that helps us keep up the tryst with our communities -- the understanding that we are one community of human beings and that what divides are only just artificial boundaries that even tomorrow may be shattered. Ramzaan brings to our hearts that the real tangible entity that we have within us is the 'self' (that inner voice) which is devoid of any selfishness and is wholeheartedly into giving. It is said that what we get is what we give and so this is what makes our 'self' the supreme entity that enlivens us and sustains us as one community without boundaries. So as we move to another wonderful year in our lives, lets remind ourselves and feel within us this pulse of our inner self that will only tell us nothing but the truth of warm relationships and joyous raptures that only sharing can bring. May Allah bless you all on this Blessed EID.