December 24, 2014

Heroes from the bottom – A thought for the National Day

I was touched to observe Mohamed Zakariyya receive the President's lifetime award for public service on Maldives last Republic day. He was my friend in health, and of life-long dedication to the health service of this Nation. His was the pioneering days when the dreaded diseases of Maldives were rampant and logistics was extremely difficult when small sailing vessels were the only conveyance available to commute among the dispersed islands of our nation. He was one of those pioneers. He is a true local hero - unsung until that day perhaps.

It is not uncommon for heroes to emerge from the bottom of society's rungs. In fact most of the time, it is ordinary people in ordinary situations that rise to being the hero. Rarely is the true hero from the stock of human beings at the top. There is no reason to be a hero when there is no need to be a hero or when there is no cause dire enough to engage in. It's out of the stresses of life that the imperative to change emerges into the mind of the hero to be and supplies the mental energy to go ahead on a difficult journey. Yet, when one has achieved hero-hood there is nowhere else to go than to sink down. Many heroes linger in the limelight for a while - some short and some long - depending on the effort made by the hero to remain relevant. Yet for the different pinnacles each reaches, the hero's journey treks a similar path. It is always an afflicted and disdained individual that moves through life and meets the hardships that imparts the resilience to that persevering mind. Along the way the hero to be meets a mentor who provides the wisdom and skill to move beyond the problems faced into the vista of solutions. With the inspiration imbibed, the perpetrator moves to hero-hood. Yet, this pole position is hard to keep for long. 

The moment a great feat is achieved its attendant feelings of glory and satisfaction begin to pale and the downward slide begins. As in the example of the hero who reaches the summit of a great mountain, there is no path but down. Sometimes lingering there becomes for many the next objective even when everyone has stopped looking. Being up there is no more of an achievement but many persist to keep being up there when everyone has stopped looking to him in admiration. So the hero’s path is from there to help others chart that path to glory. It is when the hero stops to allow others from being heroes that society ceases to exude its exuberance and its effervescence and life becomes stale. For the essence of life is renewal. Even heroes need to be regenerated for society to keep the cycle going.

Heroic deeds or rising to being a hero may be fueled by varying mental agendas; the right frame of mind is necessary to nurture the heroes of tomorrow by the hero of today being the role model. Good intentions that seek the good for society make for good hero-hood, and bad one also gain fame in what we may call infamy – and yes, some see them as heroes too. Those who exhort others to goodness and progress that will chart the future of life are the ones we need; not those whose hero-hood is used as block to the path of other's progress -- just to linger longer and bask in the glory that is the top. Life is a cycle and life is dynamic. This is also true for heroes. Each brings a flicker of brilliance to illuminate life's path so that others can be shown the way forward. For this, heroes must be of the kind that show good example. Those heroes on billboards and those that warm the seats of high positions of authority must see this edict of goodness to be their guiding principle that will transform others to goodness too. Such behaviour will keep the brilliance of the hero-hood lasting and sustaining even when other heroes take to the summit. We must nurture the heroes that give hope to our young people to be the heroes of tomorrow. That is the essence of nation building. That is the thought that must shine in everyone’s mind on this our National Day. 

December 15, 2014

Can I be the first?

Yesterday like on many daily occasions nowadays on Male's streets, I witnessed a young man throw an empty plastic water bottle onto the pavement. It caught my attention particularly because it landed right in front of me. Inasmuch as i wanted to suppress my sudden emotion of responding for the spectacle I might be causing among a large gathering that blocked that street curb where this happened, i couldn't yet help uttering an expletive. "You just had to throw it there, didn't you?" I retorted spontaneously, expressing an evident displeasure that has stuck me for the past several years as regards this truly degrading social behavior that has plagued us in our new democracy. Yes, the street was filled with similar junk and I couldn't have expected any other behavior from most. Yet this emotion keeps alive a-goading - the possibility that someone might listen. I quickly moderated this by saying " there's no place else to throw it, isn't it.?". He responded with a 'yes', his facial expression indicating a surprise that I had even asked such a question. Then to my surprise or should not be perhaps - another passerby further agrees when he said " it's not anything wrong, this is our abode isn't it?". Frankly, I was left with another confusion as to whether he meant it in jest or sarcasm or seriousness. Yes, that was an interesting response that made me raise today's blog.

Perhaps many young people feel it's just ok to litter these streets of Male because they feel it is theirs to litter - sadly an unfounded attitude many people seem to harbor about democracy; that one has cart-blanch of impunity to do whatever one wants with scant attention to the responsibility that goes as an absolute complement to this freedom of personal rights. Yet, one is irate when another infringes on his space. We all need to be aware of this duality in the democratic institution that we have accepted as our governing Principle. Our leaders and our teachers need to guide us on this path. It should not be as if those that promote our well-being lead us down a path that is the way to our social destruction. Leaders cannot allow their selfishness get the better of the mandate people gave them when they were put into these positions of authority-- to be both the governors and the mentors they were supposed to be.

Another way to deal with this keeping-Male-clean issue is for each one of us who have some sense of responsibility to feel and commit to the idea that we need to take a first step in doing the right things that would make for social harmony without thinking that our individual actions will only be a drop-in-the-bucket - so to say - that it will be of little value. Just as our pristine blue ocean is made up of many little drops of water or our beautiful coral beaches are fashioned from many grains of sand, can we all contribute to our social well-being too -- each of us in our small way? Can you and I be the first to make that effort? Can we make the effort of just sweeping the front of our own house every day ? A job that can be finished in five minutes will make the whole of Male clean for that day; and what else? We will save millions of our tax money that would otherwise go in wages to foreign labor! When we intend and make the decision, the Universe works to make this happen for us.

November 29, 2014

Elusive responsibility

Whose responsibility is it to take care of the child that is born? This question needs serous thought in modern society even more than in the past. Crime, delinquency and abuse are issues that we face in society as it "progresses" towards what we call progress.

How do we deal with this - in a way that is sustainable? The way we dealt with this in the past was by having the child's community deal with this as its social responsibility. While in small societies this is still possible but later with more urbanization and the social and ethnic complexity that this brought in, it began to be seen as a centralized responsibility of the larger political city-systems with its formal and impersonal institutions. Children too as they grow up then imbibe these same cold and impersonal qualities that divide society rather than coalesce it. As affluence grows as is expected of in the context of cities, which are called the engines of economic growth, competitiveness and selfishness too grow with this affluence. Soon, as parents, perhaps unawares, sink into the hedonistic culture often signified by wealth accumulation, leave disdained the sometimes only child they may have. Yes, in this context, having fewer children is also seen as good because the calculus is always driven by the left brain, even though for many of us Muslims this calculus should be right-brained and imbued with the wisdom of our Maker who does not profess children as a liability, but an asset in this life.

Then, when our man-made laws don't seem to hold, the government happily comes to the rescue by doling out the funds amassed by our taxes -- building reformatories that takes ever larger chunks of public finance to address these -- democracy fuels a welfare society where the public don't have to work and just be happy being taken care of. So ultimately, bringing up responsible citizens of tomorrow becomes the responsibility of the government, not the parents and the community. Can we examine the predicament this will land us in the future? Please, we must look another way; we cannot go the way of the present development set so blind to the fact that those who brought on to vogue this development paradigm is but questioning its validity as the solution to humanity's woes. When will we in our cocooned developing countries wake up, and not be led as did the pied piper?!

November 16, 2014

Losing weight

A friend of mine approached me for some advice on how to curb his increasing girth. Yes, he needed serious advice because his waist to hip measure was showing whale-like proportions and his bulging belly looked like he was carrying a large Thoddoo watermelon under his shirt permanently.

I told him that losing weight was one of arithmetic or one of book-keeping - one of addition and subtraction. What you add will remain if you don't take it out. Translating this into what we eat, it's a matter of the calories (energy content or fat potential) we put into our bodies versus that we expend. What we don't spend (or burn of) will remain in our body as adipose tissue (the technical word for FAT).

True, our body is a very efficient machine. A little food goes a long way, but what happens is that our brain doesn't act according to our body's requirements. Neither do our eyes which many a time act not according to what our body is crying out. When we see delectable food items, our brain goes wild and pushes us to go have it -- consume with little consideration of how much of it we will need for sustaining ourselves which is the real purpose of food. Our affluence has turned this around from food being a NEED to one of WANT. So we gorge on delectable spreads or whatever we see as enticing -- fueled by the power of adverts on TV, billboards and news magazines, or even narrations from trendy friends – to want ever more than we need.

So I told my friend that he has two choices for losing weight; in fact three. One is to eat less, the other is to burn off what is eaten in the form of heavy duty exercise - for it is not easy to burn off those heavy calories we dump in, and yet the third is to do both. I told him that the small piece of frosted cake he eats needed half an hour of walking in the least to burn those calories it contains. So would it not be better to keep away from that piece of cake or if your brain got the better of you, at least choose to have half a serving instead of the full; to avoid drowning in those fizzy and energy intensive drinks that will accumulate toxins inside us (don’t listen to the food Incs. of the world enticing its citizens) and the burgers and doughnuts dripping with calories. The choice really was his, for it is the seriousness with which he exercised this arithmetic that his success on the bathroom scales will show.

He seemed very happy to hear what I said which must mean he was truly serious about losing weight. Not to let down on his enthusiasm, I further filled him in with some understanding of the basic mechanics of calorie metabolism. On hearing this alas, I detected a momentary face-fall; he told me he was sad to know that this challenge of losing weight entailed a lot of sacrifice. I told him that in life nothing worthy is gained without some toil. Achieving a lighter body is not without some effort (again, don’t believe those adverts that say ‘lose weight as you sleep’); but that the rewards of the effort would be substantial in the way he would feel – from outside to the inside, including the praises of his ego that gets its bloating from other people’s admiration – isn't it what we all crave most times anyway, and thus the greatest puller of all to the gyms of the world after all!? But of course, in losing weight, it can’t all be vain musings of insecure minds. As we achieve it, our bodies will indeed sing the grateful praises of having many more years of healthy lives; and we can double that wellness if we throw away those cigarettes. That will be the best present anyone can ask for in life. 

November 8, 2014

The power of intention

Several years ago, I read from the writings of a spiritual teacher the following axiom of life, "attention energizes, and intention transforms". The meaning in this statement is profound. It means that just by directing one's attention on something is not enough to have it, there must be a deeper desire working in us that makes that quantum leap of connecting with the pure potentiality that is the source of all creation.

If mere attention was all we needed to have anything we wanted then there would not be any value to anything. Everyone would have the diamonds and the big cars and airplanes and villas in exotic corners of the world if that were the case. But then there will not be any value in it, and we would not desire these, for the ego desires what others don't have or that which is hard to get. Not because of the hardship but because that ownership will set us apart from the rest of the ordinary humanity. That gives us the momentary elevation of spirit that makes us both proud and arrogant also. My high-school autograph book adorned axioms come to mind. One of these read, "if wishes were horses beggars would ride". I did not know the depth of that thought then, but it kept me in tag, and a few years later, I fathomed its insight.

So it's not mere attention that will give us what we want. It is the strength of our intention that will transform or help materialize the dreams we have in our minds into the substance of our world of form. Intention is also related to making a decision. Making a categorical decision is the act of intending and such decision makers are the ones to whom Providence shows the Path to achievement. A decision may be made for good or for bad, but the very act of intending makes having possible. That is why there are both good and evil people known for these qualities and achievements. What sets them apart from us ordinary people is that they all make powerful decisions to push forth their lives. On the other hand, there are those of us who wish to be this or that or wish to have this or that. But that is as far as we go and so we live in despair of not achieving these when actually what happened is that we had not intended on these wishes strongly enough by making that sacrificial decision to go ahead with the challenges that are before us to get to our goal. And, when things don't happen as wished, our ego uses that readily available human quality of blame to come to the rescue. The excuses then flow in unending streams for rationalizing as to why we could not achieve such and such. These excuses then go on to wreak the attendant havoc of consequences that seem the bane of our society today. The blame game is like an infectious diseases that soon encompasses the whole society. Perhaps we can understand in this way, the plight of our society today, whether in Maldives or elsewhere. 

Yes, we have the choice to decide, and when we do so strongly enough and in attendant sincerity, the whole universe works to let us achieve what we desire. But mind you, the consequences of our action will have to be dealt with by us later on, for as it is said, nothing of the good or bad that we do – allegorically that even the size of an atom -- is ever lost in the universe. These are preserved or recorded for us to pay for these or be rewarded as the case may be, now or in the hereafter. The above is also the truth of the saying "ask and you will be given" -- if the power of your asking is at that level of a powerful intention, you will have it. God is merciful indeed!

Thus to make our Nation good or bad is our choice. When the collective intention of our nation is veered towards a certain path, Providence makes it happen. The way to get out of this is to make the collective vibes positive and we will have a more loving and harmonious Nation. That Allah doesn't change the plight of a people unless they will it, is an axiom from Islam’s wonderfully enlightening Book. As we approach our Nation's Republic day on 11 November, these are thoughts we can ponder upon. May Allah (SWA) Bless us all as a sustaining beautiful nation where we all live in harmony and be a beacon of such an example to all those nations around us. 

November 1, 2014

Caring in captivity

On my morning walks I encounter things in our surrounds to which i can give some deserved attention as opposed to its impossibility later in the day given the chaotic madness I observe on the streets of Male.

Today was one of seeing the plight of our garbage-lifters. The stink that accompanies their truck is unforgettable - for the wrong reasons. Then there is their physical condition. At best, with  slippery slipper to protect their feet in the grime of garbage beneath their feet in the lorry,  their hands have no gloves nor are their faces protected by masks.  At every curb-side stop they manually pick each garbage bag out of overflowing trash bins that now populate Male’s side-walks, and when the bin's burden is a bit lightened, heave the rest into the truck that is shamefully uncovered and whose edges are sided loosely with ply-wood board which to me is only too temporary and careless to the respect Male’s residents deserve. 

At the tetrapods - when the text stares you in the face!
Now onto my pet peev of Male trash, I observe that the new bins don’t hold what it was intended to hold – the trash generated by pedestrians. Given that this objective is hardly achieved – for even now such careless tosses of pet bottles, cigarette carton, and supari sachets are still lobbed onto the pavement, onto the drain covers (whether one is there or not is another matter), into crevices between the tetra-pods along Male's southern seawall, the tree-bases along the Banks stretch, or into the waters of the inner harbor, I witness much more than that. The waterfront-moored tourist ferry boats, and the large fishing vessels across form the fish market too now stuff their trash into these bins.  And, perhaps our seaside avenue-lined restaurants may also be dumping their trash in and around these bins.  To me, it is a continuing contradiction that the users of carbonated drinks, packaged water, supari, cigarettes and chocolates still prefer to drop their wrappings where they begin or finish the task as the case maybe, rather than into the trash bins in the vicinity for which purpose these were placed there in the first place. 

These pervasive hygiene behavior concerns seem far away from the public official's sight as many perhaps don't wake up early to see this plight nor observe these happenings first hand;  even during the day little can they see with scrutiny as they drive by in their darkened too-large-for-our-Male-streets vehicles. If they truly wanted to see the plight of their duty-beholden constituencies, they could do so. I can only conclude that they are taking sad advantage of a hapless population that has little power to wield much of a public complaint in a situation of pervasive fear that shouldn't be in a democracy.

These guest workers may not complain about these difficult conditions because what they have here may be so much better than what they left behind. However,  Islam implores us to look at others as our brothers and sisters even though they are for this moment in the subordinate role in a world of form where wealth and poverty go hand in hand. What tomorrow may bring we don’t know.

I would implore those who assume the mantle of caring in the lead roles they occupy in our society to get out of the bed early in the morning, give the compulsory obeisance to Allah and also take the effort to get out of their costly vehicles to witness the terrain their true bosses -- the ordinary people -- have to tread daily. Some humility may come of it. In our democracy, don’t attempt to fool the constituency all the time. We may not be as glib and nefariously tilted in mind, so craftiness comes with some difficulty for most of us. Please be true to the mandate we elected you for.

Certainly, humility and decisiveness are both necessary qualities of leaders to be truly able to lead people. So let’s not just focus on harsh decisiveness only. We need to exercise humility in balance with decisiveness and fairness to enable us, the citizens and our guests, the good taste of life here, for otherwise Allah (SWA) may turn the table on us. Nothing here is ours for the taking. We are here mere caretakers -- of a nation our children will inherit. What physical and moral legacy do we want to leave behind?

October 26, 2014

Cleaning up Male's streets

Male City Council should perhaps let loose some "Gluttons" onto the cluttered streets of Male to do the job of its daily clean up.  Let the Lady Cleaners now sweeping the streets use this facility and save their backaches and help them get their work done faster. Surely this would be our tax money well spent. But please supplement this with concerted efforts of attitude change of our populace also.

October 22, 2014

The worth of a guest worker

Since our nation is now one fourth crowded with guest workers, this is worth telling. The worth of a guest worker is fabricated in our own mind. If you want to believe they are needed, then we need them but if you think they are dispensable that would also be not far from the truth. Our minds conjure up a list of needs as we go through life. Modern media, internet and business adverts all push us to increase that list. And as we become more affluent or think we are, this list keeps on growing. Yes, a figment of our imagination. It is in the eyes and mind of the beholder.

Take for example the use of the household helper that we employ. The retort would be that we need them to take care of the chores of cooking cleaning and washing. That is true and we can convince ourselves to spend half our meager income to employ the foreign worker and then invite into our midst, as many have, the agony of managing them, for it’s a given that these workers would also tend to maximize their utility by doing the least they can do. Gone are the days of sincere and dedicated live-ins who had become part of the family. The result of today’s changed circumstance is that it is not too long before we are so exasperated that we decide to pack him or her off with ticket, three month pay, etc. and say also goodbye to all the cost paraphernalia that the State requires us to pay or forfeit. Then there is the tedious process again of getting another person to fill the vacancy as if that will solve our problem! 

And the cycle goes on. Yet, if we look at modernization -- something we all seem to want to take part in -- there are ways for us to make our lives much easier. The washing machine, the stove-top cooking, the packaged and ready to use ingredients on the shop shelf, and the vacuum cleaner or the easy to use mops all are there if we can only push down our ego a notch and begin using these ourselves rather than have a foreign worker to turn the knobs or push the buttons on these technological wonders. Throw in a dishwasher and the washing up chores also can be eliminated 90 per cent. So as they say if there is a will there is a way, but our ego comes in the way. Not to speak of the perhaps half a billion dollars or so foreign exchange that is annually taking flight out of our nation. But that is another story that merits dedicated telling.

October 19, 2014

The street trash still linger

The trash bin project promoted now by the Male City Council is a step in the right direction. But it must entail much more than merely placing trash bins in a few places in Male. It must include creating awareness in our urban mass on the need to keep our city clean. I know everything cannot happen all at once, given that we have been sliding down the path of indolence after the dawn of democracy in our country half a decade or so ago now; its a curious contradiction really.  

On the positive front, I now see local ladies busy sweeping swathes of our water front early in the morning. I ask one of them if they were of Council employ and she says yes. I see visible indications of tidiness at some of the tree-bases lining our seaside avenue of Male and ask again " so the tree-bases are much cleaner now?!" I exclaim.

"Yes, it would be, because we pick up all that too with our sweep and fill the trash bins," was the response. So I was quite mistaken after all to think that our sanitary habits have changed! By the end of the day, Male streets are still the dump it is becoming. Our populace seems quite oblivious to wanting to see our island as our "home" it appears, -- I lament. And yes, when I glance along the stretch of the tree-bases that stretch from the BML to the HSBC --I call it the bank stretch -- these ferry mooring beach side tree-spaces seem increasingly filled with all kinds of trash people want to dispose of -- not just the careless discards of an irresponsible pedestrian -- an empty pet bottle, energy drink or an empty cigarette carton -- but sizable cardboard boxes, trash from broken concrete and side-walk slabs, shreds of wooden boards and plastic containers, and in one location, even a sizable log – certainly not left there for sitting on.  And stretching right in front of me is Male’s inner harbor, also laden with similar floating trash. During the day, I now even see tourists and our guest workers too, carelessly tossing discards and spitting onto our streets with no qualms. And, why not?!-- when even our nationals don't care! (The plight of our sidewalks along our streets is another story of how our civic leaders have disdained us).

But something should be done I say to myself, for if not, soon we will be deeply grounded in a condition of national indolence from which it would be very hard to get out. While we may have made fun of some of our neighbors for being in that situation until very recently, we see them purposefully lifting themselves out of the morass while we, ensconced in our wealth consciousness seem to be blind to what we are becoming socially. We seem also blind to our Lord's calling -- all so comprehensively recorded in our good Book. So where does out development lead us? Do we want to, in our pride and arrogance and separateness and competitiveness, drown in our wealth or become more humble and become aware of our connection with each other as a nation and begin to celebrate our oneness with love and sharing. Become the stewards of this beautiful land Allah has given us in our sojourn in this world and show the example by which the youth of our present can create a better future for themselves and their posterity.

Our leaders have that moral responsibility to make our land more peaceful and caring. If that is not their job they have no role in leadership. What separates us as individuals is not our individually amassed wealth but the goodness that we instill in ourselves as God's creation. What we can take with us when we part with this world of form is only our goodness, not even an atom of the wealth we amass. Our leaders must focus on this moral aspect of our lives as they lead us -- not go gung-ho only on creating wealth that really does not trickle down to the masses as they might profess it would. Our national character is built on how we embellish the goodness of our insides rather than the adornment of our outside. This is the ultimate test of our human essence.  

August 30, 2014

Unsung Heroes

Dear Friends, 
Perhaps many of you may not yet have heard of my publication, UNSUNG HEROES: An Island Health Worker's Journey. This is a book, depicting in story form, the heroic efforts of the health workers of Maldives to bring the present state of health to our Maldivian nation to being over the past several decades. For our youth particularly this will be a good read to recount the past efforts of our country's health workforce of years gone by, the fruits of which they now enjoy. 

This is to let you know that for the next three days, you have the opportunity to download the kindle version of this from Amazon for FREE. The link is:

Happy reading.  

Abdul Sattar

August 13, 2014


In a culture of blame and suspicion there is always the need to find a scapegoat. But that doesn't solve the problem but only prolongs the issue. 

Political governance is no exception to this. While we all know that problem solving is about finding the causes behind the concern which are always many, and addressing these systematically, to pinpoint one and taking that out is only too simplistic. It is merely like giving aspirin for the pain from an affliction that is much deeper which cannot really go away without taking a more holistic approach. 

Just like that pain, our health sector's woes cannot be wished away by the removal of just one deemed obstacle. It gets even more complicated and less effective when such decisions are politically motivated. The social pain then gets to be mixed up with system's pain. We are happy we have taken action, but the problem lies unsolved until the public uproar behooves another political move.

The removal of Minister Shakeela is not a solution to the woes of the health sector. These lie much deeper. From the breakdown of they operational system that was decimated in the past without any consideration of the pains taken to build it over decades, the removal of the backbone of our workforce that were the community health workers who were established in a primary health care system that was the envy of many nations in our region (look at all the glowing health indicators we had achieved as a nation and now how these are regressing?). Look now at the overly ostentatious focus we give to medical care to that of prevention in the name of improving health! Hospitals and doctors are merely a part of a holistic health care system, not the only or primary part of it. Our national health can improve - especially now with our communicable diseases under reasonable control - is to focus on preventing our lifestyle behaviors such as our smoking, drinking all those fizzy and energy drinks, eating all the fatty foods that are of an imported culture, and reducing our riding on motor-cycles and rather begin bicycling and walking. These are what will make us healthy in the future. Not the removal of a health minister from her post with the slap of blame on the occurrence of a few health incidents in our nation seen in only the first few months in the post. The decentralized governance system with the council-backbone needs to begin taking responsible action at the local level instead of reverting all the blame to the center. Human error and misdeeds are a part of human nature. Especially medical errors are always there in small proportion. This is solved by establishing and employing and managing people and systems sustainably. In a dynamic political environment such as we have now in our country and the undue and unprecedented and shortsighted changes we have been bringing on to our health system that had been evolving quite well,  no one person can be the reason of failure. Hospitals and health personnel alone don't and cannot make us healthy - they can only cure or manage our disease condition. Being healthy is really in our own hands, by living a responsible lifestyle that is healthful. 

Shakeela's removal can only be taken as putting a band-aid on a gun-shot wound.  

August 12, 2014

Marital bliss

My friend complains to me about the encroaching marital issues in his life. The skirmishes increase he says - even after all these years! That is a part of life I tell him; nothing is ever as was; life is dynamic and we have to learn to manage that dynamic! 

Our coming together as a twosome in holy matrimony is often an exercise in the meeting of eyes. Yes, more often than not the initial attraction is physical, not deeper or as some call spiritual. Yes, it is a meeting of the egos than of the soul. We are often swept off our feet by the attraction of the physical, but alas, that which wanes, for the physical body wanes with time in this world of form. Yet this seems to be our youthful focus. Little do we reflect on the fact of what sustains a relationship being how two souls gel. The ego is forever craving and demanding while the soul is totally satisfied with its given attributes, and so is devoid of the demanding and competitiveness that is the character of the ego that drives the motive for the glitter of the world of form.

So  the solution to the bickering that is rife in many marital relationships can be addressed by being aware of this dynamic and not blaming each other for their present situation, and attempting consciously to understand that this is the test given in our lives that we must work to pass with distinction. And this agony of a hurtful future can be predominantly avoided only by selecting a "good" spouse - or soul mate - consciously. Remember, behind every successful man there is a caring wife! And the other way round too I would say. This requires the effort of being able to rise above that ephemeral skin-deep beauty or brawn that the ego seeks but having the courage of the heart to dive deeper to find that ethereal beauty that lies beneath and that which is unchanging and everlasting.

For achieving this we have to say no to our ego and yes to our soul.

August 4, 2014

Save the trees

Walking around Male one cannot but notice with some sadness the demise of a forest cover that we ever had 50 years ago when houses were shaded and shadowed by all types of tropical foliage. But now, alas, this picture has turned upside down; the high-rises shade and shadow the few trees we have left. I guess that is what development means these days, and yours truly may not be devoid of blame either as a Male citizen. Yes, there are several streets that boast great tree cover from shade trees planted 30 years or more ago, yet there are many that lie bare in the scorching heat. But what I feel most regretful is the absence of those fruit trees of yore, the canopy of mango, fluttering groves of papaya and guava, the majestic bread-fruit, and yes, the throng of banana that crowded the Male scenery. Complementing these were also the copious and ubiquitous groves of plants and bushes that bore sweet smelling flowers. Now much of it is gone but for a few lingering forlorn survivors that are perhaps awaiting their uprooting to be replaced by yet another high-rise edifice. 

 In our relentless drive to build in the image of development our precious little ground water that exists in the form of a freshwater lens couched within our fine coral sand is also soon in threat of final depletion because everyone now wants to have an underground parking lot for vehicles that we don’t need on this square mile of home, the construction of which bleeds all this water for days. So what will be the plight of our few trees that are there? A good present moment example is the high-rise that is coming up beside our grand mosque in Male from which two four inch pipes pump this fresh water into the sea for days; yes, why not into some seepage pit on land?! Thus, in this same vein, I beseech Allah to give our civic leaders the mind for environment to win over this warped sense of development.

To save the few majestic vegetation that still populate Male I would suggest that the city council plead with those homeowners who happen to be the stewards of these historic stalwart trees for house plot changes in lieu so that these few trees can be saved as city park spaces or mosque premises for future generations to witness the beauty of nature -- places where our children, youth, and the elderly can continue to have the opportunity to behold the wonder of Allah’s Creation.  

July 30, 2014

Take a walk with your child

Friday mornings in Male is the time those parents who do care about their children take them out. Others may think this is the day for them to sleep in. But if you are one of those who do venture out on Friday mornings onto the blissfully deserted streets of Male, it would be better for you to take them out for a walk rather than for a round on your motor-cycle. True, your kid may enjoy the thrill of the movement and speed and for you too it maybe easier than the walk if you are one who has got so used to the seat of a motorbike, and you feel that you have done your parental chore of performing your share of being with the child on a day when you could sleep in. Well and good for you, but for the child, the walk may indeed be better -- and if you think a bit deeper into this, for you too, as it takes you off that motor cycle on which you perch all of your working week. 

Yes, there is magic in walking because you are then interacting with the environment around you and between you both rather than just witnessing these as you would as you whiz on a motor-bike. The touch of your hands, the voice of your conversation, and the protracted time for taking in the scenery with its myriad nuances to sink in indelibly, would all add to the richness of your moment together. With the absence of that speed and the suffocating wind in your child’s face, you now have the time to observe, touch, feel and reflect on the objects of the environment around you. These personal moments they call ‘quality time’ are what move the soul from a mundane existence to one charged with spirituality and pure being. Such moments will help you and your child mentally and spiritually and of course for you, physically too for waking up – even weekly -- those lethargic muscles that linger idle as you perch week-long on that motor-bike. 

May Allah give us the awareness to be our best in a changing world!

July 28, 2014

Eid Mubaarak

Dear Family and friends;

The holy month devoted to peace and prayer, love and forgiveness is now past us in yet another year of our lives. The month comes but once a year, and it is a chance to redeem or mend lost family and other relationships and appreciate the Grace of Allah. Let's hope many of us were able to make some transition for the better in our lives.

On a more mundane level, it is (was) also a great opportunity to make some life-style changes such as stopping the smoking habit or seek to beat that desire to eat and drink unnecessarily and empathize with our less fortunate brothers and sisters in humanity. Just imagine, you proved your ability to hold those outlandish habits at bay for 12 hours (kudos for your eemaan!), and kept going for 30 days. If we were thoughtful and serious enough to make change, this was a golden chance. But don't lose hope, you have the "ha-roadha" also, six momentous day to rethink and revive your physical self.

There is also a spiritual anomaly in our fasting that I noticed. We say intoxicants are forbidden in Islam, and so how come, we deny these for 12 hours each day, inject new energy into prayer and giving, and then at the end of the day, we do what Allah forbids -- light up intoxicants, and indulge in being unkind to our bodies by downing all those energy drinks that reek in calories to give us the artificial high, and gorge on all kinds of foods the rest of the night to essentially neutralize much of the whole purpose of our fast.

This is not to lament a Blessed month gone by, but just to reminisce of opportunities we may have forfeited in the neglect of the blessings that Ramzaan had to offer. Don't feel bad, another Ramzaan will come. but then, there may not be another for many of us -- even those who may not be chronologically closer to the other end. The point perhaps is that everyday is a chance for us to make ourselves better human beings. But Ramzaan however, offers a golden opportunity that is touted as just that for the betterment of our inner-selves -- what we call the soul which is the only entity within our selves that will survive our mundane existence.

Good luck and may Allah's Grace be with you in this interim period to guide you.

July 9, 2014

Environmental day is gone!

The day has come and gone but Male, our square mile of home, sits in its daily litter. While bill boards for Wall's ice-cream for "tasting the joy of Cornetto', and that for energy drinks for "energy for holidays" and for "it all starts with Nescafe" has come up on our beautiful waterfront blemishing the scenic beauty of the scene we are to behold beyond  our turquoise waters, the tree-bases that line our main avenues and the sea front waters also still keep the litter of our populace after enjoying the above. The day has come and gone, I hear, with the hype of strong messages of taking care of those who litter. Yet little result is visible.

The aware part of our populace did indeed survey the content of the litter on our streets as a part of their contribution to the environment day. They collected and sorted the content and found pet bottles, empty supari sachets, cigarette packet covers, energy drink cans, and empty Milo packets and the like to be the gist. Seemingly these items point to youth action and alas, they are the future of our society.

We need our municipal authorities or those in whatever name to take urgent action to curb this advance to a Male that can be the dump of our Region while our neighbors are valiantly attempting to clean up a littering past and succeeding.  This blog will be I know only a smattering in the wind as regards progressive action, but many such smatterings offered by other concerned citizens of Maldives will add up to a meaningful attempt.  If our elected authorities will not take action for their term in office, we the citizens must make our youth aware of the irresponsibility they exercise, and what this could mean for the future of our society.

Democracy is certainly not this!

June 30, 2014

Marked in sadness

Every year 26 June is marked as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.  I had the privilege of facilitating a Panel discussion on this at the Maldives National University auditorium that day. 

For me while the task was a privilege it was also very saddening; the saddening part is truly an understatement given the lethargy of the effort that is being expended in our country to deal with this lurking time-bomb for our future.  I would like to think that this day is marked in sadness to remind us of the criminal minds that push this stealthy habit to make our youth human vegetables; all for its financial gain at the expense of an ignorant and hopeless society that is kept in their ignorance. Sadly also, these day markings mark only the situation of what they call the demand side and so very little on the supply side. If the Day is to deal with illicit trafficking also as the label for this Day attests, the plight of this facet should also be brought to the minds of the public –not just the soft stuff that is related to how irresponsible parents or teachers are in nurturing their children along social and religious values, or what sprinklings of a technical exercise the authorities are doing to put cases on methadone or flashing the report of a bust with little other related information, or an occasional ad on the TV.

Yes, in Maldives too this perfidy has raised its head and shoulders and by now, and we see some figure close to 8000 of our young people enslaved to this enticement of the so-called pleasures of this world.  It is an imprisonment of sorts even as the first time users feel it is liberation. Sad so say that the irony is that while we say this world is the only reality there is, when it comes to gratification, we forget ourselves and leave this world as we get into the throes of the effects of narcotics. If we love this world, should we not stay grounded in this world rather than as some would say be "on top the tree" with the high we get from drugs. Also sad to say is the fact that those who may try for fun, when once hooked, is destined to a world of mental incarceration -- for when inside this net of perfidious enticement, one realizes that there is nothing that one wants more than to get out; yet they cannot. The grip of the habit is too strong to break free. So is the plight of many young men and women on our Maldivian society. Along with the psychotropic substance abuse is that of cigarettes and alcohol too. According to global statistics, alcohol takes its death toll on at least three million people world-wide; that is, not counting the millions afflicted with all kinds of ailments from hypertension, cancers and cardio-vascular diseases and the horrendous amount of physical damage caused to person and property.  Similarly, cigarette is the only object in the market when used exactly as instructed, will kill you or make you intensely sick in the long run. The treatment of such conditions is both huge costs in money and emotional agony of many nations and the burden being most felt by those least developed - given the failed nature of governance many of these states face. Yes, contrary to what we may think in our linking these to be the necessary adjuncts to what we call progress in the modern world, these are steps back in social, mental and economic development.  Our worship of the “green stuff’ seems to take all-out precedence to the plight of the young minds that should make the future of our Nations. It’s a double whammy of misfortune --so to say-- for us the world calls least developed.

Now with injecting drug abuse and synthetic drugs taking hold in our societies, the spectre of HIV AIDS will undoubtedly raise its head to easily decimate a small society such as ours. When sexual promiscuity is rampant, this disease can only spread with consummate ease and the crying will have to be borne when the deed is done and thousands of youth are mired in an inextricable mess of social decadence. Avoiding and averting these apocalyptic scenarios is the job of crime prevention and good governance in any nation. That is the real essence of love for its people. It is also the job of parents and school teachers and caring friends and family. When we see that there is lack of trust, and when greed and competition fill our day, perfidy finds its foot in the door only too easily and will never allow the door to close.

May Allah's compassion save us from such a future of doom!  

June 28, 2014


Ramzaan Mubaarak to all dear sisters and brothers in Islam!

May this holy month be the moment to think of peace and pray for it to usher in a more caring and compassionate nation in Maldives. It is a time for worship and remembrance of our creator with time truely in our hands; its a time to reflect on the plight of those less fortunate than us and feel a bit of the hunger pangs they feel year long, and in that realization begin the habit of giving. it is time to bring to life the meaning of family by sharing and visiting and appreciating.
May Allah Bless all of you.

June 25, 2014

Our public Feekudhaan

Feekudhaan is a container we used to have in Maldives several years ago, to spit into. In those days, we believed that direct spitting on to our environment was a sanitary concern. And so we disposed of that body fluid into a container that could keep our potential infective stuff away from others.  Even in those days we seemed to know this aspect of our health or cleanliness. When there was no feekudhaan we merely wiggled a little depression in the sand with our big toe and disposed of our spit into it and covered it up before we went on our way. Even animals such as domestic cats did their job of covering their stuff meticulously in the sand after every relief. But of course we took away the sand from their presence by stone-paving our streets and took away from them that privilege in the name of development so that we could ride our motor cycles and big cars. But this is another story to which can be done justice only by a dedicated blog.

On the sanitation front, Male is now another story and from where the infection of our degrading sanitary culture will surely expand as we move around with the high we get from our energy drinks and our bloated egos that drive our selfish and competitive culture which we revere or blame on a materialistic culture that is pervading not only Maldives but the whole world. So what? Just as one of my acquaintances glibly retorted -- "Why not a bit of corruption and fun; the countries that progress in this world embody such novo culture; it’s what will move us from the 18th century to the 21st!". and I thought, “Allah help us from such utterances and the minds that conjure such thoughts!”

Not merely the spitting now but the littering culture has - as I reported in an earlier blog - pervaded only too starkly onto our watery environment too. Now not with just empty bottles and cans drained of their tasty contents but from such as we may call kitchen waste. Rinds of water melon, oranges and mangoes float on out in our inner harbour in Male along with chomped up apple cores, empty gutka sachets, swirling in the eddies along with onion peels and putrefying vegetable matter perhaps from the discard of the fresh fruits and vegetable market located in the Male water-front. Not surprisingly, there is not a whimper of an effort from the moored up boats there to make their surroundings any cleaner. For all I know they would be pumping their own wastes into this enclosed body of water thinking that this God-given ocean can never be polluted. And so why should they clean up? After all, there is the municipal authority that is paid to do this for us from the tax-payers’ money?  Yes indeed! Logical, but not ethical from our human perspective! We cannot forget that Male is our home and every part contained within its perimeter is ours to pay heed to. In the emerging pride and arrogance of our so-called development, we should not sweep away the health of our nation like the proverbial waste swept under the carpet.

Yet, I was pleasantly surprised the other day at what a group of youth was engaged in at the usfasgandu area in south Male -- that was an injection of hope into my veins. In the jolly merriment of their being, they brooked no ego to picking up the filled up litter from between the tetra-pods of the southern Male embankment and any other such along the swim track area to fill so many garbage bags to which I wondered what the city council was doing when the conscience of this youth group was being piqued. Indeed these conscious youth are aware of what their sanitary future could be in Male even if their adults could not care two hoots. But then all youth are not alike; those youth who have matured into and irresponsible culture of littering must also be addressed if the equation of cleaning and littering should veer towards cleanliness. May Allah inject that much needed conscience into both our youthful and mature polity in the democratic years ahead!

June 10, 2014

Living without trying

The lifebouy billboard in Male's harbor area piqued my conscience to the thought we must live now only passively. Gone seems our effort to protect ourselves from the dirt of our surroundings or crafting our comfort by ourselves actively. This advert with the caption "protection from 10 infection causing germs --even in changing weather" tells us of how we may just depend on others to take care of us – that we can always turn to the commodities derived of what we call development abounding all around us to make that happen.  But of course, to have these, we need to purchase them for they don't come as charity of a caring community anymore. Someone is producing then for someone else to buy.  

While we need help from business and technology to give us some material lift in our lives, our total surrender to these can only leave us ever more vulnerable in these uncertain economic environment. But what specific contradiction this advert presented to me was the thought as to why, if we want such sanitary environments, do we not clean-up our roadside and harbor surroundings?  Venturing out of the house in Male on foot we are faced with the grime of a populace – street and pavement space increasingly strewn with the daily trash of all kinds, and the spit and phlegm of all colors and consistency. The environment day comes and goes but we still sit deep in our rubbish. It is as if we expect Lifebouy to take away all our germs without us ever trying.

Living a life devoid of trying is an exercise in laziness and spiritual futility. Such indolence will lead us towards a decadent society. We cannot blame this on change for change is the only constant in our lives and so we need to manage this change assiduously.  We can’t lament for a past that is no more, but the change we see in our business, domestic and foreign tourist traffic all add to the change in our urban culture. And while welcoming this change which brings wealth into our lives, we need to manage our environment that invites them to be welcoming.

To take the example of Lifebouy further, such is our apathy in other daily aspects too:  the motorcycle and cars for our mobility whether on land or sea - we prefer not to walk in these square mile or so of our islands, which can only make us weaker physical y, nor do we care to use the sail which could save mega Rufiyaas and lessen our national carbon foot-print too. Our dependence on telephones have taken away our physical closeness to each other - using just one sense instead of all the five – to experience the holism of our friends and moments. The tuition classes too that have sprouted everywhere deprive the fruition of initiative in our children to be reflective, imaginative and creative human beings - but to only manage the struggle of getting ‘A’ reports to buffer up the ego of eager parents, yet some of these very students seem failing to make even an impression at a job interview; so was related to me by a principal of a prominent school in Male. The list can go on and on. My point as a concerned citizen of Maldives is for our leaders, teachers,  parents and community leaders to wake up to the reality of the monster of a future we are creating by our passive attitude to development. For our selfish ends let's not allow the dawning of decadent society that will not even know the meaning of community.  May Allah give us the foresight to avoid such sadness!

June 8, 2014

Our Urban Condition

Throwing waste onto the street is an uncivilized act by any modern standard. I was aghast as a tourist the other day just threw away an empty juice packet onto Chaandhanee-magu with the ease of one tossing a piece of waste into a trash bin or garbage dump. Perhaps not surprisingly, the tour-guide with this man also did little to object. Well, how could he when this crude behavior has now become so commonplace on Male streets. Yes indeed! It makes little sense to the perpetrator to behave differently when everyone else has no qualms either to litter with impunity.  It is therefore what we allow that is happening to our nation. Obviously, this young Maldivian guide with t-shirts and blue jeans attire and sunglasses to complement this, and not to be outdone, dangling a cigarette from his lips was also another local perpetrator. Missing from his repertoire was only an energy drink in his hand. Obviously he was not a guide to the ways of Maldives but just an attendant to show the tourist around to where they could see and shop.

With this fast abounding habit, Male is indeed becoming one big trash bin. My blogs have highlighted this issue many a time. Perhaps to many of my readers who visit Rukkuri blog would think “here he goes again’. But dear reader, the job of people like me is to remind, and remind I shall do for Male is my home too.  

This year’s world environment day highlights sea-level rise as its maxim. While it is a topic very close to our hearts in Maldives, the more immediate need of cleaning up Male seems more urgent to my mind. Yes, sea level rise will happen as the scientists predict, for this warming will no doubt melt the world's ice-caps that form megatons of water that will --as they say -- raise the level of the sea some three meters. Our home will indeed be a totally watery environment by then where waterways, not streets will be the way to our movement from place to place and where our architecture would have perhaps adjusted to the changing surroundings. Hopefully, by then, the city councils of that era may have found a good solution to rounding up the garbage that would be floating around and that could --if not -- become a nuisance to the other nations that surround us.

There I get carried away -- let’s get back to today. So who is concerned with the litter of today?  Male has little of its original residents. Immigrants have filled it to the brim and given the nature of immigrants, they take time adjust and to feel that it is their home. But then again, perhaps this may never be, as this type of immigration as we witness in Male, is only temporary. So, who else to assist this city but the city council; you must be our saviors – good souls looking beyond the petty concerns of party and politics!  Let's make added resolve to make Male our home; not just a temporary sojourn. Those who are here on sojourn also may need to begin appreciating the value of another's home.

May 19, 2014

A Cynical Nation?

The recently released 2013 Maldives Democracy Survey "Democracy at the Crossroads" reveals a heap of statistics on the perception of a random sample of Maldivians on the practice of democracy in Maldives. 
I was shocked and pained to discover its prime finding that there is a major inter-personal trust deficit in our polity – a whopping  92 per cent believing the politician's "readiness to lie to get elected", and a huge factor of cynicism also prevalent in our society – another eye-popping 86 per cent believing that "the government doesn't care about ordinary people".  

While we may take off some percentage points on account of statistical error, it still remains a significant finding that our nation is struggling under the stress of nefarious actions by us polity that make these findings real. Is it not us polity that help to spread the distrust that is planted by the politician? Is it not us the polity that must establish in ourselves the courage to want the government to care about us? After all it is we who go to the polls to cast our vote for those we trust and raise them to the helm to look after our house for the next five years. Blaming our action after the fact and then jumping ship to join the winning side when we see our side faltering, or just keeping to the side-lines ensconced in the cynical view that "whoever comes to government, there will be no change" or "the government doesn't care about the ordinary person", are typically the action sequences that make our nation what this report unearths.

This is indeed a wake-up call for all of us Maldivians and for our politicians to help change this perception. In subsequent reports we would hope to see improvements in these indicators, and indeed such changes will be the quantifiable indicators that will endear us to our future servants and want them to continue longer to take us into a developmental future charged with moral fortitude, not selfishness and greed. A future in which our children will find the context that will lead them to be more trustful and less cynical. 

The major question thus remains now is about how our government is going to veer the ship -- that is presently moving doggedly forward with the weight of the collective inertia of past baggage -- in the right direction!

May 12, 2014

Paradigm shift to servant takes time

Now that our big neighbour is right now in the throes of selecting a new five-year hopeful, its good for us to reflect on the process. 

In a democracy the general agreement is that our leaders are really our servants. We select them, give them a salary, and keep or dismiss them four or five years later at the polls. However, the irony of democracy in our nations, particularly so in our East, is that we still continue to treat those we elect to look after our house for five years or so as bosses rather than servants. The reason is not hard to fathom, for the collective thinking doesn't just go away with the stroke of a pen ushering in democracy. Our minds are unfortunately mired in the past in the nurturing we have been brought up in. And given the totalitarian context we have been immersed in for centuries -- from kingdoms to "democratic" fiefdoms, -- we the public have always been the governed - the servant.

With modern democracy, the concept of governance has been turned on its head so to say, and a people's government must have our servants to manage our "house". And, if that is the case, we ourselves must be actively looking out for our housekeepers without passively being influenced by the potential applicants or those that turn up at our doorstep to plead for a job every five years. I know of no one who would not have a set of standards by which he would measure their acceptability to be taking stewardship of their house -measured certainly on a moral scale than on an immoral one. Thus, we need such yardsticks too for our potential national house-keepers for us to be assured of a good night’s sleep when they take charge of our house.

Yes, it would take time for this kind of thinking to sink into the minds of our ingenuous polity - perhaps generations?! All during this intervening time, as we learn, we are perhaps doomed to have our house looted time and time again leaving the repair bills for our unborn children. The only chance is at the polls.  

April 28, 2014

Folly of letting others define our development

I believe that development is best defined as a process of improving the lives we lead over time rather than a process of getting rich. Historically this adjustment to live harmoniously with our environment has been what was sought by individual communities. They had always striven to live their lives in a more efficient and effective way to harness the environment they lived in. It was a process of surviving the life in that environment rather than to subvert it. At worst it was to change their living environment without hurting it.  Living in caves first to weather the storm or for protection from wild animals as abode and being nomadic rather than being sedentary or settled in our search for food. Even recreation and entertainment were sought from what their environment provided.

Our settlement into communities perhaps ten thousand years ago, that finally gave up our nomadic ways of existence was the beginning of selfishness and competition. Before that everything was "ours", not "mine". That all changed that day when that first someone or people drew a line and demanded that all that encompassed it was theirs rather than everybody's. Thus was born competition and greed that was the beginning of the destruction of our habitat and now our living Earth. From then on it has been history. Like the original sin, this avarice pervades our midst like a disease that never leaves us to consume us as we live our daily forays into self-destruction. This is the new development we have espoused. To be better than our brother, to be richer than him and even to kill and maim to get what we want.

In the midst of all this hate and resentment that lines our outside is smoothened by the new personality ethic (as opposed to the character or moral ethic) and we live a development that has been thrust upon us by someone else. In the glitter of it we forfeit our painstakingly eked out earnings to buy the goods that makes someone else rich. We are fooled into believing that globalization is the bandwagon we all have to jump onto when in fact we are ignorant of the accession we agree upon is to make others rich and us poorer. So we keep on earning to buy the goods that others produce and import laborers to do the work that we don't want to do. We invest huge amounts of money in the name of building infrastructure that takes lifetimes to amortize just to make way for espousing someone else’s development to give us the feeling that we are also getting developed. 

The infection is global and we in Maldives too are no exception to this pervasiveness. Yes, even we who must think differently because we who live in a supremely beautiful home, yet one precariously trussed to the vagaries of the environment and least self-sufficient, are also carried away by this behemoth of development that is too blinding to see beyond it. But we must strive to open our eyes out of this glitter, even though the deceptiveness of our egos vehemently militates against it.  If not we will be carried away by the commercial tsunami that sweeps our globe and from the clutches of which even those who created it seems unable to get out of.  Bloated egos, pride, avarice, jealousy, and competition seem to have spun over us a web of impenetrable mental incarceration.

We must find an alternative solution to development from this commercial one that is meshing us into an ever expanding divide of the haves and the have-nots, splitting and rifting a community of hitherto harmonious communities that lived in the bliss of sharing and cooperation. If national happiness is to be the indicator of development, then we need to introspect in dire urgency.  

April 21, 2014

Competition or cooperation

Some feel these are opposites.  While cooperation has been the hallmark of all our moral teachings of the past, competition has become part of our developmental lexicon perhaps after Charles Darwin's proposition which has by now become mainstream thinking as the human condition. Unfortunately the scientific world and so the generations that came in its wake did not perhaps read his origin of the species with the depth it deserved. Darwin did not just talk about the survival of the fittest but of the abounding love and compassion also embodied in nature and its species. His mention of love and cooperation more than competition is noteworthy. But we always seem to look at the interesting aspects of any writing or proposal in its move away from mainstream thinking. This difference is what makes anything or anybody interesting.  So Darwin’s theory was taken for what it said was different -- not for what he confirmed as the universal truth of cooperation also.

Cooperation breeds togetherness and harmony whereas competition tends to cleave us apart as the primeval desire in us takes hold of us. This happens as the worldview changes from people seeing that all around us is ours to a concept that defines everything around us as commodities -- something that can be bought and sold for the price that we set by whatever means. Perhaps the first such event happened when someone drew a line on the ground and claimed all within it was his. Thus was born selfishness and desire to have what should be ours. And since then settlements for living and economic paradigms for living has been expounded in the view that competition is what makes us excitable and what makes us tick as a developmental being, even when everything outside of us -- in nature and within us as God's creation as also a part of this nature -- shows us otherwise. The very cells with its billions of organelles and all of it that is in animals and vegetables work in perfect unison and cooperation to keep our universe alive.

So how can we be so swayed to negate all of this and believe that competition is the way for us? We have to open our eyes to the havoc competition is playing in our very nation of Maldives leaving us all perplexed as to what harmony democracy is bringing us. Yes, my friends we have got this all wrong. Democracy is about cooperation in its deeper sense, not competition.

April 12, 2014

Knead before the bread is baked

It is said that a child’s mind is empty and an adult’s is full. This is a very interesting difference. While we may know that this sounds reasonable we are often not aware of why this should be so.

The answer is deceptively simple. We know that our mind which is really an abstract contraption cannot really be physically full, but can certainly be metaphorically; the mind being an abstract entity is filled with the abstract entity called opinion. Contrary to popular belief, it is not information that fills the mind; it is really opinions that fill it allowing none else to enter. In the case of the child, that young mind doesn't have too many opinions to throng it. In fact it has no opinions at all until the adult world around him or her begins the filling process. So much so that by the time the child is a youth or adult, opinions are jam-packed so to say. And soon the process comes full circle when those now youthful parents begin filling their children with “pre-formed” opinions. And the cycle continues.

This is why it is so much easier for us to mould the young mind into right or wrong, pleasant or foul, good or bad, as the case maybe. Adults are in the driver’s seat in this period of our life’s process and without good conscience to guide us adults our world cannot be made any better.  In fact, because we create the universe we live in by our very own actions, this concept of a value-driven society to be nurtured by today’s adults becomes so much of an imperative.

This is perhaps why in Islam we have this call for moulding children into the right path so early on. Only then will they learn fully from their constant asking of "why bappa?" or “why mamma?" at this tender age. On the contrary, when this same query comes from a youth, it may not be to learn but to seek a way to keep the opinion they have formed. And by adult time the filled mind has no more space to accommodate anything beyond its close-to-frozen frame of perception. 

Thus good example must be taught when the mind is open to receptiveness. Undeniably, the parent is the role model here and what they don't demonstrate will be a non-entity to their children and they grow up to be just what they observed or felt. Yes, later there will be no room for crying over spilled milk. Or said another way -- "you cannot have the dough back again to knead once the bread is baked".

April 6, 2014

The evolving task of city governance

They have quite a job and they have to be in on the task if we are to have a sustainable clean city. My thought is particularly on the encroaching global culture and expatriate workforce that have a different sanitary culture to what we in Maldives has been taught in the past about what it is to be tidy and clean. We had been taught the values of cleanliness by our grandparents’ generation and many say that over the past several years, there has been an eroding of this value-base as evidenced by the increasing litter on our streets and in our watery surroundings.
Our past basis was mainly about keeping ourselves and our neighborhood clean. With this erosion is taking place, the addition of this other cultural variations that also don't see any issue with throwing trash or spitting on the street makes the municipal task and our citizen anxiety every more real. How do we deal with this issue? Especially in Male which is the face of our nation, our whole populace needs to be in on doing something about this as an imperative. Yes is it a social culture that has grown over time of eating and drinking outside the home, and the availability of packaged foods all which have wrappers and no place to dispose of these while we are on the move. Cigarette and gutka and Magnum wraps, plastic water bottles whose use is done, and
the empty cans of energy drinks of all brands and sizes line the street parapets and the tops of roadside switchboard boxes. Similarly, the litter thronged pits of the trees and drain tops that line our Capital’s avenues demonstrate either the lethargy of municipal authorities or irresponsibility of our pedestrians to put just a little more energy into making our house a home so to say. 

In time past there was no habit of eating and drinking while walking along the street. Perhaps our lifestyle has become so urgent that this needs to be done, or is it really so? Even if it was so, just as that urgency maybe rational, would it not be rational to not pollute our home?  Has Male become a place for everyone, such that no one believes it is his home anymore?  So no one cares, and we put it on to the shoulders of the City Council to clean up after us?  As parents we had attempted to make our children clean up after play. Perhaps such is not the case now where Aayas clean up after our children – given the notion that loving our children means having them become couch potatoes. And so it seems as I see giant kids stepping out of the schools with diminutive mothers carrying the school bag – perhaps the epitome of love.  Oh yes, I am straying from my point.  

Yes, gone are the days when we swept our little home-front with the view that it was then our responsibility. But now this seems not so. However, how easy it would be -- I ask myself -- if each one of us was responsible enough to sweep that not more than ten-foot- by-ten- foot space in front of our houses and keep the drains from clogging! That would certainly put a smile of respect on the faces of our touring visitors and save also for the nation an army of expat laborers who many say are siphoning our country of close to 50 million dollars each month as transfers to their home countries.

Good governance in a nation is about caring for the people’s sustainable future. And sustainability emerges from making people responsible; an ecological realization that everything is connected to everything else and so my loss is your loss too and vice-versa; that action impacts on another’s wellbeing in some way or the other. Therefore, the encroachment of both political and social cultures into Maldives should be managed assiduously. We cannot expect things to move in equilibrium when even one element of the system is upset. And our national chaos is not the upsetting of a mere element, but the result of a socio-political upheaval.  

If anything can save us in this political transition, it is the presence of social responsibility within our governance process and outside it. Without that there can be nothing but simmering discontentment.   

March 27, 2014

Connecting with sincerity is the basis of morality

Connecting is the basis of prayer. Actually the word solath means connecting. We connect with Allah when we pray. We as human being are in constant need to connect. In fact, we can quite easily go crazy if we are left without connection to other human beings. That is perhaps why solitary confinement and imprisonment is so wounding because it takes us away from connection with either others or the outside world.

Human beings in our progress through life attempt to make this act of connecting ever easier. In the days of old connection was difficult beyond the tribe and so the connection with the community or tribe was basic and provided for us our security. We looked at another tribe with caution because we did not have any connection with them. Connection gives us a sense of calm and security, and connection gives us the intimacy too. That is why we befriend those with whom we can connect and we shun those with whom we cannot connect. For example someone who is overly critical is seen as difficult to connect and so most of us would shun that person. Even those who are critically minded don't really like those who would criticize them. We feel that sense of security with those with whom we can connect without the attendant anxiety of being criticized or put down.

Our Islam provides that opportunity to connect at least five times a day through the medium of our five daily prayers. It therefore is not strange that Islam, in the wisdom it embodies, expounds such a prescient concept that is so basic to our being. It is strange though that while we love to connect with others like us and know that this connection gives us a sense of flow, calm and security, we don't seem to attempt in any urgency to connect with God, when this inbuilt opportunity is there available and advocated in so many echoes in Islam. 

Connection is the true basis of keeping our real self or the "piece of God" that we have within us thriving rather than allowing our false self - the ego- deceive us. And indeed the ego does its job so assiduously by dividing us, not connecting us. We can all clearly see what is happening – that the sad emergence of this negative division in our societies – Maldives too being a case in point -- is the doings of the ego that is our false self.

Our true self wants us to connect, but the false self wants to divide us for it to show us that self-important side of us that tempts us to go astray. It is thus not surprising that any social condition that separate us makes us increasingly arrogant; it comes from the urging of the ego. Behaviors that make us feel better than the other person are examples of such urging. The latest in everything is what the ego wants for in that lies seed of arrogance within us and envy of others from outside of us. In fact all our attempts to jump onto the bandwagon of the material world’s capitalist model are the ways we are deceived into this path - the draw of the glitter of the world; into the thinking that this is the way to go, and so it is no mystery then that self-importance makes us feel good in the short run. Yes, that sense of our superiority can only be temporary - as long as our materialistic acquisitions last or our position of power in society lasts. This flimsy tether can be easily severed by a simple twist of nature and then we are, in no time at all, back to our position of insecurity.

We can indeed say no to our ego if we want; it can be very easy or as tough as hell. Our mind can make that decision and it will when we can be convinced that the ego is playing with us. Let's truly attempt to connect in sincerity! Don’t be deceived by monetarity, instead espouse morality. Just as our wonderful religion of Islam implores us! That is our way to our national salvage and so even to global safety.

March 18, 2014

Like minds connect

Harmony in whatever form is about coming together. This means that there is something about similarity that draws people and things together. Furthermore, in nature this is starkly evident and follows the instincts that it has vested in living things. ‘Birds of feather flock together’ is a powerful metaphor that alludes to this. 

Animals certainly adhere to this edict and even the vegetable world including forests, seem to sprout this similarity. Perhaps this has environmental and other innate factors associated with this flocking together including the perpetuation of the species. However, there is a curious difference in the case of human beings that we can observe in the consideration of similarities that bring people together. Perhaps there is nature working here too from the biological aspect for there is some relationship of how our skin colors and our cultures pit us together into groups occupying different terrain. But the similarities stop there as far as this hard-wiring of nature is concerned. When we think of who flocks together there is a clear preponderance of us being attracted to like mindedness, rather than the similarity of our physical appearances. 

Even though we may be of different colors, it is the creed or the mind-sets that bring us closer or separate us. It is the inside of us that is the critical vantage here; not our outside, defined by the wealth we own, which only does a show of homogeneity rather than portray the real confluence expected in harmony. We see the clubs and communities showing a convergence based on wealth and status. But in this uncomfortable harmony lies also the seeds of discontentment, competition and jealousy. This flimsy bond is soon broken when the time or the price is right. There is never a sure harmony that the materialist side of our lives brings.

The solution has to be to make minds connect at another level that doesn't consider wealth as a defining line, but moral confluence and spirituality as the common element that allows us to see ourselves in each other. When that happens, there will be permanent peace and harmony for us in this little corner of the world, and also for a whole world if we can so engineer our social systems in this way. 

In Maldives too, not unexpectedly, it is the like-mindedness that flock our "parties" together. However my take is that the genesis of these attractions are unfortunately based on the commonality of their selfish interests rather than those that profess the interest of the community. Podium talk merely panders to the selfish emotions of the polity and not to their moral integrity. And not inconsequentially either, the reality that unfolds on the ground when such proponents have the power of the ship's steering wheel is equally incongruous. It is perhaps high time for us polity to realize that the strength of our economy -- a proxy for selfishness -- surely is not the answer for a safe and harmonious future, but the moral strength of our community is.