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.