December 24, 2015

Our urban dump

On my early morning walk today i saw a guard in front of a shop doing his morning cleaning rituals onto the Majeedhee-magu pavement. He was gurgling out the nightly accumulates of his throat and noisily spitting out and blowing his nose onto the drain and pavement. As I approached him, I couldn't contain the urge to ask him a few questions. Why all this on to the street? Don't you have a toilet? He looked at me blankly perhaps not understanding a word I said. Observing the blank look was sufficient for me for I wasn't looking for answers from him really. But I felt remorse at what our city of Male was turning into; it was his toilet verily in the absence of a toilet provided by the shop-owner.

This is not an isolated case. I have observed other guards even relieving themselves of the urinal variety onto the opposite side of their pavement in this space they feel is legitimate. I know many of our guest workers come from countries that are culturally different from us and some such practices are normal or commonplace even though the ultimate scheme of urban development their public officials also would not want such practices to happen. But for me this is atrocious in our small capital which should in fact be a little garden and not difficult to do except for the carelessness of public officials to the importance of these little value driven behavior but who give superior importance to capital projects that bring visual changes to our urban landscape. No one seems to care about how our behavior is being drastically changed and would be so difficult to rectify when our attitudes are allowed to change this way.

I see the sanitary difference of this physical space we call our city of Male over several decades and I dare say it is degrading lamentably. I even observe now, even though infrequently, amber colored fluid in bottles lying in the premises of our urban street drains. I cannot vouch for what the content is for I do not open these and attempt to smell these to verify. But i can only feel my hunch is valid. At this rate i wonder how long it would be before we feel the waft of the fetid odors of human excrement emanating from our drains! One can take this escalating concern as a human rights issue in regards to our guest workers for those of us who employ them must be responsible enough to give them the needed amenities to live here a life of some dignity. When our public space is degrading we only point fingers at our guest workers who are here because we brought them here and thus we are in fact more responsible for the plight of our city. Not to be outdone, even our own people are accomplice to the epidemic of spitting we see on the street. And another epidemic – of smoking!!

Yes public officials must enforce the tasks they have taken up; their salaries and benefits being fed with public money but it must also be our personal responsibility as Maldivians to reflect on what is happening to our nation in the wake of this modern development path we seem to be so unrelentingly pursuing in the degrading face of human dignity for ourselves and for our employees and our guests to this country. We surely don't like to invite them to a dump. It’s a shame on us. Where is our wonderful Islam which says cleanliness is an integral part of Eman. Would we consider ourselves the embodiment of Eman? Can we be aware of the terrible bind our ego has us trapped in? We forget our own Religion Islam and its sublime edicts in the face of the glitter this world shows us. Like it or not - Iblees has us wrapped around his little finger.

December 13, 2015

Quality time

The family is the building block of society, and over time immemorial, nurturing of children in preparation of another responsible generation has been priority. However, in a globalizing world with many distractions for parents and children alike, the consistency and intensity of family effort has varied or waned and it now seems adrift away with the tide for children to learn life values and the ideals of integrity from peers or from the internet. And this has its verified dangers. 

We always hear that nurturing happens when quality time is spent with the object of our nurturing. Whether it is to nurture an attitude or skill within us or nurture our children with good values and humane feelings, we need to spend time communicating with ourselves or our children the knowledge and feelings that magnify the attitude we want to hone.

But of course, spending time is a general term and many of us feel that just being present with our children is enough to make them feel cared for. Present thinking doesn’t go with this norm. It is now a universal awareness in these circles that nurturing requires spending quality time. This is different to just being with the child or us reading about something. It requires engagement in conscious thought or conversation. The need is to have the communication loop completed and continued for some extended time. It is not enough for a parent to be at home when the child is around, but needs to be engaged with the child in active communication and for the child to be aware that the parent is showing active concern. A cursory ask of how school was today, or a query on how was the game today, may not be enough especially when the parent asks in an act of boring routine.

Quality time engages the heart more than the mind. That is why going out for a walk with your children and doing the things they enjoy will kindle and bind your relationship and these moments become engraved in their memory as moments they will cherish as adults. These are the morsels they carry in their life to give them inspiration and the connection with us in love or admiration for the role model we show. The result will be a better community we leave behind. How many parents spend meal times talking to the phone rather than to the child? How many hours are spent on our computer or our eyes glued to the TV while the kids spend their time with the toys we had given them -- as if the guilt of our neglect will be allayed by the expensive toys we give them and then expect, like a miracle, our children become the characterful human beings we want them to be? No dear parents, they need our attention. We need to sacrifice more of our time to them before they grow up and begin to say they don't need us anymore. Yes, there will be no use crying over spilt milk. Please listen to the song “cat's in the cradle”. It may bring tears to many regretful eyes.

These and many other new habits in our daily life distance us from our children who will doubtlessly be the torchbearers of tomorrow. How many of us care for a better tomorrow for our children? If so we need to reflect on what we are doing today to prepare for that tomorrow.