A place for poetryThe Maldives and the post-Tsunami era [Archives:2005/818/Culture]

February 21 2005

By Irena Knehtl
[email protected]
For The Yemen Times

Letter from Maldives:

In Male everything seems back to normal, am not sure people are back to normal. It is hard for us who live in the capital to imagine what a person in a rural island is going through. And its difficult to get things going because there are so many scattered isolated islands: a small community all by itself. Rebuilding these will take time. I am back to school trying to finish my studies.

Regards Fazail.

The Maldives are string of atolls in the Indian Ocean, a thousand islands nobody could count accurately. They emerge from beyond endless blue horizons. A pond of water lily leaves adrift in the mid ocean heavy with history. The islands are so low above the wave that, were it not for the tall coconut palms, they would be invisible until the ship was cough in the surf. In total, there are 1,190 islands. In fact nobody knows for sure.

For some islets grow out of submerged reefs, and others are eaten away piecemeal by the ocean and disappear. Only 202 of the islands are inhabited, although others have ruins of former habitation.

Maldives were among the dozen nations around the Indian ocean that were struck by tsunami suffering loss of life and substantial material damage to its tourism industry, the backbone of its economy. Waves begun pummeling southern Thailand about an hour after the earthquake.

After two and half hours, the torrents had traveled some thousand miles and slammed into India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh were also hit.

Eventually, the waves struck Somalia, on the east coast of Africa, 2,800 miles away. The magnitude of this 9.0 earthquake – the worlds most powerful since 1964 -shifted huge geological plates beneath the ocean northwest of Sumatra island, causing a sudden displacement of millions of tons of water.

The Maldivian poets and writers of this island nation are now on the forefront in organizing relief in helping rebuilding lives. They let the tsunami victims speak, write, draw about their loss, traumas, shocks suffered from the tsunami. “The Land on the Dark Side”, is this weeks featured poem dedicated to tsunami victims written by Farah Didi, a Maldivian economist and the most prominent contemporary poet and writer.

The land on the dark side

They say do not go to the land on the Dark Side,

where even the moon hides near the Palace of Pride,

where the Lord Unmerciful behind the greedy gate,

Almighty and Powerful dictates your fate.

Where will you run. You in despair

What will you do. With nothing but a prayer

Your song is unsung. Your future hung.

On the whim and fancy. Of the Lord of Ensnare.

They say beware of the den of the Dark One,

There is not safe haven. Where the death river runs.

They say do not hope, where there is none.

Nothing but a bolt hole. There is no protection.

They say do not talk. In the dwelling of the Dead.

There are no folks listening to the rest.

There are no fires to warm your soul.

Just cold-blooded liars. There is no parole.

Poets are not usually economists, and economists seldom poets. They might indeed be thought to be opposing characters on the stage. Only occasionally do such disparate humans meet in one person as Farah Didi, an economist and one of the most important contemporary Maldivian women poets and writers.

Her poems and writings are regularly featured on BBC. I write this introduction because am a friend of the poetess, and I read her, because here I find a friend.

Her poetic themes are universal, love, hate, longing, respecting, suspecting, fearing and hoping, new life and dusty death, joy and sorrow, the happiness of godo times, the desolation of mourning.

She herself, as I know, has loved and won, won and lost, lost and regained. She has a deep feeling for her Maldive islands and her people. On the other end of scale, she has a preference for irony and her determination to try anything. The haiku, the ballad, the sonnet, the outburst of free verse, they all are at her command.

She is ready to borrow from half a dozen languages, and fashion from this enormous anvil a fire-new creations, after her own heart. There is an urgent wish to change men and things for the better, a true compassion, which sends pity into action: You ask what is this life so frail, so vain. This long to tell, yet will I make it plain. This but a breath blown from the vast deeps. And then blown back to those same deep again!

About the Maldives

– The Islamic Republic of Maldives is a group of islands lying in the Indian Ocean south west of Sri Lanka and south of the Indian sub continent, stretching 800 km in length and 130 km in width comprising of 1,190 coral islands with only 202 inhabited. Each island is surrounded by a shallow lagoon which is enclosed by a coral riff providing protection from the sea. The population is 213,215, out of which 56,000 live in the capital Male being an important trading center. Being on the Equator, the monsoon are mild.

– The Maldivians are a mixed race. Their language, Divehi, belongs to the Indo-Iranian group.Maldivians are Sunni Moslem. Islam is the backbone of society. The National emblem of the Maldives is a Coconut Palm, a crescent and a star.

– The economy is based on three principal activities, fishing tourism, and shipping. Traditional industry consists of local boat building, handicrafts. Export oriented industries include tuna fish canning and manufacture of garments.

Visit the web site of Maldivian poets and writers: www.maldiveshores.com

Become a contributor to Maldives Shores. On the same web site inform yourself about Tsunami relief and efforts in Maldives.

Sing the guest book for tsunami victims. Let Maldivians know you care and they are important to you.

Visit also Maldives Tourism Promotion Board www.visitmaldives.com


* Irena Knehtl is a regular contributor to Yemen Times. She is a Slovenian economist who has been living in Yemen for many years. Among her writings are reports focusing on tourism, economic, and social topics on Yemen and other countries spanning Asia, Africa, and Europe.