Maldives, in my mind, has always been a mystical paradise of sorts. And to my delight, I met two Maldivians in 2001 in Delhi. Of course, we were all teenagers then but they seemed well bred, well spoken and smart – that only added points to the impression I had about them.

The next time I met any Maldivians was in 2010, this time too in Delhi. Somehow, I had an instant connection , atleast with one of them. Our point of connection was that we were the youngest duo and perhaps the most unintelligible amongst the accomplished lot. We made each other feel better about ourselves. I then came to know about the ugly transformation that Maldives underwent in the recent years; all the political strife due to religion and how women who once enjoyed equal stance and freedom as men in their country were forced into suppression behind veils and of the consequences levied on them who dared disobey. Amongst them was a woman – dark and petite and who rarely smiled. I was told that she went to prison for her loud voices, in an attempt to struggle free against an oppression of sorts. She later fought with the coordinator of the programme we were all attending for succumbing to subjectivity – that the programme did not really stand for what it was meant to be. The small lady who made no first impression left a lasting trail in the minds of those whom she met and left in Delhi.

And that was where I met Smile too. Smile was greatly lauded by all that were participating in the programme for his fearlessness in writing. I called him Smile because he smiled a lot and it also rhymed with his name – Ismail Hilath Rasheed. I thought nothing much about the man who seemed sweet enough to cause diabetes in another and too harmless by appearance. But when I came to know that there were threats to behead him, I was almost scared of the man. Smile as it turned out was one of the most popular journalist in Maldives and a top Maldivian blogger which of course was banned and closed later.

One night, after our stomachs were filled- both with literature and food, a small group of us strolled through the dusty streets of Delhi – directionless and clueless, just happy in the thought that we were in each other’s company – a group with a common interest in life – people we would just meet and part with before we even got to know each other. Smile gave me some tips that night on how to keep up with the vigour that is required of a writer and of other things. We then sat by the in the front lawn of the place where we were all accommodated and sang songs, spoke our thoughts without care and danced until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, we all said our goodbyes and lost contact, and along with it, left the thoughts of strife and struggles that were escalating in my holidaying paradise.

Smile made news again. He’s been stoned in the past that fractured his skull and stabbed now and is in the ICU in Male, the capital city. This has been disturbing me ever since. When a government declares a religion as a state religion which is the only religion that people must legally practice, it is encroaching into an individual’s freedom and decision to practice a religion of his choosing and that is no democracy at all and this suppression of an individual’s right is a threat in itself to the democratic process in Maldives.

I feel so disappointed in the transformations that have defaced a nation that in my mind was so attractive and smart. I hope and pray that Smile recovers to stability and that he will fight for the causes that he stands for.
3 Responses
  1. Prayers for that too! Its so heart-wrenching to know that.And you write beautifully, keep it up!

  2. Kinga Choden Says:

    It is heart wrenching indeed, that such a beautiful country is treading a perilous road and individuals like Smile pay the price for it. I am sure he needs all the prayers..Thanks a lot @I relate to that :(

  3. Tshering Says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It conveys deep messages...and the way you've presented it is simply beautiful.

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