In a letter to her future grand daughter, Sea, a Maldivian writer, reflects on the meaning of home in a country marred by corruption.
To my granddaughter,
I grew up believing that my world was only as large as my island, which, if you look it up on the world map, doesn’t even exist at all. We, as a country, are only a few dots left as an afterthought on a grander picture, and when I found out of the world waiting for me beyond the borders of this landscapes, I cannot tell you the exhilaration that lit up my lungs like fireflies. Wanderlust has taken root in me and I am always in the yearning, constantly on the search for something more.
When I was eight years my parents put us on a plane and flew us to the city. This was my second time to Malé, and I could taste again the ice-cream from my first-journey, and I make-believed in something fantastical, non-sensical, but I was a child. When I realised we were going to be living inside a box overlooking the Freedom Square where the pigeons didn’t fly too far, I was so crushed that the weight of my dying hopes kept me rooted to the window and they couldn’t convince me to leave my spot. I only wanted to go home.
When I was thirteen I realised I had long ago lost what it meant to have a home. If home was what housed the heart, why couldn’t I place it in my chest? I was living inside four blank walls that refused to comfort the distressed pre-pubescent hormonal teenager who wanted some space. It couldn’t calm down my demons when they lifted their heads and when I told my depression to go away, it said it had found a home in my head and it didn’t care that I didn’t want it to be there. It said, I didn’t want to be here either so maybe we could keep each other company.
When I was sixteen I had papers to sign before I could apply for a scholarship away from here. I told my Father with a proud smile that I was never coming back because I couldn’t imagine a life in this country. I didn’t understand then, why he never submitted the forms or why he felt it best that I should stay close to him. I never understood if he had a love for the nation in ways I couldn’t even think of. I thought he was backward and I wanted to embark on my adventures, but small girls from small islands don’t have many places they can go to on broken ferry systems and a few pennies.
We’re too small a country for one to simply ‘disappear’ or maybe I didn’t know how to.
Today, the depression reared it’s head again and it’s calling for me to come and lie as dormant as it has been. Do you know there’s a fish called Rodu, and it’s very bright and fools you into believing it’s happy, when in reality all it’s going to do is chase you down for embarking on it’s territory? I learnt it the hard way on a snorkelling trip, when I was just beginning to understand my love for this country. It doesn’t stem from the people, dear, it begins with our roots. Some places grow so far deep into the ground, but our ground grows so far deep into the sea. The oceans are what sustains us. They are the reasons why we are nothing more than a few scattered dots on a map – because what is truly us, in essence, is the sea. Large, beckoning, calling. And when you answer it your wanderlust just quietens down and watches in wonder with you, because it’s all so beautiful down here. It’s all so wonderful down here.
Maybe what I’m hoping for is that you also, grow up in a Maldives that has retained it’s essence of being what it is. And that you know, you are lucky to have been born here, lucky to have come to a place that I’d so proudly call home. Home is not a house and home is not a family in one singular place but this large, messed up, crooked place of a country that’s bigger than you’d dream of. We’re living in a world of infinite possibilities and travels and yet nothing is as beautiful or as enticing as a country as big and grand as this is. If you can’t see it on the surface, then look below. I hope you have enough reefs to. I hope they don’t create a disaster in their search for a utopia.
Because you, you deserve better than to be employed on a land that is not yours to fulfil some crooked politicians promise to employment. You deserve better than to have your future gambled away in some grand plan for economic reform. You deserve better than all the decision makers who’d sacrifice their good standing for one single man, over the instinctive needs and wants of our people. And mostly, you deserve to know what you’re losing is something it took me a long time to appreciate, but now that I do I am only sorry if I won’t be able to save it for you.
This post was first published on Facebook. Republished with permission.
Photo by Ismail Humam Hamid.
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