Maldives! Where girls are flogged, and sometimes jailed, for being sexually abused if they cannot dig up four witnesses; on the bright side, dogs are banned so the daily road-cleaning ladies never have to wrangle dog-shit.
From research, I believe I am only the second person to write about living in the Maldives. Virtually all books about Maldives are travel guides or photographic works of the sea-life or the twenty-six atolls and 1,200 islands.
Between 2006 and 2017, I lived in Maldives (real name Dhivehi Raa’jeyge Jumhooriyya) for nearly three years and also visited a number of times. My writing experience consists of research and reporting degrees in humanities and interpersonal communication. The memoir is presented in a sardonic voice but not intended to be an attack on Islam; there are ‘jokes,’ but most of them are about me.
Living and working under my own auspices meant earning very low, local wages; years of self-funding for the pleasure of being treated like a fifth-class citizen despite recently-implemented employment regulations. I endured this ordeal to integrate with the local population, thus having a ‘real’ experience, not just a ‘touristic’ one.
The book chronicles the ghastly (and good) experiences had from living independently in the Maldives. The setting is a large rock, less than one square mile in size and home to upwards of 125,000 people. The background is the pervasive Sharia, a black market, substance misuse — the latter not surprising when there is nothing to do — virtual slavery and political upheaval.
On the positive side, for some years now, many Maldivians — female and male — have been supported to study abroad to doctorate level. And now there is also a university in Maldives with more and more teachers, etc., being created each year.
In the last dozen or so years, Maldives has been in fast-forward mode; regrouping following the 2004 Tsunami, the onset of democracy in 2008, followed by the reversion to autocracy in 2012. A society can alter very quickly when the capital is the size of a toy-town. And yet one wonders: what spurs people on when most of the land is now only one metre above sea-level? It may not be well-known that the current 1,200 islands are all that remains of an ancient mountain range; ‘new’ climate change is the least of it.