Mohammad Waheed (Madulu) (b. 1947) is an eminent writer and journalist from Maldives. He has been decorated with national awards like National Writers Encouragement Award (1985) and National Gold-Pen Award for Journalistic Services (1993). His writings offer an authentic vignette on the social and economic realities of the Maldivian society.
Dark clouds hovered across the horizon just before sunset. As it became darker, the lightning seemed to increase in brilliance. The once low, distant thunder now sounded like canons overhead.
The fishermen returned. A little while after Ishaa prayers, everyone seemed to have gone to bed. Not a single soul was seen on the streets. Except for a few doorways, no bright lights were visible.
A violent thunderclap sent a cat streaking past the house. Sakeena’s three year-old child wept and clung to her. Since her father had left for Ishaa prayers, Nahuza was afraid to go to sleep until he returned. Whenever there was a thunderstorm, this was her usual behaviour.
Sakeena tried to comfort her daughter, saying, “Daddy might be late. You should go to sleep now.” On the verge of weeping again, Nahuza whimpered softly. On a stormy night such as this, Sakeena preferred her husband to be near her too. But, tonight, she knew he would not come. He would be in a different house on a different bed with another woman. How could she tell her little daughter that her daddy would be staying with his second wife and would not return tonight?
Cuddling her daughter on her breast, Sakeena stroked her gently. Deaf to the roaring thunder and her daughter’s sobbing, her thoughts floated aimlessly amongst the strong winds and currents. She had allowed her happy life to drift away so.
Sakeena lived with her husband Ibrahim and their little girl. In truth, Ibrahim was not a wayward man. Though a good housewife in conventional terms, Sakeena insisted on more than he could give.
She preserved her virginity for her husband until they married. But in return for that, she demanded too much. Ibrahim gave in to Sakeena almost to the point where he could be mistaken for her slave.
Her own inscrutable behaviour and doubts regarding her husband’s fidelity diminished the flame of love and allowed the darkness of hatred to creep in. Their love faded as she tried to possess Ibrahim. Things deteriorated to such an extent that their marriage now existed at the level of a trading partnership and no more.
While in his heart he yearned to become an educated man, Ibrahim had to leave school without completing his education. He had to start fishing and earn a living for his family as his father was disabled. And when his mother expired, he had to care for his two younger brothers and father. This was not from any filial love, but because it was a religious and social requirement.
The memories of how his father used to beat him for minor things with a bunch of shakles until they broke into pieces was buried deep in his consciousness. He would always remember his mother cleaning the cuts and applying hot compresses on the swellings when he went to her in tears. She died and the hand that used to whip Ibrahim became paralysed. Although he did not take revenge, he had no warm feelings for his father. He did everything as an obligation.
Sakeena thought Ibrahim cared more for his father and brothers than for her. That was her complaint. And, it irritated her that he spent what he earned on others instead of on her. Another grievance was that he did not try to improve their standard of living.
Ibrahim used to say, “Sakeena, don’t nag. All the work I do is for us. Now, you are carrying our first child. Don’t complain and cry, you might even have a miscarriage. I don’t want to go to any other woman. I get everything a man needs from a woman like you. Why create a problem and increase the country’s divorce rate?”
Sakeena’s answers were: “Those are stories to please me, but from the way you treat me, and the way you lead your life, I cannot believe you love me. I knew that this would happen. Don’t try to mislead me. After I bear a child, I will be old. Why wait till I deliver? If you divorce me now, I will still find some way to live.”
Sakeena’s aim was to keep Ibrahim all to herself. Since she needed him near her all the time, her complaints became a mealtime routine.
Sakeena’s time drew near. Simultaneously, Ibrahim’s father needed an operation to remove stones. So, Ibrahim had to spend the Rs. 700 that he had saved for the extra expenses during Sakeena’s delivery on sending his father to Male with his uncle for treatment.
Now Ibrahim worked overtime earning and saving money as fast as possible. He laboured extra hard with his friends in making salted fish in order to get two shares. At night he went to catch lobsters, selling them to nearby resort islands. If bad weather or anything else kept him at home, he did odd jobs, like breaking coral, gathering sand, etc., for various people.
He planned to change the old roof thatch on his house, make a cement slab around the well, make screens for Sakeenas bed, and buy the necessities for the new-born child. His first child was a lucky child because he started earni