the-south-asian.com                                              NOVEMBER 2002

 

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NOVEMBER 2002 Contents

 

 South Asian Travels

 Afghanistan

 Arrival in Kabul
 Spirit of the city
 Cultural Suicide
 Panjsher Valley 
 

 

 Natural Heritage

 
Sundarbans of Bangladesh


 Health

 Recognising Depression
 

 Real Issues

 Bonded Labour of South Asia

 
 Neighbours

 Letter from Pakistan

 
 From the pages of History

 Maldive Islands - in 1884

 
 Music

 'Rudraksha' - a review
 Artiste: poumi

 
 Around us

 Coffee break
 

 

Events

 South Asian Events in
 London & Washington DC

 November   8 - Nov 14
 November 15 - Nov 21

 the craft shop

 the print gallery

 Books

 Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

 
Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of
India

 
The Moonlight Garden

 
Contemporary Art in Bangladesh

 

 

 

 

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Page  2  of  2

 

The Maldive Islands

By  C. W. Rosset

(cntd.)

The sight of the steamer had by this time attracted crowds to the beach, and it seemed as if the entire population of male had turned out. About half-an-hour after the anchor had been dropped a large canoe could be seen issuing from the harbour; it was propelled by forty rowers, and was soon alongside. It conveyed the messengers from the Sultan, who were sent to inquire what business had brought us there, and I at once handed them the letters of introduction with which I had been furnished in Ceylon before my departure, at the same time expressing my wish to be conducted as soon as possible to the Prime Minister, E. A. Abraham Deedee, to whom I had been specially recommended. One of the messengers, named Ibrahim Deedee (who, I was glad to discover, was able to speak a little English), told me that if I returned with them to the shore my request could be immediately complied with, and I accordingly entered the canoe with them.

The passage through the surf in these boats is at times a matter of danger. They are built of a length quite out of proportion to their breadth, which makes them very unseaworthy, and to add to the discomforts of the passenger he is obliged to stand up in the stern, as no seats are provided for his accommodation, so that unless he keeps a very sharp look-out he runs considerable risk of being shot overboard when the stern is lifted by a wave, in which case no power on earth could save him unless he happened to be a very expert swimmer. The boatmen themselves, being as much at home in the water as on land, are naturally indifferent to the danger; in fact, they are well used to being ducked.

As I stepped ashore the Vizier came forward, and , taking me by the hand, led me away at once through the principal streets of the town. Close behind us walked my two Cingalese servants, dressed in a gala costume of red satin, whilst a crowd of inquisitive Maldivians brought up the rear, forming a procession of quite respectable length. We soon arrived before the entrance of a large compound surrounded by a high wall, in the centre of which stood a small building, which I afterwards discovered to be the Kacheri (Town Hall), which I was invited to enter. The entrance, destitute of any door, was very low, and it was necessary to stoop nearly double in order to penetrate to the interior, which was so dark as to make it impossible to distinguish anything for several minutes after leaving the fierce glare without. A seat was offered me, and accepted, and four individuals, whose dress bespoke them as persons of rank, took their places, two on either hand. Not a word had yet been spoken since I landed, and the silence continued unbroken for several minutes after we were seated. I tried to make out what my companions were like, but the semi-obscurity of the apartment rendered their features very indistinct; so far as I could make out they appeared to have regular features, and that tranquil expression usually found in Orientals. No two of them seemed to be of the same colour; one was quite fair, the second darker, while the third and fourth had complexions which approached a mahogany tint. The silence at length began to get irksome, and I therefore inquired of the messenger whether I should soon be able to speak with the Prime Minister. He replied that his Excellency was then seated on my right. I at once addressed myself to him, and, after naming different gentlemen in Ceylon who had sent complimentary messages to him, made my request for an audience of the Sultan, adding a few words touching the object of my visit. He inquired whether I had any letters for his Majesty the "Sultan and King", to which I replied in the negative. I had been advised in Ceylon not to take letters for the Sultan, who can neither read nor write, and with whom it is advisable to have as little direct intercourse as possible, he being very averse to Europeans. In requesting the interview with the Sultan, I further asked for permission to make a lengthened stay in the islands, and to be allowed to build houses, collect specimens, and travel from one island to the other through the group. The Minister departed to carry my requests to the Sultan, and returned in about half an hour. He informed me that the Sultan would be unable to reply to my request for an audience for eight or ten days; that he could not give me any answer touching my wish to travel about the group; but that instructions had meantime been given for houses to be placed at my disposal, and for any provisions I might require to be supplied. This was exactly the answer I had expected, and I was about to express my thanks and withdraw, when Abraham Deedee informed me that if I desired it I could have the use of a house and compound belonging to him, which, being on the shore of the harbour, would be much more convenient than one in the centre of the town.

I gladly accepted this kind offer, and after thanking him took my leave, as I wanted to return on board and get my boxes (of which I had forty-five) ashore before night. The natives gave every assistance, and the work was accomplished in good time, and I was able to return on board before sundown, leaving my two servants to arrange the house which had been set apart for my use. The next morning I bade "good-bye" to my friends captain Wilding and the officers of the Ceylon, and went ashore in the native boat which had been sent off for me. A stiff breeze had sprung up during the night, and the high sea then running made the short passage to the beach very trying, whilst the rain which was pouring down added to the discomfort; so that I was very glad when the beach was at length gained in safety, in time for a last look at the Ceylon, which was steaming off in the direction of Minicoy.

(To be continued in the December issue of the-south-asian)

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