It was in the year 1977, I got my first passport after an NOC (No objection certificate) issued by the Government of India for issuing me a passport, since I was a Government employee . I was very enthusiastic about my possible 'overseas travel' and started to make plans for a trip to Maldives. I had another friend of mine, who also got his first passport , and was desperately banking upon me to make the tour plan to accommodate him as well.Both of us bought airline ticket from Trivandrum to Maldives,(A group of islands in the Indian ocean, southwest of India, approximately 45minutes of flying time by a Boeing aircraft from Trivandrum.).
Having successfully arranged that, we collected the information from one of my friends, who had been there to Maldives on several occasions on business trips. He informed me that Maldives Government has approved the residents of the country to entertain tourists in their houses, and could collect rent for their stay and pay a small portion as tax to the Government. My friend had also recommended me to one of his friends in Maldives, who could be my host. Having arranged that, we planned for the travel and set out by train to reach Trivandrum from where we would catch a flight to Maldives. Everything went off very smoothly, and on the scheduled day of departure, we went through the formalities of immigration and customs and boarded our flight.
This was, incidentally, my first experience in a transport aircraft and I was thrilled ! I was looking out of the window ( I had requested for a window seat) and was waiting impatiently for the aircraft to move ! Now, suddenly , a thought struck my mind. I was an obsessive believer in ' cheiromancy' and was an ardent reader of all related books. I had 'reached a degree of proficiency' in the related subject, in my own opinion. Now, I looked at my hand to verify whether I had the 'travel line' cutting across from the mount of Luna to touch the Line of Life ! It was not there ! In no uncertain terms, it clearly indicated that I had no prospect of 'overseas' travel ! Then, what could happen ? Will I ever land into Maldives or crash into Indian Ocean? While I was considering all these aspects and analysed for a comfortable answer, the aircraft started taxiing out. Within the next 10 minutes, we were airborne, and my thoughts had faded away, as we started cruising. Within 40minutes, I could see the green coral islands, below us, and was thrilled.
The aircraft made a smooth landing at the island airport of Maldives, called 'Hulule'. 'Hell with this palmistry', I thought. After quickly going through the formalities of immigration, health ( Pricked my fingers for blood samples !) and customs, we were outside. There were ferry services to the Capital city 'Maldives', which was 10 minutes distance by boat travel.
The weather was good and I liked everything I saw. After a brief travel by the boat, we landed up on the shores of the city ' Maldives'. It is a 100% muslim country, has to import everything for its sustenance and most of the male community are employees of some shipping organisation. The only natural resources is the fish from the sea.The city was very small, ( in fact, from one end of the island to the other end, we could walk within 25 to 30 minutes) and we quickly reached the place where we had made arrangements for our stay. It was something like a group of rooms in a barrack in a Military camp.
Each one had one room and an attached toilet. Never mind, we could not afford much and we were happy with what we got. The owner was an elderly lady, who also stayed in one of the rooms, on the opposite side of our barrack, seperated by a paved verandah.We set out for 'sight-seeing' and shopping. There are no animals and there are no birds in Maldives! Therefore , there was no 'sight seeing'. My friend, who was an orthodox Hindu brahmin, insisted on buying an electric stove to prepare the food for us.
I did not care much for all these, but said OK. We returned back. For the dinner, we had a loaf of bread and vegetarian sandwich.Next day, my friend 'prepared' lunch for both of us. Though it was awful, I did not complain. There was a small plantain tree in the campus and my friend, without any hesitation, cut two leaves to be used as plates.
We threw the plantain leaves in the dustbin, which was near the tree itself. We had planned to stay in Maldives for 3 days, and after that to fly out to Sri-lanka.In the afternoon, my friend suggested that he would prepare 'tea' for us.
I tried to stop him. But he would not listen. He went ahead and prepared tea, by using the electric stove in the end of verandah. As he had finished his concoction, he tripped the kettle and the tea spilled over on the surface ! To add to the misery, the room on the opposite side opened and the owner lady appeared ! I just pulled myself inside my room and watched the proceedings. The lady was glaring at my friend and my friend was looking at her foolishly. He ,then , gathered courage and asked the lady, ' do you have a cleaning cloth ?'.
The lady did not appear to have understood his idea. She might have thought that this arrogant guy was asking her to clean the spill ! She replied back tersely, ' You dirty , you clean'. I could not contain my laughter any more.
After my friend cleaned up the area under her supervision, he went to throw the dirty cloth in the dust-bin. The owner lady followed him there also. She looked with disbelief the plantain tree without any leaves and the used up leaves inside the bin ! She questioned him, ' who do this ?' My friend meekly replied ' we used it' and went ahead to comfort her, ' Do you eat plantains ?' . There was no reply. Who knows? For all you know,the lady must have thought that my friend was suggesting to her to eat the plantain leaves from the dust bin !What an arrogance ! She glared at him in anger, did not say a word and walked away.
my friend was very angry with me for my 'unfriendly' attitude of not helping him but enjoying the fun ! What could I do ? Every one has a natural character. I could not change mine.After three days, we again returned back to Hulule Airport and reached Colombo ,in Sri Lanka, across the indian Ocean, with a flying distance of one hour and 15 minutes. I shall share my experiences of Srilanka with you in my next news letter.Regards.
By: Ramani Iyer