Snowballs in Male

The flat is deserted. The water is off. *Moosa’s bed that sleeps two, in a bedroom that doubles as a kitchen, that doubles as a living room, is empty.

Water for this month’s bill was spent on college fees – a toss-up between keeping the taps running and re-sitting the academic year. Exams must be sat, qualifications gained, and work found to cover Male’s spiralling rental prices.

The price of the family apartment is more than twice his father’s salary as migration to the capital causes landowners to drool from overseas. The population of the 5 square km island has grown by 50 percent in the decade since Moosa arrived.

Extended family from his home island are arriving tomorrow, leaving their spacious houses and half-empty neighbourhoods for the medicine, education, and work opportunities that drain the atolls and swell the metropolis. Moosa will sleep on the floor this weekend.

In between studying he will join the family’s search for a new place, after the landlord informed his father that they must vacate in one month. Their sizeable deposit is unlikely to be returned unscathed. There is nowhere to appeal.

Money will have to be borrowed to survive the month, favours asked. Independence disappearing into the relentless traffic. Moosa’s apathy grows with every such crisis – the only way he can deal with the lack of control.

But tonight, the water and the exams and the rent can wait. His youngest brother is in the hospital, diagnosed with dengue fever, bred in the concrete puddles of the construction jungle.

While the family wait for him to recover, there is little hope the heat of Male will melt the problems that continue to snowball for one third of Maldivians now living in the chaotic and congested capital.

 

*Moosa is a composite character based on friends who recently went through these events, similar versions of which are experienced by countless families.

 

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