A Bittersweet Encounter

I was with Iyya and Thoami at the Sultan Park (we need to clean that place. It’s a heritage site, and it’s disintegrating right before our eyes), after a busy day. We sat down on one of the benches and just when we started enjoying the place, a random guy comes up to us.

‘Do you have a cigarette on you by any chance?’

Thoami handed him a cigarette.

‘Thanks’, he says. ‘It’s so nice to meet people who don’t resort to judgment on first sight’.

I could see exactly what he meant. He was skinny, his hair was long and he didn’t seem like he had showered at all the whole day. His t-shirt was inside out and his feet were dirt covered. His teeth yellowing and stained from smoking, he talked to us with a deep growl and he was barely conscious – it was without doubt that he was already on something.

He grabbed a brick which was lying around, fashioned a seat for himself with it on the dirt ground and sat down in front of us.

‘I’m very new here. A week since I got here from abroad. So I thought I’d go out for a walk… you know, to check things out’ he slurred. He asked our names one by one, and had a difficult time remembering them. Mid sentence, we would have to remind him of our names.

‘I apologize. I’m really bad with names. Also, I just came back from jamming at a friends place. Been writing and composing some music’. He gestured with his hands, like he was playing the guitar, and I saw that he had marks on his hands that were clearly injection sites from recent using of drugs.

The conversation then went onto our favorite musicians, where he elaborately discussed how local musicians are. We then went onto our favorite local musicians. He seemed so animated and passionate about music.

‘Can I sing to you some of my own music?’, he said out of the blue.

I would say it would be a safe assumption to say that the three of us were reluctant to say yes to this – but we did.

He cleared his throat and closed his eyes. He began to sing, and I was not surprised to hear a pitchless croak – ‘Ooooowowww’.

I tried to keep my face straight and perceivably enthused. However, as he went on, I noticed that his songs were comparatively much, much better lyrically and rhythmically than the usual dhivehi music we hear. I began to realize that he was a lyrical genius when it comes to Maldivian poetry. By the end of the song, I was so engrossed in the lyrical ingenuity in the song, that I ignored his singing.

He finished the song, and let the last note linger for a bit and looked at our reaction. I enjoyed it, I said. And I meant it, to be honest.

‘I came from Bangalore just recently. Was forced to go there by my family. My brother is a parliamentarian and my uncle is a state minister. But see how I have to live my life though?’, he said sadly. ‘I used to have a girlfriend too, you know’, he said gesturing to Thoami and Iyya. ‘But she passed away, and I haven’t had a girlfriend since then…’.

The more he talked, the more I knew that he was someone who has been neglected throughout his life and had experienced severe loss. He talked of his addiction, and he seemed to be genuinely regretful about ever trying it.

‘To be honest, this world… it’s not for me. I don’t belong here”.

That statement almost broke me down. I realized that he was so lost in this world and had no one to take care of him. The frustrating bit was that he was such a nice guy (well-mannered too), and had so much potential to be a positive influence on the world. But it was apparent that the world (especially his family) had no intentions to nourish him.

He sang us a couple more songs, including some covers of some of the classic Maldivian songs.

‘Thank you so much for listening to me. I really appreciate that you stayed here long enough to listen to what I had to say. Can you please give me your numbers? I would really like to meet with you later and hang out with you guys’, he said. We gave him our numbers without hesitance.

‘Lastly, I have a request from you guys. I still do not own a phone. Could you give me some money so I can buy one? It won’t be something that fancy. I would appreciate anything I can get’. I saw the look of hesitance on my friends, but I gave him a 20. He took it, said thanks and walked away in a slow pace out of the park.

I was left bittersweet – I knew that it was very probable that he would use that 20 Rufiya on some kind of drug, that would end up in his blood stream.

This is just one of those stories. There are countless others in this country who struggle with addiction and the stigma that follows with it. Despite what you may believe, it is inhumane to disregard their suffering. The least you could do, is lend an ear, to listen to them.

 

8 thoughts on “A Bittersweet Encounter

  1. This one time, my friends and I were hanging out in front of the flag, feeling a bit of the national spirit, when we were approached by a stranger who’d been lurking by the sides of Jumhooree Maidhaan. Earlier that night we’d been asked ‘Why DO we turn away a stranger when he approaches us?’ so we all did the opposite without verbally acknowledging it when he asked if he could join us. Next stemmed a story of how this was his first night back from Maafushi prison where he’d gotten married to a crackhead wife because that was all life COULD be in prison, and how he’d had a kid with that person, and how the child was growing up in an environment where people were snorting up drugs and it broke his heart but his willpower wasn’t enough for him to resist the temptation and how he was still high on drugs too.

    It was quite the experience, because he knew he was burning his future with the money he ‘set fire to’ to get harddrugs, but he didn’t think he had the strength to overcome it but he was so grateful for us for having taken the time to listen to him that you could see it made a difference, however ephemerally.

    Reading about this reminded me of that so much. I’m glad you took the time.

    • Thanks Ish.
      Sad thing is, there isn’t much I could do to help him out. Our rehabilitation services has a 90% relapse rate and I had nothing else to offer him but my ears and kind words.

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