Trapped emotions: Survival of courage
In 1945, a child named Aminath Rasheeda was born. She was the first child of Fathmadidi, at age 26 and the sixth child of Jaufar, aged 46, from his last marriage. Anthrashida grew up in a small 3 bedroom house with the kitchen at the back separated from the main house with no electricity. Well water was used and clay vessels with rainwater were buried to keep the water cool for drinking. Huge breadfruit trees in the yard provided food and shade for the kids to play. She shared this house with her 7 siblings, a cousins, 3 aunts and her parents. It seems as an ordinary household.
It was a household of fear. Anthrashida and her 4 siblings grew up in extreme fear. The youngest brother died a month after birth turning blue, 2 sisters died of fever and diarrhoea at age 8 and 1. Their mother beat the kids with an 'iloshi fathi' (a broom made of coconut palm leaves) for non-obedience. I asked her, “Did your father know about the beatings?” “ He should know” was the short reply and then she tells me in those times, men worked mostly away from home. With a casual laugh she comments, “I should not remember that now. It is the past, there is no purpose.”
The kids have to recite in the mornings before they can have breakfast. The hunger and yearning for their father to return home distracted the kids from recitation. This lead to severe beatings. “I remember waiting desperately at the door for father to return home; sometimes it will be long after 10:00am.” She continued, “ some days for breakfast we get a “faaroshi” (dried bun) and a cup of black tea. I put the faaroshi on the saucer and pour tea over it, then wait and watch until it soaks and grows bigger in hope it will be filling, even then, I still feel hungry.” She adds involuntarily that “we get breakfast only after recitation.”
After a moment I asked what made her live at her aunts place. She said “...for father, it was hard to feed everyone and I was sent to my aunt's, one less to feed... at aunt’s place it was worse I didn't know even to move, you know, I cried and pleaded with father to take me home when he visited one day.” I sensed sadness and pain in her voice even in the casual manner she was telling me. The recalling of the memories was not easy as she states “What is the use of remembering?”
She also had only two pieces of clothing-one to wear and the other to be washed and cleaned. If she was lucky she may get two dresses a year from her aunt. Even though she was well aware of the hardship, sadness and disappointment as a child it was evident when she said, “Father never got us clothes. It was the aunt who gave us clothes.”
In Maldives, there was no tradition of sending girls to school. The ward leaders visited house by house begging to send the girls to school. At age 9, Anthrashida went to the ward school and subjects such as mathematics, religion and health were taught. She said “When I went to school they did not teach English and girls went to school at night from 7 -9pm and boys in the morning.”
Anthrashida joined the first batch of nurses in the Maldives in 1959, at age 14. There was only one doctor at any given time and he trained the nurses on the job. She also said “Operations were done only in emergencies and it would be the one doctor who would act as a surgeon and anaesthetist.” She was not scared but she said “it was hard to find the veins when giving IV.”
She expressed with pride “father who took me to learn English at a friend’s place. I even learned the abcs while I was working as a nurse.” It was only after working for 5 years that she got 1 year training and a Nurse Aid Certificate was awarded.
Married in 1965 and had her first child in 1967-me, Amei. My Dad was not happy leaving me with my grandparents. My mother could not work night-shifts and look after me during the day without sleep and rest. She said “ I did not feel anything at the time when I left the job.”
Anthrashida's father passed away, leaving 3 kids. As the eldest, she felt responsible to look after her siblings and her mother. Her husband promised to look after the siblings and insisted she should not take up nursing again. My mother expressed that at times the financial difficulties “I wish I did not give up my job”. She bought things for credit from the corner shop.
With her husband’s support, she said it was much easier for her to fight the challenges. She said “I had nothing to complain he never questioned what I did.” Anthrashida started to work as a dressmaker and enjoyed making dresses. She rented a sewing machine until her sister bought one. I liked making dresses.” This reminds me, when I was little, mother was sewing until past midnight and she was still there in the morning. I wonder whether my mother ever sleeps, or whether she was a Jini. She kept assisting women who were adamant to give birth at home and also did community work. She provided for her five kids, three siblings, and built her own house.
Ainthrashida, now, work as a land lady renting apartments. Financial security today makes her less worried and clam, knowing that she does not have to depend on her children. I sense guilt, sadness and anxiousness through her words. She expressed conflicting emotions. While she is grateful to be financially independent, she is afraid of loosing it and being depended on her children, but content and thankful where she is in her life.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.