Diamonds in Dry Sand

Ibrahim Waheed “Kalaavehi”

The old man looked at the dry sand on the beach and smiled.

He had noticed a long time ago that even the smoothest, whitest patch of coral sand on a beach always knew when the waves no longer reached it. It lost its wet smoothness and dried out into ruffled irregularity, flecked here with a gray nub of dead coral, combed there with a dried twig off a nameless tree. As the sun baked the sand, the, salt in the water it used to hold became little crystals of false diamond, their sparkle lost in the glare of the scorching tropical sun.

Dried out sand on a beach did not even hold a foot print. Just depressions with collapsed edges that left lot of room for guessing. Like the impressions left on the old man by life itself these days. They had told him a long time ago that as a human brain aged, it would start having trouble with short-term memory while retaining sharp images of better days long gone. he thought, “So I have become like the old dried out sand? Nothing but false little diamonds for company…”

The old man recalled better days when he would stand on that very beach, ready to grasp the hands of other young men like him who would come to his island to take part in the traditional Bodu Maaloodhu. For days on end, everyone on the island would enjoy feasting and merrymaking while on a specially made pavilion religious poetry and recitations would be chanted in high melody. Gone were those days. Gone were the modes of dress, the atar perfume and incense, even the recipes for the spicy dishes and halwa. Storm waves of change had carried everything away. The old man asked himself, “Am I also ready to be carried away?”

The old man missed the good old days. Days when you got picked up by a friend if you tripped over an unnoticed root and fell. Days when there was always a friend on hand to pick you up simply because no one was a stranger on a small island. These days, the old man thought with bitterness, you would probably fall because someone who was certainly not a friend knifed you in the back. The old man said, almost aloud, “Is my soul refusing to embrace this reality because I do not belong on this modern little island any more?”

A young man with dreadlocks that would have any Bob Marley fan turn green with envy stumbled on to the beach out of a clump of scaevola bushes. A pair of jeans that had probably started life complete and in deep blue, but was now rough-torn to knee-length, paired off well with a T-shirt with sleeves gone west. Burned dark brown by the sun, the young man’s face cracked a smile that did nothing to put the old man at ease. He thought, “I just hope that punk leaves me alone!”

The old man’s attention was so focused on the young man that he forgot all about those holes the crabs made in the sand. His left foot sank into one and he cried out as he lost his balance and fell headlong into the dry sand!

“Are you hurt, sir! Here, take my hand!” The young man had run up to him and was holding out a sun-browned hand. The old man took it and was gently helped up with amazing strength. The old man looked in silence into the sparkling brown eyes of the young man. The latter added, “You must be Ahmed Bey, my friend Shaneez’s uncle. He tells me you write beautiful poetry in the old lhen meter. I am looking for someone who can make one for me…..Oh, how impolite of me! My name is Hashim. I am from Raa Atoll.”

Ahmed Bey clasped young Hashim’s hand, welcomed him with the old greeting of peace, and said, “Would you honor my house by having some tea in it?”

An hour later, after Hashim had expressed much appreciation of old-fashioned hedhikaa finger food, the old man and his new protege sat down to compose a lhen together. The title of the poem: Diamonds in Dry Sand!

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