To the southwest of the Indian subcontinent, strung across the Indian Ocean, there are two countries superimposed on each other.
One of them, I call the Maldives. This is the one where wealthy honeymooners come and enjoy their martinis on the sun-kissed sandy beaches.
The other one, Dhivehistan, is the longest running experiment in controlled gag reflex. By now, it would seem Dhivehistanis would have collectively gagged on the mullah shoving and thrusting it deeper. But nope. We continue to swallow. Along with all the hypocrisy and outright weirdness that accompanies it.
Just this morning, I saw a sight most bewildering.
I went to the nearby village island of Vilingili for a swim around sunrise. After a while, a family arrived on the beach. One bearded gentleman, some hijab wearing ladies and a young boy. After playing on the beach for a while, these perfectly pleasant folk decided to take a dip in the sea.
Only, they did it while fully clad. (I shit you not. The gentleman got into the water wearing full length pants and a long sleeved shirt!)
It is, of course, entirely the gentleman’s prerogative whether he gets into the water wearing swimming trunks, or pantaloons or a bear suit. But it reminded me of this other time when I was sitting with a friend at the Artificial Beach in Male’ late one night. Around early dawn, I started seeing dark shapes emerging from the water. The dark shapes turned out to be old women wearing full niqabs (IN the water!) I was still a bit new to Dhivehistan back then, and I remember wondering how they managed to swim in those obviously uncomfortable, multiple layers of water soaked garments.
The question is, why don’t we Dhivehin wear swim wear when we go swimming? Because “bikini” is a dirty word in Dhivehistan.
Dhivehin weren’t always complete prudes. These are, after all, the same islands that gave the famous Moroccan traveler Ibn Batuta a hard time when our women refused to cover their breasts despite his repeated insistence.
Back then, our women thought they were covered well enough even with bared breasts. Today, in Dhivehistan, just having uncovered hair is increasingly akin to being a nudist.
I have heard all too frequently, in random burqa debates, the irksome retort: “So would you rather have women wander about naked?”. Other times, often accompanied with a self-righteous smirk that you want to break with a punch, “So you liberals would rather see women walk around in bikinis?”. MDP is an awful political party, because its members have been spotted wearing bikinis.
Again. Bikinis. I’ll never understand what it is with dhivehistanis and bikinis.
First of all, bikinis aren’t really street wear. I don’t imagine there are many people in Europe or the Americas – or really, anywhere in the world – wearing bikinis as daily outfits. It just doesn’t happen outside the dheen-obsessed dhivehistani’s nightmares.
Secondly, I refuse to accept the insipid argument that a woman in – say, a libaas, or a top and jeans, or a skirt or a dress – is “naked” by any measure. Sure, some dresses are more revealing than others. But many are quite exceedingly modest.
To equate wearing a libaas or dress to “being naked” is just fucking stupid.
But with the same maddening smugness, there often follows: “would you allow your mother and sisters to wear bikinis?”.
To begin with, it would be outrageous presumption on my part to think I possess the authority to ‘allow’ or ‘deny’ anyone to wear anything they please. Also, this seemingly anti-bikini remark mistakes cultural relativity for moral values. Is it normal for Maldivians – or indeed, most South Asians – to wear bikinis? Of course not.
But that doesn’t mean that Westerners who go to the beach with their families are fantasizing about their mothers and sisters. Such an appallingly depraved and disgusting thought could only have its origins in the mind of the most “morally upright”.
It takes just one look at a woman swimming while fully clad from head to toe to know that it is NOT normal. It is NOT normal for a man wearing full formal pants and a long sleeve shirt to swim in the sea. Bikinis and swimming trunks are far more convenient and ideal for swimming.
Now, Maldives has no problem with people on the beach wearing beach wear. But of course, that is in the Maldives, where honeymooners pay top dollar to enjoy their day on the beach – dollars that go towards feeding and clothing the prudish inhabitants of Dhivehistan.
In Dhivehistan, on the other hand, turn up to the beach and you might very well see cops turn up to harass innocent tourists ostensibly by imposing someone’s “morality” on them.
One of them can continue to be blessed with sunshine, reason and common sense on the beach. The other should be free to adapt to its stifling Victorian moral code, and perhaps reintroduce the below contraption from the 1700s.