Monday, August 08, 2005

Sabbatical in South Asia


If you hadn't noticed, (I hope you noticed) I have been away and in South Asia the past couple of months, and really not able to blog as much as I would like. Now that I finally have some access to the net, I thought I would pop my head out and at least share something. I don't necessarily like posts like this, but I really needed to publish something. So....

While I have been based in Sri Lanka since the end of May, this past week I had the opportunity to visit a far-off corner of the territory considered part of South Asia, the beautiful and oft-forgotten Maldives. I thought that in honor of the Maldivian Independence day (July 26), I would drop a little knowledge on one of the most beautiful places in South Asia.

First, it is unclear to me whether it is the Maldives or Maldives, although I believe since the country is a series of atolls (groups of islands), the "the" could potentially be appropriate. Since I was there for all of four days, I am not really an expert on the place and this is more of an observation post than anything.

The main thing that struck me, outside of the natural beauty, was that an Island-country, separated by lots of water from the rest of the sub-Continent, while keeping its own distinct culture, shared so much with the rest of the region. I guess it isn't that far away--the flight to Male is only 85 minutes from Colombo.

pier-at-sunset.jpg One thing that was blatantly different was the English-speaking accent. We all know what I am talking about, that Indian "Hobson-Jobson," Apu English, spoken in variation by those from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal…etc. It was nowhere to be heard by in the Maldives. Instead, most had an almost Australian intonation to their English, which I assume is from its proximity to that part of the world. Also, Maldivians don't have that same interest in cricket--they seem to follow soccer more.

That being said, the country is currently taken by Bollywood, Star Plus and their Hindi language soap operas, by Jay Sean and Raghav, and by curry and rice.
Even some of the food items are similar in style and name. Instead of roti, they have "roshi", and in the savories department, Samosas and Bhajiya are both part of the repertoire, only for veggies like myself, they are off-limits because fish is the added Maldivian ingredient. For dessert they have both bondi and zileybee (jalebi)—which is coils of batter deep fried and served in a syrup, also available in the rest of South Asia.

And if you haven't noticed, the country is simply beautiful.