An Inkling of Dheliya, a Contemporary Reading by Writers
A tired evening in July, not all too long ago, we found ourselves walking along the rutted outskirts of West Henveiru. With the weight of an elapsing weekend bearing heavily upon our eyelids, we turned an unassuming corner to Meraki, our city’s most famous millennial hotspot. The sight of familiar faces and a slightly buzzing atmosphere welcomed us, as did the waft of coffee, notes of honey treacle in the background. One by one, friends and strangers slipped themselves in. We perched atop wooden barstools, leaning against the bar. Sip and wonder, suggested a lurid sign in front of us, as we waited in anticipation of what the night had in store.
Dheliya, a short fiction reading by and of contemporary Maldivian writers, is the brainchild of two friends Migdad and Kamal. By hosting such readings, the first of which we were witnessing right then, they aim to instigate a deeper appreciation for the written and spoken word, giving impetus to a brand new wave of homegrown literature. ‘If there is a goal,’ said a rather caffeinated Kamal, ‘it is to publish a selection of Dheliya’s submissions. Let’s hope it happens.’
The night began propitiously, with a reading of late Mohamed Jameel Didi’s Thiladhunmathee Dhuthuruge Handhaanthah. The excerpt was backed by the steady pulse of a single drum, its cadence slowly rising in parallel to the words’ urgency. ‘Mi thelheny marashey,’ a female voice frantically cried out. ‘Bandah marany ey… Mi gendhany maraashey!’ As the narration grew more and more restless, so did the accompanying beats of drum. A sense of unease soon pervaded the room, until what was left was only a cacophony of rhythmic discord, following the convulsions of sudden death.
Intermission: a cigarette break. Some time to let the act sink in before the next. As the smoke rose and the rizlas rustled, we relaxed into conversation. ‘Kihineh evy dhemme?’ ‘Haadha salhiey dho.’ Handshakes were exchanged alongside brief nods and crude jokes, and before we knew it, another performance was about to begin.
Presented against soft strums of an acoustic guitar, the next reading reminisced a time in Male’ we ourselves could not recall, but could only imagine. The chords trembled as the story went on, before falling soundless much like the motors of the past, paving the way for partially blonde Ammadeys and the chairmen of the world. The motley readings meandered through impelling grim topics, fictions of provocative humor, and suave old gibberish, each inducing its own maque of engagement.
This is how the night unfolded, acts and intermissions, tension to climax. It was an almost effortless glissando between the mother tongue and English, between pensive seriousness and brilliant absurdity, capturing the audience in all fashions, while proving itself to be unwittingly sincere. Dheliya had made its debut, not so much an event as it was a casual affair, successfully bringing together writers and readers from all walks of life; an intergenerational cross-weave, leaving us wanting and hungry for the next.