It became a necessity to ask Ahmed Mohamed just how much he loved his wife after hearing about their lives together.
The couple rarely does anything separately. When Ahmed climbs the coconut palms for toddy tapping, Azeema will stay right below. When they go fishing, Ahmed will navigate the dinghy while Azeema plays the role of a crewwoman. When Azeema gives her therapeutic massages to clients, Ahmed will be there to assist. If he goes to a tea café, Azeema will accompany him. When Azeema builds, Ahmed will be present as her handyman. There is rarely a scenario where the two of them aren’t together.
"Nobody can get a wife like Azeema. I love her dearly," said Ahmed, a native of Faafu atoll Nilandhoo. Ahmed feels that Azeema is his lucky charm on earth. Azeema echoes his sentiments because she also feels that he is the ‘gold’ standard.
The couple met in Malé, even though they now reside in Nilandhoo. Ahmed was working in the Trade Ministry when he met Azeema. From the day they met, they talked and got to know each other, and within a year, they were married. Forty years later, their love and respect for one another are as fresh as when they first met. Even the islanders consider the couple to be their role models in marriage.
"Having two spouses is becoming more prevalent on this island as well. Ahmed turned to face Azeema and continued, "But I have no such intentions."
Azeema and Ahmed first went fishing in a small ‘Bokkura’ years ago. Ahmed will paddle, and the couple will stay out from dawn till dusk, fishing. Their life got easier with a small boat they acquired with their savings. The "Maamaa Express" goes to the two atolls nearby for fishing and occasionally hauls in 100 kg of fish, making decent earnings.
Nowadays, the couple goes out to sea around 5:15 p.m. and comes back to the island at around 9:30 p.m. Then they go have a coffee together, and with that, the day’s work is done. The next day, Ahmed goes out early to catch bait, and Azeema cleans the fish. Ahmed also works at the council office.
"We do farming together as well, helping each other out in toddy tapping and other farming adventures. All the things we do together will come to a halt if either of us gets sick," she said.
Azeema is passionate about three things: building, toddy tapping, and therapeutic massage. She receives her fair share of criticism because women are not often employed in these fields. Azeema, however, remains unfazed. She responded, "They can continue saying anything they want.
When she started going fishing with her husband, she received a lot of negative comments from the community. But she continued anyway, giving a deaf ear to the comments.
"I've enjoyed toddy tapping for years now. I like going fishing too. If I don’t go fishing, I can’t even sleep! Once a day, I've got to go out to sea, or at least near the shore, to fish."
"When I asked someone to teach me, they said I couldn’t because I am a woman. A resident of Thaa [atoll] Kinbidhoo eventually taught me, and now we make a good living from it too."
Ahmed gives his full support to whatever Azeema wants to pursue. He pushes aside the comments targeted at his wife and gives his full cooperation to help Azeema.
Honestly, I do not like making women work so hard. But Azeema practices those three things so fervently that I don't have the heart to interrupt her or refuse to back her." The duo has additionally competed in fishing tournaments held on the island, where they have placed first twice and second once.
"When I started going fishing, people were saying it’s not a woman’s job. But now they don’t. Such criticism inspires me because I want to demonstrate that a woman can succeed too."
Naturally, Azeema’s caregiver when she falls ill is Ahmed. She does the same for Ahmed. He has gone to India 20 times for medical treatment, and each time Azeema accompanies him. Ahmed said, "I do not need anybody else’s help."
Seeing how well the couple coexists together, the council of Nilandhoo gave them a couple’s award.
"The only time I won’t see Azeema is when I am at the council office. We are inseparable at all other times. She’s the first woman I married, and I am not looking to marry anybody else. I love her from the bottom of my heart," Ahmed said in the interview while looking at Azeema.
“I married a very good woman. She is one of a kind.”
The couple is also content with how their children grew up. They grew up to be courageous like their parents. While one daughter is a professional launch driver, another daughter is a firefighter. "The future looks very bright, and we are very content in our lives. We believe that it is our unwavering support for one another that has led to a bright future." Written by: Asima Nizar | Translated by: Ruby Amir