Although I've lived in Maldives my entire life, to this day, the beauty of this country continues to amaze me.
Nothing compares to the striking blue ocean hues that distinguish the deep sea from the lagoons, and the frothing seafoam breaking off at the edges of the reef separating them -- dramatically, but somehow maintaining perfect harmony.
I always believed that the sun hits differently in this corner of paradise on earth, almost as if it lights up the sand, the sea and everything in between from within. However, there is a unique pleasure in hearing these local sentiments shared by a visitor to the country, especially one from a neighbouring nation.
"Everyone knows that the pristine beauty of Maldives is unparalleled". These are the words of Dr Anil Kumar, an Indian aged 65 from Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh, who visited Maldives three times.
However, it wasn't the pretty sights that compelled him to return as much as the "warm and lovely hospitality of Maldivian people".
During these visits to their "home away from home", amidst the "blissful life, turquoise blue waters, white sandy beaches and wonderful people" in both resorts and local islands, Dr Anil Kumar and his wife fell in love with an aspect of Maldives that often goes unmentioned -- its tropical fruits.
Referring to their favourites; exotic mangoes, juicy papayas, thirst-quenching watermelons and the tender coconut, Kumar said, "we have these fruits in India too, but they are not as sweet as Maldivian ones".
Perhaps it is the clarity of the atmosphere, the brightness of the sun, the freshness of the water-lense between dirt and coral stone, or all of the above, that flavours the fruit of these tropical isles -- and though we may never know for sure, one cannot deny the unique difference in the taste of Maldivian fruit compared to variations grown across the globe.
And for this reason, on the couple's third trip to Maldives in February 2019, while relishing the taste of their favourite fruit, papaya, Kumar first happened upon the idea of taking some seeds to plant in their little garden back home in India.
"After 15 months of love and care, those tiny seeds turned into two fully grown trees in our garden. Both trees are blessed with lots of papayas", Kumar said, adding that their neighbours have been "astonished and spellbound" by their taste.
"Being from a small town in central India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, many people are not familiar with Maldives' beauty and rich bio-diversity", Kumar explained.
"My neighbours often ask me how the Maldives is, and I humbly reply that it is a pristine beauty better to be experienced than described".
Kumar's love for Maldives, and how much he values his fruitful ventures to the 'sunny side of life' is evident in the way he describes this country, with unbridled appreciation and the eloquence to match.
About the papaya trees now reaching for the sky in his gardens, he said: "Trees are like children, they blossom with flowers only when one takes care of them with love".
"Both the Maldivian papaya trees are a symbol of love and will always remind us of the mesmerising Maldives, pearls of the Indian Ocean."