7 years ago when I heard that the tsunami of 2006 had completely wrecked my island and my home to bits I was shocked. Yet, I also considered myself very lucky. A year before the tsunami that literally swept a nation aside, my extended family had made the trip to Male’ in order to provide a better life for their children and it was only natural that I followed course. However today, I’m beginning to question my decision. Today, I think that it would have been better if I had been taken away by those waves 7 years ago.
I’m by no means an educated woman, nevertheless, I was able to find work doing odd jobs and typing out letters for employers at a company. It was an easy job and it earned me an income that, combined with my husbands was more than enough to pay for the necessities. Our first home when we moved into Male’ was lovely. I remember walking into it, looking at the fairly spacious living room and the one large bedroom being amazed by advancements in modern technology. I had all my life lived a simple island life and living in a modern apartment was a new experience for me. In my eyes, my life there was perfect. I was 2 years into my marriage, expecting a child, had a husband that doted me and a roof over my head.
6 months after my child was born, I remember my husband walking into the house, clearly distressed. I immediately questioned him as to why and he quickly explained that the landlord had increased our rent. There was nothing much that either of us could do. Although the landlord made no threats toward us, we decided to pay the sum he demanded much like the other tenants. One more year passed and this time my husband walked into the house seething with rage. I attempted to calm him down but he had reached his boiling point and he lashed out at me. It was the same issue yet again, except this time, the rent had been tripled. The following day we began house hunting, we intended to lead our lives here in Male’ to provide the best facilities there was for our child. That was our only intention and the attitude of one landlord refused to falter us.
We moved in comfortably to our new home, much smaller than where we used to live. I made it quite clear to my husband that home is wherever family is and that we should be grateful for what we have. We earned enough to have a roof over our heads, enough for us to cover ourselves and enough to put food on the table for the three of us. My husband was not content with his surroundings; he had always intended to live a slightly more glamorous life here in Male’.
Moving forward another 2 years we faced once again the same problem. My husband couldn’t pay the rent even with our combined incomes. The prices of one bedroom apartments had begun to skyrocket. Once the eviction notice slipped through the door I realized the gravity of the situation and took upon the initiative to find us a new home. Meanwhile, my husband had gotten into a scuffle with the landlord and our notice stripped down from 30 days to 10.
The new space I found was even smaller and compact. The presence of a musty smell made it evident that ventilation was nonexistent and since this apartment was tucked away in the center of the 2nd floor of the building, we experienced no sunlight. At times it felt as if we were living inside a dark box. It was difficult to know even the weather conditions outside the building. It felt as if we were living in a completely different world. Still, I chose to look aside all these shortcomings and kept my goal clear. I was here to provide a future for my child. Not to lead a glamorous life.
In the span of roughly three years we moved houses within Male’ twice.
Another year passed and this time, even I failed to remain optimistic when we received another eviction letter. My husband at this point had lost his faith. To him, all he had done was work and all he received was a distraught wife and a difficult toddler. It was more than enough for him, soon he began to meet with the wrong sorts of people and came home late into the night smelling of his new favourite habits, cigarettes and women.
For the sake of my child, I kept quiet. It was up to me to find a place to live for us to live. I dug and scraped every inch of this concrete jungle and on the final day of the notice I decided to move into my newest living quarters. The living room and the kitchen in total was nearly the size of the first room I had lived in at Male’. The bathroom was as small as the wardrobe that I had owned. I moved into this measly space scared and unsure of what I was about to do. My son and I were forced to sleep on mattress and many of our possessions were sold off, not only because we needed the money but also because we no longer had enough space to keep them. To my husband our new living space was the last straw and that was the last I ever saw of him. That night I broke down uncontrollably until my son snuggled up to me. He was my one source of happiness.
3 years later and I’m still here in this concrete block I’m forced to call home. I work day and night, earning just enough to pay the rent for this pathetic excuse referred to as an ‘apartment’ by the landlord. Whatever I have left at the end of the month goes for the future of my son. I often lay here at night wondering whether it was a good call on my part to change my life here and then become ashamed of myself for thinking that way. I had been given a gift from the skies in the form of beautiful baby boy. My dream is to provide the best there is for my him and I tell myself to never let that dream go. Every night I go to sleep by telling myself that it’ll better one day and that I am here for my child and not for myself. I'm not here for my future, rather, I'm here for his.
- The Literature Project
Note: Inspired via a series of tweets regarding housing in Male' in 2017. This is purely a work of fiction. Any likenesses to real people/real events is purely coincidental.