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“Moments” by Ahmed Shareef: A Short Review by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed

 

“Moments” is a canvass enriched by the sights, sounds and secrets of the Maldives, with the brush strokes of a truly sensitive poet. Ahmed Shareef’s anthology of verse captures everyday events from the daily environment of the Maldives. The book is divided into sections on solacing, story-telling, expression of passion, and songs. The pages of the book are illustrated with eye-catching pictures and sights from the Maldives, so much so that each picture enriches the accompanying sentiment expressed in verse.The writer chooses free verse, ranging freely through varying rhythms as he shifts through thoughts, themes, emotions, sights and times with a magical ease. There is a sense of timelessness, like the waves of an endless ocean, that gently ebbs and flows throughout the work. But far from being carefree, every line is about caring, about cherishing, about a heightened awareness of a deeper meaning of life. The diction is simple, the tempo is relaxed, and the meaning is straightforward, even if poignant. I have not seen such an ecological odyssey through the sights and sensibility of the Maldives and its people.Travel brochures show the wondrous physical beauty of the Maldives. But none, to date, captures the way the people feel, their thoughts, their psyche as does the work of Shareef. His is a unique exploration in English language of what it is to live in the Maldives, in the company of nature and in harmony with it. It is truly a three-dimensional photograph, with human sensitivity and perceptiveness providing the third dimension.Shareef’s work offers an insight into Maldivian culture, habits of thought, and patterns of relating to the particular environment of the people. In this sense, the anthology is a unique treasure of Maldivian phrases and observations. It provides, therefore, a valuable insight to how the people think and relate to everyday objects and occurrences in their surroundings. In the first section of the anthology, the poet allows the sounds, sights and ways of nature to solace him, but he realizes at once both the vulnerability of the individual and the fragility of the natural environment in which he seeks solace and comfort. There is still a sense of restlessness, a quest, a searching, perhaps for something that will make him blend with the environment. The result is the stirring of a yearning for the beauty of the human touch, a longing made more poignant by the wonder of what surrounds him:

 

“Walking at midnight along the shore
To ease my mind,
The colourful streetlights are blurred
By the salty spray of the sea breeze:
And through all this I can discern 
An image among the stars”.

 

The backbone of the work is the second segment where the author presents tales from the Maldives, with images from folklore and stories from atolls depicting some of  realities of island life, like the brave tale of Azeeza in the poem that bears her name or the courage of Hassankoe’ in “Gone By Are The Days.”  The tales provide an insight into the hearts and minds of the people, and captures some of their preoccupations and concerns.In the section entitled “Passion”, the poet expresses emotions that are universal, but weaves them in fabric that is native to the environment of the author. These  passions reach a crescendo in ‘When I Turn Blind”, where the poet reflects upon what he would miss most if he were to lose all his senses. Indeed, this particular poem captures the essence of what is central to the book: how perceptive are we of the sights and the sounds, and the sensory awareness of the natural environment particular to the Maldives? This is the central theme on which the entire selection of verse in the anthology is woven upon. The final segment is presented as a selection of songs, and therefore enhances the audiovisual impact of the collection. The songs are intended to be sung in easy time, to simple melodies that enhance the overall effect of the book. The themes of the earlier poems are recalled here, with the deeper sense of yearning and longing to melt and blend with nature, while all the time being aware, almost subconsciously, that everything is transient.

 

The book is a very enjoyable, and edifying odyssey through tales, images and hues of the Maldives, one that will serve as an excellent memento of a journey to a distant isle, of a shared experience with a lover, of stories of courage and perseverance of a people, of tall tales by the sea and in a place that may not forever be the same. It is also a pioneering piece of work for Maldivian poets, particularly those who might wish to express their own perceptions of their environment and their emotions and sentiments. The book is well worthy of wide circulation and artistic appreiciation. 




 

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