Friday, January 15, 2010

A ring of fire over the equator

My first post was about the Venus transit of June 2004. In my second blog post I wrote about the unavailability of adequate filters for observing such astronomical events in the Maldives. Five years later, it is encouraging to see an active organisation promoting safe protective filters and creating awareness on safety issues as Maldives becomes the hotspot for watching the annular solar eclipse. I admire the work Maldives Science Society is doing to promote the love of astronomy among Maldivians. However, we still have a shortage of safe protective filters and several Maldivians will miss out on this unique opportunity. Judging from the level of interest and the buzz this event has generated, from warnings to refrain from having barbecues and discos during the event to a gathering behind Dharubaaruge for viewing the eclipse, and of course the flocking pendulum scientists to the Maldives, I foresee much more interest in the next major event of such significance. Jaa has provided instructions on how to make a pinhole projector for projecting the image of the sun to another surface to view the eclipse safely. This could be the most adventurous way of watching the eclipse if you are not planning to watch it on television.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yusuf/Cat Stevens releases new album Roadsinger

Yusuf (formerly known as Cat Stevens), the great singer and songwriter, has released a new album, Roadsinger. The artist who is renowned for classic songs such as Wild World and Morning has Broken, returned to pop music in 2006 after a break of 28 years. That year he released the album An Other Cup.

Read an interview of Yusuf on about the new album Roadsinger.

I'm back to doing what I do best - painting pictures with music and storytelling on a very human, personal, intuitive level through lyrics and song, so I can help people feel good again. I guess in some ways the new album picks up where the Cat Stevens the public knows left off.

There are plenty people who sing, but not enough who have walked the walk. But, unfortunately, I'm still often misunderstood. I embraced an unexpected spiritual path that was confusing for many (converting to Islam in 1977) and since then people have concocted their own ideas about it. Maybe because of subsequent world-shaking events, people wanted to put me into their own one-sided view, but I don't fit those limitations. My world is still borderless and wide. The removal of conflict and establishment of peace has always been my global objective. It's sad that lot of people, including some Muslims, forget that the name Islam actually comes from the word 'Peace' in Arabic.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Airtel - Soon to be fully legal

Airtel - Soon to be fully legal in Maldives

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Photo abuse by media

The first thing that I wondered after I visited the homepage of Minivan News today -- and after I read the attention-grabbing headline of "Mother arrested for sexually abusing her son" -- was if the woman and the child in the accompanying picture were really the people the article is referring. The woman in the picture is not facing the camera and cannot be identified but the child is facing the camera and can be clearly identified. It took me a few seconds to realize that they were not in anyway linked to the article.

Back in the 1990s the local daily Aafathis published a photo of two of my close friends while they were in a dhoni, on a fishing trip or while they were going for a picnic. They were in school back then and the people on the dhoni were mostly their classmates. A teacher was accompanying them. The article was referring to so-called bad boys (viyaa nudhaa kudhin or rogue children) and the photo had a caption to imply that the boys in the photo were indeed spoiled brats.

We now have freedom of expression but we have a long way to go before our newspapers and magazines reach the moral high ground.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Superstition in Burma and Maldives

An ancient pagoda has collapsed in Burma, just three weeks after it was 'rededicated' by the wife of the leading general of the ruling junta. Many people in Burma see this as a bad omen for the regime, as the junta is conducting a trial of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. (On a separate note, today is the 64th birthday of Suu Kyi, and well-wishers can send 64 words of birthday greetings through the website

New York Times takes a look at the extent of superstition in Burma and how such incidents are interpreted as bad omens:

The superstitious generals may be consulting astrologers as well as political tacticians for guidance. That would not be unusual for many people in Myanmar, formerly Burma.

Previously, currency denominations and traffic rules have been changed, the nation’s capital has been moved and the timing of events has been selected — even the dates of popular uprisings — with astrological dictates in mind.

Consulting astrologers for major political events and decisions has been quite common in the Maldives too. Maldives Culture website has published several articles on how fanditha, the traditional form of black magic, is used in the Maldives. Black magic had been used in late 19th century during the political fueds of Athireege and Kakaage clans, which led to a major arson in Male'.

How the Maldivian public perceieves certain omens can be seen from this article in Maldives Culture. However, one of my favourites from the Maldives Culture archives are the stories that chronicle the adventures of Dhon Keyothi. In one episode, a woman offers a mango to Keyothi, to win his heart. The mango leads to some serious illness, even though it was just kept in the fridge, and Keyothi consults a black magician.

He says that if I had eaten that mango I would have gone mad, perhaps because the guy who made it may have missed out a word or misspelled it, and friendly romantic magic, intended to attract me to the woman, had turned into an evil sihuru.

'Customers should be careful they get the right fanditha,' he says. 'People think they are paying for a wedding, and they end up with a funeral.'