(The author is India Director of the BBC World Service Trust.)
It was one of these women minders who warned me that I would be on the podium for the President’s keynote speech. The message was unstated but clear—could I please dress accordingly. But how many people would pack a tie for a trip to the Maldives? Happily, Javed Jabbar, twice Pakistan’s information minister and another conference participant, is a wiser man than me. With minutes to spare, he lent me a splendid sky blue tie. It may have clashed with my salmon pink shirt. But at least I was not naked in the conference chamber.
And what a place. Luxury tourism has made the Maldives rich, by South Asian standards. In Male, street fashions are smart and the shops are well-stocked. And although everywhere is easy walking distance, this tiny island has twenty traffic lights, 500 taxis, and at least ten times that number of motorbikes. Everyone is living on top of everybody else. Narrow alleyways lead to tiny apartments. Families gather to gossip in courtyards barely big enough for a couple of plastic chairs and a parked scooter. Male has got just about everything—apart from personal space.
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