By Daniel Bosley
Adam Mohamed still carries a small knife with him everywhere he goes. The essential app for the southern gent, before the world got ‘smart’. The trusted tool for the toddy tapper, who still draws regularly upon centuries of island tradition.
But sit down with Adam – or ‘Maamaa Beyya’ – in GA Kanduhulhudhoo, alongside the trees to which he still tends, and you’ll realise he’s collected far more than toddy. His stories cover 88 years of torrential history, quickly filling the ears of any who want a taste of history.
Coming from a time when dates were of little practical use, his national ID card dictates his date of birth, coinciding with most islanders from his era; 01/01 – a binary birthday in a digital age. The name of a sultan, a king, a prime-minister or a president occasionally adds a little context to the tapper’s trickling timeline
A steady stream of stories from his days working on the southern ships, before the re-routing of trade through Male’, recount strange lights in the water, deadly fevers, black chicken’s eggs, and emergency fanditha to save his shipmates.
Passing years saw the centralising of trade through the capital, contributing to the temporary breakaway of Huvadhu from the island kingdom in Maamaa Beyya’s thirtieth year. His story of history features neighbours burning one another’s boats, and his hands bound with rope by fellow islanders seeking southern leadership.
After this storm passed into memory, Maamaa Beyya settled in to spend more time with family, and to re-unite the thirsty with fresh toddy each morning – a better job that kept him closer to home, and further from danger.
Today, as Kanduhuludhoo’s oldest toddy tapper, his business has become more of a hobby for the following generations. The toddy will continue to be collected, but the next batch of tappers are unlikely to have stories as sweet as his.
Editor’s Note: “Two Thousand Isles” is a collaboration between Maldivian photographer Aishath Naj and her husband, British writer Daniel Bosley in partnership with Mihaaru to document the untold stories of the Maldive islands.