We have all heard about William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet tragedy. Although there is no accurate record of the exact date when it was written it is alleged that it has been written in the mid 1590’s. We are now in 2013, so about 420 years have passed since Romeo and Juliet died in the name of their forbidden and impossible love.
One would think that over 400 years after, things would have changed drastically and many things must have changed however I have been the incredulous witness of what I would call the “New Shakespearean’s diaries”. The story can be perceived as totally hilarious or totally pathetic depending on perspective.
I have been living and working for a couple of months in a very small island resort-hotel in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in the south of the Maldives. On the island there are about 160 members of staff working in different departments of the hotel. The majority of the staff working for the hotel is either from Sri Lanka or Bangladesh and either work at the service in the restaurant or as cleaners, cooking staff or gardeners. There is a small front office management team from Sri Lanka and a small team of Europeans working in the dive center, the spa or as travel reps. The hotel customers are mainly Europeans and Chinese.
Despite the fact that European staff can enjoy quite a certain degree of freedom compared to the rest of the non-European staff, people are not free to do many things. To my great surprise I found out that certain member of European staff could not go out or have any sort of relation with Maldivian staff. This is not officially written in anybody’s contract of employment prior to arrival but is discovered once on the island. This is where I became aware of the new Shakespearean’s diaries. One of the young female European staff who has been working on the island as a manager started seeing a member of one of the boats crews. Unfortunately for them she is European (I will call her Juliet1) and he is Bangladeshi (I will call him Romeo1). Despite the fact that they are both responsible for their actions and willing to be together, they can’t. One day Romeo1 and his whole team were dismissed and sent back to their island. Now his presence on the island is not allowed. Juliet1 is not allowed to leave the island at night to go and see him. A few days ago he came to pick his Juliet up with a small fisherman boat at night only to be able to spend a few hours with her. Many would think this as ultimately romantic I guess. Two lovers lost in a fisherman’s boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I guess it would make a great story line for a Bollywood movie.
Last year the marine biologist of the hotel a young Italian woman had a relationship with the Maldivian barman. He got dismissed from his functions in the hotel and declared “persona non grata” on the island as well. The things they invented to see each other were unbelievably funny for some and sad for others. I was told that one day Romeo2, we will call him, came to pick up his Juliet2 but the island security team refused the authorization for his boat to moor (just to moor) on the pier to prevent them to see each other so, against all expectations, she jumped fully dressed in the lagoon and swam up to the outer reef were the boat was waiting for permission to moor. The current staff on the island finds this anecdote hilariously funny. I guess it can be seen as funny however I also find it very disturbing somehow, considering we live in 21st century. I guess William Shakespeare would be right at home here even over 400 years after his time.
Many things I really cannot understand. Maybe someone can tell me in the name of what law, rule or what work contract are two people who like or love each other forbidden to see each other?
What law, rule or contract can justify that someone or a group of people limits or deprives someone else’s from their freedom? And who is doing anything about this? I guess nobody is so it’s down to each individual to stand up for their right and defend their freedom the best they can because if they don’t do it themselves no one else will to do it for them.
By Angelina Cecchetto on 14th February 2013