Happy New Year 2021!

Wow, what a year had 2020 been! I’m pretty sure all of you are wishing good riddance to 2020. Just two words to sum up the whole year, “Corona Virus”.

The world just couldn’t catch a break this past year. We started off the year with the death of Kobe Bryant in January followed by intense bushfires in Australia. The U.S was in turmoil for the better part of the whole year after the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests that followed. In August, the world was literally rocked by the insane explosion in Beirut. The year ended with the death of the Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona in November. These are just a few of the horrible things that happened in 2020. If you are feeling a bit masochistic and want to relive the whole year, here is a more comprehensive list of bad things that happened in 2020.

Personally for me, I had a solid start to 2020 and it was downhill from there. After returning from vacation in December 2019, in January, we moved to a new house. Alhamdhlillaahi, after 20 years of living in Male’, finally I had a whole room all to myself. However, this meant now I had to spend much more on rent. I guess you can’t have the cake and eat it too. Early in the year, my company Javaabu was also doing really well. We had just delivered the new website for Visit Maldives, the official travel destination of Maldives, and we had a good runway to sustain us for the next couple of months.

The first sign of Covid-19 troubles in Maldives started in January itself, with the discovery of a suspected case at the end of the month. However this turned out to be a fluke. The first actual confirmed case of Covid-19 in Maldives was found in Kuredu Island Resort on 7th March. From then on, there was a slow but steady pace of imported Covid cases in Maldives. So, from March 19th onwards, the government decided to close all government schools and offices. We at Javaabu also decided to follow the government’s lead and started working from home starting on the same date. It was at this time that we helped the Ministry of Education to develop and launch Filaa Online Learning Resources portal as part of their preparations for potential further school closures. The whole website was developed in just 24 hours with contributions from our full development team and done completely for free under our CSR.

While working from home in March, my business partner Jailam had the idea to finally launch the restaurant listing website idea he had been toying with for the past few years. So, with just 2 weeks of work, we were able to deploy food.mv.

All hell broke loose in Maldives when the first locally transmitted Covid-19 case was detected in the capital Male’ city on 15th April. Following this revelation, the capital city was put on an immediate curfew with a subsequent full lockdown that lasted for 2 months. At Javaabu, we didn’t return to working from office until July 1st. However, this didn’t last long as we again went back to working from home in August since there was a second wave of cases. Finally, in September we were able to resume normal working hours for good.

Personally for me, I had remained completely at home from 15th April till June 23rd, never stepping outside the house at all and getting everything delivered. During this time, my brother in law who was a front-line worker at MNDF, got taken to a quarantine facility as he had been a contact of a Covid-19 positive case. Alhamdhlillaahi, he turned out to be negative. However for the duration of the lockdown he wasn’t allowed to return to living at home since he was stationed on duty. So the only people at home were my 2 sisters and my 4 year old nephew. One of the most memorable moments from the lockdown was when we celebrated Eid al-Fitr at home and me leading the Eid prayers. Another unforgettable moment was when my sister trimmed shaved my hair for me at home, which predictably turned out to be a horrible haircut. Fortunately it grew back by the time I went out into public.

With the lockdown, the government had essentially shutdown. At Javaabu, the public sector is our primary client and so no new projects were coming. Even for delivered projects, all government payments were on hold. With the runway we had, we could last only 2 or 3 months without any extra revenue. Early on during the lockdown, it was pointed out to me by a friend that it was highly unlikely we would get any new work for the rest of the year, and he advised me that we should take contingency measures by either cutting the salaries or laying off our staff. It was then that I realized the gravity of our situation.

I had a long phone call with my partner Jailam to discuss what measures we could take at Javaabu. We didn’t want to take my friend’s advice as we felt that it’d be a betrayal to our staff during their hour of need. So we devised a plan to expedite the process of delivering existing projects and collecting payments from delivered ones. Alhamdhlillaahi, with this plan and the hard work of our team, we were able to survive 2020 without reducing the salary or letting go any of our staff. Still, there were one or two months where we had some delays in payments, yet we made sure our staff weren’t inconvenienced, by making sure our staff were paid first before me and my partner took our own salaries.

Enough of 2020, let’s talk about 2021 and take a moment to enjoy my New Year’s Eve tradition of light painting. Unlike last year, this new year’s eve, my very special someone ❤️ wasn’t in the country to help me take my annual photo with me. So I thought to myself how could I take the photo all alone by myself. Then the brilliant idea struck me of using my drone to paint the numbers. So this year’s photo was taken at Rasfannu Beach which is the only place in Male’ City where you are legally allowed to fly drones. Initially I had trouble drawing the digits as I had to fly backwards since I needed to have the front navigation lights facing the camera. Eventually I got the hang of it and also figured out I could turn off the navigation lights in between numbers. The result, as you can see, is at the top of this post. You can download the full resolution image from my Flickr.

I am not usually one for new year’s resolutions. However since in recent years this blog and my photography hobby had been neglected, this year I want to make a resolution to publish at least 1 blog post each month and 1 photo each week. Let’s see if I can hold myself to this goal. Anyway, hope you like my photo, and wish your 2021 would be much better than your 2020! I leave you with a drone selfie of me taking this year’s annual photo. Cheers.

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