Apr 062015

Ding ding ding ding…..The familiar sound of ice gola cart is typical to Indian summers. As kids, we waited with patience, and small change, for the arrival of this saviour from heat, refrigerators being a luxury in those days, afforded by a fortunate few. The gola vendor sold grated ice, shaped into an oval, mounted on thin wood stick and quickly soaked with sweet colored and flavoured syrup as desired by the buyer. What we got was 10 minutes of pure happiness while sucking on the ice and painting our lips an tongue with the color of the syrup used. Nothing could beat the heat as would an ice gola do in those days.


We have grown ever since, but the ice gola vendor seems to have found the exilir of life, keeping him young as ever. But our desire for the gola can never fade and on those odd afternoon on holidays, if we hear the familiar ding ding ding, we rush for a glass and some loose change. The ice gola has evoled into glass gola, thus preventing the syrup from dripping down and the loose change is not so loose any more.

But there lies one problem. My kids of 2 years, pampered since birth by my parents and in-laws, if ever they realise that ice gola is the most desired street food I would be making round to pediatrician in no time. The best way to hold back this secret from them, till such a time appropriate or till the time that they realise it themselves, is to re-christian the ice gola as Medicine. And the colors and texture of this medicine, being similar to some of the bitter ones endured by them in past, helps reaffirm this masquerade.

All this while that we have been enjoying the medicine, they must have been thinking, better them than us.

But I couldn’t understand whether to laughout loud or cry when my son, as soon as he heard the ding ding, said in a hurried and urgent tone, mumma, dadda quickly get the glasses, your medicine has come.

Feb 262015

We eat. So we cook.

There is no better explanation to it. Ever since man invented fire, the subsequent improvement in taste upon roasting over open fire fascinated man and he developed it to what we called as modern cooking. Complete with assistance from most advanced cookware and equipment. We have the food processors to save time and our hands, induction cook tops, microwaves, cooking range etc. Which assist us in our daily endeavours.

All this said, one important factor cannot be easily separated from cooking. That’s human being. Machines can be prefect, but cannot be innovative. Machines of future may be able to create perfectly similar tasting recipes but will never be able to carelessly induce that burnt taste which becomes unique to that dish at that time. That’s where the human factor kicks in.

Cooking is an art. That’s why it’s taken up as a hobby by many.

I started cooking right from the days of kerosene stove(being born and brought up in rural India, cooking gas took some time to reach us). Few things I’ve learnt all along and lots and lots more yet to learn. This blog post attempts to highlight a few. Consider them at your free will.

Once again to remind. Cooking is an art and attempting it without that mindset will give you food, not a masterpiece. Many combination of many equipment and ingredients are required for finishing this masterpiece. You may need to deviate from flow at many times. The most important ingredient for creating this art is dedication. Variety of colors and a blank canvas kept in front of mountains will not automatically translate in to a beautiful painting without the masterstrokes of the painter. Cooking a masterpiece recipe is similar. It’s you, your patience, your dedication and your mind set that matters. Ingredients and equipment come in later.

I hope am not boring you but it’s not going to be brief. After all, if you want your biryani to taste professional, you need to endure this.

Important points to keep in mind while cooking.

Be Flexible :

Unless you are a professional, your recipes ate bound to go off track once in a while. Be ready to improvise/ change your dish/ name of your dish at moments notice. Slightly burnt onion can give a smoky flavour which may be desirable. Unintentional additional tomatoes may give it a sour flavour. Add adjectives “burnt” or ” tangy” to your recipes, as situation permits. This is no joke. This happens all the time. You got to live with it. One point to remember, charred onion and such is undesirable. Also understand how to counter overuse of any ingredient. Cream can reduce the hot flavours and also add smooth texture to your recipe. Sugar gives caramalising effect when used properly in dry recipes and also balances the bitterness. Too much salt!! Well, your recipe is ruined. Have it with steam rice and attempt again another time.

Prepare in advance:
Finish all the chopping, slicing, dicing, crushing , washing etc before you actually start your cooking. Arrange all ingredients in order of their use, as far as possible. Else your cumin seeds well be charred in hot oil before your finish chopping onion.

Use proper utensils:
If you think you don’t need the flat dosa tava or the big iron wok, think again. Everything can’t be cooked in deep bottom pan.
Avoid pressure cooker. I hate pressure cookers. Its supposed to be used for preparing soft mushy food for toothless elderly. Cooker reduces the time spent. But the heart of the recipe is the time spent on it and not the quick treatment it receives via the pressure cooker. Imagine yourself being a gardener nurturing a small flower plant. Would you pour a bucket full of water and expect it to blossom the way you wish? Never will that happen. It requires your attention and tender care and regular attention. It requires your love.

So does your recipe.

Speaking of utensils, you need to have an understanding of how the recipe will behave if cooked in a particular utensil. Some practice and you will understand.

Proper Proportions: Pepper chicken is not a recipe with one kg pepper and 100 gm chicken. People do not wish to eat just the pepper when they are presented with pepper chicken. Use the flavouring ingredients just enough to do their job. Overpowering the recipe with one flavour many not earn it the name it has.

Take time: Allow each ingredient its own time to cook. Potatoes/meat cook late, tomatoes early, fish even early. Understand when is the right moment to add the particular ingredient. If first add fish and allow it to cook and then later add potatoes(just an example. I don’t recall any recipe with potatoes in it), by the time the potatoes are well cooked, the fish will all melt. That’s the exact reason why I hate pressure cooker. Put all in and wait for the whistle. It never comes out the way its supposed to.

Patience is the key.

Devote yourself: If India Vs Pakistan cricket match is being aired, you are better off seeing it as against cooking. You need to set your priorities when it comes to cooking. If you are cooking, there’s nothing else. Cause a slight neglect and the onions will caramelize beyond recognition.

Know your required portion: You need to finalise how many people will be eating it. Combination of ingredients adds to bulk. So balance the quantities else you will have to call every other person from the neighbourhood for lunch. Very less quantity of a very good recipe will result in you not getting any. So, weigh it before you start.

Presentation: The essence of cooking. 80% of the job is done on the table. The first impression may help neglect the pinch of extra salt. Garnish it properly. Hot dishes to be served hot. Use proper serving utensils, befitting the recipe. Use proper serving spoons and keep the utensil covered once served.

Accept Mistakes: Foodies understand the difference between food and a masterpiece. So come out in the open with any mistakes. They will appreciate and forgive. Let the people glorify your masterpiece instead of you attempting it yourself. Also, point out the specifics of your dish. An unconventional method/ingredient used, which renders better effect can be disclosed and reactions/reviews accepted.

Keep Experimenting: Success is not terminal. Its continuous. Keep on experimenting with different ingredients/methods to create something even better. If you stop, you rust.

Keep Cooking. Keep Creating.

Jan 082015

It was my first love affair. That was 10 years back. I had never wanted anything else in my life. But circumstances/influence of stars can force you into acting against your wishes. So in line with the wishes of my family I had to make peace with my desire.

10 years on and I felt I had an opportunity to rekindle my old love affair. So I went for it and booked “The Bull”. Booked the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra yesterday. Now for the long wait to get the delivery.


Excited. Especially since all stars(including family approvals) are in favor this time.

(P.S. : Don’t go nuts congratulating me. Its just a booking and the photo is from the test ride. I updated my Facebook profile with the below photo and I got many likes and comments just because I had a Royal Enfield Bullet Rear View Mirror in the frame)


Aug 252014

Few of my previous posts were dedicated to the Mumbai Suburban Commuter Trains or “Local” as they are referred to in Mumbai. One of them highlights the snobbish “high class passenger” behavior by “the elite” travelling in the first class compartment, observed time and again. While another one discusses ticketless travels, the everyday grind to catch a seat and life and death on Mumbai Local. A very recent one deals with the undesirable events of sweaty individuals in a sardine packed Mumbai Local.


(Photo Credit : Deshpande Chirag Blog)

Very recently, I had a personal experience of a very different kind. An experience when you feel at your most vulnerable and when the “Local” comes to your help.

I had gone to work a bit feverish. I assumed that if I relaxed a bit at work, I would be fine. But it doesn’t always happen your way. My fever kept climbing to a point that I felt the shivers setting in. I had the thermometer with me and measured myself to 1010 F, at which point I decided to leave for the day.

But I had delayed my departure too long and was at the mercy of the peak hour Mumbai Suburban Crowd. I had calculated that around the time that I reached Andheri, I would be able to catch any of the three trains which originate from Andheri for my destination, Virar. But once I reached the station, the temptation to catch the first train to my home overcame all logic and calculations. I parked myself, standing near the doorway with just one person shielding me from the outside environment, in an overpacked Virar local starting from Andheri. No place to keep the bag either, I kept it on the train floor, pinned between my legs. Once people boarded at the next station, any hopes of retrieving my bag, or the contents thereof, were lost. My bag was totally pinned to the ground. And so were my hands, my legs, my head(pinned by a hand trying to access the holding straps above). There was no scope for movement.

And thus my journey continued, on the slow chugging local, towards Borivali where the first signs of some relief were expected. But fate wouldn’t have any of it. Just approaching Borivali, a bottleneck for the Mumbai Suburban train system, the train halted for some time, which felt like indefinite.  The rains had taken a break and the weather was humid and uncomfortable, unless the train moves. I felt my fever increasing, my body heating up from the inside. Few more minutes and I feared that if the train didn’t move soon, I would faint.

As if fate rewarded me a wish, few minutes later I felt it kick in. My legs started feeling wobbly. My head started spinning. I diverted my entire remaining strength towards two causes. One keeping a tight grip on the grab handles above and second trying to keep my eyes open. Moments later I felt I wouldn’t be able to pass through this alone, so in whatever decibels of voice my throat could produce after loss of all the strength, I requested my fellow traveller standing in front of me to help me as I was about to faint. Between the periods of losing sense and coming back, I saw that the man had registered my plight but was speechless and inaction had taken over him. Others standing around too turned towards me(as much as they could) and quickly analyzed the situation. Summoning another burst of strength, I informed one of them that there was a bottle of water in my bag and that the bag was on the floor pinned between my legs. One of them made a futile attempt to retrieve it. I thought that it was all over and I would pass out standing, supported by other bodies inside a Suburban Local..

As if by magic, a water bottle appeared from nowhere. Cold mineral water, seal intact. The person next to me opened the cap and asked me to drink a sip at a time. Even in my condition, I made sure that I didn’t  touch the mouth of the bottle as the owner of the bottle may feel it unhygenic later on. I poured some down my throat and bid some time. I felt some strength returning to my legs. I poured down some more, closed the bottle cap and gave it back to be passed on to its owner with a feeble “thanks” in the general direction of the origin of the bottle. Within seconds, all my strength was back, my head stable and I felt ready to endure the journey some more.

All this happened within a span of about one and half minute. But for me it seemed like a very very long time.

Years earlier, I, along with few other people in the train, had helped an elderly man in a similar situation. As the saying goes, The good you do comes back to you.

But it takes a Mumbai Local journey for one to realize.

Jun 022014

Its been a long time since I took a vacation with my family and this summer, with my kids being more than 1 & 1/2 years old, I dared to take a short one. My brother in law(Leo) and his wife and their daughter joined my wife and me with the kids. Intention, a long drive for me and a short vacation for all. Destination, Mahabaleshwar.

Day 1

It wasn’t an easy task waking up the kids and getting them ready for the inevitable 300+ km drive to destination. Driving long distances to some place is something most sane people hate, but people like me just love the thought of it. So I was the only one looking forward to the drive. Rest all were “why can’t we just land at mahabaleshwar without this drive or any other mode of travel?” in their mind. Within half an hour all the three kids were ajar from sleep and the eldest one was impatiently asking whether we had already reached. It was futile to tell that the drive was going to last good 6-7 hours since I would then have to explain the concepts of reading time and such stuff. I just kept driving with music on.

We had left home at 6:30 am and by 8:00 am or so we had out first halt somewhere near shil phata on thane shil phata road, fueling up the car and filling up our tummies with homemade omelets with sliced bread. With our hunger calm and a resolve to drive through Pune and beyond, we started after this short break. Since this was my first drive to Mahabaleshwar, it was natural that I was misguided by a person at the crucial intersection which would put us on Mumbai Pune expressway. We realised the mistake, thanks google maps and some smart voice guided navigation and an u turn after about a kilometer put us back on the expressway, zipping past the very mild traffic. My heart once skipped a beat when there was a loud bang and sound of air escaping from underneath the car. A quick examination revealed no puncture and I was relieved.

Past the expressway and on the Mumbai Pune bypass road(pronounced as Mumbai-Peeoon bypass road by the voice navigation lady which was found amusing by Lynelle) the stomachs started signalling a break. Me and Leo started the lookout for the familier “M” signifying mcdonald which we had encountered once on an all mens trip to Goa via the same road. I had doubts that we had missed it, but again, google maps to the rescue, solved this puzzle and pointed out that it was ahead. About 15 minutes drive from there and the car eased in to the familier parking which we had used some time back on that trip. The pleasant sign of Dominos and Mcdonald, side by side, raised our appetite and our expectations of a good brunch.


We all ate, drank and I had a couple of photos in the meantime. We also bumped into my wifes colleague(what a small world) who was on his way to chennai with wife and kid. Whooosss…A drive all the way to Chennai from Mumbai. The thought itself was tiring.

Brunch done. No breaks now as Mahabaleshwar beaconed.

The drive on Pune Satara road and the Wai Panchgani road was uneventful and we reached our destination by 3.00 pm. I somehow managed to drive the left front wheel of my car in to an open gutter on the narrow Mahabaleshwar market road but we were immediately helped by the locals. The cool comforts of the hotel ensured some good rest on arrival and we were ready to explore some Mahabaleshwar (already explored number of times by us adults) .

The Venna lake on Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar road was our first stop. With horse rides and boating on offer (Motor, paddle and rowing boats), Venna lake happens to be one place which no tourist skips. The queues for boat ticket are maddening and though I personally don’t fancy them much, but the kids love it and hence we were in a boat before long. Boating concluded, with few more photographs, in about 3 quarters of an hour and we were ready for some “orshe’ ride(Ian, my elder of the twins, calls the horse “orshe”. Very sweet to ears). Ivy, my younger one was more subdued. May be it was the twilight conditions. But she didn’t protest sitting on the horse. Ian, who normally is scared of living animals if taken near, was very ecstatic when he actually sat on the horse. One round of the flatland, 100 rs short on wallet per horse(Leo’s wallet) and the moods heightened, we all clicked few photos and were off the back of the poor but majestic animal. Whatsapp, Sharukh, Saif such were the names of the horses. Lynelle enjoyed some merry-go-round and a train ride before we decided to go back for dinner and subsequent rest.

Of course, we had the customary Strawberry/Mulberry/Mango with cream, a dessert never to be skipped in Mahabaleshwar.

Day 2

I was thinking of an early rise and few clicks of the sunrise. The previous days tire got better of me and I woke only by 8, well after the sun beat me to it.

An ideal day of outing at Mahabaleshwar covers all the “Points” and Panchgani for Table land point. not for us. Leo mentioned some place called Tapola near by with river sport activities and we decided to drive there.

About 23 km from Mahabaleshwar, and a drive down along the ghat leads to Tapola village on the banks of koyna river. The drive on the serpentine road, covered with a canopy of trees leading to the entry to the ghats is a wonderful experience. A halt on the edge of the hills and a few clicks later, we were on our way to some very steep downhill sections. I assumed that with the car loaded to its brim, it would consume more fuel while coming uphill. I eyed the fuel gauge and my heart skipped a beat. We were well past the fuel station along the road and my fuel gauge pointed very close to red line. I shared my fear with Leo and he too got worried. We kept on wishing that we would come across a fuel station at Tapola, else one of us would have to hire a vehicle with an empty can to the fuel station uphill. The very first question to the person at the entrance of Tapola village revealed that we had left the last fuel station way uphill. Neverthless we decided to go for the water sport and then worry about the fuel since the village seemed equipped to satisfy our hungers if we were detained there for long.

The river bank is accessible by car but it would require a brave heart to negotiate the very steep slope filled with gravel with an entire family in the car. We parked the car halfway in open sun and walked the road. The water sports turned out to be not much other than a motor boat ride, water scooter ride and paddle boat ride. It was the height of summer and the river has shrunk quite an amount. The motorboat ride itself was pleasant and though there was no wildlife to shoot along the banks of the river, occasional water scooters did attract my camera. And of course there was the photo session on the boat itself.


We were informed by the boatswain that the ticketing counter kept stock of fuel and they would sell some for emergency. We were relieved, though we assumed the cost of such fuel would be exorbitant. Much to our astonishment, we had to pay just rs 10. extra per litre and they were reluctant to give more than 2 litres. On persuading, we were given the five litres which we asked for.  I later realised that the fuel gauge showing very less, had something to do with the slope of the road. Anyway, why take the risk.

We drove back home up the ghat, along the serpentine road covered with the canopy of trees. Along the way we encountered a huge monitor lizard crossing the road. I slowed down, but before the camera could come out of the bag, the lizard was well in to the bushes and on its way in to the jungle. An opportunity missed.

Post lunch and rest, the evening was dedicated to shopping by ladies. Chappals, chikki, strawberries, pulps and other items which are readily available in our home town were bought for a premium. The ladies took care of the shopping while I carried Ivy all along, oblivious to the fact that my arm was not designed for that endurance test. After shopping as soon as I put her down, I realised my mistake. I was supposed to drive all the way back with an arm which had started to ache mildly and which was surely going to increase next day morning. Day 2 ended with an ice cream post dinner and packing until 11 pm.

Day 3

A normal last day at for the driver of a travellers vehicle should begin with fresh energy levels. Mine begun with increased body and arm pain. But there was no point in describing in details to other members since none could drive.  My one and half year old son keeps on insisting me to take him to a drive. Next time I am planning to teach him how to drive Winking smile

We started at 9.30 am and on the drive back, we had a halt for breakfast at Bagicha Corner on the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani road just after Venna Lake. The strawberry with cream and Corn pattice were delicious. Having dealt with the breakfast, we continued our journey via Wai to Pune which was supposed to be our halt for lunch. Lunch was taken at hotel radha, few kilometers before the start of Mumbai – Pune expressway. It was at lunch that I realised how tired my back had grown of the continuous driving up and down the hills. It was unbearable and I had to lie down inside the car for about 15 minutes, thinking all the time “why can’t we just land at virar without this drive or any other mode of travel?”

On the way up to Mahabaleshwar, I was getting the feel of the car on straight flat roads, on curvy hills up and down the mountains etc. I will living the drive.

On the way back post lunch, I was counting kilometers.

On the third day of our travel, after about 3 breaks and a lot of traffic in Pune and on Mumbai Ahmadabad highway, we managed to reach home at 8.00 in the evening, with and exhausted driver, weary kids and wife and dusty luggage…..

I plan to have more such road trips. Though exhausting, it was memorable.

Aug 112013

It has rained this year. Rained a lot in most of India. Just at the beginning of season. Within two weeks of heavy rain, most of the reservoirs in Mumbai were full  to brim and over flowing. A good sign for Mumbai since the rain had struggled to fill them up last year, and many previous years, leading to scarcity and water cuts in the following summers. Mumbai shouldn’t face water shortage next summer. Or will it?

It reminds me of one summer night, quite a few years back, when Mumbai and the neighboring regions faced one of the most acute water shortage. The priority of water supply during that time was given to the mega polis while the far suburbs were left to depend on the supply by water tankers. Unhygienic and irregular. Though we had our own well for the water supply, we too felt the heat since the water table had gone down and the wells filled up very slowly. But comparing the neighboring regions where people had to depend on tap water/tanker supply, we were “well off”.

So it was one summer night about 9.00 pm and we at home were engrossed in our daily activity. Eating and being entertained by the idiot box. The door bell rang. My father faced a middle aged man, about 35-40 years aged as he opened the door. The man had come in an auto rickshaw and had stopped to enquire about the directions to the house of a man going by last name “Pereira”. You throw a stone in our region and 100s of Pereiras/Gonsalves/Dsouzas will get hurt. So my father was not sure which Pereira he was referring to. Upon further enquiry, the man revealed that he lived in the neighboring region with his family and they were facing severe water shortage. This person worked with Pereira in some company in city and Pereira had asked this person to come to his house, without full address or first name, and Pereira would give him some water. We knew the It would be impossible for this person to find Pereira at this hour(mobile phones were not as widely used then as now) so my father offered to give him the water he required. The man had brought along few empty cans in rickshaw and went home with filled ones for his drinking needs, keeping me wondering and worried whether he would come back again to draw from our limited supply. He didn’t come. I assume there was truly a Pereira and the man had asked his first name and  proper address the next time.

Coming to present, will the overflowing reservoirs be sufficient to quench the ever growing thirst of Mumbai this time around. We are people who take things for granted, thinking that water comes from tap and goes down the drain, without appreciating the bigger cycle which continues in the background. The Water-Sun-Evaporates-Clouds-Condensate-Rain-Water cycle. Most of the water these days is consumed in offices where the “I don’t  care” attitude prevails. Then there are these elite class of residencies in the city for whom there is no control over water consumption. This is where we waste a lot of water.  For such people, water comes from tap and not from the dams.  As of now, everyone thinks that since all the dams are full there won’t be scarcity during summer. But one thing we forget. Mumbai is ever growing, thus an ever growing demand of water to fulfill. The capacity of reservoirs supplying water to Mumbai has not increased a liter all this years and there is not chance of it increasing in near future. But we are accustomed to a habit of moving from abundance to scarcity  by our over abuse of the abundance. When do we control ourselves?

Unless we learn to appreciate the efforts taken by the environment to provide us potable water, we will never put an effort to reduce the load on the environment and the ecosystem. Unless we strive to not waste that drop of water we waste, I see another summer of scarcity.

Oct 152012

My colleague commented today morning that I looked sullen and off mood. She kept saying this time and again. I didn’t feel any different. I was trying my best to look engrossed in work as always.
May be she expected me to be all cheerful on my birthday. Maybe I was expected to be all well dressed up in new clothes with a big smile and pretending to be the king for a day.

I don’t see the big deal. I never do.

Can someone tell me what’s it all about? How can today be any different from other days. Of course, there is the usual wishing and the cake and a small/big feast. But then, why should it really excite me? Agreed that this was the day I was born a few decades back. But then, I’ve lived through all other days of these 33 years and each one has been different. So why should I deem this day special?

I am not that old to start thinking like a grandpa, but somewhere down my life, I stopped thinking much about birthdays. Now my focus has shifted to my kids and their days of glory.

For me, birthdays have stopped being a big deal.

Oct 122012

My blog link is wordfight.in and the title is I Said It. But for quite some time now since my last post, I’ve been fighting for words. It seems like I’ve said it all. Not that I’ve nothing on my mind or I am suffering from writer’s block. To the contrary, my mind is jumbled up with lot of things which I am unable to channelize in to this blog.

And then there is this matter about me becoming a father. Yes, after a long wait, I finally became dad. To two kids. A Girl and a Boy(I don’t understand why I always say “A Girl” first, even though my Boy is elder by 2 minutes). It has been a month and a half now since and we’ve named them Ian and Ivy. Now I get a breather(literally) to write something down before I go back on sabbatical.

Life is full of exciting things. Formula one races, movies, food, outings with friends etc. But for me, its only diaper time at this stage. I take satisfaction in that. Though I don’t get to help my wife much since they are at my in-laws house, I try and take some time out to be with them. On weekends, or after work. That’s why I find less time to compose myself.

Those of you who have kids, will surely know that whatever I have written above, has required great effort to compose at this stage. I plan to keep on posting about my children but don’t know how I will go about it. I will not be easy to maintain a blog

Time will tell…..

Apr 152012

Nature has provided us with everything yet we have shunned it aside. Have our grandparents not used nature effectively? But we embrace technology to carry out the slightest tasks. Take an example of the alarm clock. I don’t remember my grandparents using alarm clocks to wake up. They relied on their body clocks, “early to bed early to rise” funda, and some help from birds which chirp untiringly in the morning.

This particular bird seemed to have, waking me up, on its to-do-today list as a top priority. It kept on chirping outside on my bedroom window sill relentlessly until I woke up. Mind you, alarm clocks don’t wake me up so easily. But this one wouldn’t give up and finally I had to wake up and record its performance.(The real reason behind this continuous show is the reflection of the bird on my mirror glassed windows). Whatever be, this is a very good example of what nature has provided.

I wouldn’t use it as a clock though, as the bird appears at its own time and that would require synchronizing the punch in machine at my office with the bird.

Feb 202012

As I have always said in some of my previous posts, we being the residents of coastal region, fish is our main diet. We vasaikars, love fish. Though our daily diet consists mainly of seawater fish, we do eat fresh water variety too. In fact fresh water fish was our regular diet some years back.

During summer, the water level in the well or the lake would go down, and a normal person could wade through the water which was at waist height. Most of the villages had lakes and ponds(or a large brick well for irrigation, but which was also used for breeding fish) of their own, and the youngsters from the village would group together on a fixed day and catch for the evening meal. It used to be a big occasion, and we children would sit for hours together at the edge of the pond, or on the huge brick well, marveling at the skills of our elders whenever they landed a big fish. They did not use fishing hooks, but instead, tossed the nets skillfully or used traps made of bamboo baskets. The entire catch would then be divided in to equal parts and each part would be handed over to the families of the people involved in fishing, by the way of lucky draw.

I was quite small when this happened, may be around 8-10 years old. After the summer season ended, the pond used to be auctioned to someone for a particular period for fishing. The income through the auction would be sufficient to pay for the irrigation pump electricity bills. But one particular year, the auction didn’t go though and after rains the pond was anyone’s for fishing. People from the village and neighboring village started fishing on regular basis using fishing hooks on a pole. The catch would be sometimes sufficient for two meals.

On a particular holiday, I decided to try my hands at fishing. That was the very first and the last time I tried fishing. I was accompanied by my brother. With a fishing hooks tied to nylon string, which was further tied to end of a sufficiently long pole, we two amateur fisher-boys marched towards the lake. The bait we planned on using was earthworm(which was a common bait in those day). On reaching our pre-decided spot we were unsure who would get the earthworms. Sensing that my brother would not do it, I went about the job of finding earthworms in damp places on the ground. I had to dig in to the mud and turnover few stones until I managed to get 3-4 live ones. The bait being in hand, we were not sure who should handle the juicy part of fixing the worms to the hook. It was disgusting. I tried it, and I am sure that I tortured the worm a lot. Somehow the earthworm was attached to the hook and in to the water went the hook. Within seconds I felt a slight tug and yanked out the line. A small fish, about the size of my finger, was attached to the hook. I would require about 25-30 of such to make some decent amount of curry. I tried again and managed to catch even smaller one. After 3-4 tries resulting in small catches, my brother, my ever supportive brother, decided it was time for him to play some other game and left me alone. Now it became my sole responsibility to feed the family of four.

After many tries and virtually no success, I felt embarrassed. How would I face my family(not that my family was depending on me for food, but I had not asked my parents permission to go near the lake so would need something to please them in case they decided to get angry). How would I walk the road to my house with people teasing me all along?(Actually no one would care). But I was small and those were my thoughts. Sensing despair, God sent an angel in the form of a neighboring uncle. He asked me what I had managed to catch and seeing the small fishes he was quite amused. He asked me to try again and I hooked an earthworm. He took the fishing pole from me and removed the earthworm. Then he rehooked the worm, hiding the entire hook by its tubular body while still keeping a wiggling tail free. Apparently, I was hooking the bait in a wrong fashion. Then he asked me to cast and he went away. Within seconds something was tugging my line and I had to use my full strength to yank out the fish.

It was a small wonder. Bigger then my palm(but actually smaller then my mother’s palm). I didn’t even know how to unhook it and was afraid that the sharp fins would hurt me. But neglecting all this, I started yelling with joy and few people on the opposite bank of the pond were startled thinking that I might be in some kind of danger. Seeing me yelling with a fish dangling to the hook, they resumed their business.

At home I proudly displayed the fish to my elders, my cousins, neighbors and my parents. They were very proud and so was I.

In the evening, dad went to the fish market and bought enough fish to feed us. I gave up fishing….

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