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….