Munambam – A day with the fisher folk
This was yet another venture, which was planned many times and dropped at the final moment for various reasons. Mostly it was the reluctance from the fisher folk, in taking freshers to uneasy waters, which retarded the project. On 16th May 2011, while proceeding to Ernakulam, in Himasagar Express, with all thrilling expectations of the expedition, which was to take off by early next morning, from Munambam harbor, my mobile went ringing.
It was Sinesh at the other end, the coordinator of the program, with the news that the boat which was to accommodate us, had an engine problem, in deep sea, and it won’t reach back in time, for the next day’s trip and hence the program is being postponed to 19th. Heavy hearted, cursing myself, alighted at Kottayam railway station, caught a bus and reached back Trivandrum by 2 AM. My wife, at the door, wore a teasing smile and I announced it to her face, that I will make it soon, though least confident.
On 19th boarded the same train and switched off my mobile. On reaching Ernakulam, found Sinesh, waiting with his car, and relaxed – things are smooth so far. Went to Sinesh’s house, had bath and dinner and sat chatting till 1 AM. Got ready, picked Harilal from CUSAT and drove towards Munambam. Took a left turn at Munambam Kavala and cruised along the deserted road, looking out for Suresh and finally found him at a dark corner, waiting for us all alone.
This man, with whom Sinesh has struck up an acquaintance on official grounds, was the one behind this venture and he was to take us for the sail, in the boat he worked. Knocked at Simon’s door around 2.30 in the morning, and together we walked to the shore of the canal, where the boat was ‘anchored’ – tied to the shore. Simon was the steersman – locally ‘Sraank’ – and we waited while he went on with the pre-start check. It was a small vessel, with an on board engine, capable of accommodating around ten, sparing space for storage and steer controls. Two more workers arrived within half an hour, and the team of 7 whisked through the canal to Munambam harbor.
Stocked fresh water from the harbor and steered the tiny thing, through the calm water, to a different one just ahead. Entering the sea was a memorable experience and I remember Simon asking us to hold tight and not to panic. The tiny thing was thrown up, to be dropped back, by frequent tides and the sailors on debut, weren’t that comfortable. The heavy ones subsided gradually or were that we got used to it – not known. Moving inside the vessel wasn’t easy for us, for fear of being thrown out and we amazingly watched how the regulars did it with an ease.
The vast sea in the darkness, over which umpteen vessels sail around, with their lanterns lit, was a sight indeed. Watching the lights, we could make out that the vessels were moving away from each other and within a short while, we were all alone. As the workers prepared for the net release, we realised that we were in the depth. It was still darkness around and couldn’t make out, how the surroundings looked.
The net was fully released and the workers sat down to relax. The engine was on full swing, pushing the boat ahead, pulling along the fully spread net, beneath the water – Trawling.
Sat down chatting, for the early rays to light up our surroundings.And that was another sight indeed – the majesty of an ocean revealing. We were 7 in the vessel, and apart from that, all that remained in the world was just water, water and water. Total isolation is some thing to be experienced and not to be described and hence I refrain.
The sun wasn’t up yet and I waited with my camera, to capture the sunrise in deep sea. In fact I wasn’t aware from where it would popup and pride didn’t let me seek the help of regulars. I was scanning the horizon all around while Suresh, sensing my frustration, pointed the direction.
By 7 in the morning, the crew got ready to pull out their luck and we watched anxiously. It wasn’t a grand catch for them, but was an amazing one for us. Releasing the net back we sat for the sort. Our friends were generous enough, to reserve the best of the catch, for our meals and moved the remaining, to the storage.
By this time, we had our rice got cooked and it was time to engage for the fish dish. Went on with Squid roast and a mixed fish curry. By the time the dishes were ready, we witnessed the second catch, which was better than the earlier, as it was more of prawns.Sat for the meals and dudes; it was a feast, spicy and hot. The quantum that went in, set me lay aside until the final pull up, which was the best of the day. While we sat sorting, Simon set the vessel retrace.
Though had a try at the wheel, didn’t have much to do as the line was already set. Shore line appeared marking end of the expedition and it took less than 30 minutes, to be at the harbor.Helped our friends, in disposing the catch and anchoring the vessel and it was time to part.
Alike the ones I have been into, all these days, this wasn’t a mere thrilling entertainer; but a peep into a day of the fisher folk, who earn their bread, hard.