how I went fishing with my grand father
| My grand father worked in a mill. I assume that he was around 60 years old when I remembered him. He was my idol in my childhood since I grew up away from my parents. My father got a job in Cement Corporation and left me with my grand parents because he didn’t want to change my school. My two younger sisters went with them. So I was left at my grand parents’ home and they looked after me as best as they could though they didn’t understand my loneliness caused by the absence of my parents. To give justice to their kindness I have to say that they tried to keep me happy and occupied.
My grandfather was respected among his peers because he was efficient, helpful and very honest in his work. But it was tricky to work as a machine operator since even a slight mistake would cause you lose one of your hands or maim you for the rest of your life. So the work needed the highest scale of concentration & I have seen people who became disabled for the rest of their lives due to lack of concentration.
Since my grand father was older than many of the mill workers they came to him for any trouble. But the boycotts and strikes were never heard of in my grand father’s time.
After finishing work my grand father would come home. After having a hot cup of tea from grand mother he gets ready for his next important task, prawn fishing. Fishing was part of my grand father’s life. He would fry thinly sliced coconuts and some other edible ingredients together and make fragrant balls out of them to entice prawns and lobsters in the river.
Then we wait. And we wait. We wait for two or three hours.
Then, when it is dark, my grand father takes the fishing net and I take the reed bag to hold the catch. He goes first, and I follow him with the hurricane lamp. At the river bank he removes his sarong and wades into the water in his loin cloth. I look around, as I am scared to stand alone in the river bank. The shadows move, reminding me the monsters of the childhood dreams.
Once in the water grandfather throws the net, and it sinks into the shallow river bed, creating ripples in the water. Frogs croak continuously, and my ears are brimmed with sounds around me. Then, grand father brings the net to the river bank and let the contents fall onto the uneven surface of the river bank. At once, my nose is filled with the scent of repulsive yet fresh mud. I move the mud with my fingers looking for the glistening eyes of the prawns. I am very happy to see them and put them into the bag. Grand father goes into the water again for another netful of prawns.
Sometimes, we are rewarded with a treasure. Grand father is able to catch a big lobster who tries to slip away from the strong grasp of his fingers. Its green and orange tentacles are a treat to the eye and I am overjoyed when I remember its delicious flesh which would be saved just for me at dinner. Its lengthy legs are twitching to crush any thing which goes between them. I am very cautious and handle it with care.
Now, it’s very dark. I can’t see even the silhouette of the grand father but I hear his activities in the river. His throwing of the net, his wait, his diving to the shallow bottom of the river to collect the net and coming to the river bank. He wades the river shoulder deep, throws the net tying one end to his waist. It sinks to the shallow bottom making a plopping sound. Grand father waits for a few minutes before he grabs the net alive with prawns. Meanwhile I direct dim light of the lamp at the slightest sound made by trillions of nocturnal creatures around me. The marsh is alive with the sounds of night. The unending music of frogs is mixed with owls and other numerous undecipherable sounds make me frightened as they come alive in my imaginary mind.
And then; the pale moon throws her glow over the river bank above the coconut grove and let her beams dance on the river giving me a glimpse of my grand father. He is coming again with his catch and I anticipate another batch of prawns. I never cease to wonder the miracles of nature of having created millions of different species and to let them live in one planet making my planet a suitable place for their sustenance.
Grand father loosens the net and drops its contents to the rough floor of the river bank. I wait breathlessly to see the red beady eyes of the prawns glimmer, making it easy to identify them in the dark. I quickly move the mud with my bare fingers which I long to do in expeditions like this and collect the little creatures for my spicy, hot dinner and inhales again the repulsive yet tangy and fresh mud in the process.
At last, we are done. Grand father takes the lead and I follow clutching the handle of the reed bag tightly in my left fist not to let out the slithery creatures in it. Grand father warns me to tread cautiously on the floor which is covered with dry leaves, sticks, cow dung and what not .Danger lurks in the disguise of snakes, centipedes and scorpions on the footpath we walk. Because it is their hour and we are the trespassers in their domain.
It’s around 8.00 p.m. Grand mother is waiting for us. She has already prepared the spices and coconut milk. The lobsters and prawns are taken out from the bag, cleaned and washed. She kindles the fire and cooks them on low heat on the wood fire to absorb the taste of the prawns to the rd hot curry prepared with dried chili powder and other spices and coconut milk. A delicious and mouth watering smell waft from the pot and I still yearn for grand ma’s delicious curry which makes me nostalgic because they are a few of the sweet memories I carry from my childhood.
When the cooking is over grand mother dishes out the steamed rice and the prawn curry, a red hot gravy; red prawns floating in it. It is a very delicious meal and I have always asked for a second helping .Grand mother with a twinkle in her eye gives me the biggest prawns and after a hearty meal I sleep on the reed mat, satisfied and with a full stomach. I am content with my journey to the river which has given me many ideas to ponder over as sleep hugs me and whispers to my ears.