|Posted by esligcse on September 5, 2009 at 8:04 AM|
One of the best memories I've had of my adventuresome life were the fishing trips with my friends - Paul, Stanley, Franky, Solomon and Kingsley.
Ooty was always cold even when the sun shone. The cold made you want to creep into yourself. We studied in a Government Arts College that was well known for its strikes and shortage of teachers. The college was situated on a hill. It had been a sanatorium for the convalescing soldiers in the British Raj and then became the first secretariat for Ootacamund and then finally the Government College. The hill on which the college was situated is called Stone Hill. The classrooms were bone chilling and it was there we studied Emily Dickinson and all the dried-up, cold characters in English Literature. There was a stone chimney in our class in which we had tried once to light a fire but we immediately put it out when we heard the flap of pigeon wings. The college was well known for its strikes and shortage of teachers and nobody cared whether you attended class or whether you cleared the semester papers. A fishing trip was what we needed.
Solomon was responsible for the fishing poles as he stayed in Kandhal - close to our fishing spot. It would be easier to transport the rods from there instead of carrying it with us or trying to bring a 6 foot rod on the bus. Anyway the bus conductor would never have allowed us in with it. Paul, Stan and Franky took care of the bicycle hiring. They would hire cycles from Finger Post and Kandhal. There were three cycle renting shops and we would hire from all three shops as no single shop would want to give 6 cycles to one party. The rent was minimal and we hired it for the entire day.
Right in the centre of Ooty market is this quaint small shop that sells everything from pins to rice to balloons, The shop-uncle...everybody is uncle in the hills...likes us a lot and enquires about the trip. We buy hooks, line and float from him. He throws in a few extra hooks along with his blessings. We dump everything into Paul's faded reddish pink rucksack and rush to catch a bus from Ooty to Kandhal, a 15 minute trip. Solomon awaits us impatiently and bombards us with expletives as soon as he sees us waving at him from the bus window which rattles to a final halt. We trudge happily to his house where his mother and father greet us with cups of piping tea which we gratefully hold in our cold hands.
Paul sets to work immediately. He gets Kingsley and Franky to make the floats first. Franky shaves the peacock feather off its feathers and then Kingsley cuts it 3 inch-wise. They make 6-8 floats and then tie thread at one end of the float which will be attached to the line later. Paul, in the meantime would be busy tying the hooks to the line and attaching small pieces of lead to lend weight. This would ensure that the line sinks into the water. The line is then unraveled and wound onto a small stick so that it doesn't get tangled. Floats are tied 1 metre from the hook. The distance of the floats from the hooks can be adjusted depending on how deep you want your hook to sink into the water. Next the whole apparatus is attached to the rod which is then securely tied to the 6 cycles stacked nearby. We are ready to leave.
However, there is one last purchase to be made. Before entering the - fishing zone, we need to make the dough. Stanley, the previous evening would have had already bought a small amount of 'besan maau' which we will mix with hot water borrowed from a tea shop that also sells porottas and potato bondas. Franky and Kingsley buys Porottas and bondas for the trip while Paul mixes the dough. Its already 11 by the time we cycle out to 'the spot'.
'The spot' is located on the old Mysore road. The road long ago disappeared into the water. Motor vehicles are not allowed into this area and it is a protected area though film crews come here occasionally to shoot their famous romantic 'tree dances' and leave the residue of colour powder - velvet, yellow, green, red, mauve on the trees and the ground. The greenish water is divided into miles and our 'spot' is called the Fourth Mile. With the last few houses of Kandhal village disappearing, we now crawl under the checkpost that marks the beginning of protected jungle area.
Sentinels of gnarled Eucalyptus trees greet us everywhere. We whoop in joy as we race each other down the slope on the remaining vestige of the British-tarred road. The nettles with yellow flowers that hug the edge of the road look on in silent disapproval at the unbridled joy we proclaim with our maniacal shouts.
The waters play hide and seek offering glimpses of themselves between the trees. We reach the place where we have to dismount and cross the stream carrying our cycles. Carefully we navigate the cycles over the rocks. It's still a stream at this point and the waters aren't that deep but who wants to become wet in that icy water. We are climbing now - carrying our cycles over a steep hillock. We pass an occasional trout-fisher staring intently at his float and we creep past in complete silence. We hurry to our 'spot' and Paul casts the first line while the others stack the bicycles. We make small balls with the dough and quickly spit on it and cast our lines and wait.
Fishing is a game in patience and if you aren't patient you can get bored quickly. You need to sit there patiently and stare at your float till you feel that tug or see your float dip in and out and then completely disappear into the water. Sometimes you never see anything or feel any tug - at those times you can easily feel disheartened.
Paul keeps encouraging us with a 'beedi' in his mouth. Sometimes everyone around you would be pulling in fish and not a single trout wants to have anything to do with your bait. At those times we exchange poles - with someone who has been having - all the luck.
Sometimes we would be catching fish so fast but most times we would sit there quietly staring at our floats, with the sun on our heads and the wind whistling through the weeping-willows, lost in our thoughts and the silence of the hills in front of us - till, with a shout of pure joy, someone pulls out - a trout glistening like the rainbow in the sunlight.