Fishes in a friend

by Ruth Cheriyan (India)

Making a local connection India


‘Stop!’ she screamed. I stopped, bending over and struggling to breathe, my laugh was choked in between the little gasps of air I made. I waited for her as my chuckle caught up with me faster. She arrived, and, with murmured excuses of defeat, we dragged our feet through the red soil of south India. Splash! Something heavy rocked the boat and it instantly became lighter. I looked behind and didn’t see anyone. The mud became clayey and the grass became thick. We were near the stream of water that had caused our lovely, wrinkled, ripe jack-fruit smelling grandma to nag us about. The construction of the bridge had created a small creek from the river miles out. Where was my brother? He was literally right behind me. Suddenly, a wet body stands up. My panic soon turns into annoyance when I see his grinned face asking me to come join him, and then when he violently started to shake my boat. We reached the creek with our homemade fishing hooks and bags packed with smelly pickled and rice. The fishermen sitting in the shade looked our way and wondered what four kids in pants would want on a sunny afternoon. The bits of white rice stuck to their mouth suggested they were consuming lunch, and we were entertainment. The world turns upside down, slowly, and I find my face hit the water. My face first. His arm found my shoulder and pushed me up against the salty creek’s insistence. Fuming, I start punching my brother and then notice the laughter. Squinted eyes and yellow teeth, these men sitting on logs, did have more to their otherwise expressionless faces. Their dark-skinned bodies were wrapped with white and coloured cloths around their waist. With the few words of boat and fish in the local tongue, we were out there pushing borrowed boats into the creek. They offered to help us, but since we thought we could ace a simple row and swish, we declined politely. They pulled us up to where they were. My other companions joined in. Drying ourselves in the peaceful heat, they shared their fried fish lunch and later showed us their nets. We nodded our heads in agreement to everything they said even though we hardly understood. Their warmth welcomed us to a friendship we’ve never experienced before.