‘Samandari gaad…! Panjaabi gaad…! Zoumba gaad…!’ A sudden loud outcry from the unruly pack of teenagers, loitering at the street corner, in a wanton mood, filled the atmosphere. The lantern-jawed forty something, returning from the workplace felt awkwardly uncomfortable. As the poor fellow vainly tried to give his pursuers the slip, he would get visions of the fateful day (he always cursed it….) when the weird kind of thing happened.
Much to his embarrassment, since then the poor fellow had been braving the bouts of indecent humiliation from the miscreants, nonstop. A large section of the people in the locality however did not know the whys and the wherefores of calling (him by) nicknames. The identity of the culprit that created all this tamasha was of course a mystery.
No, it was not a fishing competition. It was neither an Ostallato Canal Challenge nor was it a World Club Championship. There were no legendary anglers in the fray. Kevin Asurst, the runner to Bob Nudd, the British winner of the gold medal was not there. World champion Brian Leadbetter and the well-known angler Bob Church too were not there. It was a fishing theatrics that got staged on the spot without any plan, by the frail, weak and pale teenager, who happens to be my elder brother. And in this drama ‘beleaguered me’ played the role of little buddy (saouvieth/salka), a witness to the drama that was staged on the banks of Sunderkul in the neighbourhood of Darwesh Kadal in the downtown.
For an hour and half I had been sitting alongside the boat moored to the river bank watching my elder brother rolling the fish bait, fixing it to the fishing hook, and then reeling out the fishing line as far as possible in the deep muddy waters of the kaetakoul. Angling had been a tranquil past time for my brother. Sitting astride on a huge timber log placed on the banks of the kul, with an intention to pass time pleasantly and give vent to his passion he had his eyes fixated at the little float (penna-kaet). Every time he asked for the fishing bait, with the lemmings’ obedience I would instantaneously hand over the required material to him.
Should I call it angling? The crude method of fishing that my brother and his friends used was kind of "angle" (fish hook). The hook would be attached to the fishing line, and the line attached to a fishing rod. Fishing rods fitted with a fishing reel would function as a mechanism for storing, retrieving and paying out the line. The hook itself was dressed with lures or bait. A bite indicator such as a float was either a piece of straw or a cork and was called penna-kaet in the fisherman’s parlance. When a fish swallowed the bait, a tug on the line would cause the gorge to orient itself at right angles to the line, thereby sticking in the fish's gullet. Common natural baits included worms, atta and piece of bread and sometimes chicken/sheep-intestines. The common earthworm was universal bait for our kind of angling. A fishing sinker or knoch was a weight used in conjunction with a fishing line or hook to increase its rate of sink, anchoring ability, and/or casting distance.
A couple of yards away from where my brother operated, sat our cousin, yet another angling buff, on a lichen-infested rock partially submerged in the river waters. He was an ace angler and my brother’s close pal. But on that fateful day the duo was not in talking terms with each other. They had squabbled with each other a few days back on some unimportant matter. The young fishing masters had been sitting there for quite long now, without talking to each other, and waiting for who would hook the fish first. The eerie silence that prevailed would occasionally be broken with the thudding sound of the fishing line that was cast into the muddy waters by either of the two anglers.
Much to their chagrin every time the two anglers cast their fishing lines into the river waters the smart fish simply nibbled at the bait and vanished into thick waters without leaving any trace. The Penna-kaet, that fiercely bobbed up and down in the process however did not help our angles to make a prize catch. The duo was fated to return home innocent of a catch. As my brother threw in the towel, he simply shut up shop to murmur. ‘Enough is enough; the fish is too smart. I think I better call it a day. Better try next time’. He stood up, looked at me, held the fishing rod by its tail end and swung the fishing line to wind it round and round the fishing rod. ‘Yemis lageii temiss lageii sarkari, mahrajsaaban Zima waari (he who gets hit will be sarkari; responsibility would lie with the maharaja, the king).’ my brother sung aloud.
‘Ammma, ammma… I am hurt! See what has happened to my nose, it is bleeding.’ screamed our cousin suddenly and unexpectedly with pain. As we turned back to see what had happened we were shell shocked. The poor fellow held his bleeding nose with one hand and the fishing hook with other. In our frenzy my brother and I ran amuck without actually knowing what had happened. The cacophonic sound of the people that gathered there filled the atmosphere. After hiding for an hour or so in the ‘ghav ghaaan’ of our house, we came out to learn that the barbed metal fishing hook that my brother swung had pierced through the nostril of our cousin. It was only when the goldsmith, living nearby, cut the hook into two that he was relieved of the pain. In the absence of her husband who was posted outside the town, our mother, who learnt about the episode, would utter a wail of grief over the wrongdoings of her children.
People in the locality still talk about the nicknames tagged to our poor cousin, but hardly does anybody know the identity of the legendry angler that enacted the tamasha.