Morning Shows…The Fish!

Just when, 7 o’clock in the morning, I was about to get up the rain started. I always loved the sounds made by the raindrops on the tin-sheeted roof of out village home, and was always lulled into sleep, the audio suddenly making the hot summers feel pleasantly cooler. That morning was no exception, and as the audio reached a crescendo I, just a ten-year-old embodiment at that time, rolled over on my side tucking in my knees close to my chest and prepared for some more windfall slumber. But the reality shook me up: that was a school day and the morning occurrence was no justification for skipping the classes.


My cousin, a year older to me, sounded the wake-up call. An errand normally my grandfather used to undertake almost every working morning with painful consistency, that is say, his wake-up calls used to get louder and louder till the target had to succumb to it, with a sullen face or not he never cared about. That morning my grandfather left home very early on business to the nearby town, and therefore, my cousin took up the charge.


I had to say goodbye to my rain-sleep as my cousin called up for the third time. I got up and went through the morning rituals with total indifference: sipping the red tea in a mug with a hard piece of gud (jaggery) offered by my grandmother; going to the country toilet about half a mile away, that rainy morning under an umbrella; taking a bath in the bamboo structure near the pond from where buckets of water had to be brought in; dressing up in the school uniform; sitting on the flat wooden stool at the clay-floored dining area with my grandmother serving steaming hot rice and pulse curry; and more saddened that morning by the thought of trudging more than a mile on the rough pebbled road to school bare footed as the school authorities wanted all their students come like that, yours not to reason why.


Heavy school bags strung around our shoulders and sheltered under the umbrellas we walked out and headed for the gate made with pieces of whole bamboos at the end of the front grassy garden that could be also be called a green lawn sans the meticulous maintenance. And then, we froze.


The sight that we encountered was something that never even came in our wildest of dreams. Through the lush green grassy overgrowth was coming or rather swimming towards us a large-sized fish! It was a striped snakehead or a fish of the Channa Striata category, a variety of which is found in the north eastern parts of India, called Sol in Assam. The fish was coming at high speed overcoming the lack of its watery comforts, and perhaps looking for a pond or a river to jump back in.


We looked at each other uttering cries of extreme surprise and joy. Nothing more was needed for the required action. We deposited our school bags at the veranda, threw away the still-open umbrellas around and began the lovely chase.


The chase was not easy at all. The fish was big and energetic, moving around real fast and the falling rains made it very slippery. My cousin positioned himself in front of the fish and I at the rear, and tried to trap it. The fish slipped out of our grips several times moving and jumping hither and thither. We didn’t get angry or bored, because the unique adventure kept us riveted.


Finally, my cousin managed to put his stranglehold over the fish’s head, lifted it and ran across the house to the inner courtyard with loud cries of victory. I joined in too. Soon, all members of the house assembled, surprised and happy at our prized catch. Only my grandmother looked grave. She had a good reason.


Our neighbor across the front bamboo gate had never been in the good books of my grandfather, the former being always quarrelsome and nasty, at times threatening my grandfather physically. And in all probability, that fish jumped out of his pond that was just on the right side of our front garden. It meant that my grandfather would most probably ask us to throw it back in the pond or hand it over to the neighbor. My grandmother seemed to be silently lamenting the fact that she would never be able to serve us with the tastiest of curries of that catch.


My cousin kept the fish in an iron container, half-filled with water and sealed it up with a strong lid, putting a few bricks over it for extra safety. Our school-going that day discarded justifiably, we spent the whole day taking turns to observe our prized prisoner even as the suspense kept mounting as to its ultimate destiny.


Grandfather arrived in the evening. We crowded around him, not daring to inform him of the catch. Finally, over a cup of tea, grandmother told him. To our huge relief he smiled sweetly.

“No issues! We can very well have a feast tonight! You see, this is the peak of the summer rains. At this time rivers, ponds or even street drains overflow, and all kinds of fishes move around, changing their habitats, surfacing or jumping in anywhere. So, you can’t say that this particular fish belongs to our neighbor; maybe it has infiltrated his pond from the river or the drains or from someone else’s ponds!”


Our joy was thus brought into an ecstatic climax.    



(To be continued with one more story)


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