Musings from Kochi-1

April 11, 2022 at 10:36 pm 6 comments

A day’s catch

The catamaran with the outboard engine cruised elegantly towards the silvery sands of the Fort Kochi beach. And just as it neared the shallow waters, Martin switched off the propulsion system allowing the boat to lazily drift towards the land. Once slowed down, Joby, Sunny, Jackson and Xavier jumped off the catamaran, each carrying a log of solid wood and hastily spread them parallel on the ground, at an equidistance of about a meter apart. Martin navigated the boat over the sleeper woods and brought the boat to a majestic halt making the transition, from the high seas to the safe shores, a perfect one!

The five fishermen had ventured into the seas the previous night and after repeatedly spreading the net for a gruelling twelve hours, the catch for the day was just lacklustre. Mackerel, or Aiyla in Malayalam, is the only variety that were caught and with all of them to share the bounty equally, it is another day of disappointment for them. The hotel and tourism industry in the city is yet to recover from the pandemic shock and with the season of Ramadan now on, the demand for the fishes is at its nadir, pulling down the prices to its lowest level. And a bucketful of Mackerel would hardly fetch enough money for the five of them to buy some food for the family and also pay for the diesel to make the next trip to the sea. The hard life of these fishermen only just got worse!

The picture of a lonely man casting his net from his small boat has been on the covers of many a glossy tourism magazine but the entire ecosystem of the fishing industry is so stacked against the small fisherman that his life is anything but glossy. Big trawlers go deep into the high seas and remain floating for weeks on end affording them with huge catches of a variety of marine lives. And the purse-seine method they adopt allows no creature that it surrounds to escape leaving very little for small fishermen with conventional nets to bank on. The catches are stored in gigantic freezers in the trawlers themselves that ensure intense fishing and zero wastage while small boats need to make shorter and more frequent trips back and forth for want of cold storage facility. Once on the shores, they are forced to sell the fishes quickly as they need money to make the next trip compromising on the price front and this cycle of exploitation goes on and on. 

This assault on the small players is universal and cuts across industries, professions and trades. Small shop-keepers are at a huge disadvantage vis-a-vis big marts and online giants, small farmers, pitted against corporate farming, are on perpetual survival mode and small manufacturers, faced with the relentless onslaught of technologically superior big sharks, are on compulsive sustenance level. Small, once considered beautiful, looks increasingly ugly!

But it is the small and informal operations that provide the largest number of jobs and is the backbone of a developing economy like that of India. And if the small ceases to exist, the big would also be in jeopardy as the demand for their product is created by the wealth generated by the small. For this cycle to sustain and flourish, there needs to be a conscious effort to strengthen the small and integrate it with the large and make the system a composite whole. 

Meanwhile, Jackson has promised his family a lavish Easter feast complete with mutton and a bottle of wine but with his daily catch going down along with its price, he is worried whether he could fulfil his commitment. With just four days to go, he still is an optimistic man!

May the Lord fulfil his small desire. Amen!



Also read Kochi shows the way…


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Holi-The wellspring of joy Fostering the Vedic lineage

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