July 11, 2006

Sand in my feet

Generation Gap
Originally uploaded by codelust.
The early morning at the beach was a sight and experience that I have always loved from my school going days and today I got to revisit it, with the parents very much in tow, leading to the odd situation where I, who has not been there much in the past six years, was explaining to them how the whole set up functioned.

The beach in question, Shanghumugham, was pretty much been eaten up by the sea, as it almost always is during the season of incessant rains and sadly, there was not much of the earlier sandy expanse left for me to walk on. That was no deterrent for the desperate fishermen who would venture out into the sea, late in the night, to set their net that would be dragged out in the morning to the shore.

During the vacations, when we were in school, we would go early in the morning to the same beach on our bicycles, fool around a bit in the water and then watch the fishermen do their backbreaking and dangerous job. They would start from two different ends of the beach and start dragging in the net from the sea. After what took more than a couple of hours, the last crucial part of the net would finally make it to the shore and the surprise would come to and end as to whether the catch was any good at all.

It takes around 20 of these men to pull off the entire operation and it is crucial for them to get a good catch every time to make all the effort any good in terms of money and their livelihood. The fish thus caught is mostly sold off to street side vendors who would sell them in different locations in the city with a bit of a mark up.

Originally uploaded by codelust.
The problem with retailing fish for anyone is that the damn thing, as you can guess, is a perishable commodity. By late evening almost all of them are desperate to sell off their wares, as in the morning after it would be only fit for the dustbins. It used to be a worst-kept secret to buy fish from these ladies only late in the evening to get any ridiculous price that you could quote.

I can only guess that the margins in it are too low for them to do anything much with the trade other than to barely sustain themselves and their families. And on days like today, when, after the hours of struggle, all they end up with is a catch that even the street vendors would not feel too enthused to buy from them. It is a real hard knock life these guys live. For the effort they put into living each day of their lives, what they get in return is almost nothing. They live the same struggle through generations and a lucky few manage to escape from its clutches, but most largely live and die in the same manner – from one generation to the next.

Not that my heart bleeds for them or something, but it does show up a weird set of contrasts – my reality of double digit increment percentages, fancy cell phones and eating out practically every night and their reality of just endless hardships. Some twains just don’t meet and I feel somewhat awful in admitting my selfishness that I am glad it is so.