Shankumugham Beach, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.
10th September 2010.
Two sets of fishermen were standing in line. They were holding on to two ends of the fishing net. With great effort they were hauling the net in. Two men were out in the sea guiding the net even as they kept swimming. Though the tide seemed low, the waves were crashing in. And soon it started raining.
But my wife and I stood watching the fishing process with great fascination. It was the first time we were seeing it live. We found that our umbrellas were no protection against the slanting rain. And it was cold.
Yet the men toiled on; unmindful of the weather. I admired their sense of unity and purpose and how focused they were on their work. Dark and cloudy skies, crashing waves, heavy rains and biting cold—circumstances that look not promising to an average onlooker did not seem to even bother them the least. And finally they brought in their catch. Small and big fishes were there. They struggled to hold on to their freedom and life one last time. But the game was over. They were soon transferred to the waiting baskets of fisherwomen.
I thought about the little fishes, the anchovies, (“netholi” in Malayalam) that were caught in the nets. I wondered what these small fishes thought about their lives in this big ocean. Sometimes our smallness in this big world bothers us a little bit; doesn’t it?
As the umbrella offered little protection from the rain and the winds, we tried to find shelter underneath the roof a small house nearby. From there we watched a group of fishermen trying to wash their nets. It was a fascinating sight. All of them together carried the bundled up net down to the sea. They were singing and chanting “ellelo, ellelo” and “hoi, hoi” encouraging each other and creating a jubilant mood.
Perhaps their hearts were content and thankful because of the catch of fish they got and for the safe return of those who had gone out to the sea. Well, in that heavy rain, and drenched to the core, they cast the bundled net into the sea. As the waves washed it, they straightened out that net into one long stretch.
As we watched, what happened next fascinated us very much. One fisherman lifted up the straightened out net at one end and drew it towards himself from the sea. After the net had come up two or three feet, another man stepped forward and took hold of the net ahead of the first man. Then the process repeated. Young and old stepped forward in almost rhythmically timed fashion, one at a time, until the entire net was carried by them in a single file. The wonder was that there was no one to instruct. It all happened with great precision. It was one example of brilliant teamwork.
What I thought was that they knew and understood their roles well. Without jealousy, without any thoughts that one was better than the other, with a great sense of purpose and unity, they toiled.
We left the shore with the thought that the morning was well spent. It was a joy to learn some life lessons first-hand. I also thought once again about that bit of sidelight information that I had read many times: Jesus called some of His first disciples “as they were casting a net into the lake” or some others who were “in a boat, preparing their nets.” Did something of the teamwork of those “unschooled, ordinary men” attract Jesus’ attention to them that made Him make them part of His team? I wonder.
Like the sea our lives are a big canvas. Nothing great can be painted there without such teamwork as these fishermen exhibit. Unflagging enthusiasm, unlimited patience, endurance and hope, the joy of celebration; all mark the lives of these men. They rise together as a team. This is their glory even as they wait for each new dawn.