Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Boatman's Monologue

A Boatman's Monologue

I could have survived without the bridge. Like my fathers did for all those years. A man, after all, does not need bridges to survive. A man has to be self-sufficient. One does not need to go to the other side of the river for it. What new do they have there? The men there are the same. The villages are the same. It's the same country everywhere, is it not?!

And if anyone did want to cross over, they could use a boat. Like we friends had done when we were young. There was no bridge then. My father slapped me when I returned. He gave me no dinner too.

"Young boys have no business crossing the river; going to the other side. No business at all to leave their mothers worried.", he had scolded.

But then, that was no good reason to build a bridge, was it? Some people high up in those city offices wanted it built. They said that bridges connected people, brought in prosperity and growth. How? No one told us how.

These people are thieves, I tell you. Stealing a part of our livelihood this way! This fishing business does not earn a lot. Sure, it fills our stomach -  you should stop fishing if you can't catch that much and start begging - but what about the rest?! We have our house to mend, our women need their new clothes and stuff, our children have to go to school ... I too have a life now, don't I?

A truck from fisheries comes here every Tuesday and Saturday. Yes, from over the other side. We save a bit of it. But then I've got this sorry excuse of a boat. Needs mending every season.

Back in the days before the bridge, any person worthy of being called a man in these parts could make a decent living ferrying people across. Simple money for simple people. And fresh fish to go with it. Nothing much of it these days.

Don't be mistaken. I don't say anything bad of the river. She's been good to us. She's like my mother you know! Taken care of me and my people. Took care of my fathers too. But she's grown old now. Streaks of black and foam show up sometimes in the summers. Found some dead fish too. God knows what they do to her up in the city.

And she gets angry too. She flooded over two rains ago. Her water entered our houses and fields. Bad year it was. Lost two kids in the village. The third was saved by the hospital people. He was in bad shape by the time we got there. It was in the next village. Over the bridge, you know. The bridge saved him. You cant cross a flooded river, now can you?!

It's a tough life you know in these parts. Up in the river all day looking for fish. I don't even come home for lunch these days. I have it in the boat. Fix it to one of the bridge pillars under the shadow, eat, take a quick nap and then back to work.

Do stay here tonight if you boys have no rush. I will take you tomorrow on the other side on my boat. Just like the old days. I'll take you boys for free! Won't charge a paisa ... Promise!


This story is inspired from this photo taken by Vinit Dalvi at Gaonkhadi creek near Purnagad in Ratnagiri during a weekend trip in June.2014

PC: Vinit Dalvi


Other places in Konkan



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