Mushtaq Hurra

Fishing with Ali

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Fishing has been undoubtedly one of the oldest means of food gathering and recreation for man. Famous civilizations of the world like Egypt, Rome and Greece possess evidences of fishing,  using rods and other tools. Fishing is still the preferred pastime and profession of many people across the globe. Fishing with the help of rods is one of the oldest techniques to catch the prey. It is almost a great source of entertainment, amusement and employment for millions of people. People while holidaying never forget their sophisticated fishing rods to have fun with. Fishing is still very popular in every part of the globe. It helps millions to earn their livelihoods while as many sit calmly on the banks of water bodies to derive pleasure from it. Serene and calm ambience of water bodies solace people while they wait on their banks to hunt. Even psychiatrists advise people with mental health issues to go fishing because it is thought to be an effective stress buster. Since Kashmir valley is rich in fish stocks, so people here have been hunting in waters for centuries together. River banks possess festive look on holidays.

I too have had the privilege to enjoy the beauty of fishing, but I hardly remember any instance when a substantial quantity of prey had fallen into my kitty. Despite failing repeatedly, I had hardly given up the adventure because it would often relax my strained nerves. Even my father’s strong opposition would hardly deter my resolve to join my friends in the expedition.  One of my childhood pals viz Ali was almost a fishing wizard. Hooks of his rod with earthworms as bait, would entice and allure fish to fall into his trap. He was considered a sorcerer in the field. He would never go home empty-handed. While fishing, he used to make us visit the fantasy world. Though he had not been to any formal or informal school, but he was quite adroit in his art of narration. He had adept skill to narrate tales of legends. His art of unmatched blarney was highly admirable and enviable. Fishing with him would always double our pleasure and amusement. He was the Bear Grylls of our childhood days. A complete source of entertainment – Ali was a jewel. I vividly remember having bunked many classes to join him in the enterprise.

Local water bodies used to swell up during spring and summer months, and were considered suitable for fishing. Even Walter Lawrence endorses my stand. In his famous travelogue – The Valley of Kashmir, he states, ” The month of March and the early Spring is the most favourable fishing season in the Jhelum.” Abundant fish reserves in our water bodies, would make them our cherished destinations. Unlike today, the water bodies were purer and cleaner. There were no piles of polythene bags and wrappers in and around them. And fishing wasn’t any expensive adventure during those days at all.  All you need to make a fishing rod, was a pair of brass hooks which would not cost more than a rupee or two. A strong thread was easily available in our neighbourhood, since most of the households had carpet looms. My friend – Ali, possessed all the artistry to complete a fishing rod in a few minutes only. So, our indigenous weapons were prepared in real quick-time.

Though the rod was the most effective implement to hunt in the deep waters, but, fishing in shallow waters was altogether different. Bottomless wicker baskets were used mostly by women to catch fish. Ali never made use of the tool attributed to women for he was completely masculine. Fish hunting in the shallow waters of wetlands containing bushes like dense reeds and cattail plants, was Ali’s innate and apt knack. His Naarutch ( A long wooden weapon fitted with a bunch of strong iron hooks about one foot long ) was like a sniper rifle for him. He would hardly miss his target. He was the Howard Hill of our village. Had he been introduced to archery or shooting, he would have definitely bagged Olympic gold for his nation. Underwater movement of fish would sway the weed stems above the water, and Ali would recognise his prey like a hawk. His Naarutch throw would always yield him produce.

Occasionally, he would give us party-time celebrations on the banks of water bodies where we used to go fishing. I remember having roasted fresh fish on glowing embers. Ali was a complete package of adventure and entertainment. I have been fortunate enough to have spent the best moments of my childhood with him. What our children crave to watch on different YouTube channels, we have enjoyed the breathtaking moments, rather have been part of those engaging instances. And crooning while fishing was his another unique trait. Since fishing using a rod requires lots of time and patience, so Ali would enthral us with the famous Kashmiri Nazm called Shashrang. I still remember a few couplets from the historic folk song. Even he introduced Ali Mohammad Sheikh to us. He was a staunch fan of late legendary singer of Kashir Chhakri.

Now, Ali is no more my next-door neighbour. Although he resides in our own ancestral village but quite far away from my house. He is a father of four children. Clutches of life have entangled us all in such a way that we hardly meet or call eachother. We no more go fishing together. But, we have painted the canvas of reminiscences so beautifully that every hue of it contains a separate and unique treasure of memories. Ali, I and our other pals have acquired and assumed different positions in our lives, but we share a common past of beautiful memories.I wish him longevity, good health, happiness, success and prosperity in the rest of his life.

Author is a Teacher and a Columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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