Three or four other anglers steadily appeared and fixed their fishing-lines at the other end of the pond. The opportune moment of a fish-bite was fast approaching. There was complete silence, not even the sound of a suppressed coughing. The eyes of Benu and Cheni steadfastly glued to the float. A worried frown was writ large on their foreheads. Bloated veins were markedly visible on their temples. There was absolutely no wink in their eyes.
Sporadic sounds of angling in and around the area were heard, indicating catches of few ‘kavi’ fish. However there were snapping’s at their baits now and then. but the problem was that the bait. after such repeated onslaughts, got stripped down hanging. In fact, ‘Tamsing’ hook was effective only in catching ‘SoI’ fish in the pond and not other fishes. Its size was too large for a small variety of fish to swallow it. The small variety of fish normally snaps at it and pecked out apart of the bait from the hook and swam away.
Someone in their vicinity pulled up the angling-rod and allowed the fishing line to circle round three or four times in the air. This skilled pull was technically called ‘kal-chip’(the gill-pull), because the general belief was that the hook fastened the gill. Whatever the pull might he, the small fish lacerated their gills and dropped down at a distance. Another angler in their neighbourhood followed a different technique of a pull. Bending his body down to the waist he pulled the angling rod horizontally on the surface water in such a manner as if he caught a whooper. He might, instead, catch, a small-fry—a ‘Kaoi’ fish or may be absolutely nothing.
But Cheni’s method was quite different. It was enough of a signal to him if once he saw the float stirring twice or thrice only. He gave jerks to the angling-rod so skilfully that it caused the pointed end of the rod to quiver several times. Simultaneously, the hook under the water began to move to and fro making it impossible for any fish to escape. He often boasted about his proud catch by hooking a fish right at the` ventral portion of it. He was not to pull his rod but just to lift it as slowly as possible.
In the meantime, Cheni caught a number of ‘Kaoi ‘fish. Benu on the other hand, had been pulling the angling—rod times without number but to no avail. He felt quite tired out. He had to go into the water several times and suffer leech-bites too. ln sheer disgust he had stuck some ‘bah-top ‘to the hook, set it again and came over ground and lay on the grass upside down. After a short while he opened his hanky that held his areca-nut and betel-leaf. All others around him being lured by the betel nuts approached him one by one and regaled on it. Two of them smoked ‘bidi’. The faces of all, covered with grime and sweat seemingly wore a disposition of disgust and despair and they were now ready for an early return without any meaningful booty.
Just at this moment, Benu saw that his fishing—line produced vibration and the float plumbed in. Every one gazed at it which soon became the cynosure of all eyes.
“Quick, quick, pull the rod”. The three cried out in one voice. Benu lost no time and in that lying position as he was at that moment, barely scrambled and tumbled down to it and pulled the angling-rod with full force. The tapering end of the rod bent down and the fishing line, made of twined Muga-silk, got stiffened. The ruddy chest of a full-grown whopping’S0l’ fish flitted past their eyes. Whew! the fish was not downed. The ten-cubit long fishing-line spiralled to the branch of the peepul tree. But the prized catch, the ‘Sol ‘fish was dangling in pain from a twig of the branch. The fish itself was perhaps not prepared for such a predicament. They all gave it a loud hearty laugh. Everyone of them tried to down it but without any success. It was also not possible for them to climb up the tree to the edge of the branch to catch hold of the fish.
“Now the only alternative is to sever the fishing line from the rod and return home with the lone fishing rod and to have few gulps of cooked rice at home reminiscing the glamour of the lost fish. That’s all.” Someone remarked from the other end inanely. Without wasting further time, since it was almost evening, they all returned to their angling rods except Benu who collected a few sticks and started throwing at the dangling ‘Sol’ fish. One such stick struck it so hard that the fish turned volte—face and thus released one climb of the spiral. The fish also ceased to bestir itself any longer. The fishing-line tended to give in, being pulled by the weight of the lish. Its impending drop down was only a matter of time once the fishing-line snapped and severed from the angling—rod. Benu’s idea was conveyed to Cheni who quickly reversed his angling—rod and with the help of the larger end began to strike at the tip of Benu’s rod. The fishing—line got immoderately stiffened to a breaking-point and it suddenly gave way making a sound. The fish instantly landed bump on the ground. It was already dead. Perhaps the stick must have hit it on the skull. Its mouth had to be dissected in order to disentangle the hook from inside the belly. It was a full-sized matured ‘Sol’ fish, a whopper indeed. Every one of them passed comments that it would taste like meat to the palate. Meanwhile they all packed up their belongings to return home.
Benu, instead, lost all enthusiasm and looked sadly depressed. He re-tied the fishing-line to the rod and washed up his hands and feet. He was barely ready to return home when he suddenly spoke out to Cheni, “Hello Cheni, you may take the fish if you so like. I don’t want it.” All of them were flabbergasted when they heard these words uttered by Benu. They all turned their eyes at him. “You are talking bosh! Are you a crack—pot‘?” Cheni retorted and gave him a wigging.
“If you don’t, give it to someone else.” Benu added. Fearing that Benu might take umbrage at his refusal, Cheni faintly gave in and pinned the fish to a bamboo-lace of his.
They were on their way back, keeping mum throughout the trek without exchanging a word. It was almost dusk when they arrived at the gateway of Grandpa’s house. Grandpa was standing there.
Cheni displayed the fish before him and gave a glowing account in detail of what happened with the catch. Benu stood absolutely motionless without a word. On having learnt that Benu conceded the prized catch to Cheni without assigning any reason, Grandpa peered at Benu blinklessly with marked curiosity.
“It’s nothing; I did not actually feel comfortable with it. I just gave it to him of my own accord, that’s all”. Benu tried to prevaricate while answering verbally to Grandpa’s silent language of the eyes.
“But, why?” Grandpa questioned casting a sharp gaze at Benu eye-ball to eye-ball, Benu parried Grandpa’s eyes and with a peculiar pose of his body, hesitatingly said. “I can’t just tolerate it. How grisly these two lifeless eye-balls look like! How stiff and motionless!”
Grandpa stood dazed and seemed to have vanished like an illusory magic into the darkness of the twilight. Only his two pallid eye—balls, seemingly bereft of the faculty of sight, were buming unrelentingly like the whitish body of a ‘Barali’ (sheat-fish) fish, Benu was hard put to fix his eyes at them.
Benu and Cheni started for home without any further exchange of word on the way. The moment they tried to talk, the whole bizarre affair seemed to have flapped over their hearts and faded out next. Cheni, who was still in proud possession of the fish suddenly, threw it away into the thick of the bamboo grove. With their limited experience they had had of life, they were circumstanced to be faced with two glaring postulates stinging them like swarming wasps. Who did he think the eye-balls belonged to? What was the bond between them and Grandpa?
PHULSIRI : a fine flat bamboo-rod used in Assamese loom.
NACHANI : Pulley. ·
PHULSEREKI : A contrivance like a medium—sized reel for winding thread.
TAKURI : Spool.
SOLI : A thin long and round slip of bamboo.
KOKA-TOP : Eggs of large-headed black ants used as baits in angling.
TAMSING : A medium—sized angling hook.
BHOG : The distance between the tloat and the plummet.
DAL : A kind of aquatic grass very energising for cattle particularly mammal and pachyderms.
KAOI FISH: Climbing fish
SOL FISH: Walking fish, channa striatus
BARALI FISH: Sheat fish, Wallago attu.
PUTHI FISH : A kind of small Fish. puntius tioto and puntius sophore.
SENGELI FlSII ; A kind of small fish similar to the shape of a walking tish.
PABHA FISH : A kind of fresh-water fish. Ompok paba or Callichrus paba.
KHARIA FISH 1 Notopterus chitala when young.
CHITAL FISH : Notopterus chitala (of large variety)
SON BARIAL : A kind of herbal plant known for its medicinal efiicacy.
SON BARIAL : (of small variety) Sida acuta, Sida rhombifolia, Sida rhomboidia, Sida humilis, Sida veronicae folia. HARIBOI. KAKA: A sobriquet : Wllagers nicknamed him OR so because he used to invoke the name
HARIBOL BURAH of God early in the morning by a loud shout; (Hari=God; Bol=Say i.e. say Hari); Kaka = Grand father; Burha = Old man. ‘
MOHKHUH BEEL ; A natural Hshery of water called ‘beel‘ at a place called Mohkhuti.
SINGI POND : The name ‘singi‘ pond has rolled down through popular lips among the villagers.
KAOI-FISH 2 Climbing»iish. ~ SOL FISH ; Walking-iish, channa striatus.
BARALI FISH : Sheat-iish. Wallago attu.