A road trip was the need of the hour so I packed up and headed for the coast. I wanted to move far far away, where the haunt of technology couldn’t usurp my senses. No network, no internet – just the perfect respite I was seeking. Run away from the dogma that plagues us working highly stressed folk.
I headed to the docks where a ferry service was willing and ready to take me to the fishing island up ahead. It was early- 6:45 a.m and the sea mist and the seagulls were at harmonious play. The water golden tempting me to plunge deep within. Like clockwork we depart on time.
The man at the helm was Sheikh Abdul Pathan. A native of Punjab (now part of Pakistan post the separation) who moved to Mumbai in the early 50’s -then called Bombay. Towering a little over 6 feet 3 inches I felt like Frodo next to him. He was accompanied by his 10 year old grandson since school was out that day.
Busy at work with no time to chat Mohammad was scurrying around the boat pulling in ropes and buoys to ensure all was as planned for a smooth sail ahead. Much like a pro athlete from the NBA doing suicide drill warmups. Focussed and determined.
Me being a restless soul I walk across to the man with the mesmerizing blue eyes – Lagoon blue set amidst the burnt reds resembled two sapphires lodged deep within an abyss of possibilities and stories. His stare was deadpan and might i add intimidating – yet he had the calm and composure of a placid lake with the occasional dragonfly swooping in for a ripple nibble.
Breakfast was around the corner. I hadn’t eaten since I woke up. Home made fish pickle (always a MUST carry along on trips to give flavor to bland food one might encounter) and some egg and bread sandwiches in the nap sack.
I had befriended his Mohammad Ebrahim (his grandson) and we decided to ‘break bread’ together. The grandfather decided to partake as well and thoroughly relished the fish pickle. He even suggested I come home and try out his wife’s preparation of dried fish soaked in groundnut oil and spice.
In conversation I asked him what his purpose in life was. “It was all in the hands of Allah” he mentioned looking up to the sky with gratitude. I could tell his contentment of being a fisherman who took pride in his job and on weekdays used to ferry the boat for passengers at USD 0.25cents a trip spanning 3 kilometers across the sea. Was business good? His answer was as clear as the blue in his eyes.
He explained- Two ferry trips a day and every alternate day would be his fishing expedition to get an adequate supply of fish to feed his family. When questioned as to what he did with the remainder of his time he chirped “I sleep late, play with my grandchildren, take a siesta with my wife, talk to my sons, pray and stroll into the village to meet the neighbors. I have quite a busy life”- was his gaiety retort.
I was curious to his contentment and had to ask why not increase the cycle of fishing trips to earn more money. He asked “what would money do for me? I would buy a bigger boat, better equipment, catch more fish, get a fleet of boats- how long would that take me? 15 to 20 years? But what then?”
I nodded in unison as he stole my thoughts and affirmed that he would become a millionaire and be able to comfortably retire to spend time with his family and friends. The old man smiled at me. It was a smile that showed I was on the brink of a major apparent discovery of one of life’s simplest mysteries.
And that’s when it struck me like a lightning bolt -this old man of the blue knew the meaning of Living each day with a general plan of an uncertain tomorrow. Tomorrow is promised to no one my friend.
Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography