KOCHI: For most of us, three in the morning is an unearthly hour. But for Rekha, it is the time to go searching for fish. She can be found very far away from the shore in her tiny boat spreading fishing net at a particular location guided by the moonlight. Patience is the key to land a good catch and she knows it well. While she waits, her thoughts navigate through various issues especially the ones associated with the future of her four children sleeping snug at home.
The sound of fish thrashing around in the net jolts her awake and she quickly calls her husband Karthikeyan who sleeps in the boat. The next few hours are spent hauling in the catch. It is broad daylight by the time the couple returns to the shore with their catch, a routine they have been following for the last eleven years.
In many ways Rekha is not an ordinary woman. But the unassuming look and simple talk mask the grit and resolve of a mother. She ventured into something that no women in the country have ever dared to. Rekha and Karthikeyan, the first fishermen couple to go fishing together in the country, visited the capital city to lend their support to the 7th General Assembly of World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) to be held in Delhi from November 15 to 20.
Her love affair with Karthikeyan brought Rekha, a native of Thrissur, to Ethayi coast 19 years ago. She is not from a traditional fishing community and took everyone by surprise when declared four years after her marriage that she too will accompany her husband out to the sea. Mounting debt and the future of the family of six made her resolve a very strong one. Karthikeyan was supportive. Local people tried to discourage them, reminded them of the superstition that a woman venturing into the sea will bring bad luck and lead to dwindling of the catch.
Day one was not easy for Rekha. She vomited continuously due to seasickness. But sea failed to break her resolve. She did prove the superstition wrong. The couple came back with plenty of fish. “If there is a will to work hard there is no dearth of fish. Other fishermen in the area have started accepting me and offer their help,” said Rekha.
Karthikeyan who was struggling to find a steady partner to go fishing was delighted. “She is very alert in the night. Her wakefulness saved us from getting smashed by a speeding boat from Kulachal,” said Karthikeyan. Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) and National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) felicitated the couple.a and Karthikeyan have four daughters- Maya, Anjalai, Devapriya and Lekshmipriya.