RAMANATHAPURAM: The roaring wind is a gentle lullaby to the ears of those cradled in a mechanised boat in the arms of mother sea. In the darkness that has enveloped this small vessel, a man in his early 30s is holding a snake without a care in the world. The snake is non-venomous, he tells us, even as the slithery visitor tries to wriggle free to reach the sea’s bosom, from where it was netted, along with scores of fishes that comprise the day’s catch. One need not be at sea to experience the salt-laden sea air or the seafarers’ breathtaking adventures. The man is Kingston, whose thrilling sea tales are there on YouTube on his channel: Ungal Meenavan Mookaiyur (Your Fisherman from Mookaiyur).
With a subscriber base of 5.36 lakh, Kingston is a YouTube star in his own right. However, neither did the success come overnight nor was it served to him on a silver platter. Much like the choppy waters he had to combat everyday, each view and subscriber was hard-earned like the fish he caught: by drifting off to uncharted territories; casting the net wide, and being patient.
Kingston was a 12-year-old boy when he first boarded a vessel from Mookaiyur to seek sustenance from mother sea’s bosom. His eyes have seen the sea-change that transformed Mookaiyur, from a has-been Portuguese harbour town to an alternative dock off the Palk Bay built to decongest the Rameswaram fishing jetty. The 18 years at sea transformed him into a hardened veteran, who weathered many a storm to ensure that the kitchen fire back home was lit. However, it did nothing to uplift his lot from that of a hand-to-mouth existence.
Home to around 2,000 people involved in various sectors of the fishing industry, Mookaiyur is where Kingston learnt the ropes. He grew up on the shores, learning the ways of those that live off the sea, overawed by its magnificence, and humbled by its vengeance.Kingston, a Class VI dropout, embodies what American Physicist Freeman Dyson said: Successful technologies often begin as hobbies. The long hours of idleness on the shores after a gamble at the sea introduced Kingston to TikTok, a video platform. After seeing people turn day-to-day affairs into click baits, Kingston took his cue and uploaded a video himself in October 2018.
The live fishing video became an instant hit, with viewers sympathising with the ordeals of the fishermen. That was when it began. The next day saw Kingston stopping enacting videos from movies and starting to make his own videos on fishing. “Initially, the idea was to show the ordeal we face. One seldom reads any news about a fisherman other than their arrest at the hands of, or being shot at, by the Sri Lankan Navy. The other mentions are about their being stuck in the sea or being lost in a storm,” says Kingston.
He began posting on TikTok videos on survival skills at sea. Within a month, Kingston’s videos started trending on TikTok miniverse. However, Kingston had a problem: The most he could record was a 60-second video, utterly insufficient to give the viewer a perspective. A brainstorming session with colleagues opened before him another portal: YouTube.“In November 2018, while I was discussing my problem with a friend, he asked me check out YouTube,” he says, adding, “Everything started from there.” He took on board a few educated friends and relatives and gained as much insight he could from these meetings. “I started the channel shortly after. Within a month, one lakh people had subscribed to my channel,” he says.
The life of a fisherman
“I posted videos on the regular life of a fisherman without knowing that money could be made out of it. That was until a fellow YouTuber enlightened me about business opportunities available,” says Kingston.So how is the channel faring? “Every Thursday, I take questions from my viewers. People ask a lot of questions about the sea and the life of fishermen,” he says. “On Saturdays, I have introduced a section on sea food recipes and native cooking style of a fishing family. On Sundays, elder fishermen from the village share their experiences,” he informs.
Kingston’s emergence as a reputable YouTuber made him a hot personality to have at B-School seminars. “PSG college from Coimbatore invited me to deliver a lecture for their students. Though I am a school dropout, technology and social media helped me reach places. I have got invitations from private colleges in Puducherry, and Chennai,” he says.
“After 18 years of fishing, I could build only three single rooms to house my family. However, within a year of starting my channel, I now earn more than what I used to earn in a year,” he says proudly. For a fisherman, each day is different, he says cryptically, before adding: Sea has lots of secrets in it. All my growth and videos are the gift from sea.