I’m a fan of Indrajit Khambe’s work. His minimalist approach to photography, the story telling aspect in his photography, and the genuineness of his work is quite inspiring. Indrajit can create poetry from mundane things in life. I recently completed his month long workshop on all things photography and it kind of opened up new perspectives to me. The cherry on top was the interactive session that he organized with Barbara Davidson, a Pulitzer Prize and Emmy award winning photojournalist. Barbara was gracious enough to accept Indrajit’s invite and talk to us about some of her work (super intense stuff) and her journey as a photo journalist.
With all the new learning’s from Indrajit I was waiting for an opportunity to try out a few things that I picked up from his workshop.
My recent trip to Costal Karnataka gave me that opportunity.
I stayed at Praana Experience, located in a relatively less populated area with no tourists. It was just us (my family and a friend’s family) , the local fishing community, and the jaw dropping seascape🏖️.
Along the endless shore, there were a few fishing families. Inspired by Indrajit’s Harnai fishing village portfolio, I decided to photograph the local fishing community.
My mornings and evenings were spent walking along the shore, enjoying the sea breeze, and interacting with the fishing community. Every person I interacted with had a story to share.
Something I’ve observed across my travel 🧳- people from non metro cities and towns, especially smaller towns and villages are always warm, hospitable, and willing to converse. Unlike in metros, where talking to a stranger implies danger ☠️.
Anyway, the conversations ranged from iPhones to the political situation in Karnataka, and everything between 🙂
Babu Poojary, maybe in his early 60s, spoke to me about his family. He spoke about his daughter’s marriage and how she is happily settled in Dubai. His son is perusing a diploma program in the nearby town and is expected to graduate soon.
There was a sense of contentment in his eyes when he spoke about his children. With his daughter settled, he feels he is through with his biggest responsibility in life.
My daughter is settled, my son will soon settle. As far as my needs are concerned, the sea will take care of it, he said.
I asked him if he would visit his daughter in Dubai, and he quickly nodded and said he has applied for a passport 😊.
While he continued to evaluate the sea and fish, in a typical South Canara accent, he asked me if I’ve been on a flight ✈️ and how one feels to be up in the air 🙂
Babu Poojari’s idea was to only catch 2-3 fish for the day to sell it at the local market. He did not want to spend a lot of time fishing.
But the younger lot had bigger aspirations. The young fishermen venture deep into the sea in their row boat to cast the fishing net. In most cases, they leave the fishing net overnight in the sea.
As the fisherman ventured into the sea with his row boat, his partner watched over the tides and prayed for a good catch.
I stood besides him watching his partner sail away, and I asked him if he expected a big catch. He looked at me with a faint smile. The last big catch was apparently three years ago. Pollution, climate change, and big industrial sized fishing boats work against these smaller fishermen.
The sea has not been very kind to them in the recent years.
You can look at the water and get a sense of the catch. Those days are gone when the sea would reward us each and every time we ventured in.
The fisherman lamented and walked away, and his partner was no longer visible in the sea. On a good day, they catch about 30-40kgs of fish as opposed to 100 plus kgs few years ago.
But they still do what they have to do.
I found a few things particularly interesting. For example, all the senior fishermen I spoke to knew the kind of catch they would get, just by looking at the way the water moved. Their experience and learning from the sea are real and rich.
The older fisherwomen, as she smashed a fish’s eye, made an interesting statement. She compared the adjoining rainforest in Agumbe (not too far from coastal Karnataka) with the sea and said how similar they are.
She had her own way of justifying –
The forest can be unforgiving if you mess with its ecosystem, so can the sea.
If the forest gets wild (too hot she meant), it pour, so does the sea.
All the animals in the forest are also present in the sea too (comparing elephants in the forest to the sea elephant).
These stories and observations are passed on from one generation to another. Most evenings while the family gathers to untangle the fish from the nets, the older members of the family share their experience and wisdom with the younger ones.
They even encourage the kids to learn to fish from a very young age by delegating fishing tasks.
The sea and the beach is where these kids spend most of their free time, be it playing or figuring the craft of reading the waters. I guess this is how local community develops an emotional bond with the sea.
But at the same time, most of the kids do goto schools and aspire do lead a life beyond fishing. While it is a step towards progress, somewhere it feels that these little stories and observations will eventually get lost and washed away in the sea.
As the sun sets at horizon, the men who ventured into the sea return, the fishing community leave their fishing nets overnight, hoping for a better catch tomorrow.
The sea calms down, the birds fly back, and you only hear the sound of the waves. Suddenly not a soul around, and a different drama unfolds.
The stars emerge, and gives you a breathtaking view of the sea, stars, and the cosmos.
The view was surreal and beyond what I expected. I was even lucky to spot a few Pleiades meteors, and I probably captured on in this image too (top right).
I know I’ve not had enough of Costal Karnataka and I know I’ll visit again.
A few more images from the trip –
Do click on the images and see them on a large screen 🙂
Until the next time!