Riches from the Deep Blue
By Sanuj Hathurusinghe
Not so long ago we at Ceylon Today were in Jaffna on an assignment and found some spare time on our hands once our official matters were taken care of. Trying to make most of the time and the trip to Jaffna we decided to visit some of the iconic places in the peninsula and one of our destinations was the popular Point Pedro.
After a short drive from the capital of the Northern Province we arrived at Point Pedro and the friendly Army soldiers stationed there told us that we can travel a bit more north-bound to reach the northernmost point of Sri Lanka — the Sakkotai Point which was not so far away from where we were.
Once we were at Sakkotai Point breathing in the salty wind and taking pictures of the surroundings, we noticed a small fishing community right by the Sakkotai Point. Busy fishermen going about their day under the scorching sun near the beach, piqued our interest and as luck would have it we saw a fishing boat pulling in to the small bay. Wanting to see what riches the fisherfolk have caught, we hurried towards the small fishing port.
Despite the language barrier preventing us from having a free conversation with the fishermen we managed to communicate the essential courtesy with the little Tamil we knew. As we peeped inside the boat we saw a sizable haul of mostly small fish. The names of the fish were revealed to us but it served little purpose since it was said in Tamil. The fish which were lying inside the boat were collected in large woven baskets and just like how gem miners clean the mined soil in search of gemstones, the fishermen washed the fish in shallow seawater to rid all the sand and other unwanted particles.
While cleaning they picked the relatively bigger fish and kept them aside. We were later told that the bigger fish are better for cooking. All the small fish were washed, gutted, cleaned, and made ready for the drying process then and there. Apparently the small fish is better made into dry fish rather than cooked afresh.
We visited Jaffna when COVID-19 was spreading at an increasingly alarming rate but these fishermen, blissfully isolated from the hustle and bustle elsewhere at the edge of the country, seemed not necessarily bothered by the pandemic. In any case, the fishing activities were permitted to be carried out during the travel restrictions but even without the permission they would not have been bothered or alarmed that much since there is trust within their close-knit community.
In any case, it was us strangers who were posing a health threat to them but they were too polite to show any doubts in their minds, if they had any. Instead, we were welcomed with open arms and we did the least we could do by maintaining the distance and wearing the mask all the time.
After taking a few clicks and showing them to a few who were curious as to how they looked on camera, we bade farewell and returned to Colombo. The pictures we took remind us that although the stubborn virus show no signs of disappearing anytime soon, making our lives much harder and complex, there are simpler and relatively risk-free lives communities lead only a few hundred miles away from Colombo.
(Pix by Kelum Chamara)