Fathoms deep

Before dawn breaks, K.C. Rekha, a 45-year-old mother of four, sits alone untangling a mass of nylon fishing nets on the Chettuva beach, a fishing village at Chavakkad in Thrissur district of Kerala. Her seawater-creased, tanned fingers finish the task before her husband, P. Karthikeyan, arrives for their voyage to the deep sea on their small, old boat. The couple sails 20-30 nautical miles, without a compass, a GPS device or any other modern navigation equipment and life jackets. “We rely on traditional knowledge,” says Rekha, who believes Kadalamma , the sea goddess, will protect them. Her faith stems from the struggle that began more than 10 years ago when she decided to be the deckhand of Karthikeyan after his two workers quit. The couple just couldn’t afford labour. Today, she is the only woman to get a deep-sea fishing licence from the State Fisheries Department. The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, the country’s premier marine research agency, felicitated Rekha recently. “There are many women engaged in fishing in backwaters and rivers, but there was no record of a woman’s presence along our coastline. We finally located her and recognised her feat,” CMFRI Director A. Gopalakrishnan says. She is the only woman in the whole of India to have such a licence, the institute says. Women traditionally do not take up this work. Rekha is undaunted even when the Arabian Sea is rough and dark clouds hover over her head. She sets sail as the rest of the world sleeps, to haul in catch for the local market. She has been giving tough competition to fishermen by sailing through the most unpredictable routes for the past few years. Rekha loves her work, despite the odds and uncertainty that nature has in store for her almost every day.

Source :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/fathoms-deep/article25529374.ece

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