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Was it a fish? Or...

RKHL Sinha, New Delhi

People living in the area of Mohanpur, which is my home town, knows there is a canal flowing at its periphery. It is a small canal called sorahan in the Bishnupriya Manipuri language, originating from the paddy field. The canal fetch water only in the rainy season and it dried up totally in the winter season. The width of canal would be approx 12 ft and 7 ft depth with horny bushes on its both sides. The canal held a special place in the social life of the neighboring Bishnupriya Manipuri villages, its banks are used for cremating bodies. Besides this, the fish-happy villagers used it for catching fish.

And my story relates to this canal and the school of fish in it. The story goes back to the year 1962, it was a hot day and I was standing under the shadow of a big mango tree. Suddenly I noticed frantic movements of the coterie taking place on the bank of the canal. With the fire of curiosity under my belly I proceeded towards the canal. While getting there I found they were busy in catching fish that had died of the extreme hit.

Villagers were happy like anything, their joyful face, blithely acts was reminding to that of a child who has got a toy of his choice thats also after much persuasion. They were totally engrossed in the catch-the-fish activity. The prime intention running deep at the bottom of everyone's mind was to catch maximum fish as soon as possible.

Though I came late in the burgeoning activity of the catching fish. But I was fortunate to lay my hand on a big Rohu fish weighing 1.5 Kg. I still feel the bubbles of happiness that originated after bringing it under my possession. There is no word in my dictionary that describes my happiness.

That prize catch enthused my latent greediness to catch more fish, away from the eyes of the other people. So, I started searching for a lonely space in the canal. While walking along the banks of the canal, my eyes caught the glimpse of a 10 Inch Bowal fish flipping its tails in the deep water of the canal. The flipping tales of the fish was fanning my insatiable greediness to catch more fish. You could say I started salivating.

Being driven by enough greediness I immediately dared to cross chest deep water. The fish was in the knee deep water. So, it was getting the benefit of height. And when I began to catch the fish with my bare hands. The fish was disappearing from nowhere. I was able to see but when I go to catch it, it was vanishing. Surprisingly, the game was taking place in the knee-deep water.

In the game of catch-me-if you-can played by the fish, the same fish which was in the vicinity of the knee-deep water started changing its position and went to the chest deep water. But my temptation to catch it was running high in my blood.
For a moment I remained calm and composed in the knee-deep muddy water introspecting – why I am not able to catch it - the only question that was lingering in my mind at that moment of time.

While I was busy in the thinking process it again came in front of me. And after encircling 5 or 6 times it again went to its earlier position, in the chest deep water. And the same process was repeated many times.

A spark of thought sent shivers down my spinal cord. And that was – how the fish come to know what is going in my mind. Just thinking on this line I didn't take time to climb on to the bank. I got so scared with the whole environ that was few hours back was rosy in nature. After getting there I started observing the ripples of the water.

While I was delving hard in my thought process. Suddenly I heard a splashing sound from the water. And what I saw at that moment I can't believe – the same Bowal fish was standing on the surface of the water, whose upper portion was that of a 'man' without neck, ears, nose and hands. And was standing firmly on the current of the water. His face had a pair very small eyes, and there were a few long grey hair on his head which was extending to the bottom of the body.

Not to mention I beat a hasty retreat from the temptation of the fish, moreover also from the canal itself. Within seconds I found myself in midst of the villagers who were oblivious of the incident that took place with me.

I was much better resting under the mango tree. Away from the fish and the canal.

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  1. Apart from Sinha, which are the other surnames used by the BM ?


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