Society

Photographer documents Coimbatore’s humble hobby fishers

From the photo series on Coimbatore’s Selvampathy lake   | Photo Credit: S Buvanesh

The man is seated under a lone neem tree that hangs on precariously to the bund of Coimbatore’s Selvampathy lake. Dressed in a checked blue lungi, he is holding a fishing rod fashioned out of a stick. He may spend hours at that spot for that elusive plump fish that will be his lunch or dinner, depending on when he catches it. Something about his patience, the calm of the environment, and the pristine lake, drew wedding photographer S Buvanesh. He has been visiting the lake for the past few months during lockdown to document such “humble urban hobby fishers”.

From the photo series on Coimbatore’s Selvampathy lake

From the photo series on Coimbatore’s Selvampathy lake   | Photo Credit: S Buvanesh

“Fishing is usually seen as an expensive hobby,” says the 29-year-old from Ooty, who shifted base to Coimbatore for work. “But the men I am documenting are often from ordinary backgrounds; a lot of them are construction workers who live nearby and cannot afford the fancy equipment needed for hobby fishing,” he adds.

They, however, have found other means. “On most occasions, they use sticks to fish with a small ball of satthu maavu (millet health mix) that serves as a bait. Interestingly, it doesn’t dissolve in water,” explains Buvanesh, who has also encountered little boys fishing with just a length of twine. “But their methods work; they mostly always go back home with a good catch that boasts varieties such as catla and rohu,” he adds.

From the photo series on Coimbatore’s Selvampathy lake

From the photo series on Coimbatore’s Selvampathy lake   | Photo Credit: S Buvanesh

Coimbatore is home to 31 tanks in the Noyyal River basin. Selvampathy is among them. “It is cleaner when compared to the others, and much smaller too,” points out Buvanesh, which is perhaps why locals see it fit for fishing. The men come for fishing at dawn. “They drop off the catch at home and then head for work,” says Buvanesh. This ensures them a meal of fish curry for lunch or dinner.

From the photo series on Coimbatore’s Selvampathy lake

From the photo series on Coimbatore’s Selvampathy lake   | Photo Credit: S Buvanesh

Over the course of the photo series, he made friends with them and got to see up close the ethics the men practice. “They stay away from fishlings,” he points out. “They have designated spots around the lake and ensure they do not disturb the sanctity of the place by littering. I’ve also come across hobby fishermen who point at empty alcohol bottles around the bund and express regret over how some people use the place to drink.”

The series also proved to be a support system for Buvanesh during lockdown. “When some relaxations were announced, I first headed to the lake. After spending several weeks photographing it, I realised I derived peace in its company,” he says. So did the hobby fishers. Buvanesh saw how they were cosily nestled at their usual spots, dreamily eyeing the water.

Wedding photographer S Buvanesh

Wedding photographer S Buvanesh   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

He hopes to put together a photo documentary on Coimbatore’s wetlands and people’s relationship with them. “The Selvampathy series is part of it,” he explains. The lake is set for a facelift under the Smart City project. “Soon, there will be fences and pavements around it. I wonder what the people who fish there will do then,” he adds.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 9:42:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/photographer-documents-coimbatores-humble-hobby-fishers/article32685192.ece

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