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‘Na Tchu Kaar, Na Tche Gaade’: Anglers’ Anguish At Dal Lake

‘Na Tchu Kaar, Na Tche Gaade’: Anglers’ Anguish At Dal Lake

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To kill the time and coop from daily stress, many people have shifted to carp fishing where recreation and reflection revolve around the life and times in the valley.  


On a seething summer day in Srinagar, Yawar Guroo feels agitated, and decides to move out of his home. He rings his friends to socialize. 

Most of his friends have adapted a new way to kill time, ‘fishing in the lake’. They offer him to join. 

As the phone hung up, he looks for his bag and fills it with fishing equipments, like an extra fishing reel, a monofilament fishing line (Gaade-pan), fish-hooks (woul), a plastic cork bobber (paniket).

In his early 20s, Yawar steps out from his house with a mask on his face and walks through the alley to a departmental store. As he covers a certain distance through the alley, he finds a grocery store on a desolate corner and buys some potatoes. 

“This is used as a bait for fish to be catch in the trap apart from wheat and earthworms,” says Yawar. 

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Tools of fishing. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

In Kashmir, fishing is a historic and passionate sport famous all over the world, especially places with mountains, streams and green forests. The verdant valley has been a paradise for anglers from all over the world. 

The consecutive lockdown has set people to stay indoors but to kill the time and coop from daily stress, people have shifted to carp fishing. 

Kashmiris travel from miles to Dal Lake to spend their time doing ‘fishing’. Apart from Dal, many practice fishing in Nigeen, Manasbal, Wular and Jhelum. It has become a part of life for Kashmiri people as these lakes are perfect for fishing. 

Food for fish. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

As the sun bright every bough with its drowning rays along the shores of Dal Lake, huge Chinar trees play a perfect camouflage creating shades for the Kashmiris as they cherish fishing every day in lockdown. Not only locals but the people living around the water bodies pass their time in fishing. 

As Yawar reaches the road which leads towards the lake, the police are on the patrol. He makes an attempt to crossover the barbed wires imposed by the police, a cop catches and stops him for inquiry. 

That hunting hook. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

The cop questions him on his move out and checks his identity card and the holding kit bag in his hand. “Sir, I’m going for fishing,” he replies in a low tone. As the cop appears to be calm, he allows him to cross and he paces his walk steep down towards the lake where his friends are in his await. 

Catch material. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

Carp fishing in Kashmir is mostly done by the locals and the residents living across the lake. Apart from carp, spear fishing (Naaruch) is practiced by the fisher community. 

Kashmir saw a rise in practice of carp fishing after months of lockdown in 2019, when New Delhi revoked the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir. Many Kashmiris found solace in fishing amid communication blackout. 

Waiting for stir. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

As he reaches to the shores through the ‘Dal lock gate,’ there are many people angling under the shadows of Chinar. Yawar and his friends find a desolate corner and open up their bags. He slices the potatoes and mix with turmeric powder as his friends start to knead wheat. 

As the bait is prepared he puts the first hook in the water. 

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The patient pack. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

“Fishing needs patience,” Yawar says. “It’s tough as you need to wait for the fish to fall in the trap and even when the water is polluted, you need to wait a long to catch a single fish.” 

As the sun soars in the sky, clouds over the top of the Zabarwan hills reflect on the waters of lake. 

Meanwhile, the bobber starts to go in-up and that’s a sign of fish. 

Yawar senses the motion as he appears alert, and expresses joy: “The fish is in the trap!” 

Taking care of technique. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

As the paniket drowns in the water, he pulls the rod and a small fish ‘chattir’ is hanged in the hook. His friends are still in hunt. 

“This is the first fish from past consecutive days,” he asserts. “I have caught where I get clothes and weed tied in the hook.”

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Simmering wait under sun. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

The sewage and the pollution in the Dal Lake have made the conditions worse for the aquatic animals in these lakes to survive. The rampant abuse of the water body is showing severe consequences. The lake’s size has decreased from the popularly known as 22 square kilometer to 10 square kilometer. 

The unusual level of sedimentation has led to an imbalance of nutrients in the lake, leading the uncontrolled weed growth in some parts of the lake and eventual death of its fauna and flora population. 

Sun screeners. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

Na tchu kaar, na tche gaade (Neither there’s work, nor fish),” Tuman quotes as he expresses sorrow on the situation. 

Apart from locals, Abdul Gafar Tuman, a shikara owner spends his days in his boat — fishing. 

As the pandemic has affected the whole world it has cast a deep dark shadow on the lake tourism. Even as the new season has started, the tourist hesitancy is still making it a struggling phase for boatmen.  

Venturing deep in the lake. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

Tuman in his 60’s feels bored in home and every morning in search of solace, he goes out with his fishing rod. 

“The sluggish pace of work has left me to practice fishing and remember my old days when I used to catch big fish,” as he recalls while catching fish in his boat.

“But since the lake is polluted now, there’s a hard luck when you catch a fish. We’re on our own as the government doesn’t even bother to clean the lake,” he says as he closes his rod to offer afternoon prayers. 

And finally, that prized catch. / MI Photo by Mir Yasir Mukhtar

Some lone bread owners of Dal Lake rent their shikara boats to the locals for fishing. To scoop up with the daily wage, they rent the boats and charge a minimum of Rs.300 and intake their identity cards till they return the boat to their respective owner.

“That’s life for us in Kashmir,” Yawar says, staring at the murky waters of Dal Lake. 

“You want to steal some moments of respite from your home boredom, but here, the anguish of these strugglers ends up agitating you even more. Damn this life!”

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