Moodubelle: Nomad fishermen from Chikmagalur in search of livelihood

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By Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Moodubelle, 02 Mar 2013: I had seen them last year and even year before last camping at the ground on the northern bank of Belle River at Poydapadi closer to the bridge. A band of around twenty persons, distributed in five families cooking their food under the open sky and making one of the corners of the open ground  as their temporary home. I was under the impression that they were part of a nomadic tribe moving from place to place, may be in search of temporary employment and as such  their presence did not evoke much interest in me.


On Wednesday, February 27, 2013, I had to take few pictures of the old ferry crossing  (kollov) to support a forthcoming article in Konkani by Fr. Denis Castelino in about his nostalgic memory of the tall  Muslim boatman who used to ferry people from Moodubelle to the other side of the river and vice versa before the bridge came into existence. When I mentioned about my mission, Commodore Jerome Castelino also wanted to revisit the site which was the lifeline for four years while he was going to Innanje School  may be around 70 years back.


Armed with the camera, both of us parked our vehicles by the side of the road and trekked to the riverside where the original ferry crossing was located. The old house of the Muslim boatman with thatched roof on the edge of the river had given way to tiled roofed house.  Even this house is in a dilapidated condition and was closed.  But the presence of four dogs outside the house indicated that there may be someone staying in the house but might have gone out.


After clicking few pictures of the surrounding area and the old ferry crossing,  we came back to the vehicles where we had parked. As we were about to leave, we could see few unfamiliar persons on the other side of the road with their belongings spread across and some of them resting under a circular disc used as protection from the evening sun. We also saw fine bundled nets.


Curiosity took us to the people and to know about who these people were and what they were doing at that spot, we opened conversation with them in Kannada language.


Following our interaction with these people,  we learnt that they belonged to the ‘Besta’ (fishermen) community residing in the Kadur taluka of Chikmagalur district.  Every year, in the month of January or February they migrate to the coastal region along with their families carrying nets and the round shaped float which they call ‘theppa’ which is used as a boat to carry four to five persons in order to spread nets in the river. Around twenty persons, elderly, young and children including women divided into five families had camped at that spot since four days.



Annayya, aged about 55 years and the leader of the group said that they had been coming to this place for fishing for the past 20 years. Every morning at about 4 am the five families set out  in their  respective ‘theppas’, carrying nets. After carefully selecting the spot for a better yield of fish, they spread their nets and wait for about three to four hours by which time the fish that moves across gets trapped in the nets.  Pulling the nets over the ‘theppa’ they collect the trapped  fish in plastic basins and move to their camp by 8 am. Major portion of the fish comprises of  madonjis, kijans, mugud, puryols and chikodes. Even white tortoise are trapped in the nets.


Each family gets the amount of the fish as per their luck and fishing skills. These fishermen dispose off  some part of their catch to the locals. The reaming quantity is taken to Malpe, Katapadi and Udupi for disposal. Comparatively, the cost of the fish is little higher than that is available in the local market. On an average each family earns about thousand rupees per day. Major part of their daily  income is being  spent on day to day expenses and maintaining their equipments and families.


Seeing the young boys and girls around the camp, Commodore Jerome Castelino inquired about their education. The reply from Annayya, the community leader was that none of them have seen the door of the school as fishing has been their traditional occupation. When asked as to why they do not send their children to school as times have changed, their reply was that  as they are nomadic it is not practicable for them to send their children to schools, besides they  feel that if their children get educated they will not be available to carry on their traditional occupation.


Our observation in the camp was that every member of the community was quite healthy and cheerful. Each family has its own cooking arrangements with different menu. In the evening before dinner they enjoy their drink. All the five families live harmoniously and help each other. ‘Theppa’ has multipurpose utility, as a float while fishing and as a shelter during the day and night.


It seems that after the short stint of fishing camp at Poydapadi, the group will move to Mattu in Katapadi and later to other places till the beginning of the rainy season  during which they go back to their home village in Kadur, Chikmagalur.



Comments on this Article
Dr. Herald Monis, Kanajar/Kemmannu Mon, March-4-2013, 9:49
Dr. Eugene, an interesting article... thank you for the same...
Commodore Jerome Castelino, Moodubelle Mon, March-4-2013, 4:17
Dear Fr. Denis, thank you very much for your magnanimity in offering your land and showing compassion towards the children of the nomads. Much as i would have liked to accept your offer and do the needful in favour of such children, i regret my inability to do so because of my involvement in a more useful commitments in hand at present. Dr. Eugene also shares my views.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Mon, March-4-2013, 1:02
Rs 1500 per kg for baalemeen in Kolkata? A profitable business opportunity, that! I buy for Rs 120~150 a kilo in Qatar. It comes from Burma. In fact, Bengalis from border areas near Burma taught me to cook and relish it.
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Mon, March-4-2013, 12:47
Wonderful article by Dr. Eugene and equally good comments. I must admit Fr. Denis s heart is so compassionate and his thinking is worth gold. However, nomads are very difficult to mould into discipline. Let them go on and move on. Making them settle down with best of intensions may create more harm than good to local surroundings. It may add more problems to the existing one. Nomads and Kallu Kutties have attributed to increasing crime rate. If you provide them land or house they may sell it and move on due to their habit and attitude. On the other hand it is a noble gesture to offer big time help by Fr. Dennis towards the development of less fortunate human beings. We need honest NGOs to dedicate towards such cause. At local level it may be difficult to find leadership and ownership to such cause on long term basis.
Vikas Castelino, Deveragudde Sun, March-3-2013, 4:10
Dear Readers,nice pictures captured by Dr.Eugene.i just want to say please read and enjoy the pictures, please dont think about impossible things in Deveragudde.even our neighbouring country wants Indian state kashmir but its imposible......
H M Pernal, Mangalore Sun, March-3-2013, 11:17
With great respect and love to Rev Fr Denis , I endorse the view expressed here above by Philip Mudartha , Qatar, today,Sun, March-3-2013, 8:34. Philip Sir rightly pointed out that , until the parents are motivated and convinced how education will empower their children , it is very difficult.
Victor Castelino, Boliye/Dubai Sun, March-3-2013, 10:02
I fully agree with Philip. Starting an institution is not a problem. Sustaining it is a problem. After reading the article in TOI a couple of days back about the "research" done by Canadian researchers about Mother Theresa s work and the crap written by the commentators made my blood boil. What made me cool down was the fact that I am a christian and all the adverse comments etc are part and parcel of a christian life.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Sun, March-3-2013, 8:34
I wish humanitarian concern of Denis padryab about education and his unprecedentedly generous gesture of offering his land for the charitable cause well, under the local luminaries like Eugnebaab, Innaab, Tejju-bai, and others who widely known capable people. But however, noble the intention is and capable the likely trustees are, the solution suffers from a basic flaw. It does not address the parents. A solution does not work until the parents are motivated and convinced how education will empower their children. The government education department must support schooling of such children. It must issue exemption from attendance in a prescribed location and one school in any given year. The more pressing need in the region is to stop child labor in quarries dotting the villages of the Grama. The quarry workers children must get into local schools. The contractors who hire and camp them at the quarries are callous. The locals are not supportive. Additionally, there are cultural issues that plague Hindu community. They have a tendency to politicize and threaten benefactors. Hence, local leadership of Grama, Taluka and Jilla must be seized of the subject.
Alvin Mendonca, Miyar Karkala/ Hassan Sun, March-3-2013, 8:09
good story on the nomadic pics i can see butter cat fish (baalemeen) this has market in Kolkatta as it has medicianal values. In kolkatta one kg of Butter cat fish get more Rs 1500 in seasons.
H M Pernal, Mangalore Sun, March-3-2013, 7:31
Really touching human interest story with focused pics Dr Eeugene. Eye opener and soul stirring narrative.
Fr.Denis Castelino, Vinney Home Sun, March-3-2013, 3:36
Dear Dr.Eugin, I felt very very sorry to read the fate of the children of the nomadic fishermen at Belle River. Though the church Higher Elementary School is celebrating its centenary and first grade collage is started I feel it is a shame and disgrace to the catholic community, our usual unconcern and insensitivity to the unfortunate 'Anavim Yawehe'. The pain is still deeper because the situation is in my own St.Thoams word. I suggest that a boarding house be opened for children in such situation. I have a 20 cents of land at Devara Gudde close to the river given to me by my parents. I am prepared to place it at your disposal, if you think of some project to rehabilitate and educate such children. Humanitarians like you and Com. Jerom Castileno being from my word and since my plot is adjacent to your house I am sure with the involvement of the ward people under the dynamic Gurukarn Thejju Bai, Ignatius Monies, Janet Castelino and a host of others. THIS HUMANITARIAN SEVA be launched forthwith. Thank you for opening our eyes Fr.Denis Castelino
Victor Castelino, Boliye/Dubai Sat, March-2-2013, 5:53
Interesting write up for a change. Are these the only people who raise up their hands to heaven and pray "give us THIS DAY our DAILY BREAD"? Pun apart, the "fishy" catch reminded me of my early years in Boliye when we used to catch fish using fishing lines during rainy season when the river was over flowing, different types of nets like "gora bale" and "gali bale" when the water was static and full, petromax and "adep" during summer and so on and so forth. Waiting to read about the cheerful "kollva saib" and about his physically challenged daughter who used to ferry us across.
Francis J. Saldanha, Moodubelle / Bahrain Sat, March-2-2013, 3:33
Although Nomadism has been a way of life for many groups, it is on the decline. Bringing these nomads in to mainstream of society is a difficult task although some state governments do make an effort but still in vain, the reasons being the nomads enjoy their carefree life style without worrying too much about their children’s future. So then the only question remains do they clean up before they leave? Not entirely I guess!!! Very good article and very well known location Dr. Dsouza, hence I was pleasantly surprised to read it on BV! Eagerly looking forward to the forthcoming article ˜Kolovâ in Konkani by Fr. Denis Castelino, where I had some nostalgic memories to share with.
Alphonse Mendonsa, Pangla/Abu Dhabi Fri, March-1-2013, 11:31
Very intersting article dear Eugine Bab. As Phillip pointed out we had several visitors in the past and we used call them " Ghatagar " and their main job was fortune telling the fooling the people to earn some coins. However as time passed they all disappeared until you found group in Belle. Sadly though their children are not allowed to educate and loosing the great opportunity to become the normal citizens of our country. Hopefully, in the future they will or forced to do so. Thanks for this new find and good article.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Fri, March-1-2013, 1:38
An article that dealt with a subject close to my heart: seasonal immigration. Even though those whom the author met up have been commuting back and forth for decades, eventually some of them will stay back forever. As a kid of six, back in the early sixties, such emigrants with different skills and professionals used to come to our villages, squat on public land or even on private properties (by arrangement) and live in temporary shelters erected by themselves. There are a few descendants in Pamboor of those who chose not to go back after the season, enrolled their children in aided church schools, and legalized the squatted colony. Some of those who came late live in 3 cent plots on public land and have no intention to return to their roots. Such seasonal immigration and eventual settlement have social impacts on localities, their sense of community, culture, identity, security, religious practices, voting patterns, and resource ownership. While the author s intention is not promoting a deeper discussion by this article, I bring this out in order to examine if the local community has ways and means of managing their integration. Hope they clean up before they leave.
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