There is a story that is prevalent in the country sides of Muzhappilangad; a story in which there is a fisherman who meets mermaids in the sea when he goes for fishing. He used to tell them stories. The mermaids loved his stories very much that they became his friends.
He had taken a huge mortgage on his only boat to feed his family full of children. One day the money lender came and asked for the returns. But the fisherman was in a poor state. He did not get enough fishes every day even to meet the daily requirements of his family. Not finding enough money the money lender became furious and took his boat. The story ends by saying that the mermaids helped the old man discover a hidden treasure in the sea and get his boat back.
I knew this story from one of my friends who belongs to this region. It was in my first visit to Muzhappilangad, I still remember, that he told me this story with a great pride for his local tradition and contempt for the advancements of the modern world. I remember he belongs to a one-of-its-kind ideology that retains its antique roots even today in this world: Communism; a dogma that exists with all its glorious paradoxes in this part of the world called Kerala. No wonder why my friend likes all the antiquities, even the stories of the Utopian ‘Mermaid socialism’.
There is indeed a flavor of innocence over this folk tale. But what reminded me of this story is the real thing. During my second visit to Muzhappilangad, I met an old fisherman. His name was Anandan. He might be more than 75. He lived with his grown up sons, who were fishermen as well. I approached him for a ride in the sea to the nearby island, but he declined my wish saying he was old and can no longer be able to handle the oar. His sons might be ready when they are back home after work, he assured me. But I decided to reconsider the idea of visiting the island, which till this date remains un-attempted. I was not very sure about his sons. These young fisher folks could charge you far greater than what they really are worthy of; I remembered the practical wisdom whispered into my ear by my friend.
While we were discussing our plan to visit the nearby island where no-body lives the old man started recounting his old tales. He told us a story, a true story that happened in his life, and it was this story that scuffed out of my mind the story of the mermaids. He had an old boat, which he kept very dear to him on the shore under the shade of a tree, because he could not go to sea due to health reasons. He never let any one take away his beloved boat. The boat occasionally took him, though, to the sea and he tried his hand in a possible moderate catch each time.
One day he found the boat under the tree, and the tree was over the boat, broken. There was no storm the other day or rain. He said he cried all day and night thinking about his beloved boat; the souvenir of his youth, and living; which was broken into two pieces from the middle.
Days gone by, he had almost forgotten about the boat, and one day he found a surprise on the shore, just like something straight out of a fairy tale: a boat. The boat seemed lost and wrecked. It seemed that the boat had been swept on to the shore from the river mouth. The fisherman said he could not think about the boat alone. He thought of the owner of the boat as well. The owner of the boat might be worrying had it been swept ashore from some where, and might be searching for it, too. And that was the truth. Three days later, some people came to the old fisherman looking for the boat. Happily, the fisherman gave them the boat. In return they gave him some money.
The owner of the boat is really happy about getting it back, because the boat was his life’s achievement in setting up a boat-service across Muzhappilangad and Dharmadam, two nearby villages separated by a river that opens in to the Arabian sea; my friend was saying from behind me. I wondered if this story is so famous that he already knew it. No, he nodded. “I was the owner of that boat,” he said.