for my father, on FATHER’S DAY
My Father’s Fishing Line
The gillnet had been laid out in the water, and, as our practice, we were to fish using the reliable handline. My father got busy with his lines and bait, but I just sort of leaned back on the seat. Father said, “Aren’t you fishing?” “No. We’re over sand so we’ll probably get nothing here. Why bother?” was my reply. “We’ll, you’d definitely catch nothing if your hooks are in the boat,” was the retort. Faced with superior logic, I cast out two handlines.
Fishing is the greatest thing my father taught me. It is an activity that, though very common, is at the same time very complex and for us, very necessary. Fishing is not simply throwing out hooks with bait; it is studying the tides, the moon phases, the sea’s surface and below it, and the fish themselves, to determine how best to fish.
Fishing is learning patience, because it is largely a waiting game. There is not much to do in a boat as big only as your bed, so you keep still. You don’t see what lies beneath your boat, you don’t know what might grab your hook and when, so you wait and hope, and wait some more. Sudden changes in fortune are not uncommon.
Fishing is a study in and of logic. You learn to associate results with conditions, that you might expect the same results given the same conditions. And that’s why I said we won’t catch any when fishing over sand. Which of course generated the hook-in-the-boat riposte from my father.
It might simply be a reaction from an irritated father, but that logic carried me through my school years and served me very well indeed afterwards. Phrased differently, it might be ‘no guts, no glory; nothing tried, nothing gained; who dares, wins’. Whatever, the essential message remains, “If you don’t reach for it, how can you have it?’. We obtain things by trying to get them, and not waiting for them to fall into our laps.
In many instances, when I had to go for something but isn’t sure I can get it, that philosophical shrug of the shoulders often carried the day for me. Sometimes even half-hearted attempts can do. Once, I accompanied a fellow-student who wanted to apply for a writing job. Along the way, he convinced me to try out for it also. It pays something, and as a student I’m always broke, so I said yes. I got the job, and lost the friend. He thought I put one on him.
My father’s fishing line remained one great lesson in my life. If I must fail, let it not be for lack of trying, is how I understand it. And, by the way, that time? I caught a fish; he didn’t.
My father died a few days before Christmas 2006, never knowing that I was writing a short item about his legacy to me. I wrote the first draft about a year before his death, but somehow I never got to publishing it anywhere. So he will never get to read this, published or not, and will never know how much I love him, how profound my gratitude to him, because he taught me fishing. This is for him, and to his memory. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, ‘PANG!
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