"Dil sah" is a common method of fishing in our Mizo community. Since Mizoram is landlocked, we do not have any option of sending our boats far into the ocean to fish. Our only access to fish are the rivers, but not only do they hardly yield anything, it is quite difficult to catch them too. Also, thankfully, the impractical method of "bombing" the river with gelatin (gelignite) or home-made crude bomb to kill the fish had been banned by our government.
And so, we have this practice of making an artificial pond, usually next to our rice fields or other vegetations, where fish eggs are "planted". And as time goes by, the fish spawn and are fed until it’s time to harvest them. We call that practice "dil sah".
Dad bought a plot of land in Kolasib a long time ago when I was a kid. Unfortunately, none of us had the time to look after the land properly, until a year ago when we asked our cousin u Mapari and her husband u Zamtea to look after the farm for us. And they had been doing a fantastic job so far. Apart from regularly sending us the fruits of our farm’s labour, they also made a fish pond. And two days ago, we decided to harvest those fish.
Kolasib is around 85 KM away from Aizawl. That may not seem much to my non-Mizo friends, as 85 KMs can easily be covered by car in an hour on the Expressway. But this is Mizoram, where all the roads are winding and precariously built along the hills. It takes around 3 hours to cover that stretch.
Hence, in order to complete our "fishing expedition" and be back home on the same day, we had to leave really early.
Waking up at 5 AM for the first time since I came home, I saw the sun rise! :D
Selfie with the sunrise :P
We left Aizawl at 6 AM. We drove continuously, stopping briefly for tea at Sairang, and then back to our journey. I drove the Wagon R with my sisters and bro-in-law in it, while our driver drove the Bolero with mom and my nieces behind us.
We only stopped again before reaching Bualpui at the famous "Lung nupa" spot…
Finally, we made our way into Bualpui around 8:30, where we all stopped for breakfast. Our friends and relatives joined us at the spot and we all had breakfast together.
Great food indeed, though I think it was a tad bit expensive. I mean, the tab for our table alone came up to 1100 bucks. But nevertheless, it was delicious.
Finally, going in a convoy of seven vehicles, we reached our farm in Kolasib.
After changing into our "fishing wear", we walked down to our man-made pond.
As you can see, the water in the pond was being pumped out continuously using a generator…
The pumped out water was then distributed to the adjoining paddy fields…
And here's the net we're going to use to catch the fish once the water level came down…
As this was my first "dil sah" as an adult, I made the mistake of asking the rookie question - "Why are we draining the water to an extent where we still need to use the fishing nets? Why can’t we just drain all the water itself and then easily collect all the fish?"
I received a quick barrage of replies. The water is not drained completely because
1.) Filling up the pond again with water is not easy, so they don’t want to waste water unnecessarily.
2.) Completely draining the water may result in overabundance of fish. People only want to catch a certain amount, especially not the babies (a fry or fingerling) that can grow again to become a big one.
3.) Fishing with the net is fun!
And so I just nodded my head due to my new found knowledge, and proceeded to the other parts of our farm, since the water level in the pond was still not low enough for fishing.
Here’s my mom, aunts and cousins busy picking up vegetables…
And here is me running wild across the field with my katana. Call me Samurai Veggie :P
In our farm, even the goats are cute :)
…except of course when cousin Dingkima decided to play with one of the kids using my katana…
I decided to do some Ninja Samurai stunts with my katana, crossing a very thin bamboo bridge…
Hehehe, of course I fell down… :D
Anyhoo, the others had collected a lot of veggies. Some were for them to take back home, while some were to be used for dinner preparations…
Chicken was also being prepared for the dinner…
Since the water level at the pond was not yet as low as desired, some of us decided to fish using fishing rods. We used pieces of the chicken meat and intestines as bait…
Unfortunately, none of us were able to catch a fish that way.
And so I volunteered to be the first person to go inside the water!
I swam around the pond with my sharpened dao, hoping to catch some fish Rambo ishtyle…
I finally made my way back up to our farmhouse empty-handed :P
We rested for some more time before preparing for our main event of "fishing" across the pond… Nothing to relax oneself like a good bottle of coke :)
Around 2 PM, all the men started getting ready for the big catch. Here are all the photos of our fishing event in one go.
What you’ll see below were us in the water, forming a line with the net. And then we all walked slowly from one end to the other, trying to catch as many fish as possible in the process. We had to walk with our hands in the air clutching the net, so that no fish could "fly" over it, and at the same time our toes were entangled at the bottom of the net as we walked along, dragging it, so that no fish could swim below the net.
And once we’re at the corner or end, we had two options - We could either hunt the remaining entrapped fish with our hands (which was extremely fun but time consuming) and toss them to the land above where the others collected them in a bucket, or we could just drag the entire net above (which was more effectively but extremely tiring because the net was heavy as a lot of mud was stuck in the net too).
Trust me, we tried both methods and they were not as easy as I’ve just explained!
As you can see, we did manage to catch a huge haul. But by repeating the process 6-7 times, every muscle and bone in my body was aching. And yes, this exercise is excellent for team building! Without team work, it’s not possible at all to be successful. If even one person leaves a tiny gap below or above, then a lot of fish can escape. As the saying goes, we are only as strong as our weakest link. Corporates should definitely include this in their employee recreational activity! HR are you listening?
Once we got back to our farmhouse, we changed as we prepared for dinner…
Everything was made farmhouse style, right from the plates ("changel" leaves) to cups (chopped bamboos).
Once dinner was over, it was dark (and trust me, it was not even 6 PM yet)… We all relaxed for some more time…
After that, we all made our way back to Kolasib at u Zamtea and u Mapari’s house, where we divided up our “booty”.
So basically, that is the tradition of "dil sah". When you have your friends and relatives helping you with the fishing, you also divide up the catch so that everybody has their share as well.
While the older folks were dividing up the fish and vegetables, my cousins and I stumbled across the CZS cable network office next door. There was this woman who was rehearsing some lines in the next room, and it turned out to be none other than Kolasib’s famous newsreader Lalnunsangi!
My cousins dared us to take a pic with her while she was rehearsing her lines, so my cousin Dingkima took up the challenge immediately.
I of course tried to beat him and took these two "voyeur" selfies…
But alas, Dingkima topped that one up with a proper pic taken with Lalnunsangi.
He may have won, but his wife wasn’t pleased at all! :D :D :D
Anyway, while waiting for the others to pack up and leave, I managed to find a short time to visit my dear friend Zorami who was staying just 1 minute away from my cousin’s house. She used to be a blogger as well, until she got married. She’s now an MCS officer posted at Kolasib. I never even got to see her new child, and so I paid their family a quick visit before leaving Kolasib.
The loooong ride back home was terrible. Our Wagon R suspension almost broke, and our Bolero dim lights conked off. But leaving aside that horrible experience, the "dil sah" experience was AMAZING for me, and hoping to do it again soon once I’m back in Mizoram.