Dams - the modern Santa Claus in disguise | Milaap

Dams - the modern Santa Claus in disguise

Once Arundhati Roy had said, “Dams are the Temples of Secular India and almost worshipped. They are Huge, Wet Cement Flags, that wave in our minds. They are the symbol of nationalism to many”. It is a certain matter of fact that dams are undoubtedly the best benefactor and also friend of humans whether on a large scale or small scale. On a macro aspect, Dams help in preventing floods, providing water for irrigation and personal use, generate hydro-electricity and also become a reservoir to provide water at the time of scarcity. On a micro point of view, they help people in generating tourism and recreational facilities and also help the people residing nearby in earning their livelihood.

Early morning view of Ghodahad Dam in Ganjam district

A scenic view of the dam along its embankment 

Due to the scenic bounty with which the dam is bound people often visit there to get some relief from their stressful life. Our complicated yet monotonous life gets an easy-breezy gap when we relax in the lap of nature and just erase our worries and roam around carefree.
The routes to these places are so thrilling that it inculcates an adventurous spirit in us but sets our mind in a peaceful state. The farms that surround the dam not only gives a feast to our tired and thirsty eyes but also fills the pockets of others and fulfils their wishes in life whose livelihood depends upon it. Due to the close proximity to water, many people cultivate different farms, for example, coconut farms and different flower farms, near the dam area. But the most dependent and successful people are the fishermen as their whole life depends upon the dam.

View of the boats used by the fishermen of this dam being lined up after fishing

When I went to the Ghodahad dam near my uncle’s village in Ganjam district of Odisha I came across the minute details about these fishermen and their livelihood. They go for fishing in their different sized and differently coloured boats into the dam in a fixed time.

The boats which recently arrived after finishing fishing

These people row ahead early in the morning into the dams for fishing on daily basis, except Monday and Thursday as these are preferably veg eating days for the folks of that area according to their culture, and come back sharp by 8 am to get their products weighed and prepare for its marketing. Everything occurs in the blink of an eye. Quickly they get their produce weighed on the same previous traditional scale and then quickly fix the buyer among the people standing nearby with an urge to have a grab upon the fresh produce from the waters to have a nice treat at their homes. As soon as they get their catch sold off in an optimum price these folks just rush to their home in a swirl of wind.

Freshly caught sweet dam water prawns being weighed on the traditional weighing scale

People eagerly awaiting their turn to grab a portion of the fresh catch along with the local accountant keeping a record of the transactions on his traditional wooden bench seat

The catch is then being stocked at a house near the bank of the dam from where it is again being supplied to the nearby small towns and then to the city. This is not only a local selling point but also a supply point. Alongside collecting these facts I also had my eyes upon the storeroom where different varieties of fish were being kept. But due to the monsoon season prawns were a common catch during this time. For the first time, I had a sight of such big legged freshwater live prawns in my life who were trying to get out of the container all the time making it really difficult for the dealer and the fisherman to weigh it as if it had started a revolt from its side. With great effort, they put these creatures at a place. Then from there as per the requirement of the buyer, these creatures are again taken out accordingly and weighed and sold off. All these transactions are recorded in a mini register by an assumed accountant sitting at his typical wooden desk and recording the sales in his comfortable pose.

Different varieties of fish being kept in the storehouse near the bank of the dam.

Then from there, these prawns are taken to the homes of the respective buyers and being cooked as per their choice. The taste that these prawns have is completely different. When they are cooked on the chullis (local tripod burners made out of the soil and fueled by wood) by the professional village chefs i.e. the ladies of the household that taste is far better than the 5-star recipes or barbecues. Living in city lights we are completely unaware of these small benefits that the villagers enjoy by living and eating together. On top of it, the people who live near a dam are the most benefactors.

These dams are a direct Santa Claus to these fishermen and an indirect one to people like us who get to have a break from our hectic monotonous lives and earn a taste of these fresh and mouth-watering traditional delicacies once in a while when we go on a stroll.