Reading Enid Blyton’s stories and novels was a favorite past time in my school days. Those novels were about the adventures of boys and girls of my age. They had a very catchy storyline and vivid descriptions of mountains, islands, deep seas and nature.
I was in love with sea then and always dreamt of sailing alone on deep blue sea for days and days together. Just me, the light blue sky and deep blue sea around!
The “Old Man and the Sea” is a well acclaimed novel by Ernest Hemingway. It belongs to a genre far different than that of Enid Blyton fiction. Yet, I read it umpteen number of times while I was still in school, and even later on. The story of “The Old Man and the Sea” takes place in the surroundings exactly from my dreams. That commonality made me select this book as a gift when I won an award in essay writing competition in school. The simplicity of language made reading and understanding the book very easy.
It is a story of an aging fisherman tormented by hunger and weeks of ill luck. Santiago, a once strong, proud man is coming to terms with his failing abilities and age. After many weeks of returning home empty-handed from sea to his small village, day after day, Santiago is forced to live on the other villager’s small charities.
He resolves to sail far out to sea in search of a catch that will redeem his self-confidence. Early the next morning, he descends to his fishing skiff (a small fishing boat) and rows out into the dark sea saying good-bye to his village and, the safety of the beach perhaps for the last time.
Later that day his luck turns and he hooks the giant marlin (a type of fish), so giant that its size is bigger than the skiff of the old man. Santiago is not able to pull in the great marlin. Instead, he finds the fish pulling his skiff inside the deep sea.
The battle begins, not just with the fish, but with himself as well; the battle for his life, and the return of his peer’s respect. For two days and two nights the marlin pulls him further out to sea. Unable to loosen or even adjust his grip, for fear that his foe would sense his failing strength, Santiago is forced into a motionless prison, escape from which, is in the hands of his greatest adversary ever. Though he is wounded by the struggle and in pain, Santiago expresses a compassionate appreciation for his adversary, often referring to him as a brother.
On the third day of the ordeal, the fish begins to circle the skiff, indicating his tiredness to the old man. Santiago, now completely worn out and almost in delirium, uses all the strength he has left in him to pull the fish onto its side and stab it with a harpoon, thereby ending the long battle between the old man and the tenacious fish. Santiago straps the marlin to his skiff and heads home, thinking about the high price the fish will bring him at the market and how many people he will feed.
While Santiago continues his journey back to the shore, sharks are attracted to the trail of blood left by the marlin in the water. Santiago kills the first shark with his harpoon, losing that weapon in the process. He makes a new harpoon by strapping his knife to the end of an oar to help ward off the next line of sharks. In total, five sharks are slain and many others are driven away. But by night, the sharks almost devour the marlin’s entire carcass, leaving a skeleton consisting mostly of its backbone, its tail and its head, the latter still bearing the giant spear.
Santiago finally reaches the shore before dawn on the next day. He struggles on the way to his shack, carrying the heavy mast on his shoulder. Once home, he slumps onto his bed and enters a very deep sleep. A group of fishermen gather the next day around the boat where the fish’s skeleton is still attached. One of the fishermen measures it to be eighteen feet from nose to tail.
Every read of this story for me was like watching a 70mm movie of deep blue sea and an old man in a small boat trying to accomplish his dream of catching a BIG fish, the biggest catch of his life, all alone on his own! What a great heroism!
In those early days of life, I was so enamored with that 70mm picture of courage in the wide open sea that I failed to sense the presence of the strong undercurrents – the desperation of the old man due to advancing age; the struggle that he was putting up to chase a dream; the dream that he was holding to his heart to save his pride; the fight and plight of the object of his dream – the big fish – which had nothing to do with the dream; and, at the end, the old man returning home empty handed after his prize catch is eaten away by the sharks.
I now appreciate those undercurrents, having sailed more than half my god-gifted years of life in search of that ever elusive prize catch. Yet, like the old man, I throw myself into the daily grind in search of that catch without bothering for the struggle that I have to put up with. I keep chasing the big fish, more to make myself look better in the eyes of my peers than for the fish itself. And at the end, it is the sharks that get fed by my big catch and I still remain hungry, tired and, yet, again willing to push myself back to daily-grind.
I don’t stop, can’t’ stop and wont’ stop!