Drowning by Parvez Kamal by Parvez Kamal

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I was always afraid of the tank of water in my grandmother's backyard. I have a really scary memory of it. I nearly drowned in it once.

My grandmother lives in the village, removed from the amenities of modern civilization. There is no electricity, no running water. The main source of water was this rectangular pond, about 400 by 200 feet, dug up by my ancestors when they first settled in this village. I was probably 3 or 4 when I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life. My aunts were washing clothes on the pier, made out of this old tree trunk cut off at the base. I was playing around them when I suddenly stepped on the soap and fell in the water. The water was all muggy from the mud and soft sand. All I can remember is that I was having trouble breathing and these hands appeared from nowhere, searching wildly for something. Finally, after what seemed to me like an eternity, the hands grasped me and pulled me out of the water. My mother, who was talking with my grandma, was running down dangerously on the steps leading to the water screaming at the top of her lungs. After that incident I never ever went near the pond.

And now, after eight years, I was once again standing near the same spot where I nearly lost my life. But this time I was equipped with the ability to swim. I wasn't afraid anymore. Even if I were, I was more anxious to watch the grand event that was going to take place. Fish is a staple food in my country and it is one of the main dishes in any important occasions. My aunt was getting married and therefore my dad hired a team of expert fishermen to catch the fishes in the pond. It has been almost two years since the last catch, so they must have grown quite a bit.

These people came with their huge nets and big baskets. It was early morning; the sun was just breaking out from its long night's sleep. The fishermen rubbed oil all over their body so as not to catch a cold. They divided up in two groups, standing on both sides of the pond, dropped the net on one end and started hauling it to the other end. Two of them were swimming in front of the moving net, diving under water for minutes at a time, to free the net when it got tangled in something. Once they started drawing in closer the fishes started jumping. Some of them even jumped over the net into the free water. When the net was pulled out from the water the scales on them were glistening in the morning sun like diamonds.

All around me a horde of activities were going on. Workers setting up tents where all the invitees will gather. Chefs cooking delicious meals in huge metal pots, some of them big enough to hold me, over large wooden fires. The ladies preparing the bride and getting dressed themselves. Children playing and running and getting into trouble. It was chaotic enough to drive anyone crazy.

The bridegroom was scheduled to arrive just before lunch, so that they could leave before dark. It is always a risk to travel at night. You never know when gangs of muggers will attack. Especially if they know it's a bridal party because they always carry expensive wedding gifts with them.

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