The fisherman

The 71 year old Seenithamby is still throwing his net on the Batticaloa lagoon. He talks about the changes to his way of life over the years, his father who taught him to fish, and the time he believes he first saw the ‘kadal kanni’, part of local folklore among Batticaloan fishermen. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam.


Join the discussion: 5 comments

  • I am project (@iam_project) says:

    Listen to 71 year old Seenithamby the fisherman talk about the “kadal kanni”, a part of Batticaloan folklore

  • Helga Perera says:

    What can I say that I have not before. BRILLIANT…BRILLIANT…BRILLIANT PROJECT. Brilliant photography. PRICELESS documentation for posterity of our almost lost world. Delicious truffles. REAL. LOVELY. SINCERE. GOOD. WHOLESOME people of the soil of mother Lanka. Very privilege to be able to ‘dip’ into their fascinating lives and hear their incredible stories. TRUE CELEBRITIES of Lanka. THANK YOU. LOVE your project and await with a great hunger for more.

  • @ionuttarcea says:

    He is a fisherman in Sri Lanka: (via @cezarneaga)

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    In Tamil “veeserathu” means to throw. Seenithamby a Batticaloan fisherman used the word to mean both going fishing and throwing nets. Fishing here depended on being able to throw nets and once you couldn’t do that, you became redundant. It was an inevitability every fisherman feared would happen at some point in their life. Seenithamby was now 71 years old, but his father had been throwing nets well into his 90s.

    I first met Seenithamby by the Batticaloa lagoon. He was finishing work for the day, pulling his boat back from the water. I was too late and so we agreed to meet the next day at Seenithamby’s home, a short walk away. 

    Seenithamby’s father had taught him to fish. “He was a capable man. He didn’t touch anything,” Sernithamby said proudly, meaning he didn’t smoke or drink, old values that had passed down to Seenithamby. Like his ritual of saying a prayer before going out to work.

    As Seenithamby rowed out with me as a passenger, he told me about the kadal kanni, the Tamil name for mermaid. You can see statues of mermaids everywhere around Batticaloa town and they seemed to be a part of local folklore. Seenithamby was convinced he had seen one. Afraid, he had asked his father about the kadal kanni. His father had reassured him that it was quite natural and not to be frightened by them. 

    When Seenithamby talked about his father and going fishing with him, there was a sense of nostalgia for the old ways. But there was also a sadness. He felt fishing wasn’t the same anymore, with so many fishermen on the water nowadays.

    Later Seenithamby introduced me to his younger brother, Nagalingam, who was sitting by the bank looking out over the lagoon. His arm had given way and so couldn’t throw nets any more. I asked them to stand next to each other so I could photograph the two brothers together.  Someday Seenithamby would not be able to throw his net either. But I hoped that that day was still years away and he’d continue to throw nets as long as his father had done before him.

  • (@iam_project) (@iam_project) says:

    Lovely to see Seenithamby the fisherman so happy when I gave him copies of his I Am photos #lka


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