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Day 98: Majuli Island

Michael Palin - HimalayaIt's the custom throughout Indian villages that the men plough and carry, but the women are responsible for the more specialized tasks of cultivation and harvest. In one of the many small ponds left behind by the floodwaters I witness the extraordinary sight of Mishing women catching fish.

About 20 of them, dressed in off-the-shoulder saris, walk through the shallow water, leaning on upturned conical baskets held out in front of them, rather like Zimmer frames. As they move forward, they stamp the baskets up and down to flush the fish out of the mud. Once they have a fish trapped in the bottom of the rattan frame, they pick them out, still wriggling, and drop them down their cleavages. Pausing only to tighten the waist band on their saris, they move on, the odd tail flapping defiantly between their breasts.

The whole process is carried out with much singing, chanting, laughter and general exuberance, which only adds to the strangely erotic quality of this particular harvest.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 98: Majuli Island
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Majuli Island
  • Book page no: 231

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