The Kullam / Pond
A fish starting to nibble on my foot
A pond or kullam as it is called in Malayalam was an integral part of most old houses in Kerala. These were private ponds within the grounds and was used by residents of the house for bathing. This was much before bathrooms became common in Kerala.
During our annual school holidays in summer, we would love to bathe in the pond instead of the bathroom. Accompanied by a whole horde of cousins, it was more of a time to splash and play than bathe. We were often scolded by the elders for muddying the water and asked to get out. We would take along our towels (called thorthu mundu in Malayalam) to use as mini-nets to catch fish. Most of the times we hardly caught any fish because all our splashing had long scared the fish off. And if we did catch any, they were released into the water since these fish were neither good for eating nor displaying in fish bowls. I once took home a fish I had caught and put it in a pot in the verandah. I forgot all about it till after lunch and when I checked, it had just vanished. My grandmother guessed that a crow would have most likely made a meal of it. That was the last time I ever brought a fish home from the pond.
Many years later, my husband and I were discussing the lovely times spent in the pond with cousins and we were reminded of the fish again. He told me of times when he and his cousin would sit on the stones with their feet immersed in water and the fish would come to nibble at them. Like I wrote earlier, I never sat still long enough for any fish to come near me and had never experienced this. We decided we would try this out on our next trip to Kerala.
Last year we visited Kerala and were staying over at my husband's ancestral home. We were up very early one morning and were walking the grounds when we decided to get into the pond. It was before 6 in the morning, the sun was just rising and the only sounds were from the insects around and the birds chirping in the trees. It was a beautiful moment sitting on the stones at the pond-side with our feet dipping in the water. It wasn't long before the tiny fish came to investigate our feet. I could not take the tickling and pricking sensation of the nibbling fish and kept taking my feet out of the water. And on my husband's insistence would put it back in. But not too many fish came near my feet, I guess because my moving feet did not assure them of a meal. Whereas, my husband's feet was a feast fit for kings, albeit fish kings.
It was a very different, fun experience. The best thing was, it was in an all natural setting with no worries about hygienic conditions associated with fish pedicures nowadays.