Jan. 18, 2020. It is a hot Saturday afternoon in Sasihithlu, a small fishing village in southern Karnataka. At 12:30pm, the sun is directly above us, glaring through a largely cloudless sky.
Surya Salian, 62, gathers his cast net for a final throw. He enters the still blue water until it is waist-high. He swings his arm and throws the circular net. It forms a shimmering translucent circle in the air for a few seconds, then drops into the water. After a few minutes, he pulls it out. It has one small fish, a silver biddy, wriggling. He throws it on the white sand, next to three other fish caught a short while ago.
“This might be the year of famine for us,” he said, after a moment.
Jan. 19, 2020. It is balmy and breezy at 4am in the Arabian Sea. A purse seiner, a big boat that goes out about 15 nautical miles into the ocean to catch Indian oil sardines, is ready to head out. Most of the crew on the ship is from Odisha, Jharkhand, and Andhra Pradesh. They left because their land did not offer them a living, and they arrived here, on the west coast, in south Karnataka, working on big fishing boats, hoping for a better life. After six hours, the ship returns, empty-handed. The crew members earn nothing for the day.