20th August 2021 Ms Vasanthi Arasoo

Have you ever waited patiently for hope to surface?  This lonesome fisherman is in a calm lake looking into the deep waters with eyes full of hope. The calls of the gulls and egrets break the silence but not his hope. This beautiful painting is one that brings calmness into the heart.

We sometimes need a quiet corner to sit down, reflect on our lives and say a prayer of hope. Our emotions are lingering on a fine thread to find hope and peace in a world where disasters surround. Sometimes the difficulty of finding that quiet corner can rob that much needed moment of reflection and rejuvenation of the mind. However, in a fisherman’s life, where he is alone in the waters, that moment is aplenty.

Looking at Dr Beena’s calm and peaceful painting, it brings back memories of Inle Lake. The lake is located in the Shan Hills of Myanmar. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar that covers an area of around 44 square miles. The lake is calm, beautiful and serene with clear blue waters, floating plants and villages around it. The local villagers comprising mainly of Intha people practice self-sufficient water farming other than fishing. They live in simple wooden houses on stilts. What is interesting about the fishermen here is that they practice a unique rowing style where they stand in their little boats on one leg and wrap the other leg around an oar while they row with one leg.

Inle Lake supports all the nearby villages as their main source of food and transport. The staunch Buddhist community by the lake have built stupas and pagodas in their villages. A visit to the ruined stupas of Nyaung Ohak will uncover the pious lives of the hill devotees over the ages. This surreal jungle village of crumbling temples of at least a couple of centuries old reflect the culture of those times. One interesting artifact that is found on top of the doorway of the crumbled stupas is the mythical pair of celestial musicians known as Kinnara and Kinnari. This gleeful pair of musically paradigmatic lovers (in Hinduism and Buddhism) with human head and bird bodies is believed to come from the Himalayas and watch over the well-being of humans in times of trouble or danger. They seem to welcome visitors to the ruined stupas. Being everlasting lovers, they do fill the visitors’ hearts with love and hope. The Inle Lake with its mystical surroundings and quiet residents brings one to a journey into the past, their beliefs and hopes.

In the same manner, this painting of a lonesome fisherman in his little boat is one filled with richness of the soul where the glaring beauty of nature is so unbelievably astounding and magical. There is so much to cherish from the water, sky, gentle breeze, sunlight and joy of an unexpected catch. However, to the simple fisherman, it is a daily grind to put some food on the table. It is hours of toil and exhaustion. Life goes on with a renewal of hope each day.

In the words of Bernard Williams, “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” May the hopelessly devoted Kinnara and Kinnari mystically accompany all lonesome fishermen, uplift their spirits and provide hope for a better tomorrow.

10 thoughts on “Hope

  1. Hi Vasanthi

    What a wonderful journey into unknown territory. I learnt immensely from your travel story but you added a whole new dimension to an ordinary travel story by bringing in the mythology, the daily lives of the people, and their traditional way to live in a sustainable environment. How fascinating it can be if we embraced nature for what it is and learn to improve our way of living.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your take on Inle. May peace survive in these troubled times.

    Thank you


  2. Woodrow Wilson said’You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget your errand’. The artist captures beautifully a pensive moment in the day of a fisherman. Then comes Vasanthi who enhances it further by her enchanting description of Inle Lake. Despite the darkness, we can still see hope . The best is yet to be surely.

    1. Thanks for the beautiful comment, Kamala. Certainly agree with you about the artist and the best is yet to be. Let hope prevail.

  3. Looking at Dr Beena’s painting gets me thinking about how small we are in the midst of the huge open waters just like that lone fisherman. Hope -an appropriate title for the painting -is something that we all hold on to no matter what our situation in life may be.
    However the deep waters always give a sense of fear of the unknown. But at the same time it calms me whenever I am taking a break at some beach resort looking out into the sea and enjoying the view. Now that we are all grounded due to the pandemic I miss it even more. Such is the beauty of the sea.
    Reading your take on Dr Beena’s painting is interesting and informative. Yes it’s a soul searching process. Your description of the Hindu and Buddhist features in the artifacts of the people in the Inle lake is remarkable. It simply makes me realize how much more there is to know about this world. I’m learning something new from your writing each time. I just hope that this world doesn’t lose hope on mankind inspite of all we are seeing around us now. Looking forward to another anecdote from you Vasanthi.

    1. Hi Nila,
      Thanks for the comments. It’s true that we are all missing the sea at this time. Am so glad that I liked the story about the people of Inle Lake. Do write a story on any of De Beena’s paintings when you have the time. Would be lovely to read your story. Take care and stays safe.

  4. Hi Nila

    I learn so much from comments and stories here. It is about perspective from where we view the matter. Whether it is an object or issues that matter to us. Many times we find ourselves in grey areas. During the current times we tend to explore ourselves. I hope this website provides an avenue for expression of ideas and mostly something that we can learn from each other. Comments play a vital role in educating us readers. Appreciate your thoughts.

    Stay safe

  5. Dr Beena as you said this is not only an avenue to put our thoughts into words but to get feedback from others. It prompts you to want to write. Thanks to Vasanthi’s I have started doing that. It’s a good way to bring like-minded people together. So thanks Dr Beena.

  6. That’s a very lovely piece Vasanthi!
    The painting by itself gives a sense of serenity and peace.
    While we can admire the calm, serenity and beauty, to the fisherman those may not be utmost on his mind ; his worries may be what he can put on his family’s plates or how he can earn some money to keep them well. Hoping for a bounty in his catch; hoping today he will have better food for his family; hoping today he can buy his children some shoes….
    Irony of life…

    1. Yes Lakshmy, the painting is so peaceful and nice. I’m sure you would have enjoyed such serenity in your trip to Inle Lake too. Loved the birds in the painting. You are right, what’s playing on the mind of the fisherman is basically a hope for a good catch. Let’s hope that borders will be safe to be opened soon.

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