The Fish That Refused Treats: A true tale from Renuka Lake

A frequent pastime whenever we visited any lake or river was feeding the fish. We would get some bread or aate ki golis from nearby shops and get a good half an hour’s worth of entertainment by the lake. So when we visited Renuka Lake in Himachal Pradesh with our friends, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves by the lakeside.

We started off with a walk around the lake, at least the parts that were easily accessible. This took some time as Renuka Lake is the largest lake in Himachal Pradesh.

Renuka Lake
Renuka Lake by Harvinder Chandigarh under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The lake is named after Goddess Renuka, mother of Parashuram. A temple of Sri Renuka ji graces the shore of the lake on one side.

Renukaji Temple
Renukaji Temple by Harvinder Chandigarh under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

After a visit to the temple and an almost-mandatory boat ride round the lake, we decided to sit and relax at a stone bench near the lake. Soon enough, some local kids selling little packets of fish treats surrounded us. The fish treats were in the form of little dried balls of flour. We bought a couple of packets off them and moved to the stone steps into the lake. A lot of other visitors were already out there throwing in breadcrumbs and flour balls to entice the fish.

Fish in Renuka Lake
Fish teeming at the lake

Now this was a time when fishing was banned in the Renuka lake due to religious sentiments. This, combined with the fact that most visitors to the temple and the lake made a ritual out of feeding the fish, meant that the lake was teeming with big, fat, fully contented fish.

Never had I seen fish less interested in food! Ball after ball of flour floated past them, and the fish barely looked at them. In fact, they had a sluggish look to them as if nothing in the world would tempt them any more. We were all a bit disappointed at this listless display. But we also empathized with them — who would want to eat these dried balls of flour day after day? Especially when there was an almost endless supply of them. As we sat discussing this, I remembered a packet of cream biscuits in my bag that I’d kept for my son, who was then six or seven years old. Wondering aloud whether all they needed was a change in taste, I took out the packet of Sunfeast Orange Cream biscuits, crumbled one and threw it into the lake.

At first, the fish didn’t take any notice. Then, a biscuit piece drifted close enough for one particular fish to decide that maybe it was worth the effort. Instant hit! Almost as if a jolt of electricity has passed through it. The fish pulled itself closer to the other biscuit crumbs and started devouring them. Excited at finally seeing some action, my friends and son started throwing biscuit pieces into the lake as fast as they could. Word got around that some new kind of tasty treats were available, and all the nearby fish shook off their listlessness and started swimming toward us, clamoring in their own way for more. As soon as we finished the packet, one of my friends ran to a nearby store and brought back two more packets of biscuits.

By this time, other people had also started noticing the good response we were getting from the fish. They too made a beeline for the store. The store probably set a new record for highest sales in biscuits. But the energy buzzing in and around the lake at the time was definitely worth it.

Unfortunately, we were too busy enjoying the sight to click any pictures. Also, we didn’t have digital cameras back then so any pictures that we took are not readily available.

Luckily, the sight is so clearly etched in my mind that no souvenir photo is required.

Inspired by Passport Overused’s  Feeding Ducks at the serpentine River.

Published by Leena T Pandey

I have been reading voraciously since the age of five when I first discovered the joys of reading. I would lap up anything in print. Unrolling an emptied newspaper cone with one hand, stuffing roasted peanuts in my mouth with the other, all the while devouring the printed content on the cone with my eyes, was one of my first experiences in hedonistic pleasure. In fact, sometimes I feel that I am on an adventurous journey through the secret dreamworld of other people's imaginations, interspersed with occasional visits to my own life to attend events like graduation, first job, marriage, and so on. As a true-blue reader, I think I am uniquely qualified to comment on and critique other people's works of labour. I can tell exactly what puts the average reader to sleep, what sets their pulse racing, and what has them salivating for more. Write to me at leenatpandey@gmail.com.

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