What would he like, truly? Why, the view of the hills on one side, sloping down into green valleys with a silent lake in their amidst, where he could fish when he wished in peace.
He shut his eyes as he heard the whir of the motorboat. Ever since he was a boy, he preferred fishing in the mornings when the lake was calmer and tourists, absent.
He escaped the morning noises well before the tourism office opened, and not just because of the sun being up high. The early morning calm, the birds, the competition between man and nature... He loved those moments. For a long time, he could avoid going back in the evenings, when the tourists flocked to the lake. But now that his family had expanded, he had no choice but to return in the evenings...
He caught sight of his neighbour Muthu a short distance away, right in the middle of where the motorboats navigated. He had just spread the net to one side when the boatman deliberately drove close. Muthu seemed unfazed, waiting for the boat to pass before pulling up his net and casting it again.
Dusk fell, and the crowds slowly left. Mari looked at the litter and made a face. Muthu picked up some of the used cartons and threw them in the dustbin as the two headed towards their home a little distance away.
A group was still standing there, creating a ruckus. Mari grimaced and looked at Muthu, who seemed to be enjoying it. "It's so nice to see them enjoying themselves," Muthu commented as they crossed the group. Mari's pursed lips spoke volumes of his disapproval. Muthu chuckled, "When I see the people head towards our lake, I feel so proud... I am part of something important. Where my wife comes from, it is all silent and boring! I feel enthusiastic as the crowds scream with pleasure when their boatman creates waves and dips and straightens the boat to entertain them."
"This is our place of work, a temple," Mari burst out angrily. "They disturb its sanctity."
Muthu looked at him with a kindly smile. "They come seeking happiness, and our lake is able to give it to them... Don't you think that is wonderful? Their laughter, their hair flying, the water spraying on them... Have you noticed the children? The shine in their eyes?"
Mari looked at him with a frown. "They are rich and can get it anywhere. Why come here?"
"They are rich, but they come to this poor man for their joy. After months, years of hard work, they find a few moments of forgetfulness here... I love being amidst them. We may not be able to go on a joy ride like them, but we can at least share their happiness... Feel a part of something larger...?"
Mari looked at him sceptically, his natural reticence preventing him from destroying Muthu's perspective. But even if he knew how to, he may not. He strained his ears and got a faint whiff of laughter. He looked down, silently, contemplatively. He remembered the one time his children had been to the zoo - how they ran from one animal enclosure to another, trying to entice the animals to come as close as they could. Being ignored by the beasts was a game in itself that the two created in the spur of the moment...
Next morning, after fishing, he sat by the banks as he sorted his catch - something he would do further away. He watched the place come alive with human activity... When he returned in the evening, he observed the people, the smiles, the enthusiasm.
Maybe he should bring his children on a trip to this lake as well - not to fish, but just to be.