Kadalamma—Mother Sea—that’s what Xavier Peter calls the Arabian Sea. His own mother gave him life, but Kadalamma gave him purpose, a livelihood. She has provided for him, offering up enough fish to feed his family and sell at the market. And she has protected him, sparing him thrice from cyclones and once from a tsunami.
Xavier has been trawling for shrimp and fish off India’s southwestern coast for more than three decades, his whole adult life. But lately, when he casts out his nets, he often comes up with more plastic than fish.
“Pulling the nets out of the water is extra effort, with all this plastic tangled in them,” he says. “It’s a bit like trying to draw water from a well—your bucket is somehow being weighed back down.”
He and his crew of six then spend hours separating the garbage from their catch.
For Xavier, the whole ordeal is a regular reminder that Kadalamma is sick, and that he and his community have made her so. “This is India’s greatest failure,” he says.
Photo: Vivek Joshi/Wikimedia Commons