When the waters gets rough, don’t give up. Rekha Karthikeyan truly believes and follows this motto literally and figuratively. Rekha is the first fisherwoman in India to get a license for deep sea fishing. The 40-year-old, who lives with her husband and four children, in coastal Chettuva south of Guruvayur, Kerala, shares that she is overjoyed to be honoured by The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) for excellence in deep-sea fishing, a conventionally male dominated profession.
Rekha recalls how 12 years ago without knowing how to swim, she first ventured into the deep sea with her husband, K V Karthikeyan. “The sea takes unexpected turns in a matter of minutes and one needs to be alert all the time to ensure one’s safety. It teaches you life lessons every moment. I started going to sea to support my husband, it was hard in the beginning—the first time I vomited continuously for three hours until I started coughing up blood. But I was determined to keep at it for my family,” recalls Rekha.
Narrating an incident, Rekha, who originally hails from Koorkenchery in suburban Thrissur says, “I usually do not sleep on the boat as I am always alert—the fear of not knowing how to swim is another factor that keeps me awake. Once around midnight, I saw a light coming towards us from a distance. It was actually another boat speeding towards us. I screamed with all my might and one person in the other boat heard me. All of them had been sleeping and they managed to veer the boat away from us just in time, and we escaped with just a scrape on the side. They sped away without even stopping to find out what happened to us.”
Talking about the challenges she faced, she says, “Initially I faced a lot of criticism from society. They kept saying fishing cannot be a female’s profession. But I always believe that there is anything in the world that a woman can’t do.”
Quiz her about what keeps her going. “I did it for our girls,” the Stree Ratna awardee states, “I don’t consider myself special. I do this so that my family can survive. Because ours was a love marriage, we never had any support from our families. It was just the two of us. We had to find a way to fight and survive. We owed this much at least to our four children that we brought into this world. I had one firm belief. That the two of us together, if we toiled hard enough, we would be able to make enough to support our children.”
“Women must not be indifferent towards injustice. We need to take up challenges boldly,” she adds, citing experiences from personal and professional fronts she continues, “I always raise my voice whenever I feel something is not correct. As a society, we need to work towards helping each one of us instead of deterring dreams.”
This Women’s day what came as surprise for her and her family was that MPEDA besiding honouring her for professional excellence presented Rekha with financial aid to repay all her debts. “We were not informed about the financial aid earlier. MPEDA invited me for the Women’s Day event but we never expected all this support to be offered. We are delighted and honoured. Our heart-felt gratitude to MPEDA and all the organisations who reached out to help.”
She also points out that every woman faces a different kind of challenge in her life and they should face it with a smile. “If I can be deep-sea fisherwoman, any woman can achieve any thing they can aspire to do. We should never stop ourselves instead inspire others to take up the challenge. This Women’s Day I wish every woman fulfills her dreams.”