Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

Going fishing with dad

with 3 comments

Fish market

Fishmonger weighing his fish

A friend of mine used to say that a pukka Bengali gentleman, catches his fresh fish early every day. So particular is he about the freshness of fish, that after partaking his early morning cup of Darjeeling, he takes his plastic bag, dons his thong slippers, and goes for some fresh air exercise and sport – verbal combat with the hawkers at the neighborhood fish bazaar.

I am a girl. I don’t go fishing often with dad. But when I do, I thoroughly enjoy it. Have you been to an auction house? No. Well, you must have seen an auction on TV. Imagine an auctioneer’s fascinating stream of chants. In fact, imagine several of them simultaneously doing so. Add to that some human hum of bartering, and noise of water splashing. Hold on to that while I fetch the remaining sensations for you.

For those of us who only buy their fish and poultry from the butcher’s counter at the grocery supermarket, the sights of a fish market in Kolkata, is an assault on our visual senses. There are no back rooms for fish gutting and cleaning. Everything is in plain view. Row after row of open stalls with thatched roof and cemented floors. Large machetes bloodied with fish entrails, fish guts and scales pile high. There is fish, blood, scales, water as far as eyes can see – which admittedly is not very far in a crowded bazaar. And how does it smell? Fishy? Like the sea? Yes, mostly. Unless you decide to venture out to the section of the market where sun dried fish are sold.

Big fish like rohu and katla are flown in from southern India. Local ones are alive and kicking in small shallow water filled drums. Local village women, typically occupying the back stalls sell variety of small fish that they catch from their backyard ponds. When hilsa is in season, everyone is happy. I sometimes wonder if for Bengalis, eating hilsa is a form of meditation. If meditation is a way to attaining nirvana then, eating hilsa is meditation. Fish heads too disappear fast. Fish head with chana daal, or with summer gourd or better still, slow roasted with garam masala are some wonderful quintessential Bengali dishes.

Village women with small fry

Village women with small fry

A fishmonger gutting mudfish is a fascinating sight. Since this fish can survive in very little water, it battles the longest. First it gets picked up and thrashed on the cemented floor. Its scales come flying off and followed by gills and fins. Finally, its entrails come out. It keeps thrashing even then, sometimes all its way to the cooking pot.

They say that all money has some cocaine on it. In Kolkata, it is surely fish. Almost all the good stuff is gone by 7:30 a.m. On our way home, we pick up some jalebi and samosa for breakfast.

Travel Note: Within a few miles of every neighborhood, there is a fish market. Better variety is usually seen on weekends. Go early between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. Be prepared to come back and wash yourself and your clothes – there is lot of splashing – blood, scales, water. Wear non-slip sensible shoes, floors are typically wet and muddy.

Written by locomotoring

June 5, 2008 at 8:44 pm

3 Responses

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  1. […] offered to take me fishing, I decided to follow the fish trail from source to plate. Unlike the last fishing trip, this was a visit to the a nearby village where father has friendly access to a pond. From the […]

  2. […] Kolkata fish market (more) […]

  3. Thanks for the interesting blog it was not what I was searching for but it was very interesting anyway.


    Gene Haker

    June 24, 2008 at 8:04 pm

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