Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 60 , Tuesday, August 30, 2005


being a bangalee

Star Lifestyle's photographer went on a trip to Chandpur and returns with fishy details..

You know, I love Bangladesh. Truly, I do, in spite of everything. What a silly notion, you are probably thinking? I am used to people calling me strange and my above declaration only exaggerates how true they are. But I can't help it. I have a pathetic patriotic soul.

For me, driving through the bumpy village roads, looking at the green plains and pastures, drenching in the monsoon rain, adoring the village belle in her gaudy, colourful attire or listening to that group of lazy men sipping tea inside the shanty tea stall, looking at the little boy catch a fish, are all figments of romance extreme. Their slow but steady pace, their spirit, their art of survival, all inspire me.

When city life literally chokes me to near death, I just go out, drive aimlessly through the villages, the green fields, by the riverside and my spirits are instantly rejuvenated.

Tis' my favourite season- monsoon, and it brings out the best in nature here. Nature gets her annual shower and becomes invigorated, her delight and happiness seep in through my system and make me equally lively.

The sparkling swollen rivers and the fishermen's silver catch all have cast their magic on me. I know no other place on earth that could be this earthy, this rustic this mundane, yet have such an effect over one.

The best thing about this season is definitely the fish and more so, the hilsha.

Its hilsha season and any Bangalee would happily give their worth in gold for a plate of piping hot steamed rice and hilsha fried in mustard oil or for the all time favourites, the shorshe elish, elish patury, elish pilao.

The fisherman's silver bounty not only keeps him content but gives us a reason to celebrate as well. I mean after all, we are mache bhathe Bangalee and people who disagree are only poor souls missing out on being one.

Since it's the official hilsha season, let's throw some light on Bangladesh's floating silver mine. There are two kinds of Hilsha - the salt water and sweet water. Fishermen with little investments take a country boat with big sails and go out into the river. They throw the net and wait for the tide to do its job. They keep on floating until the wind warns them to turn. Then only, they round up their fishing net and gather their catch. Theirs is a daily business but the big trawlers go out to the sea on trips stretching over 15 days. They freeze up their catch till they reach the shores.

All the fishermen of both big and small boats anchor near the shore where they auction off their fishes to merchants in the make-shift fish market. It is from here that they travel to finally land on your plates.

If you have never spoilt your urbane manners, and have never walked barefooted on the muddy river banks of Bangladesh, if you have never seen a bustling village fish market, I suggest you should try it just once. Let go of your guards and enjoy being a Bangalee with no pretensions. You'll end up loving life manifold.

By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Munem Wasif



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