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The missing hilsha- A fishy report

DearHilsha, Why Tread So Far?
Dear Hilsha, Why Must You Disappear?
Dear Hilsha Return To Our Markets And Majhars,
Dear Hilsha, Please Help To Keep Our Prices Fair!

The lack of hilsha fish in our market has caused quite an uproar and not because people love its taste but more so because it seems there is hardly any lack of the species in India. This is indeed a cause for uproar since it's perfectly solidified, that Bangladesh are the sole largest breeders and exporters of hilsha. Therefore, our scarcity of Hilsha can only mean that most of our fishes are being exported to India. In fact a recent survey has found out that so much Hilsha is being exported to India that even if one fourth of it came in our country than the prices of the fishes would be much lower and reasonable. Call it unfair business practice or a way to maximize profits, calling it anything will not help solve our problems, so just shut up and think about what can be done.

There are many arguments and justifications against and for the hilsha scenario and one must perfectly understand both or in this case all three, since we will be observing the point of view of:- a) The Fisherman, b) The Consumer and c) The Hilsha. Without further ado let's start off now.

The Fisherman
To justify the whole fish export craze fishermen have pointed out quite a number of reasons. Here is an original document as submitted by professional fish trader, Jamuna Maachalla.

“Instead of lamenting our lack of patriotism, I think it is high time to lament the lack of patriotism of almost everyone in this country. It is not we who willingly derive our own people from the joy of enjoying some scrumptious hilsha but the circumstances is what forced us to do what we are doing. It should be clarified that we are earning more than what we would have earned had we chosen to sell our fishes here. Though the difference in price is not very significant but the current price spiral has forced us to try to increase our incomes as much as possible. If we did choose to let the hilsha in the local markets, we would have to charge much higher prices to cope up with our expenses of transit, cultivation etc and etc. Plus with all the army selling wares at a “fair” price, it would be hard for us to pursue consumers to buy our goods. They have rifles to convince and plus they do not toil all day long to cultivate their wares so they do not have much idea about labor charges. It is in fact easier nowadays to smuggle goods to India than to legally carry them to the main cities since many of us are harassed to provide our wealth statements and show our trading licenses all the times. In India we have to face no such hassle and they happily sell our wares and give us a good enough profit. As far as the subsidies go, the major fish cultivators gobble them all up and we are hardly left with anything. You cannot over-look all these facts. I plead the government to take all these into consideration and thus that will enable us to sell our fishes more fairly and make a good enough profit.”

The Consumer
For this part we decided to ask a person who practically lives off fishes and though he chose not to disclose his identity we found a suitable enough name. Here's the document presented by “He Who Lives Off Fish And Must Not Be Named”.

“Where is the sense of the fishermen? Has it really been 30 years, since we depended on our fishermen, not only to provide us with fish but also to fight for our independence? Has that memory really faded that now they resort to such a despicable practice such as selling our beloved Hilsha off to India and leaving us Bangladeshi's Hilsha-Starved? Yes, the prices are high and that has not stopped people from buying Hilsha. So, if there are more Hilshas, prices will naturally fall and though the fall does not have to be a lot, it should be fair. Thus people will buy the fishes more willingly. There are more chances of being poisoned by eating a locally raised fish than sniffing off aerosol, yet people chose to devour local fishes with unparalleled relish. So, should fishermen not feel guilty in denying us that opportunity? It is indeed quiet a shame!”

The Hilsha
And now to conclude our report, we have invited a local hilsha to provide the closing of this argument.

“The large amount of export cannot be justified and neither can the stance adapted against smaller and local fishermen. If the export rules were mellowed down and if the trade route in and out of the city was freed of unnecessary hassle and if the government focused more once again on its corrupted “crime fighter” groups, it would be good for everyone. Fishermen too should give the local markets another chance since they do owe it their livelihood. The consumers should also be more tolerant to the problems of the fishermen. In the end, if all groups show each other respect than everything would be much better and thus we can all live in this country happily and peacefully.”

Thus, I conclude this by understanding that we have a lot to understand and contemplate and if we so chose we can derive morals and inspiration from objects which we consider to be trivial. Just like my dear friend the Hilsha, I think it is time for me to take your leave too. Till then, eat well!

By Osama Rahman

Restless eyes

Something stirred under the torn piece of cloth; I could see it from the balcony. It was lying on the third floor of the construction site which stood by the pond. The structure was around five storeys high already, and jutted out of the darkness like the jaws of a large, fossilized reptile. A few droplets of water crashed noisily onto a tin shed nearby, and only the little spot where the restless movement had occurred was dimly lit by a hanging bulb; everything else was silence and shadows. A shirt and two lungis hung from the ceiling of that corner, rhythmically swaying in the peaceful breeze and creating eerie shapes on the walls. The dance of light and shadow made the walls seem frighteningly frail, as if the trembling shadows would fall apart at any moment and pull down the whole edifice with it.

The restlessness below the torn piece of cloth increased. A shape emerged from the rubble below and threw off the makeshift blanket.

I had seen this form before. While watching the sun rise on some days, I had seen it patiently breaking stones in the yard. I had glanced outside in the scorching afternoons, and seen the lean arms sweating profusely while carrying huge bagfuls of cement balanced on a small head. I had listened in the quiet of the night, and heard the rhythmic clanks of metal tool on metal construction. For a fraction of a second, I had dwelt on a mental picture arms raised high, groaning from the strain, powerfully bringing down a sledge hammer and exhaling sharply with relief, and continuing this strenuous process with an aching back and sore limbs, while I drifted off to sleep in my cool, comfortable room.

But tonight was different. Tonight I wasn't just glancing out; tonight I saw. I saw a blistered and burnt body. I saw slightly protruding ribs and tired, bent shoulders. And I saw a pair of restless eyes. Eyes that reflected a mind begging to break free of that exhausted overworked body. That agitatedly scanned the horizon; that kept looking, found nothing and allowed fatigue to take control.

The light in those restless eyes dimmed, and slowly resignation crept in. The form heaved a great sigh, comprehending its own insignificance and knowing that each day to come will be exactly like the days gone by. It knew that its hard work and toil would contribute to turning the trembling fossil into a strong, imposing building. There would be enormous apartments in it, with cold air conditioned rooms where cold children would sit on cold floors and play with cold, mechanical toys. It knew that stepping into those marble halls with its bare, muddy feet would be impossible; actually looking at the fruit of its labour and feeling pride in its work an absurd fantasy.

It knew as well that the burns and blisters, the backbreaking toil, the filthy living facilities, the restless nights; all would be forgotten, dismissed with a pay large enough to sustain it for a minimal amount of time. “Cheap labour” is always in demand, and its dark form would slink into the shadows and become a part of another construction site. That is where it is always meant to be, a decoration on a construction site, like a free toothbrush with a tube of toothpaste.

But tonight, when I looked out of my balcony at the dark shape outside, I didn't glance out at a commodity, I saw a person. HE was a construction worker. No, he can't be a worker, he was younger than me, yet here he was. The hardened construction worker toiling day and night and catching snatches of sleep under a torn blanket was just a boy, a trapped, neglected little boy with restless, hungry eyes.

By Shuprova Tasneem



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