Sunday, 18 August 2013

Fishterians In My Family

Have you experienced a ‘Fish High’? What??? A Fish High??? Yeah! A Fish High! Ask my pa-in-law about it. He experiences that often. Just request him to get some fresh fish from the market and he is already on a high. Then the routine that he follows is something that keeps him hooked on his high − gingerly cleaning up the fishes, chopping them into small fine pieces and then rustling up a yummy meen curry for the whole family. UMMM! (My pa-in-law is a handy cook and he doesn't mind exhibiting his culinary skills once in a while.) His fascination for fishes is a given thing in the family, so much so that he won’t mind paying a king's ransom for some quality fishes. He shares a deep, deep bond with his fish friends (and this is no exaggeration). In fact, he can have fishes in any form: curry, fried, pickle, chutney,with coconut, without coconut, so on and so forth.

In case you don't know, every mallu worth his salt is a die-heart fish fan. And if you are a mallu, and that too from the southern part of Kerala like my pa-in-law, the craze for gorging on yummylicious fish curries and fried fishes come inherited. People here won't mind having fishes in the morning, fishes in the noontime and fishes and more fishes when the sun goes down’. My people in Kollam (Quilon) eat, speak and breathe fish, day in and day out. Kollam abounds in backwaters and so do fresh-water fishes. You will find them all year around (except during monsoons). The families here own both small and big boats, and most of them are involved in fish trading. My mamus, in fact, can catch fishes with bare hands, while my hubby’s uncles and cousins are proud owners of life-size-boats used for fishing in high seas.

Apart from fishes what makes Kerala so endearing to the Keralities, and probably to the rest of the world, is the carpet of greenery. Each and every inch of our tharavadu (ancestral home) and surroundings perfectly resonate with the theme, ‘God’s Own Country.’ Tall coconut trees, jack fruit trees, teak wood trees, etc., make it almost impossible for ordinary mortals like us to peak heavenward. Forget about figuring out flying aeroplanes in the sky, even the sight of the sun and moon become a priceless moment for us. Only when the natural light wills it way through blanket of greenery, you’ll come know there’s a sun or moon shining out there.

So, for my pa-in-law relocating to a dry state like Gujarat was more of a nightmare than a dream come true. But his survival instinct kicked in and Ahmedabad has been a home for him for over three decades now.

Kerala though rich in flora and fauna, has the largest number of migrants because of lack of industrialization. It would be better off living in Ahmedabad than going Gulf, he thought. But, though he managed to put Kerala on the back of his mind and decided to stay put in Ahmedabad, thanks to the flourishing mill industry here, he was unable to forget his fish friends. He would get up as early as 5 a.m. and reach the market before anyone does, so that he could lay his hands on freshest fishes. He would go around the city scouting for fresh fish supplying destinations. Fishes such as prom frets, lady fishes, surmai, sardines and so on were on his hit list.

Once he's home from the market he fills the freezer with his priceless treasure. Of the many kgs he has got for the family, he would choose the best of them, clean them, cut them and then pester his dear wife to make a spicy curry and even fry some. His passion for fishes is so infectious. that everyone in the family looks forward to a sumptuous meal flanked by fish curry every Sunday.

Fish weekends are a smiley weekends for my family (a breakaway from the everyday routine of dal, roti and rice); however, it turns out to smelly weekends for our neighbours. Not just our next door neighbours, even those living two floors above us can smell fish being cooked in the closed walls of our homes. The one living above is Swaminarayan. I don’t know how does this family tolerate us? They don’t even use garlic or onion in their food and imagine them smelling fish. Well, we have been living in the same flat for over 8 years now, but our beloved neighbors have never uttered a word against us, let alone complain. I appreciate their generosity. Even the security guard downstairs knows when fish is being prepared in our house. The smell (read: aroma) spreads far and wide. We do our best to put away the so called smell by lighting incense sticks all around the house, and by burning natural mosquito repellants. But all these traditional methods of doing away with the smell doesn't help much. As a last resort, we use room sprays, etc., just to make visitors, who drop in out of the blue, feel comfortable.

Considering the consternation our poor society people suffer(how can I not sympathize with them in their sorrow?) I feel it's high time for companies to introduce sprays that has a far-reaching effect −something that would act as a breath of fresh air for the majority of the non-fish eating community. Nevertheless, I do dread the day, when someone from the society orders my family to stop making fish and do them a social favor. Undoubtedly, that would be the doomsday for my pa-in-law.

This entry is part of "Smelly To Smiley!"contest on


  1. :) He reminds me of my dad. He's not much of a cook but he's really enthusiastic about buying fish, identifying them and cleaning them too. And sometimes he just doesn't bother about how expensive certain fishes are. :)

    Oh, I so want some varuthe mathi now ;)

    Good for you that you have such tolerant neighbours. OMG! imagine a malayalee having to give up fish!!! Sho!! :)

  2. Oh! You are a fan of varuthe mathi. My bro-in-law is a big fan of the same. Somehow, we avoid frying this fish (thanks to the smell), becoz in no time, I fear, our neighbours will come banging at our doors.

  3. LOL...I am glad I am not your neighbor :P Best of luck for the contest. :)

  4. Wow Jini, you said it ! I fry fish at all odd hours too. Going to my home for summer vacation, I hog on all different sorts of fish. We don't get all the kinds here :-(

  5. Haha.... njan ee post engane miss cheythu, I dont know :) Malsyam illathe enthu malayali , alle :)
    Well, I am a pure vegetarian, but I do know the importance that meen gets from mallus.
    Hats off to your FiL :)


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