Hilsa fest with focus on fishermen

Kolkata, Have you ever spared a thought for the intrepid fishermen who pit themselves against the vagaries of nature and the ravages of wildlife in their quest for the delicious Hilsa fish in the Sunderbans delta? A coming food fest in Kolkata attempts to draw attention to the issue.

The Hilsa fest Aug 10 will bring together connoisseurs of various Hilsa delicacies and families of the brave fishermen who lost their lives making a living in the world's largest mangrove forest that is home to the endangered Royal Bengal tigers.

The second Ilish Utsab (Ilish festival) organised by Kolkata's Garfa 12 Palli Club makes it possible for Hilsa aficionados to meet the fishermen who risked their lives to bring a platter of the prized fish.

"Not only will these narratives instill a sense of solidarity for these people but also make the public aware about how precious a catch of the silvery Hilsa fish is," Rahul Ghosh, secretary of the club and convenor of the festival committee, told IANS.

"Sometimes their trawlers are downed in water and sometimes they are attacked by tigers. Many do not return from their fishing trips," he said.

At the fest, one can learn how some escaped the jaws of the majestic tigers or listen to the experiences of one of them whose leg was snapped off by a crocodile.

Ghosh said a wide range of dishes such as Ilish Maach Paturi, Ilish Tok, Bhapa Ilish and Ilish Biriyani will be served.

"The families of the victims as well the survivors who catch the fish and bring it to us will also get to partake of the delicacies," Ghosh said.

The day-long fest will focus on pollution of river Ganga which has affected the fish and generate awareness among the fishermen to deter them from using small nets that trap juvenile Hilsa and hampers further proliferation.

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