Fishing in God's Own Country

Added on by John Fahy.

The South Indian state of Kerala is famous for its its traditional 'Chinese fishing nets', its beautiful backwaters and most importantly, its epic moustaches. I have been living in West Bengal over this last year, where despite the stereotype, the moustache is noticeably uncommon, as is the famous (and often baffling) 'Indian head wobble'. On a recent trip down south, I was relieved to find that the moustache is indeed alive and well, just hiding in Kerala (where the internet tells me 80% of males have a hairy upper lip).

As Mayapur had been frantic over the last month or so with the Gaura Purnima festivities attracting thousands of devotees from all corners of the globe, I felt I needed a breather.  Where better to go, I thought, than Kerala,  with nearly 400 miles of coastline, golden beaches, exotic backwaters and some of the country's best ayurvedic retreats and yoga centres (not that I went near them). Though the phrase 'God's Own Country' has been used to describe more than a few places around the world, including my own home county of Wicklow, Kerala has seized upon this slogan to bolster its now booming tourism industry.

Though this post is about something I hate and fear with an equal zeal, namely fish, Kerala is a beautiful part of the subcontinent and though I made sure not to taste the famous fish curries, the following photos should offer a window of sorts onto the lives of the fishermen...and I suppose also the deaths of the fish they catch.

Small fishing village near the popular Kovalam beach, Kerala.

After an unsuccessful morning out at sea, these fishermen pack up for the day

On the golden beach near the harbour, these men were dragging their traditional boat onto the shore. This took almost 20 men quite a while

These women were waiting for their turn to bargain a good price

As the catch comes in, the boat is surrounded the second it hits the shore, prices are shouted as people push and shove each other to survey the catch. Men and women compete and out of the chaos, somehow a deal is done. All is quiet for about 2 minutes until the next boat comes in...

These are just a few of the hundreds of types of fish that continuously come in from the returning boats throughout the morning. Some are laid out in boats like this, others in the sand by the shore, where people gather to bargain

Once sold, the fish were collected (usually by women) and taken to the market where locals would come, and more bargaining would ensue...

There must have been no more than a couple of hours between catch and consumption, with women setting up stalls along the harbour to prepare and sell the new arrivals

Until the boats came in, all you can do is wait...

With all the fish and scraps up for grabs, there were hundreds of birds circling the harbour all morning

These fishermen were making preparations for an 6am departure the following day

In Cochin, these fishermen had just arrived back from an outing. They spent over an hour whipping the nets to get the small fish free and ready for sale.

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