Chotto Mach

Bangladeshi’s love fish. I can’t really emphasize that enough. I mean I love food, but there’s other things I think about. In Bangladesh sometimes it seems like the only to think about. Rice and lentils are the staple and on special occasions you get to eat meat as well. It’s becoming less common, but you still get asked as a greeting, “bhat kayechen?” which means “have you eating rice?” Food is a big priority, and people seem to sound a bit more excited when they start to talk about fish.

There was this one time, during rainy season, it rained… Imagine that… However in all seriousness, the north west of Bangladesh doesn’t get nearly as much rain as the rest of the country. I thought rainy season should be more of an event, but the first two I experienced in Bangladesh were sort of disappointing. This summer it was more of a proper rainy season. The thing that you have to understand about Bangladesh is that there really is no rock to speak of. It’s silt the whole way down, which is part of the reason it’s so flat. If there’s high ground, chances are somebody made it that way. So when it rains you get a lot of standing water. Everything is a business in Bangladesh and fishing rights always need to be negotiated, but after a rain, flooding creates a lot of areas which are sort of common and thus able to be fished by anyone, so roads and drainage ditches alike become a place to find fish.

Momina & Momin fishing in the front yard

After a few days of rain in early August our front yard was relatively flooded, and people started to fish in our front yard. The fish they are after are really small, maybe only 2 inches long; “Chotto mach” as they say in “amader bangla basha.” They fry them up in as a curry, bones and all. I tend to think of fishing as with rods and hooks, but a net is the most common fishing method in Bangladesh. Our neighbors Momina and her children Momin and Masuda set up a net where there was a lot of water running across our driveway and waited for the fish. They caught quite a few too. Other villagers came out and joined them, standing with rain beating down on their umbrellas while the children fished. And there stand I, out in the rain, in a flooded front yard, watching this catching of fish. Food and fun is where you find it.

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