Rampnichem nustem

the favourite fish of the Goan

“Randlem go? Nustem kitem hadlam? Saiem kai dorieachem, go? Rampnichem? Tazem asa? Motem kai barik, go? Koshem dilem?” (Done with the cooking? What fish have your brought today? River fish or sea fish ? From traditional fishermen? Is it fresh? What’s the size? Struck a good bargain?) – those are Goan  housewives exchanging small talk, usually from their respective kitchen windowns. The chit chat  is friendly…till they reach the price. At this point the harmless chatter turns into a debate about who’s got a better deal because that determines the bargaining prowess of the housewife! After revealing the prepration depending upon the choice of the husband and the children, they part ways…

The children come home from school and walking right to the kitchen, open the frying pan to peep at the fish. The husband too inquires on phone regarding the fish preparation that awaits him…

The Catholic households in Goa cannot do without fish for a single day…wheras  Hindu fellow Goans are forced to leave fish alone once or in some cases twice a week. The month of Shravan is ultimate torture for the die hard fish eaters and on the eve of the month, go on a fish eating bing

Blessed with a long shoreline more than a hundred kilometers, catching and eating fish has crept into the genes of Goans very naturally.

A few decades ago, our shores were lined with fishermen’s huts, built using leaves from palmtrees that dotted the shores. Wooden canoes, painted with black oil extracts of the cashewnut shell and attached with outriggers were a very common sight along the beach. In fact Goan picnickers spread their mandri – mat in the shade of these canoes and relaxed. Local fishermen, dressed with their kastti – the locally woven red loincloth, busied themselves, either mending the nets or preparing for the early morning fishing trip.

Their method of fishing includes a commuity and each canoe is owned by many fishermen as thirty to forty men are required for each trip. The canoe, laden with nets  is first slipped along a slipway consisting of  wooden poles and once it reaches the water is rowed into the sea. They cut a circuitious trail in the sea, dropping their rampon – the long nets. This rampon is fastened horixontally by two ropes, one holding the dead  weights while the other is attached to floaters, making the net stand in the sea. Both ends attached to ropes are then pulled  to the shore, dragging the net and effectively combing the sea bed and thereby trapping the fish.

This entire community exercise is a sight to behold. When the nets are finally hauled in, the wives come along to collect the fish into the baskets. This rampon fishing is done without any mechanised devise and hence is carried out in relatively shallow waters. The fish is called as ramponichem nistem and is usually covered with some sand and is tastier than the deep water fish. Mainly the catch consists of Bangde – mackerel, tarle – sardine, lepo – sole fish, sangot – cat fish, dodiyar – croaker and other smaller variety, though a few stray big fish are also netted. The fish goes to the local tinto –market, where the villagers bargain with the fisherwomen who are know for their generous bosoms and sharp tongues and often provide a good lashing to the over stingy batkar (landlord). Finding its way into the oohman or nusteache codi – local fish curry, or into the frying pan with coconut oil provides the necessary impetus to attack one’s meal with gusto. Bangde, comparatively bigger in size, very nutricious and tasty, are caught in bulk and therefore priced resonably. When the Bangde  are brought home  most Christian families, opt for the Bangdo Recheado (mackeral stuffed with spicy masala and fried). As the fumes from the frying pan escape, everybody in the family is tortured with mouths watering. Sometimes, the neighbours’ palates too are teased to such an extent that they might drop in, in the hope of begging, borrowing or stealing one!

The fishermens’ huts have now disappeared from along the coast. One can spot a few randomly docked canoes. Any canoe that is destroyed due to wear and tear is not replaced as the canoe makers have also disappeared. These traditional fishermen are caught in a tangle with the trawler owners, usually businessmen form no particular community who have ventrued into motorised fishing for the big catch and momey. The majestic kingfish, the tiger prawns, the lobsters, the shark, perch, snapper and the savoury pomphret that adorn the plates of the rich regularly are mainly caught by the tralwers. Trawler fishing, now a big busines is run by any entrepreneur, who has his eyes on the big catch. The choice fish they net is directly shipped to star hotels or exported or available at international prices in the local market

The few traditional fishermen that continue fishing do so at all odds… to satiate the palate of the common Goan fish lover…who even after making his money abroad upon returning to the goan shores, longs for the Ramnichem nustem, the favourite fish of the real Goan…!

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