A Pescatarian’s Dream


Fisherfolk in Kovalom. Photo by the author.

I looked forward to sampling the local fish in India as we made our way farther and farther south.

We landed at the southern-most tip in the lovely city of Kovalom at a resort with a pool, hot-running water and a beach view.

After a restful New Year’s sleep, we looked out our window and saw a line of anglers pulling in a net.

The process—which looked like a game of tug-of-war–was well-organized, with men yanking on the line, pulling fist over fist, and chanting a hauling song.

We grabbed our clothes and trotted down to the beach.

Once the net landed in the sand, we saw about 40 bite-sized silver fish flutter and sigh.

Not an impressive catch.

That evening, we joined our fellow travelers and struck out toward the touristy section of town.

For the first time in weeks, we weren’t the only Westerners in sight.

We saw a bevy of blonde, tanned tourists in shorts and sandals, keenly on the hunt for beer.

(Our hotel wouldn’t sell alcohol on that particular day for some unfathomable reason, but the local bodegas stocked plenty of beer and a tiny bit of wine).

Our gang—about a dozen of us—found a café, pushed together some tables, and dined on grilled fish and prawns. And beer.

The next evening my husband and I took a 30-minute flight to the bustling port city now-called Fort Kochi, an islet that’s part of an archipelago in the Southern state called Kerala.

more net

Reeling in the catch. Photo by Scott Emery.

Kerala, home to our in-laws, has adopted the motto of “God’s own Country,” which you can find in Western script on street signs and billboards.

On the flight, my husband told me that God’s Country has been a Communist stronghold for decades, where Marxist rule governs.

We were headed to one of India’s oldest ports that welcomed trade since the 14th Century.

About the same time, Fort Kochi became home to the Malabar Jews, and a section of the city today is called, “Jew Town.”

Once we landed, we arranged for a pre-paid taxi to avoid bartering, and were whisked from the airport for an hour-long ride into town, passing massive hotels, office buildings and universities lining the highway.

Our driver dodged in and out of traffic like an orb thrust headlong in a pin-ball machine.

We pinged to the right, ponged to the left, and we stopped, we merged, we halted, we braked, we yielded, we crept, and we lunged.

“Sorry, sir,” the driver said, when he nearly killed us.

I reached behind my left ear to make sure the motion-sickness patch was still stuck in place.

It was.

When the taxi finally came to a merciful halt, we seemed to be stuck.

The driver quickly assessed the situation and told us the wait would be two hours.

Two hours?

Or, he said as he turned around to the back seat, we could take a boat.

Did he say boat? I asked my husband.

Yes, boat. Boat.

And, he said, once we take the boat, our hotel wasn’t far.

“Maybe 500 meters.”

After several minutes of confusion, we said, “Fine,” and the driver slid past the stagnant line of cars, drove for two minutes, and parked the taxi at a ferry dock.

Ah! Ferry, we thought.

Our driver bought three tickets and we waited for the ferry that would take us on a five-minute trek across the river to a bank a few minutes from our hotel.

As we waited for the ferry, my sweetheart and I noted we were the only tourists in sight.

The remaining ferry-goers were local folks homeward bound or headed to evening work.

Only a handful of cars could be stuffed on the ferry: hence the two-hour wait for our taxi.

The locals found our presence entertaining: two white-haired foreigners trying to look invisible.

And we looked grateful: we’d been saved by our taxi-driver, even though he tried to kill us.

Before the ferry arrived, we saw a clutch of young men on the pier turn their gaze from us to a bloke who was tugging on a fishing line.

The pole bowed, and the fisherman yanked on his rod, reeling in a ham-sized fish.

He landed the wriggler on the dock, where it jerked and yangled on the line.

The other lads circled the fish, watching the performance with glee.

And then our ferry arrived.


For my husband, Scott

12 January 2019













About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, India, Indian, Kerala, nativescience. Bookmark the permalink.

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