25 February, 2021

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Elegant, gently funny, and filled with startling images. The quibble? This little jewel of a travelogue is all too brief

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Journalist Samanth Subramanian calls fishing “an activity composed of water and air and light and space, all arranged in precarious balance around a central idea of a man in a boat, waiting for a bite.”

This central idea sends him on a clockwise sweep around India’s coastline, following an old and beguiling story. This book records the taste of fish from Bengal to Gujarat, but is much more about the people who catch, cook and eat fish along coastal India, an entry into the history, culture, politics, religion and economies of a thousand interlinked worlds.

So he witnesses raging debates over the Padma hilsa versus the Ganga hilsa in West Bengal. He joins other asthma sufferers to undergo the Bathini Goud family’s famous annual ‘fish treatment’ in Andhra Pradesh, swallowing a live fish and entering the potent political backstory of the event. He sees the twinning of livelihood and faith in the fishing mast-based cross of the Catholic Parava community in Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka, his passion for...

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