Ilish or Hilsa has been a prized possession of West Bengal. The fish tastes heavenly and the various dishes prepared right from steamed fish in mustard sauce known as Bhapa Ilish, fish cooked in banana leaf along with spices and coconut to simple fish curry and fry, Hilsa stays in the hearts of the people in West Bengal. In fact when you are here it would be blasphemy if you are a foodie and a non-vegetarian and don’t try out Hilsa. Before I keep on gushing about the delectable cuisines and tempt myself more into something which in this season does not have the best of taste, let me come to the point what prompted me to write this today.
One small piece of information which is the population of Hilsa is dwindling in the rivers here. Shocking to say the least. What is more distressing factor is that the fish is found in abundant quantities in the waters of neighboring Bangladesh but are disappearing here. Now a team has been appointed, of course a team of scientists to study the behavior, hormonal changes and various other factors which may lead to movement of fish from here to there. To elaborate more on this fact, Hilsa migrates from sea to rivers, lays eggs and the present generation dies and then the new generation again moves back to seas. This is the life cycle of the prized Hilsa and incidentally earlier they used to enter the Indian coast and gave Bangladesh a miss but now the situation has turned opposite after 15 years.
There are thoughts that maybe the Ganga waters are quite polluted so this is happening and that the fish are attracted to a particular chemical called chemo-attractant which is only found in fresh water and since the levels of that chemical has declined so this may be happening. All said and done the scientists are now keen on understanding the homing habits of Hilsa and also want to know about the hormonal changes the Hilsa may be experiencing when it is migrating. This is being considered as a matter of national importance and something needs to be done so that the movement of the fish can be restricted from entering into the neighbouring coast.
This may sound a little far fetched to people who cannot relate to the fact why so much focus is there on a fish. But those who know about Hilsa know one thing it is just not a fish. Though it is quite expensive and ranges from Rs 300-Rs 1000 per kg and even more but its demand never falls. If Hilsa goes missing then there will be many things missing from the platter here at West Bengal. To some it may act as a news which can lead them to depression and here when I say this it is not that I am in mood to smirk on this fact. The love for Hilsa is something which is beyond explanation in words and can be expressed only through the passion you show in its cooking and the love you convey when you eat it.