To get a true monsoon feel, head to the paddy fields of Kuttanad and you’ll then realise how hollow commercial clichés like chasing the monsoon and romancing the monsoon really sound.
It is that time of the year when the skies turn a gloomy dark and the rain comes pounding down. The serenest phase of the season is when the heavy downpour makes its way out and the paddy fields get ready for the next year’s harvest.
The water-logged fields look like sheets of water spread over an overgrowth of weeds and reeds. The tiny ripples over the water give away the secret of what lies beneath. The complete angler in you takes over. There’s a wealth of fish here.
But the catch here calls for the country fishing line where you have to manually fix the bait and wait for the fish to bite. It is vintage Kerala, old-style romance. Fishing done, head back home with your catch, strung symmetrically on to an “eerkil” (midrib of the coconut leaf).
The taste of fresh fish caught from the mud and slush of paddy fields is a feel for keeps. Though modern fishing techniques have almost wiped out the traditional style, there are still a lot of families living around the fringes of the fields eking out a living from the rich fish catch when the rains come.
They remind us of a time when everything was got from the land, right from paddy to fruit to fish. Each cycle of sowing and harvesting gave them hopes of what would come next, the fish wealth from the fields. The rains, the fields and the fish are memories sufficient enough to make the Malayali diaspora choke on waves of nostalgia.
Now for a dish of vayal meen curry:
Cleaning the fish is a pretty tough task. No fish is eaten or prepared without skinning it. And if this seems to be cool, try skinning one for yourself. They are eel-like slippery and slimy that you’ll have to cover them up in ash and salt for a while. The skinning becomes easier now. Wash thoroughly to get the ash off the fish.