Slimy, Stinky Fish

Though I’m not actually in Pakistan now, I had a number of posts which I wrote while I was there and didn’t have time to post. As a result, I will be writing about my time there for a few more posts, which might be interrupted by others in between. Thanks for reading!


Slimy, Stinky Fish

Wet covers the ground as men, wrapped in shawls, make their way around the piles of fish that lie everywhere. No one has time to stop and gawk at the three oddly-placed foreigners making their way around the press of people. All are busy doing their own business, rushing to buy their fish and get them out to the public. Carts make their way through the crowd, their pushers shouting at whoever stands in the way as they stop constantly for the men squeezing through the small gaps in the mass. One man makes a loud wailing sound, like a siren on an emergency vehicle, as he pushes though. It works for ambulances, so he figures it can’t hurt to put it to use for his fish cart. Others are almost ploughed over as they stand around the piles, only just dodging the carts as they check the mounds of fish. One wheelbarrow, left unattended, is knocked over in the hubbub, but thankfully manages to keep its fish from sliding out onto the ground.

The fish are all so varied. Some of the piles are full of bright pink fish, with yellow streaks colouring their fins like an early sunrise. There are huge fish too —tuna maybe (I’m not very knowledgable when it comes to fish) that look like it would take the full strength of one man just to lug one of the slippery bodies to wherever it needed to go. There are sole, and other fish that look like they spent their lives lying flat on their side at the bottom of the ocean, staring up at the strange world above them. There are others that have large red balloon-like bulges sticking out of their mouths, as if their stomachs exploded out of their bodies on the way up from the water. There are long eels, brilliant blue parrot fish, and barrels of shrimp and prawn, with their tiny black eyes and long wispy appendages. My brother and I glance around at the different fish, having to constantly keep moving, for fear of being run over by the traffic of carts and wheelbarrows all around us. It’s like being in the Sea World of Pakistan.

I’ve never been to Sea World, and I won’t even pretend I know what it’s like. I know its nothing like the Karachi fish market, but all the same, it’s an amazing experience to see the display of sea life — dead. It’s kind of an oxymoron when you think about it. Dead sea life. This is the kind of fishing my dad likes, where everything is already caught for you, sorted in nice little piles. My brother seems to be the only one of us blessed with enough patience to enjoy fishing – though I’m not sure why that patience can’t be put to use in any other areas of his life. I really don’t mind fishing, just like I don’t mind sitting, with my feet in the water, watching and talking, while my brother does all the fishing. I think I would enjoy it even more if I could have a pot of chai with me as well.

While we walk through the market, a wheelbarrow of stingrays passes me on my side, just giving me a glimpse of their flat, grey bodies and long, thin tails. I remember the time we found a stingray on the beach —tired and half dead (or half alive, if you’re being optimistic). Scooping it up with a shovel, we waded into the water and tossed it into the waves, making sure we bravely screamed and ran the other way, so the all-but-lifeless stingray didn’t manage to get us while we stood there in the water.

In the fish market, everyone carries a slimy wicker basket — on carts, wheelbarrows, rickshaws and by hand. A man goes by us with a slimy basket in each hand, a giant tail sticking out of one end, as his shoulders droop with the weight of his fishy cargo. I wonder if there is a special supplier of these slimy fish baskets. I wonder if the fishermen are outraged when they get a new one, because it doesn’t come slick and slippery like all the ones they are used to having.

Stinky, slimy, noisy and busy, the fish market is a must-see for anyone wanting a display of ocean creatures. Roll up your jeans and slop your way through the a raw museum of the Indian Ocean’s dead sea life. For anyone security conscious, this is the place for you. No terrorist would ever look for foreigners there, or even follow you in, for that matter!

My brother, Stephen and I cleaning up the shrimp back at the hut
My brother Stephen and I cleaning up the shrimp back at the hut