When we think of the legendary seafood of Goa, the first thing that comes to our mind is the fresh sea water fishes that are cooked in different ways. The bounty of fishes supplied by the commercial fishing cartels and the traditional fishing communities of which the most prominent ones are the Ramponkars. The term is derived from a particular kind of fishing technique called Rampon in which the long fishing net is cast closer to the shore in a semi circular manner and then hauled out manually.
In Goa, this fishing practice is carried out in sheltered areas like along bays and coves that are refuge to an entire potpourri of species.
To discover more about this traditional mode of fishing we reached South Goa's Arossim beach to spend a day with a group of Ramponkars and accompany them on one of their regular fishing activities. This trip was arranged by our magnificent hosts Raul and Mack from The Local Beat, an offbeat tour company from the state.
It was 7 am in the morning but the designated spot on the flat white beach was abuzz with an enthused team of Ramponkars. They were gearing up for the laborious task.
Here we met Simon, the team leader, who shared some basic anecdotes regarding their profession. With just a traditional hand carved, non mechanized boat and a long sturdy net the Ramponkars were ready for the arduous task.
They told their prayers and joined in to lower the heavy boat into the sea through a makeshift ramp. It was such a back breaking task. The team broke up into two parts. Most of them stayed back on the shore and only a few went on the boat.
Once the net was successfully cast the people on the shore began hauling it out on the cue given by George. Meanwhile the boat stayed back in the waters to guide the people on the shore during this task. The net along with the catch was really heavy and it needs a great amount of stamina to carry out this task. Once the net was hauled out some went on to dry it out and others came together to sort the catch and dispatch them to the market.
Simon then invited us to join them all for a humble meal of smoked mackerel and kanji. The charred mackerel stuffed with onions and green chilies was delicious while the starchy gruel balanced out the fishy aftertaste.
After the satisfying meal that we partook sitting on the white sand with such a generous host, we wished them the best and bid them goodbye.
This was truly an inspiring encounter for us as we got to know about these industrious fellows who aren't deterred by the stark, multiple challenges that affecting them and their livelihood. This isn't a very rewarding profession but still they enjoy every moment of it. No wonder it is wrought with both thrill and danger but the love for sea and its bounties is what keeps them going.
We are extremely grateful to The Local Beat, Goa for assisting us with this memorable journey. Raul and Mack are phenomenal hosts who can guide you with the most surreal and extraordinary experience in the state.