There’s a spot as you are driving to Chintheche somewhere in between Chia lagoon and Bua River where you are likely to get some very good fresh fish. Driving home this time around after a good 15 years, I was reminded of the times when we would stop over at Chia and get some fresh fish for supper. Life was not as complicated as today. No worries of whether the fish would go bad and no cooler box was needed as my uncle would strap the fish on the side mirrors.
Bua River, as I used to know it, is no more. There is a new bridge now and the scenery is out of this world. On the shores of the river you see this green vegetation with trees all over. The rugged rocks and the water flowing towards the lake are a sight one has to drink in: so refreshing. The geographical makeup of the river setting like a picture out of some nature magazine was of no coincidence. It was then that I had my light bulb moment.
“That’s why they have a lot of Salmon fish around this area. Because of the river!” I exclaimed.
“Yes,” said my uncle smiling broadly. “I’m surprised you know that now.”
I’ve watched enough nature shows to know all that and more. If this was in North America, one would more likely have found some bears around the river. This is Malawi. In Malawi, what you see on TV, the way the bears catch the fish with their hands would be done instead by some fishermen or villagers.
As we near the place where we were to buy the fish, my uncle told me to slow down and park on the road side. We got out of the car and took a few steps to the shade by the trees. Now I knew why he likes to buy his fish here. Unlike all the other places by the road side markets, the fish at this place was ice-packed to keep it fresh.
It was here that I was schooled on how to buy fresh fish. Though I didn’t pay much attention, I observed how my two fathers (my uncles, my dad’s younger brothers) picked out which fish was better than the others. After the selection of the fish, came the negotiation of prices. Once done, we loaded the fish in the cooler box which already had some ice we had bought in Dwangwa in readiness for the fish and headed for Blantyre.
I was not very familiar with the other fish called Ntchira but it was fish nonetheless and that fact made me happy as the fish would satisfy my diet. At the fish market, I noticed some very appetizing smoked fish. I noticed, however, that only one man bothered to ask my uncle if he would buy any of his fish and he politely declined. It wasn’t until we were in the car driving off that I asked why he had not bought any of the smoked fish.
His response told me that he was a true Tonga man, someone who knew his fish very well. He informed me that in most cases, by the time the fish mongers decide to smoke their fish, it is not because they wanted to but it is due to the low demand of the fresh supply so they have to improvise and smoke it so they don’t lose out on the fish sales. This made some sense because while at the roadside market, one thing I picked up was that these mongers are not fishermen themselves. They buy the fish from the fishermen at the lake and sell on the roadside. One way or the other, they too have to survive hence the smoking of the fish.
Some lessons I learned on the drive home got me thinking of how we perceive the political climate of Malawi. Rugged like the rocks in the river and yet a beautiful scenery with a whole lot of promise in the sense of the variety of politicians and people alike make it most interesting. At times, the fish, though glittery like gold, leaves a lot to be desired. Some could be rotting or not so fresh leaving a not so good taste in our mouths. Some of you may agree with me that we are represented by such people in our constituencies.
Take the Ntchira and Salmon fish as examples. It is one of the most beautiful fish families. I’ve yet to see one but I’m told some have a yellow belly and when cooked boiled on a slow fire they get a nice silver tone. It’s not the kind of fish to give to someone who is an amateur as it has way too many tiny bones in it and can be annoying to eat as one has to spend more time picking them out than enjoying the fish. When slow cooked though, all the bones are soft and can be chewed along with the fish.
Most politicians are like this fish, like thorns in ones side. We spend more time trying to hold them accountable than they do in making us happy with the job they are meant to do for us. Their work is like that fish that ends up not being appetizing at all yet was full of promises when one simply judged from its looks.
I’m not too sure about how or where the Ntchira lays its eggs but I know that the Salmon normally goes upstream to lay its eggs and when the fish is grown, it goes downstream where it is either caught in the river or the lake by the fishermen.
I’d like to think that because it goes through the rugged rocks, dodges some predators on the way downstream and that it takes more work, by the time it reaches the open waters of the lake, it is more like a seasoned politician. One has to taste the high waters to know exactly how to swim, what the tide can do to you, and also learn some survival skills.
As I drove on, I kept thinking to myself of the politicians we have in our country today and tried to equate each one of the ones I somewhat know of, and the fish that would best suit their personality and work performance.
The market and conditions have to be favorable as well. It is just prudent for one to be picky when choosing a candidate lest you end up with a rotten or rotting fish. The market has to be one to provide only the best – whether the fish is fresh or smoked. No one wants to end up with the short end of a stick or losing out on any bargain.
Sometimes, for us to get the best of both worlds, we may have to learn to smoke the fish ourselves to avoid ending up with bad fish. Hold our elected accountable is one way of making damn sure that they don’t end up being rotten. Too many corrupt politicians out there not representing as they ought to and yet they look so good on the outside like the smoked fish on that roadside.
Sadly, I was not able to find a lot of Salmons. Could that be why they are mostly found around the rugged rocks? Do we have to go through the hard times first to get to the land of gold? I wondered.
There’s alot of corruption and thievery going on in the country, a system that needs a total overhaul.
I guess I don’t have to say much about what I think. My only prayer is that people will be able to distinguish the difference between the Ntchira and the Salmon and which one of the two would best suit their appetite.