– Satyakam Ray
The 1978 movie Piranha brought massive notoriety to the monstrous predatory fish often found in South American lakes and rivers. Aquatic ecologist Zeb Hogan, host of the famous National Geographic show Monster Fish, wrangled with one Piranha on his show. Even its previous host, Jeremy Wade, often caught many sea monsters during his adventures.
The fifth chapter of the Anandapur Chronicles is based on the story of a monster fish found in the town. Interestingly, no Zeb Hogan or Jeremy went to the counter and contained the big fish! The local fishermen and some expert Bengali fishermen(called from Cuttack) did the much-needed extradition work.
As described in the previous chronicles, the large river Baitarani flows by the town of Anandapur. In the rainy season, flood water always enters the city, even in small quantities. When the floodwater retracts from the town, it leaves behind a few or many river creatures or wild animals on the plains washed away from the jungles.
A large pond was used for fish cultivation near the river banks. The pond was round. It was well-maintained by the tribal laborers working over there. Cement structures surrounded it, and neat steps were made available for easy navigation to the pond.
The pond was a small part of the large farmhouse belonging to one of Maa’s relatives. Apart from fish cultivation, different vegetables were grown in the farmhouse. The tribal caretakers were given proper accommodations in the farmhouse premises, close to the pond.
It was the year 1980, perhaps, according to Maa. A severe flood had just happened, and the floodwater had just retracted from the town. Floodwater had entered the pond water.
It was a late afternoon. One of the tribal boys was playing beside the pond by himself. He felt something unusual in the middle of the pond. A large head of the fish was visible from a distance. The curious boy went as close as possible to confirm it; he was horrified by what he saw! A big “fish,” probably 7-8 feet in length, was swimming in the pond and was eating other small fish.
Fearfully, the boy immediately ran towards his home and passed on what he saw to his parents. As usual, the news spread like wildfire. All the tribal laborers were intrigued and alarmed about the incident. They were curious as hell. Even some confirmed the sightings by themselves. Of course, there was a rumor about the decreasing number of fish in the pond mysteriously. After the incident, everyone zeroed in on the culprit. They were confident that something fishy was going on in the fish pond!
Several master Bengali fishermen from the nearby Cuttack town were called to deal with the issue. They came with their massive fishnets, which would cover the entire pond! Along with local tribal laborers, the crafty fishermen carefully netted the fish in the pond. After a thorough search, they found their dream catch in the pond. The monster fish was of remarkable sight. It weighed around 2-3 quintals. Of course, a large crowd had gathered around the pond to witness the incident. Maa was a part of the crowd.
The fish belonged to the sea. Because nobody could recognize such a fish present in the river, during the floods, the fish might have escaped from the Bay of Bengal to the river Baitarani. As the floodwater entered Anandapur town, the fish found a comfortable home in the form of a pond and delicious meals with small fish!
A sort of party happened in Anandapur town. The group decided to kill the monster fish. It was still entrapped in the nets. Around 7-8 persons used axes to tear the monster fish’s flesh into small pieces. The group divided the fish among themselves and the curious onlookers. Everyone in the close by got their fair share of fish. According to Maa, the fish tasted good but a tad oily. No wonder the prehistoric monster belonged to the sea!
Sadly, I found no photographic evidence or videos to make my case strong regarding credibility. The story belongs to the era of the 1980s, and smartphones entered our lives just a few years ago.
Prehistoric large fishes exist in various corners of the water world unidentified by science until now. The fish found in Anandapur that day may be one of them. It was a lifelong, worthwhile experience to see the fish in the flesh for the residents of Anandapur.
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