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Ilish Mach: From Bone To Hamstring…

Apparently we’ve all originated from a fish. But that as fate would have it, it was a fish that ruined my day.
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It all began with a fish. As per evolution theories, that’s where we originated as well. So it is only fitting for the beginning of this story. Right, this story does, indeed, start with a fish, one of my favorites (read: Formerly favorite) to consume. If you aren’t a Bengali, and you’ve never eaten fried Ilish with khichuri on a rainy day, or bhapa Ilish (steamed) with gorom sada bhat (hot steaming rice) or even just Ilish with sorsher jhal, you are missing out. I might sound biased, but even so, I believe you should find out ways and means to taste one good ilish.

Okay, back to the point.  The Hilsa fish has an enormous amount of bones. The parts of the Hilsa fish that are avidly consumed are the section around the middle, the tail, the head, and the upper middle (the infamous “gadar” piece). It is infamous, not for its taste, but for the insane amount of small needle-like fine bones that lurk underneath its luscious flesh. It is quite difficult to remove the tiny bones from the meat of the fish, and that’s, of course, where our story leads.

The Bengali favourite

To quote my introduction, it all began with a fish. ETA 14:35, I was in the process of having my lunch. The problem took place not more than 15 minutes later, when I started trying to consume the fish on my plate. After I took the first bite of my favorite fish, I suddenly noticed that something was off. Usually when you sense the bone quick enough, it’s easy to pull it out or spit it out, but as fate had decided to focus all its energy on ruining the rest of my day, the bone had by then lodged itself too far down my gullet.

As soon as I realized this, panic set in. I believe the best description would be a lanky, awkward 17 year old floundering around, screaming “It’s stuck in my throat! MY THROAT!” and using some choice words in Bengali. Obviously, my parents, being as perceptive as possible, tried to calm me down by telling me to spit it out. As expected, I handled that with all the dignity of a fish out of water as I attempted to remove the sharp, protruding object from the inside of my throat. The rest of the fish went down without a struggle and I no longer found it too difficult to breathe, but of course, the bone had decided to be more of a thorn in my ass and decided to stick it out (so to speak) within my throat.

The panic subsided, but only slightly, now that I was no longer struggling to breathe, I was rather focused on the fact that there was a fish bone in my throat. At this point in the story, you, as the reader, are either laughing at me, or not at all, but don’t worry, this is only the beginning of the hilarity that will now forever be used as an icebreaker. Back into the fray, the battlefield of my misery and the dexterity of what can only be described as being demonstrated by a toddler trying desperately to walk. I was quite literally in hysterics, searching ways to remove a piece of the fish’s anatomy from myself, when my parents brought out the Bengali Big guns. A small ball of mashed steamed rice, when swallowed, should dislodge the bone from its non rightful place and allow its safe passage towards the innards. Great, I thought, finally something to remove this bone

If you aren’t a Bengali, and you’ve never eaten fried Ilish with khichuri on a rainy day, or bhapa Ilish (steamed) with gorom sada bhat (hot steaming rice) or even just Ilish with sorsher jhal, you are missing out.

But, I hadn’t realized, at ETA 15:12, that whatever divine creature had decided to completely screw with me, wasn’t done with me. Somewhere between swallowing the 5th and 6th ball of rice, I had realized that this was hopeless. I wasn’t dead yet, though, and I slowly started to calm down. I started to search up ways to violently dislodge this goddamn nuisance and allow my stomach acids to destroy this fish bone. I came across the swallowing of large amounts of coke at one time, but after the second whole bottle of coke, the existential dread seeped in again. I put down the (soft) drink I was using to drown my sorrows and decided to grow a backbone.

Obviously, the losing fight with this fishbone was strong enough to disrupt that process as I made the worst mistake of anyone with any minor affliction could make. I searched up my problem on WebMd. Fear gripped me as the phrases “puncturing major aorta” and “neck abscesses” danced at the edge of my vision. I then decided the best course of action would be to call an urgent care center and see what they said. Once we called, we got the expected response.

“Oh, okay then, go to the ER”

F*ck. I mean, what did I expect? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and I have to go to the ER for a goddamn FISHBONE? Yeah, I know you’re laughing at me, don’t worry, I am too. It is only fitting for a descendant of a fish to be choked by the bone of a fish. Yeah, yeah, I’m getting distracted again, sorry. After the nurse told us to go to the ER, we had to take a second opinion, obviously. My parents called up a Bengali doctor that we know, and he told my parents, and an inconsolable me that bread and peanut butter usually works.

Another try, another failed attempt, after literally consuming almost a week’s supply of bread and peanut butter (although pretty delicious), we figured that it was a lost cause and started on my (very embarrassed) trip to the ER. We started on our journey to the ER at approximately ETA 18:20. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life. It wasn’t until ETA 21:30 that I was called in to the hospital room.

my parents brought out the Bengali Big guns. A small ball of mashed steamed rice, when swallowed, should dislodge the bone from its non rightful place and allow its safe passage towards the innards.

It was a pediatrician first, she was really happy, I was not, I basically just laughed at myself and explained that I had a fish bone stuck in my throat. The course of action, as recommended by her, was going to be a CT scan and then a way to check inside and remove it. She didn’t elaborate on how they were going to check on it inside, and I didn’t ask. I should’ve asked. If I had asked, I would have run out of there screaming. The CT scan took around 2 minutes and I was back in my room. I was slightly confused when the nurse walked up and gave me something to clear congestion. Of all things, a fish bone in my throat wouldn’t be checked through any other orifices. Right? RIGHT? I asked my dad. “Why do you think they gave me this nose clearer?”

“Ha, maybe they’ll stick the camera up your nose”

My heart dropped. It must have shown on my face, because he followed up with…

“Calm down, I was only joking”

It wasn’t a very funny joke. So you can only imagine my horror when the doctor came in with a large cabinet and opened up a small box like machine, with a tiny camera. One, as I noted, to my blatant and undisguised horror, would fit snugly within one of my own nostrils.

“Don’t worry, it’s not going to hurt”

As he started to put the camera down my nose, I realized that anyone who had ever told someone that something isn’t supposed to hurt has never really experienced any pain. I immediately stopped the doctor, telling him that it hurt.

Internally, I could only think that he told me it wouldn’t hurt at all. I nodded for him to start again. As the small camera went down my nostril again, suddenly I realized that I was no longer sitting there with a camera in my nose, I was laying down on the bed with a somewhat frantic doctor asking me if I remembered where I was and what I was doing there.

“Are you okay”

“Do you know where you are?”

“What?” I was pretty confused, I obviously knew where I was and what I was doing, but the questions were slightly disorienting.

“Do you know where you are?” With as much sarcasm as I could muster, I responded “The hospital”“He’s alright,” I think it was either my blatant sarcasm, or the fact that I was suddenly annoyed, that the doctor realized that I was okay. I had no idea what had happened, at least, until I heard the phrase “he just fainted” followed by the laughing of all the doctors outside.

The only coherent thought in my head was GODDAMN, I really just hamstrung myself over a camera up my nose, didn’t I? And that right there, was absolutely goddamn hilarious. I couldn’t even stop laughing, every doctor that came in, I laughed and said “that’s definitely never happened before.” I almost forgot about the fishbone still stuck in my throat. As I woke up the next morning, I realized that fate was absolutely goddamn evil. It hadn’t even been 12 hours afterwards, and the bone was gone. The bone was gone. And all I have to say is that it all began with a fish. Oh, and of course, I have the story.

Swayam Shuvra Chakraborty is a Senior and 19 years old. He is a permanent author at, a group blog created by Swayam and his friends. He also writes for Anandalipi, Sangbad Bichitra, and Kishalay. Fiction and poetry are his first love but he also enjoys acting in and writing plays.

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