When you go out and speak to people, what is usually their reaction?
I always ask them, “What is your favourite fish?” Nine times out of 10, it is always prawns or pomfret, because people do not know any other fish.
But imagine if a big personality like Amitabh Bachchan comes on your TV and says that we have 20-25 species of fish in India that should be eaten, or even advertises such a campaign, people will be curious and go to see what kind of fish are there. Such a campaign has not happened in the last 70 years. That’s the whole problem.
Do you believe that the lockdown has contributed to helping your cause in creating more awareness?
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The lockdown has helped. If the business would have carried on as usual, nobody would have listened to me. There was no regular fish in the market because of lockdown. The suppliers and the wholesalers weren’t available. When we started selling fish again, that was the whole turning point. I could go back to selling pomfret and surmai, where I would make a lot of money. But this was my chance. If you want to tell people something or pass on a message, then educate them. Even if they don’t buy it, at least they will understand that this should be eaten and this shouldn’t, what is available and what isn’t. Now a lot more home chefs are following The Last Fisherman account and asking pertinent questions like “Is this fish in season?”, “What are the other available options?”
What would you consider to be the bigger challenge – the lack of education or the middlemen?
I find the middlemen more problematic. They have a very lacklustre approach. The middleman buys something, sells something and gets something in return. Why would he try something and cause an imbalance? When things get back to normal post the lockdown, I’ll be the one facing problems, because the crowd I cater to is very small. The crowd, which the middleman caters to, is very huge.