When British biologist Jeremy Wade finally investigated a 20-year history of fatal attacks in the Great Kali River between India and Nepal, he discovered that the local legend of a giant river monster devouring folks who went in the water (like one 18-year-old boy who was dragged down into the river by a creature “resembling an elongated pig”) was not far from true.
Was it a crocodile? No. Frankly, being killed by a crocodile would have a bit more gravitas, and read a bit less like a B horror flick. What Wade found when he waded in the water were very large, very hungry goonch catfish (Bagarius yarelli).
Catfish, though one of many aquatic scavengers, are not known to be one of homo sapiens sapiens’s more dangerous predators. So what explains this strange behavior? It all has to do with Hindu funeral rites, and folks, it’s not pretty.
According to Hindu custom, the dearly departeds of those living near the Great Kali river are typically burnt on a funeral pyre, after which the charred remains are often tipped into the river. Where they are eaten by catfish. Again, what this sad story lacks in dignity, it makes up for in anticlimactic absurdity.
Nourished on the macabre feast of funeral pyre “leftovers,” the catfish have grown far beyond their normal size, and have learned not to wait for their food to be conveniently delivered in its cooked state- they go after their meat when it is still, so to speak, “on the hoof.”
The author of BV would like to hereby encourage the Indian and Nepali neighbors of the Great Kali River to consider the American south, which boasts many lovely preparations of catfish: blackened, fried, and in a po’ boy, to name only a few.
Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it fishy fishy?