Eating good food was and will always be a favourite activity of any thoroughbred Lahori and that is one reason this column returns again and again to the culinary delights of this great city. With the Ravi once caressing the city walls and now the suburbs, it was no wonder that fish cooked in various forms became one of the core items of Lahores culinary culture. While Ravi provided the bulk of river fish, there was another excellent source that lay a few miles out on the Grand Trunk Road across Shahdara. This was the Deg Nullah, whose luxuriant grass covered banks attracted picnickers and angling enthusiasts in great numbers. The Deg today, is a stark representation of what callous and criminal industrial practices have done to our environment. The once clean waters teeming with life are now discoloured with toxic effluents from tanneries and chemical plants and the fish are no more. Lahores biggest fish market was located inside a huge hall in one wing of the historic Tollington Market. As one entered this hall, one was confronted with a mind-boggling array of marine life displayed in tiered stalls. It was here that one could find everything from seafood to freshwater fishes at extremely competitive prices. Another way to obtain fresh fish was from the home delivery fishmonger, who was usually found pushing his bicycle with a huge wicker basket balanced precariously on the rear carrier, a wooden chopping block in the front carrier and a blood stained cloth bag containing chopping and cleaning instruments dangling from the handlebars. This individual could be heard from a block away doing his sing song rendition of what was perhaps the entire list of fish names from an encyclopaedia. Two spots well known for fried fish were Gowalmandi and Nazooli Bazaar. It was here that freshly caught Rahu was marinated in hot spices mixed in chickpea flour and then deep fried in mustard oil. Served with a sauce made from yogurt, pepper and mint this was like food from heaven. These outlets also sold pakoras fried in the same oil as the fish and carrying a delicious fishy flavour. It was customary for patrons to get a generous fistful of these pakoras free of cost along with their main order. During a recent visit to Lahore, I walked into the heart of Mozangs Nazooli Bazaar to keep an appointment with a delicious fillet of piping hot Rahu. It was heartening to see that nothing had changed and the next one hour was spent in voraciously enjoying the master chefs fare amidst the sights and sounds of a typical Lahore locality. The Ravi was also home to the famous Khagga, also nicknamed as Ravi da Kukkar. The Khagga formed the central piece of a fish curry that was eaten with rice or roti, as individual tastes dictated. Its meat was not only succulent, but if cooked in the traditional manner, it surpassed all others in flavour. Unfortunately, with the fast progressing demise of the Ravi, this particular species of fish has steadily diminished in numbers. There was, however, one fish delicacy that had no parallels. This was my late mothers Qorma, made with a fish called Malleeh and prepared from a recipe handed down over generations from mother to daughter. I still remember the aroma of 'saffron and spices that pervaded the house whenever this particular brand of Qorma was being cooked. It was a favourite Lahori past time to proceed with ones family to a shady spot on the banks of the river armed with a stove, a wok and other requisite items. Freshly caught fish was then obtained from the fishermen, right on the spot and cooked. The more adventurous of these picnickers carried their stoves and woks in boats and enjoyed a floating meal, totally oblivious of the risk that was attached to such a practice. While the Lahoris appetite for indigenous freshwater river fish lives on, it is the latters survival that is of concern. It is a concern that stems from uncontrolled harvesting, disregard for the spawning season and shrinking fish habitats. Perhaps, it would be well to redress the situation before there are no fishes left for us to enjoy a fish meal. The writer is a freelance columnist.