Nothing foul about them

PRIZED BIRDS: Guineafowl from Allahabad put up for sale. Photo: K.R. Deepak  

Walk by the side of the national highway near Maddilapalem in Visakhapatnam and you will find hundreds of guineafowl chirping around the roadside in search of food.

Right now, the city is the temporary home for hundreds of them, and mind you they come from as far as Uttar Pradesh -- Allahabad to be precise.

Santosh Kumar is the man who is responsible for bringing them to the city. Hailing from a non-descript village near Allahabad, Santosh says: "Ours is a hamlet comprising a couple of families from the Backward Class and most of us have been in the business of trading these fowls since the imperial days. My grandfather once told us that the `Goras' (Englishmen) were fond of turkeys and that the scarcity of turkeys made them switch over to the look-alike and taste-alike guineafowl, which were ubiquitous in the region. Since then we have been rearing them in our backyard.''

He is the leader of the 15-member contingent that is now camping in the city in three different places, and he is also the only member in the whole group who knows the 3-R's.

About business, he says: "The entire village is like a family. All the grown-up males of the trading families form a group and criss-cross the country selling guineafowl for a living. Apart from our own reared ones, we also buy a few from neighbouring farms. Right now, we have brought over 3,000 birds and only a couple of hundreds are left with us.'' The group came here a week ago and has set up roadside stalls near Pendurthy, Maddilapalem and on the Vizianagaram bypass. Apart from his business, Santosh Kumar is well versed in current affairs and cookery. According to him, bird flu has nothing to do with his fowls. For the gourmets, he says: "From the pheasant family, turkey is leading the chart followed by guineafowl and country chicken.'' According to him, broiler or farm chicken is as good as vegetables, but tasteless and bland, however well they may be prepared.

Santosh and his party have travelled the length and breadth of the country, right from Guwahati to Pune and from Pathankot to Kanyakumari, ferrying the prized fowls. This is his second visit to the city and he feels that the gastronomes here have got an appetite.

By Sumit Bhattacharjee in Visakhapatnam