Nets were plunged into the boat. A human silhouette, all by itself, was seen sprinting along the Worli coast of Mumbai, preparing himself for the catch. The sea was in high spirits. At the crack of dawn, the boat was unmoored.He was on a mission to grab the gold. There was something about that morning.The sea was artfully rough. Few hours passed when he had not only grabbed gold, but also set a new best. Seventy ‘ghol’ fish at one go. Inspiring the youth of the community, Mr. Patil was the unopposed best fisherman of the Worli-gaon (the fishing village at worli). He was the ‘koli’ that never returned home empty handed. Alas! This story portrays the face of Worli-gaon two decade ago…
Samidha, Mr. Patil’s granddaughter, now an architect, paints this picture. “Our existence is dependent on the sea. We owe our health, wealth and happiness to the sea.” She recalls her childhood as going for a ‘stroll’ in the sea. She recalls the diminishing buildings as she moved farther and farther away from the coast. She recalls having no watermarks in the sea telling them to not sail ahead. The seven islands of Mumbai were the family’s ancestral home. A home ashore the Arabian, Samidha’s ancestors were witness to the fast developing Mumbai. They were here when Mumbai was seven islands. They were here to see Mumbai grow. They were here, standing as the pillars of Mumbai’s growing commercialisation. “It kills me to see, the plight of my community today.” The latest development plan categorizes koliwada into slums. “Our koligaon still exists. It gives me great pride to say that we are one of the few communities in Mumbai that respects nature’s bounty. In return nature blesses us with abundance. We are no slums!” The abundance of land that the community needs, fish drying, for nets, for boats and for linear homes, is seen as potential high-rise sites. This would surge-in limitless bounty in the hands of the private and the public sector. Once the building bricks of the city are now looked down as black spots.
“What kind of modernism is this? Modernism that concentrates solely on materialism. A modernism that sees its future in eradicating the very natives and their occupation that shaped the city.” questions Samidha. Samidha’s parents were relocated during the construction of Mahim causeway and, this time, the development plan was concentrating emancipation of the business of their community. They are not enjoying their business, now which is full of threat and full of restrictions. The families are seen migrating to far suburbs of the city like Aarnala, Vasai in search of the boundless ocean. Samidha as an architect is in the favor of the developing Mumbai. “Yet, the Indian-ness runs in my blood.” She chokes as she exclaims, “I cannot imagine the fall of my community.”
“We are like the humble animals. No greed, no gluttony, no hidden intentions. We take no more, no less of what is needed.” A community fishing for crabs will never catch a fish, no matter how large, no matter what price it will fetch. “All we want, is to be a part of the Mumbai Sea, as much as Mumbai is a part of us.”