26 Nov 2015

Versova Village

Versova Koli Village.
The threads of a single net.

You can't really understand a place until you spend a good amount of time there. But you can try to feel the faint pulse of place when you pass through it like a stone skipping water, which is what I did.

Versova Koli village seems like one single tight fishing net made up of the many communities that make it up.

Versova is a very old Koli village. But  read the poster shown above.

Andhra Koli Trust
Kashninath Garib Narayan
A Christian cross
The Indian Tricolour
Jesus Christ
"We are all one"
Om | Moon and star | Another cross

Why Andhra in a Koli village?
Telugu speaking residents who are mostly Christian and call themselves Kolis and are an integral part of this fishing community. Most of the Telugu speakers however work in non-fishing trades like the sand business, construction, etc. and mostly within the village. The women from the community  harvest  sand from the beach.

Kashninath Garib Narayan

Khwaja Garib Nawaz or KGN is something that you see used across India by the fans of the Sufi shrine in Ajmer. But Garib is prefixed to other names too and in this case it is Narayan. The words, I assume (I could be wrong) represents the people who form a important part of this village's economy and community, the workers from Gujarat. The fishing fleet is manned by the members of the community who also live in the poorest part of the village, on the road that goes South towards Juhu and by the beach, exposed to the sea.

Fishermen collecting ice before they can set off for their week long fishing expedition at the main Ice Depot in Versova.

This man and the young boy buy Bombay Duck, from the bigger boats, clean them and them dry or sell them to the next part of the supply chain. They both speak a Gujarati at home but seemed more comfortable speaking Marathi.

Fresh Bombay Duck.

The local temple of the community which is on the road leading to the village. Their homes are what the government  would classify as slum.

The truck owned by the local co-operative that ships fish to the markets in Andheri East

"We are all one" 

Fishing in the villages on the North-Western seafront of  Mumbai is a co-operative activity. Each main village (Versova, Manori, Madh, etc.) in the region has its own co-operative to take the catch to the markets around the city or to the export houses. The best place to get their freshest catch is in Malad which is closer to Madh and Manori by road and the market near Chakala in Andheri where you can see the shops used by these cooperatives.

The Kolis who own the boats or the poorer Kolis with the smaller ones.
The boss and the workers.
The ones who go deep sea fishing and the Muslim and Koli traders or exporters.
The people who work in the sea and those who work on land.

Together they swim and together will sink if their fabric is broken.

Fish hanging to dry outside a Koli home in Versova village

The Tulsi pot marks every Koli home in Versova Village. This is one of the elaborate ones.

25 Nov 2015

Versova Village

Versova Village. 

Versova village or to be exact, the mangroves near Yaari Road, has been in the news in the last couple of days and I was blissfully unaware that such an issue was looming when I went for a walk around the village on Saturday, November the 21st, 2015. That was also because the dumping of building materials in the channel that supplies water to the mangroves during the high tide hadn't probably started.

My original intention was to shoot pictures of the mangroves around the village, but when I got there, I got distracted by all the buzz around the fishing boats that have arrived or were preparing to leave, the fishermen, kids playing on the beach and the colours of the place, especially the dark-grey water that the Oshiwara nullah or river was inking the water in the creek with.

These cans are filled with diesel that will last the 8-9 day trips (according to the crew) deep into the sea. The current fishing grounds are about 8-10 hours away (we Mumbaikars measure distance in time). There are smaller boats too that go 2-3 day fishing expeditions. A fisherman told me that they have boats that pool in the catch from the fishing grounds and bring them back but I couldn't find one of those boats to confirm what he said.

If you are wondering which direction they go in, it depends on season. It is usually North West towards the Gujarat coast. Sometimes it's directly into the sea towards the west or it could be southwards off the Ratnagiri coast.

The fishing grounds are also used by boats from other fishing ports along the coast. They compete with a fishing armada from Guajrat, Ratnagiri coast and Goa.

This is Viraj Vasavekar holding freshly landed catch of cutter or octupus. He is in the fish business and according to him, almost most of the catch is exported and is not for the domestic market. Many of the species caught are not popular in the local market and they fetch a better price overseas. He also said that business is not bad for him at the moment.

24 Nov 2015


   A door to door fish seller rests below a tree before he continues his daily round.

Travelling eyes.

I am reading Orhan Pamuk's latest book about the life of a yogurt and Boza seller in Istanbul. Boza is a fermented Turkish drink and it was traditionally sold by immigrants from Anatolia walking around the city; not unlike the vendors who sell fish and other things around the city. Naturally, the Boza seller in the story has an intricate knowledge of the city, economy, politics and the lives of the people who populate and float through the city. When people look at him as he walks carrying his heavy load of things to sell, he smiles to himself knowing very well that his head is filled with knowledge of things in the city most others in the city cannot fathom. There's something about walking around the city, keeping your eyes and ears open, interacting with different kinds of people, entering and exiting places that belong to other people or groups that make one understand oneself better. The book is a pleasure to read and I am also observing people like the character from the novel in Mumbai with a new lens.


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