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The Sea and We: Koli Culture in Bombay

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Over the years one place has come to represent the essence of Mumbai: 'commerce', 'the sea', and the harmonious balance between the two, like no other. One has to meet the Kolis, the original, seafaring inhabitants of this city, to know how perfectly that balance can be struck. A leisurely cup of tea with a crisp newspaper is not the kind of morning known to the folks at Sassoon docks - the hub of a large chunk of fish trading in Mumbai. The mornings at the docks are pretty hectic - at the crack of dawn, boats and trawlers harbour their way in with a bountiful of fresh catch. The frenzied activity that ensues continues till mid-day, the pace of which can put any stock exchange to shame. Chefs, housewives, exporters, small time traders all vie for the best catch. After a session of frenetic trading, either the brave or the truly fortunate are rewarded with the treasure. Interestingly, this fish trade is controlled by the women, as the men folk are busy with fishing. If you are brave enough to elbow your way through the market, keep up with the frenzied activity and don't mind the smell of fish, then this is one side of Mumbai you won't want to miss. Away from the crazy hum-drum of the fish market, hop into a signature black & yellow cab to visit Koliwada, the Machimaar colony of Cuffe Parade, which is just a stone's throw away from the docks. Lines of small houses with TV antennas and an assortment of beached boats typify the juxtaposition of old and new in this settlement. This is home to the fishing community - better known as 'Kolis' this colourful community wears its heart on its sleeve. As you enter the village, you see koli women working with their men folk helping to dry, clean and get the fish ready to sell. They've all had a very early start to the morning, from what we've seen at Sassoon docks. The fishing culture is reflected in their folk dances and songs which celebrate sea faring traditions of the community. In unison, they worship the sea. They live in tight clusters and are known for their unique culture & customs. A walk in this colony is a metaphorical journey through the alleys of their very heritage & traditions. Breakaway to Sassoon Docks with us and the next time you smell fish you will surely think of the Kolis.

Over the years one place has come to represent the essence of Mumbai: 'commerce', 'the sea', and the harmonious balance between the two, like no other. One has to meet the Kolis, the original, seafaring inhabitants of this city, to know how perfectly that balance can be struck. A leisurely cup of tea with a crisp newspaper is not the kind of morning known to the folks at Sassoon docks - the hub of a large chunk of fish trading in Mumbai. The mornings at the docks are pretty hectic - at the crack of dawn, boats and trawlers harbour their way in with a bountiful of fresh catch. The frenzied activity that ensues continues till mid-day, the pace of which can put any stock exchange to shame. Chefs, housewives, exporters, small time traders all vie for the best catch. After a session of frenetic trading, either the brave or the truly fortunate are rewarded with the treasure. Interestingly, this fish trade is controlled by the women, as the men folk are busy with fishing. If you are brave enough to elbow your way through the market, keep up with the frenzied activity and don't mind the smell of fish, then this is one side of Mumbai you won't want to miss. Away from the crazy hum-drum of the fish market, hop into a signature black & yellow cab to visit Koliwada, the Machimaar colony of Cuffe Parade, which is just a stone's throw away from the docks. Lines of small houses with TV antennas and an assortment of beached boats typify the juxtaposition of old and new in this settlement. This is home to the fishing community - better known as 'Kolis' this colourful community wears its heart on its sleeve. As you enter the village, you see koli women working with their men folk helping to dry, clean and get the fish ready to sell. They've all had a very early start to the morning, from what we've seen at Sassoon docks. The fishing culture is reflected in their folk dances and songs which celebrate sea faring traditions of the community. In unison, they worship the sea. They live in tight clusters and are known for their unique culture & customs. A walk in this colony is a metaphorical journey through the alleys of their very heritage & traditions. Breakaway to Sassoon Docks with us and the next time you smell fish you will surely think of the Kolis.