It seems like an idyllic lifestyle….head to the sea and catch fish…share the spoils and then sell the rest…..have a relaxed evening and then head next morning for another day at sea….till you venture deeper into their lives and realize there is much more than seen on surface life…more problems in form of stagnating water due to rains, not safe drinking water, issue of housing, depleting level of fish at sea and so on yet they live as a close unit, thoroughly enjoying their lives……right from the dogs that are lazy enough to let the fat cat pass ,to the rats that are larger than lives and infest the area with ease and smoothness of single malt…..a single road separates the Kolis, the Marathi speaking fishing community from commonly the Kathwadi community which comes from Gujarat….A few bus routes will take you to Versova, beach-village in Mumbai (Bombay) located in the suburb of Andheri where the community is based.
From my early days of wandering around the village with no access to finally being invited over for drinks and getting tips on where to shoot I faced a barrage of questions both from the community (usual being where I am from? Which newspaper? Why am I taking these images? Is Delhi better or Bombay? ) to sometimes being questioned by me (internal doubts like should I go back? What is the purpose? I should get a proper job?)
Today there is a big football match within the community….Football is more than a sport in this side of city, is played and followed religiously which is surprising in a cricket frenzy nation…..there are doubts though of the match for the sea is roaring and a thick patch of clouds is dangling over us waiting to pour …but everyone must take their chances…At night a few will gather together and fit in one room to play cards and will polish off feni, the local drink…its quite potent but the fishermen drink it with ease like no tomorrow….though most of the community is poor many being immigrants from south and central India one can still distinguish the rich ones from the poor…the first sign of course is having a television in house which is in working condition…and still if one is rich enough you will see an mini aquarium placed gently in one corner of the wall…..still the lads are well built and smart and handsome and they dress well despite all odds….the usual conversation between them ranges from arranging money for football gear, to family, to who’s hottest of bollywood stars and so on, they are an enjoyable company…..
But tonight I will head to the local bar which is a celebration of sorts and much expensive to drink than usual Feni at home where I will meet interesting characters like Mr. Patel who offers me a job in Dubai and also Irfan Khan, or Irfan bhai who at first don’t like my entry to the bar but later becomes best of friends….of course both of us are drunk……but I realized there is a corner of the land which I understand more…..