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  • Writer's pictureAditi Tahiliani

The Sea Link

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is a city of movements, sounds, dreams, and above all, it is the country’s financial and commercial centre, with its chief port on the Arabian Sea. Residents of this metropolitan city have their personalized bond with it.

The Kolis, one of the earliest and predominant fishing communities in the region, perhaps have a more significant relationship with the waters than that we can even visualize. For many, they are the original and primordial inhabitants of Mumbai, subsequently named for their patron goddess, Mumbadevi. For over the past several years, the Kolis have relied on fishing as an occupation to sustain themselves. Generations of Kolis still function in areas just like the historic Sassoon Docks, trading in fish goods with finesse and speed. (and also in colourful sarees!)

Kolis are the devotees of the sea, they sing and narrate spiels and tales of it. Gradually, the world has changed around them, and the seas are changing too. While next-generation Koli fisherfolk have strived to modernise the fishing industry and help the community deal and cope with lockdowns, they can sense the menace of climate change. Challenges like overfishing, loss of marine biodiversity, and reclamation of coastal areas have also considerably impacted their livelihoods.

The Kolis present long-standing roots to the town and have a crucial understanding of coastal ecology. Can you imagine -- they can even sense the incoming storms by just looking at a fish. I’m just amazed!

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