“The fishermen were here first…When Bombay was a dumbbell-shaped island tapering, at the centre, to a narrow shining strand beyond which could be seen the finest and largest natural harbour in Asia, when Mazagaon and Worli, Matunga and Mahim, Salsette and Colaba were islands too…before tetrapods and sunken piles turned the Seven Isles into a long peninsula, like an outstretched, grasping hand, reaching westward into the Arabian Sea; in this primeval world before clocktowers, the fishermen—who were called Kolis— sailed in Arab dhows, spreading red sails against the setting sun. They caught pomfret and crabs, and made fish-lovers of us all.” – “Midnight’s Children”, Salman Rushdie
Over the years one community that still represents 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.
The Koli villages still exist in several parts of now Mumbai and all along the coast, holding out amidst the traffic and skyscrapers, and they are as much part of our landscape as the sky and the rain and the sea.
As the city’s iconic Bandra-Worli sea link took its final shape in the Arabian Sea, it faced several protests from fishermen, claiming the link would disrupt their fishing activities, eat into the fishing areas and pose a danger to their lives.