Our last link with the sea – Worli Koliwada – Savitha Suri
It appears as you speed across the sea link, as a mass of coloured roofs and a fort like structure sticking out at the centre.
You can’t miss the fishing boats gently bobbing in the waves glinting in the sun.
And before you know it, you would have reached the end of the sea link and forgotten about the Koliwada.
What you would have probably missed is that the people living here are the original settlers of the city we call Mumbai. Their documented history goes back to Raja Bhimdev’s rule (approximately 750 years ago) but their oral history probably goes back even further.
What you would also miss is that behind the distinctive coloured roofs is a close knit network of different faiths that are live harmoniously and are connected through a system of governance that is beyond what the rest of us follow.
You will miss the narrow lanes that at one time separated the communities by profession, caste and religion.
You will miss the four temples that once marked the boundaries of the village and the church with the unique statue of Jesus in a fishing boat (an inspiration from Noah’s Ark or perhaps a way of giving their profession some sort of religious sanction.)
If you stepped into Worli Koliwada, you would see the original 450 odd families have thousands of others keeping them company. And of course the cats. There must be hundreds of them – each one showing kick-ass attitude.
What you will see is how the trash we dump irresponsibly finds its way onto their shores. You will see a sensitively created ecosystem being ruthless plundered by outsiders for petty gains.
You will also see a lot of history disappearing and religious beliefs transforming. There are of course, old men who have stories to tell – to anyone willing to lend them a patient hearing.
There is the Worli Fort that gives a panoramic view of the sea link (which would have cut through the wada if they had stuck to the original plan but for the intervention of the elders and activists.)
The one thing you will not see, but feel, is the fragility of their livelihoods – threatened by the entry of outsiders into their traditional occupation and the proposed coastal road.
You will neither see nor feel the tenacity of its residents but you know that this is a fight they are all preparing for. It is after all, a fight for their survival and the continuance of a way of life that goes back several centuries.
As the sun goes down creating a spectacular painting in the sky, you can’t help but look at the traffic on the bridge and wonder when they will pause and see what you did.
When indeed will we wake up to the reality that history cannot be hidden under newspapers and fresh paint because it will find a way to rise to the surface and demand to be noticed?
When will we pause and reflect on the untold history and unsung heroes who were here before the Maximum City came into existence?
When will we stand by the city’s original residents as they stand at the threshold of what appears to be a long drawn battle for their survival?
And then you hear the pulsating rhythm of the dhols being played by the village youngsters and you know that you need them, as much if not more than they need you.
This post was written by one of our participants, Savitha Suri on her visit of Worli Koliwada with local expert Anita Yewale. You can find her original post here.