The Italian fishing village in Mumbai

25 Apr

In the small fishing village of Worli next to the bridge between south and north Mumbai, my fiance found a small slice of Italy in India. But more importantly, I walked around a holy basin next to a Hindi temple, unaware that this would tie Dominic and I together for seven lifetimes.

“You won't find any buildings with colours like this anywhere else in Mumbai”, Taronish told us.

Wandering through the fishing village of Worli, we left garbage-ridden Mumbai behind and entered a world painted brightly in pink, yellow, purple and minty green. Small, charming houses stood nodding cheerfully to each other along narrow streets.

Like some of the Brazilian favelas, I suggested.

“This could be Italy!” my boyfriend replied with a small laugh.

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Yet, this is one of Mumbai's slums.

Though maybe not for long. Taronish, a resident of Mumbai and our guide for the day, said the residents are working hard to improve their village. Already, Worli is the only slum in Mumbai with organised garbage collection. The roads, kept impeccably clean, have been constructed by the residents themselves.

“This place changes from month to month. People are renovating everywhere, so maybe in the future this area will not be considered a slum”.

However, one obstacle remains. “They are still working on the toilets. That is why you will find people using the sea. Because there are some public toilets, but they are very dirty. And people can not afford to have private toilets because of the space.”

“And no one is ready to take responsiblity”, Taronish continued. “But they are working on it. They told me, within the next year we will manage that as well. So they are very confident. Very determined to do whatever they want to do.”

Further on, we reached a broader street with multicoloured houses. Bright yellow houses with orange window frames and pink verandas. It looked like a tacky seven-year old's dream lane. Or like Goa, Taronish told us. “That is where these houses get their structures from. Open roof balconies and low porches. You know, they sit over here in the evenings, and chitchat with each other and morningtime have tea, breakfast”.

But it's not only the houses that are colourful in this village.

“The women here like to wear colourful saris. It also has a social reason, because they are the ones that go to the market, you know, to sell the fish. When they dress is very beautifully, they look very attractive so more people come and they can make more business,” Taronish said.

And what about the men? But no. The women in the village are less lucky.

“The men? They generally go in the sea and do the fishing, so they are stinking, working with the fish etcetera. The women on the other hand have to look very pretty and beautiful, to go into the market and sell the fish.”

We strolled around for another hour, our pace slowing down as the heat increased. Just outside a temple in the middle of the village, we discovered a pink and yellow wash basin. Apparently women walk around it before entering the temple. “It's for good luck. You should do it!”, Taronish encouraged me.

So I did. But I got more than I bargained for.

I actually paused briefly at one point before my seventh round was up. “So, what will actually happen?, I demanded. “You will get stronger!”, my guide shouted reassuringly.

But hadn't she mentioned something about marriage as well? But, Taronish had no time to answer, because my fiance, who helped me keep count, ushered me on. “Two more rounds. Keep walking!”

So, I blame what happens next – now or in the very distant future – on him.

Because, eventually, the seventh round was up and I turned to Taronish. “So, what happens now?”

“Now you have your husband Dominic for seven lifetimes!”, she stated triumphantly.

“Err…For seven lifetimes?”, I repeated, “I didn't sign up for that.”

Likewise, my boyfriend. “Whoa…whoa… Seven lifetimes!? I thought it was just for a long time. Because I was thinking in the third lifetime of maybe, you know, swap…”

Laughing, Taronish shook her head.

“No”, she said, simply.

Yes – so that is us, people. Deep blue bliss for seven lifetimes.

More photos of Worli? On our facebook page!.

Or do you want to know more about Mumbai? Our host here, my cousin Eli, has a brilliant blog – Expatliv – about her expat life and her work in the Annawadi slum.

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