Into the Arabian Sea - Mumbai

2006 Living on the shore of the Arabian Sea that stretches from Mumbai to Africa and the Middle East. Bandra, Bombay 400 050. The city bustling with 20 million people (give or take a few 100,000). Bandra - with a beautiful heritage of a fort, old trees, gorgeous school buildings and quaint in roads. Now crowded in with high rises, nouveau riche ugliness, malls, street shopping paradises, great eating places  and bollywood star homes. The rent today is as high as USD 15000.  Per month. Only. As elite as can be, but in a Bombay sort of way - where the city belongs to no one person or one class in any way. At one end of Carter road - the road that houses mega stars of yesteryear - is a fisherman's cove.  Nets, boats, baskets, fishing catch, tools and shanty sheds make up this cove. The people using this cove, are from the other end of the financial spectrum that Carter Road hosts. In any other city or country, such contrasts would have been wiped out with the power of money. But in this city, the contrast thrives. On my morning walks, I had gotten to know master chefs and poets and social entrepreneurs. And also a few of the fisherfolk. They belonged to a particular fishing clan of the Cambay region and had settled in Mumbai not so long ago.  I requested them to take us out on a boat ride into the sea, someday as far as we could go.... A date was fixed and we all arrived at the cove at 6.30 am. The area is rocky and the boats were moored a few meters out. With the tide already in, we had to take little canoes to get to the boats and hoist ourselves into them. The maximum capacity of these boats seemed like 12 people, and we were 8 - 5 of us and 3 fishermen. No life jackets. No floatation devices. No radio controls. No compass. No devices at all.  These were native fishing boats - belonging to men raised by the sea who didn't need any of these balance-sheet breaking toys.... So we went towards the lighthouse that is probably a kilometer out into the sea.  The old stone building is surrounded by rocks, that are home to some white birds in low tide. And then we went beyond that. Seeing the sun rise from behind the Bombay skyline with the expanse of the sea in between us, was a new sight to me.... no spectacular, just unusual. We kept going - not directly towards Africa - but a bit northwards. One of the men yelled out to look left westwards - "maamu dekho" - Before asking what he was talking about I looked in the direction he was pointing at - and saw the tail fins of a large dolphin. I couldn't believe that I had just seen a dolphin. In the Bombay waters? And they went about giving me a matter-of-factly explanation on dolphins and their common appearance in the winters and habits etc. Staring in their direction, gave spectacular results - a blink-n-miss show of a whole pod of about 6-10 dolphins ..... their movement of darting under the surface and out again for a brief peep, looked like they were frolicking and having a great time playing with each other.... (of course it is more likely that they were just looking for food and moving normally not playing to frolicking - but my interpretation is funner). I asked if I could get into the water - but the fishermen dissuaded me, saying the currents are unpredictable... I didn't push too much but next time we'll find a way. The hard part was to predict the exact spot they would resurface after they went under - since they were constantly moving. . They didn't feel threatened by the noisy boat motor and didn't swim away in fear. We watched - they swam. Time was now measured in the frequency at which the magnetising creatures made an appearance. The sudden bursts of snouts and tail fins out of the bobbing waves lasted for maybe 10-15 delightful minutes before they got bored and swam away. I had touched and fed captive dolphins in aqua-zoo situations but watching them in the wild in their own setting held a thrill and an undescribable connection of oneness. The fishermen, kind souls who made this experience possible, took us back. They kept us in their hearts - and even now send me invitations to join in their festival celebrations.


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