In the fair city by the sea..

The insanity is back in the motherland these days, and busy with family and friends. It’s been somewhat of an experience overload, and hence the delay in corresponding with all of you, my dear listeners.
To the north of the drive along the Worli Sea Face, home to Bombay’s (yes, Bombay and not Mumbai) rich and famous, lies the little known and even less visited village of Koliwada. In what can only be attributed to history and the peculiarity of Indian bureaucracy, this is not yet part of the city. It’s a calm and peaceful place, inhabited by the fishermen, the original inhabitants of the seven islands (or nine, as my newfound knowledge would have it). There is a local government, a village market and narrow lanes between houses that remind you more of fishing villages along the Konkan coast, than the urban sprawl of Bombay.
By a peculiar twist of circumstance, i am here, the day after my flight lands from New York, visiting a temple. I am not a religious person, and most of all, I am against ritual of all manner. But I have never been to this place before, and I am curious. A middle aged gentleman in a nicely cut kurta and pyjama, the head of the village – a stereotype defying, extremely articulate man, accompanies us.
The temple is adjacent to the fort of Worli, from which the fishermen sought to defend themselves against the portuguese. It lies in ruins now, and its history mostly unknown – except for this gentleman here, whose ancestors have lived here for centuries.
“The idols were found in the twelfth century by our king and installed in a corner of the fort wall”, he says, “But over time, they were lost and remained only in legend”
“The were found in the twelfth century?”
“Yes, out in the sea. Nobody knows where they came from. Perhaps this place has more history than even we fishermen know”.
“So what happened?”
“They were neglected and got covered in grime, and became featureless stones. Then, this year, a part of the wall collapsed during the rains. The layers of grime broke open and revealed the idols inside. So we decided to build this temple”
The band waiting outside the temple suddenly comes alive – drums, trumpets and all. A rush of activity signals that something is happening. I turn around and look at him quizically.
“The heads of the other villages have come. Its their day today”
A gaggle of women in green saris bursts into the temple and lines up along the walls. Noisy and chatty, all of them with flowers in their hair. Their happiness makes me a little envious.
“It’s been going on for centuries. Every year this day, the heads of the nine villages that later became Bombay come together in a procession and visit us. We keep the tradition alive.”
He notices the skeptical look on my face and says:
“What would i be, without my past? Nobody. In our lifetime, we do things and those memories stay us. Why should we not extend the same logic to traditions? Rituals, traditions – just ways of keeping the memories of our forefathers alive.”
He nods his head as he says this and loses himself in thought. I choose not to disturb him.

Later that night, as I drive down marine drive to recreate personal memories at Not Just Jazz by the Bay, I think about what he said. I am tempted to agree.


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