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The Fisherfolk Festival in Mumbai

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Every year in January and February the Kolis, Mumbai’s Fisherfolk, celebrate their annual festival. Each community has its own celebration. I visited the one in Mahul near Chembur.The other places where it is held are Versova and Mahim.

Kolis on this day don colorful clothes and the women wear their expensive jewellery, items which are also their investments.The younger generation is now educated as engineers, doctors, fashion designers and hospitality industry professionals. Some of the women speak excellent English.

The minute I entered, I saw stalls on either side.The Kolis were selling seafood made in their traditional style with Koli masala, which was being sold there as well. While it had the color red, it wasn’t very spicy. There were crabs, lobsters, squid,clams, pomfrets, and king fish, with the diishes all being made, then and there and the taste and aroma was phenomenal.

The Koli women are extremely hardworking.The men go out in boats to catch fish and the women sell them and look after the household work as well.

In Mumbai one does have many restaurants serving coastal fare but the style is that of the Konkan or Malvan area (Southern Maharashtra), not Koli.

Koli food has a sweet undertone. Dried fish is also a part of their cuisine.At the festival there were dishes such as Minced Tuna,Shrimp Biryani,Shrimp Pattice,Chilli Squid and Tandoori Crabs.Shrimp and Egg-Wrap was also being sold.

The best part of this festival is the freshness.The catch from the boats is served at these stalls that are close to the shore.

The food is also reasonably priced.People eat at the tables there or pack food for home…or both!

When President Obama came to Mumbai,his wife Michelle and he danced to Koli numbers with school children and charmed the Mumbaikars!

There was a stage where the Kolis performed song and dance.The famous singer Avdhoot Gupte made his appearance and mesmerised the crowds with Marathi songs and rock.

Here the public gets a chance to interact with the Kolis. It’s admirable how they stand up for each other like a great big family.

Really this is an event tourists must see, as I don’t think anything like this exists anywhere in the world. Come to Mumbai and experience it!

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