Dear Fisherwomen of Bombay

Funnily I dont eat fish, but I have observed you so many times. I think you ladies are amazing. While most of us are at awe at the working women of Bombay, we dont seem to realise the kind of job you do.

I have seen you ladies get into crowded buses with that heavy load on your head supported by a small piece of cloth on your head to protect you from carrying the load directly. Then you have these 100 people around you who seem to curse you for the smell and the load that you carry. Which means that you have to fight not only with the load on the head but also with the people who seem to be okie buying fish from you but refuse to acknowledge the fact that you have to travel from the beach to the market.

I have seen you at unearthly hours of the morning, trying to catch the bus so that you dont miss the usual local train, which will let you take your catch to far away places.

I love the way you get on to the train. Balancing that big load on your head, you move in with the grace of a dancer. Slightly bending your knees so that the load doesnt hit the top, and then leaving both your hands and holding the rail and then a slight hop onto the train..its seriously poetry in motion.

Once you get into the train, its the same issue of people holding up their kerchiefs to their noses…I find it weird you know. Fine, some people may have problems with the smell of fish, but why wrinkle their noses and look at you with disgust. I find that attitude pretty bugging honestly.

But again, I dont think you care. Even if you care, I guess you are so used to it, that it doesnt bother you any more eh?

I love the way you ladies dress up to the T even in the early mornings. Wearing the Maharashtrian style saree tucked firmly between your legs so that they dont hamper your movement, loads of bangles often green in colour, the heavy gold earrings and the huge mangalsutras. The large bindis, the lovely nose rings in some cases. the bright coloured fresh gajras. You sure look amazing.

the best part of you is of course your wide smiles and cheerful attitudes. Despite the difficult schedule of catching fish, separating it, cleaning it, and then travelling with it from the beach to the station, climbing stairs in the station to climbing the train and then reaching the destination market, trust me, I know its no joke..and yet you do it with such ease. I admire you so much.

And then I  have seen some of you sitting in row in the fish market. Bright coloured sarees form a lovely background to the grey coloured fish. And what variety of fish. Midst all this, you haggle for prices knowing that your fish may get spoilt and no one may buy it from you. You cajole, you threaten and then finally you give up with a smile. Then you take a big knife and clean the fish, put the fish in a plastic and give it to the customer, tucking the money into the tiny purse you carry in your blouse. I find the entire excercise amazing!

It definitely must be a hard life for you, but I love your zeal of living.

Always talking to each other, joking, laughing, talking on the phone loudly, and gosh sometimes your language is so colourful. I once witnessed a fight you had with a customer on the BEST bus because he said something derogatory against one of you. The conductor politely asked him to move back saying you have equal right on the bus as he has, but he repeated it and God! the five of you just pounced on him verbally and ensured he was so so embarrassed by your language that he just got off at the next signal. I dont even know the meaning of half the words but the near applause the whole bus gave you, did give me an indication that you used the choicest of words in Marathi eh? your language is as colourful as your clothes eh?

You ladies are definitely wonderful and an inspiration.

Always at awe


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54 Responses to Dear Fisherwomen of Bombay

  1. My Era says:

    Wow! this is a superb letter celebrating the lives of fisherwomen.
    The tough lives they lead and yes the zeal with which they enjoy every moment of it is indeed a source of inspiration for all of us 🙂

  2. RM RM RM…no words for you.. after reading about bus drivers and conductors I was not able to think to whom you will write the next post… the way you have described so minute details of fisher women’s life, it is amazing.. hats off to you 🙂

  3. Loved this write up. You know with their spirited attitude and no-nonsense hard-work-ethic, I’ve often wondered how great it would be if they actually blogged.

    I was once witness to, in a Western Railway second class, possibly Virar -Churchgate train, a whole bunch of fisherfolk ladies, sitting , catching a breath, and getting organized to disembark a few stations later, when someone got in an Bandra, all stauesque, fully made up, heels and a mini skirt , not to mention standing in a modelling style near the door, with dark glasses ad not a hair out of place (in a windy compartment with women and wildly blowing hair). When time came for the fisherfolk ladies to get down and some subsequent station , this lady kind of stood her ground, only to have one of the non nosense ladies, call out to her, and say ” Oye, Padmini, how long will you stand , the Raja isnt coming till Churchgate ! Please move aside an let us go….” and the whole compartment cracked up. Padmini probably did too. Who knows !

    • R's Mom says:

      Thanks Suranga..yaa wondering how superbly they would blog na?

      LOL on that incident..gosh! how funny could that get ‘Padmini’…I am cracking up with that one!

  4. Lovely to read this! I don’t think I have ever thought of the lives of people like fisherwomen, drivers and conductors around me. Kudos to you for doing that!

    I am loving this series on the colourful citizens of Mumbai, which make the city what it is. Keep the posts coming!

    A few photographs to accompany each such post would have taken them to a different level altogether!

  5. chaitalichari says:

    Yet another chapter in Thanks giving series 🙂
    Its makes me realize there is some much to look around and enjoy it 🙂

  6. Jazz says:

    The attitude and smiles these people carry makes me hang my head for not valuing what I got. 🙂

  7. Waw another brilliant post, I just read ur conductor and now fisher women, you are rocking with all these daily posts RM 🙂

  8. Deeps says:

    The fisher women truly are amazing and inspiring! Hats off to them and their zest!

    What’s also admirable is what you’re doing, RM- recognizing them and acknowledging them. Not just them but so many other people, bus drivers for instance, who normally go unnoticed and are taken for granted in the usual grind of life, you make it a point to address them by way of your blog posts. Applause, RM, not everyone feels inclined to do that you know!!

  9. Mathangi Vijay says:

    Hmm So the Bombay series continues is it! Its no nice RM that you take time to notice all these people and are making it a point to record it as well. Yes, the tough lives of each and every one around us serves as an inspiration for us to continue

  10. sudha says:

    Hi R’s Mom..Am reading your posts after a long time..Am amazed by the way you appreciate life around you with so much enthu!!Such a positive mind set..One should write an article “Dear RM”

  11. Amit says:

    How beautifully you bring out each and every small and large thing in their existance with your words. 🙂
    Loved it!

  12. ashreyamom says:

    hey i wish somebody read the letter out to the fisher-women, i sure they will be really happy.. i just got reminded of maduri with bright saree and nose pin dancing with Marathi style saree.. 🙂
    hey now we want next post on.. the nice bloggers who comment for u daily and make it a ritual read ur post everyday morning and miss u when they dont get to read ur post on holidays.. 🙂

    • R's Mom says: guys rock so much AM…I love blogging because of the lovely interaction I have with the people who comment..but again, I also blog to vent out my feelings eh?

  13. Ashwathy says:

    Lovely 🙂

    We had an awesome lady to come give us fish where we stayed earlier. Now that we have shifted, we don’t see her as often but she has promised to keep fish cleaned and ready if we ever came visiting that side 🙂 Miss her… totally love her bindass attitude. And yes the smile on her face is in tact.

  14. meenamenon says:

    Hmm tru rt… how peop wriggle up the nose at the smell of fish while next moent they will rleish it on their dinner plates!!! V thotful post

    K tell me this, what with suddenly so many thank-you posts? Its almost like u bidding good-bye to mumbai. :-d

  15. Jay says:

    How thoughtful of you to blog about about the everyday people you see, R’s mom. 😀 You make them out as how they are, not just another nameless being whom we don’t care and don’t ‘see’ though we know their presence.

  16. Swaram says:

    Loved this one RM! So many such people whom we forget to thank in real life. Let alone thank, like u said, we get our food from them and we still cringe at them like they are from another world 🙂

    Hugssss and hope you are feeling better now, the cold 🙂

  17. Ramya says:

    Really RM… I just dont know how you think of writing… such a great writer with simple words… And ofcourse you bring out all the positives of these people… and inturn bringing out your great self with so much of humbleness 🙂 Hats off for seeing the positives in life 🙂

  18. Pepper says:

    I love this post. These fisher women are an amazing lot. Nobody to beat that zeal.

  19. sjscribbles says:

    Hey RM – you seem to be on a letter writing spree to all the occupations you see in Mumbai..
    Love the teeny-weeny details RM…You are giving a deeper insight into Mumbai…

    J studied in Pune for 2 years and he would always seem to be more familiar with Mumbai, we were once watching one of the travel channels , a program called “Metropolis ” where in the host explores Mumbai and follows Dabba Wallas on their routine and then she took a local train. When she was on the local train..I was telling J that the women folks daily travelling also clean their veggies (I acquired this “Gyan” from reading your blog) to which he promptly refused to accept stating reasons that trains are crowded to be doing such things ! The next thing we see in the program is an announcement that Women – chop and clean veggies on trains ! J was dumbfounded wondering how i knew such info 🙂

    The Secret behind my Gyan are your’ awesome blogs RM ! Thanks a Ton 🙂

  20. kayemofnmyk says:

    We had one such lady come home to sell us fish. We watched our parents bargain weakly with her before giving in with a smile. She was a curious mix of cheeky, loud and genial. As for her colourful language it would do any fisherwoman proud. Your lovely post made me think of her.

  21. Nachu says:

    Lovely RM! Such a vivid description! Wow lady, admire you for the way you see life and people and appreciate them!

  22. I hope one of them reads this .. what an ode too the hard working ladies ..

    Thank you RM for giving us well ME a insight of life in the fisher-woman.. i would have never known about this being a outsider and never seen them other than movies probably

  23. anisnest says:

    the first thought that came to my mind on reading this post is about the blessed and sophisticated life that we lead.. a big salute to these ladies and all those small scale vendors who struggle every single day to earn their bread.. am speechless…

  24. Vidya says:

    Looks like i have been missing the BEST posts:) Your attention to the details is amazing girl! Feels good to be back and blog hop. Loads of catching up to do!

  25. aparna says:

    They sure deserve recognition! Nice effort!

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