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FOR a glimpse of the world that Mumbai was before it became the metropolis it is today,there is no better place than the Worli fishing village. Composed almost entirely of the close-knit Koli community,this 600-year-old village is one of the last remaining bastions of an earlier way of life. To get a sense of the community,just plunge into its by-lanes,with their overpowering bouquet of drying fish and over-spilling garbage and gutters. The sights are as varied as the smells,with dozens of colourful fishing boats in the bay and dark-skinned Koli women dressed in their characteristic colourful attire and clunky jewellery.
The village sits in a bay that was identified by the Portuguese as a strategic vantage point from where to launch counter attacks from the sea and to keep a look out for pirates. In fact,if youre so inclined,you can even visit the small Portuguese fort built high up on a hillock,overlooking the village. Unfortunately,the fort,like many others in Mumbai,is in a high state of disrepair and this crumbling edifice now houses mostly junkies. However,residents in the area have drawn attention to the historical significance of the fort and the government is planning to renovate the place.
The village is also an interesting place from where to observe the discrepancies in the living standards of different people in Mumbai. Sitting as it does at one end of the Bandra-Worli Sea-link,the Worli village presents a stark contrast to the high-rises that line the horizon at the other end of the sea-link. However,with its fantastic view of the shoreline,the area occupies prime real estate and,residents fear,is in danger of falling into the hands of land sharks. These fears are compounded by the fact that fish catch close to the shore has fallen since construction of the sea-link began,which may signify the end of an ancient way of life.