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NOTHING ABOUT Manori village, located in Dharavi Bet in northern Mumbai, tells you that the village too is a part of the financial capital of the country. Tucked beyond a stretch of backwater, the easiest way to reach the village is to take a ferry from Marve beach, which is about a ten-kilometre ride from Malad station. The hamlet, however, bears no resemblance to the busy Malad station area.
The ten-minute ferry ride from the scenic Marve beach begins to draw a stark contrast between both the sides. Fifty-year-old Makarand Parera has been one of the “captains” of the ferry, almost all his adult life. “We ride to Manori, from Marve beach almost 51 times every day. The 2,000-odd people who live in Manori use the ferry to commute because it is inexpensive, even if it is a long way about,” said Parera. The other way to commute from Manori is to take an autorickshaw or a four-wheeler to Bhayandar, which ends up being an expensive option to the villagers, who predominantly make their living through fishing activities.
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On the ferry is Jogendar Bhosle, a postman who has been making trips to the village, every day for the last nine months. “I spend three hours travelling to Manori, and delivering the posts. Some days there is just one or two posts that require to be delivered, and I make a trip for that. It gets a little tiring. I wish there was a bridge to the village,” said Bhosle, earning disapproving nods from the village locals. While commute is a problem for the villagers, they agree in unison about not wanting a bridge to be constructed from Marve beach to their little island.
“Every year the MLAs promise to build us bridges. But that is the last thing we want. We want increased ferry service, we want better sanitation and communication facility. Bridge is the last thing we need,” said Stanley D’souza, a native of the village. The village is mostly self-sustained, say the locals, whose only concern about the ferry rides is that they can be more frequent in number. The ferry services begin at 5 am and go on till midnight.
A thriving tourist economy, alongside fishing, keeps the village afloat. Dubbed a couples’ retreat, Manori village is also full of hotels and refreshment kiosks. The autorickshaws that usually take these tourists for sightseeing drive twenty-two kilometres to Bhayandar to fill gas in their vehicles.
The village has two schools, an English medium institution till the primary level and a Marathi medium high school. The students, who manage to continue their studies beyond high school usually go to junior colleges in either Gorai or Malad. “I am studying commerce in Malad. My village has just one bank, for now. My aim is to become a banker, because people here do not have such dreams, and I want to prove them wrong,” said 15-year-old Harsha Patwa.
While the village has three medical dispensaries, run by both the local government and the private people, it does not have even a single hospital. In case of emergencies, people are taken immediately via the ferry to the nearest hospital, also in Malad. “Till now we have not faced such a situation. But we really hope the government helps in the setting up of a hospital here. We help each other out in the village, but for how long,” said Sunita Manekar, who shifted to the village seven years ago, after marrying a local fisherman. Her typical day starts at 5 am, when her husband goes fishing. Once he comes back, the fishes are taken to the local market in Malad by her. Like Manekar, this is a daily routine of many women in the village.
Garbage clearance is another major hassle for the villagers.