It’s 10 am on a sultry morning in Chimbai village, Bandra. Tucked behind St Andrew’s Church and extending all the way to Carter Road, this predominantly fishing village is alive and buzzing with activity. The road leading up to the village is a one way and barely wide enough for a car to pass. Traffic jams are a common sight.
According to C Gonsalves, a Bandra resident, records of Chimbai village date back to nearly 400 years. Moving along, one can’t help but notice that Chimbai Road is a line that divides the old from the new. On one side is the typical one floor; traditional fishing huts while the other side is dotted with high rises.
Through the gaps in between, one gets glimpses of the sea. A walk towards the beach through one of these small lanes reveals that on either side, the houses are built in a similar fashion.
You have the veranda and a large room below and an exterior staircase with a separate door taking you to the first floor. Vinnie, a Koli, says, “The kolis living here follow an open door system. All the house doors are left open and anyone is welcome home ..anytime.”
The entire place, though, has a congested feel to it. V D’Souza, former koli and now an architect, later explains that this is because traditionally, when the eldest son of a koli got married, he was given a plot next to the parent’s house. Coupled with poor planning and lack of space, the houses now literally stick to one another.
At the other end, another surprise awaits.. community shacks. Here children play, old timers gather and talk and the fishermen return from the sea to a game of cards. “We believe in community spirit. Such shacks are built at the end of each lane. It encourages the families to mingle. Since our profession requires the men to be away for days at end.. a support system is a must for those left behind.”
By the time one heads back, the market is abuzz. Fisherwomen sell fresh catch that the men have returned with. Bargaining is on in full swing. “Rs 200 madam for the prawns,” says one fisherwoman to an interested customer. “Too high” is the reply. A little more banter and the transaction is complete.
Surrounded by some of the poshest looking buildings of Bandra, Pali was earlier a farming village. Farmers built their houses close to one another on the rocky parts and the fertile land around it was used as rice fields. People in the village later sold the land used for farming under the Town Planning System (TPS). The houses, though, till today retain an elegant and affluent look.
In comparison to Chimbai, they are better spaced and planned. D’Souza explains, “If you have noticed.. all houses had a veranda and grilled windows probably to help neighbours to sit there in the afternoons and chat away. At one point of time this area was predominantly Catholic, though it holds a more cosmopolitan look now.”
The place wore a deserted look though. All the doors were shut and there was no sign of any activity. It was a glaring contrast to Chimbai that was full of hustle and bustle and open doors.