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As monsoon-soaked Mumbai battles with the sea, residents on the margins hold out key lessons


It was an early April day in 2019 – before the past present times of the pandemic – that I went out fishing with Mangesh Sakre and his crew in the waters off Worli Koliwada, a settlement of fishers off Mumbai’s western coast.

The time between December and March is generally peak fishing season. April was still a good time to fish in Mumbai, though Koli fishers were now anxious about getting good catches on the few fishing days that remained before the monsoon arrived.

The water was a beautiful green-blue and very calm. Sakre wasn’t happy seeing it like this. “The water has changed,” Sakre told me when I asked him what he thought of his prospects that day. This colour is not so great for catching pomfret, he said.

A few days ago, it was biscuit colour or chocolate, he said. That water is good for pomfret. This beautiful clear water, he implied, in contrast, not so much. He was right. We caught few fish that day.

I begin with this event in part to describe the sophisticated ways in which Koli fishers read and act the city’s changing terrain to dwell in the urban sea. Fishers are keenly attuned to the dynamic changes of…

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