Dharavi Koliwada: Interview with Koli Women II
Director: Richa Hushing
Duration: 00:36:09; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 348.264; Saturation: 0.104; Lightness: 0.268; Volume: 0.319; Cuts per Minute: 22.073; Words per Minute: 105.910
In Koli practice the men go to the sea for fishing and the women handle the market. As a result the women have emerged as the public face of the community. The community is identified by the spectacular presence of the Koli women in the public place. In their broad body structure, distinct features, heavy jewelry, 9 yard saree, super confident body language and extrovert personality they make a spectacle in fish markets and in the public transports. Since the men work in the sea, far away from the din of the city, the Koli men do not have much of a public presence.
As the fishing trade itself has got severely affected by the chemical pollution of the sea, introduction of trawlers of the multi-national companies, by rampant construction activities and also by the intrusion of fish vendors from outside the community; Kolis are forced to get engaged with the happenings in the mainstream. They are asking for reservations in govt. jobs, concession in educational institutions and also joining political outfits that are strategically maneuvering their anxieties into xenophobia.
This interview takes place in a comparatively affluent household in Dharavi Koliwada. The house is a sprawling bungalow with all modern gadgets, marble floorings and wooden furniture’s. Such a house could be the source of envy for anybody in Bombay, in terms of living space available. But these kind of spacious houses are not uncommon in Koliwadas. But access to these houses is always through extremely narrow by lanes. Often a long winding labyrinth ends on a wide courtyard of a house. As the area was never planned to accommodate additional construction and urban infrastructure, the condition of the public spaces are abysmal. The once prosperous fishing hamlet is now facing extinction. The proposed redevelopment is made to gentrify the entire area. Once situated at the North-West border of the city, Dharavi has now become a prime land in the middle of the city. The dense settlement of low rise houses needs to go in order to extract more commercial value out of the precious land. The scheme proposes rehabilitation of all inhabitants in small tenements in the sky scrapers. The scheme suits some of the inhabitants whose livelihood is not necessarily located within Dharavi and not dependant on use of space. But others whose livelihood depends on the unique social structure and spatial arrangement of the settlement are strongly opposing this process of homogenizing the area. As oppose to the shanties in other parts of Dharavi, Koliwada comprises of village like independent structures. Though their already endangered livelihood is not likely to be affected anymore by this scheme, the Kolis stand to loose their ancient rights over the land and traditional culture.
Yamuna and Mani bai are friends and neighbours in Dharavi Koliwada. Koliwadas or villages of Kolis are the first settlements in the region. Before the land was turned into a city and then into a metropolis by joining the islands and then by filling up the sea and the marsh land, there were mainly the fishing hamlets and salt pans along with little patches of civilization. Koli community is one of the worst victims of urban development through the 20th century. Though they were converted into Christianity as early as 17th century by the Portuguese colonial missionaries, they have failed to take advantage of it either by receiving modern education or by acquiring employment or by expanding their economic activities. Despite the religious affinity with the foreign rulers the community maintained their indigenous life style and traditional occupation of fishing. But as the city grew and more contenders came in to the trade on the sea and marine lives, the Kolis and their traditional occupation of fishing have come to the verge of extinction.
Manibai (M): Where have you come from?
Richa (R): We have come from Kharghar.
Man: What will you do with this tape?
R: See how earlier people used to write books, now is the trend of video recording. We are just trying to shoot your history and contemporary life. If you ask me what we will do of the tape, I do not know how it will be used finally.
Where were the temples in the village? Were there any wells?
M: Yes there were some old wells here.
Man: Yes there were wells and also some temples. There is a very old temple on our village border.
Yamuna (Y): There is one Datta temple that I showed you yesterday.
Man: There is one called Cheradevi. The gods protect the village. We do not start any new thing or any festival without worshipping our village gods.
Y: Without offering coconut in the temple we do not step outside of village.
Man: We still follow all these, whether it's a marriage or any other festival. We pray first at the temple.
R: I have heard that some temples are still quite active?
M: That one is Khambdev. It is still potent. They are doing some new construction there.
Y: That temple till date does not need a roof.
M: Khambdev does not need a roof, whether it is raining or it's very sunny, the temple does not need a roof.
R: How many temples are there?
M: There are two temples. One is Cheradevi and one Khambdev.
R: How many wells were there in the village?
M: There were many wells earlier.
R: Where have they gone?
M: The people destroyed them as they wanted to live there.
Man: There were many wells before. Once they had dug 100 ft deep drainage, because of which water from the well went in the drainage. Some time back some buildings had fallen due to the crack in the land that was also due to the drainage. The wells also dried due to that.
The interview continues from the end of the file: Dharavi Koliwada: Interview with Koli Women 1. By now the gang of three has comfortably sat around the camera and has got control over the situation. They don't feel intimidated anymore. Infact now the power balance is tilted more towards them than the shooting crew. The conversation turns into the common wealth of the village. Everybody gets animated to describe the deities and the natural resources of the village. Though the Koli community was technically converted into Christianity by the Portuguese colonial missionaries in 17th century, they have maintained their indigenous rites and rituals and thus have evolved a distinct syncretic religious culture. Their gods and goddesses such as Cheradevi and Khambdev are not part of any hegemonic religion of either classical Hinduism or Christianity. Khambdev is the male god and can be worshipped only by the men. (for more detail please see 'Dharavi Koliwada: Indigenous Religious Culture and Khmbdev' on this site)
After the grim talk about danger to livelihood and displacement when it comes to cultural festivals the ambience gets charged with positivism and energy. Kolis are known for their extrovert characteristics and fun loving festivities. It has been a cliché in Bollywood flicks to showcase a mandatory item of Koli song and dance in the films on Bombay. Their festivities are especially popular for the seductive and also good humouredly abusive dance by the voluptuous Koli women.
Narial Purnima is a festival to announce the end of monsoon. During the heavy rain of July-August the fishermen cannot go to the deep sea to fish. Infact the government has put a ban on fishing in the deep sea on those months to avoid casualties. Hence in August-September (Shravan in local calendar) on the full moon day there is a ritual of worshipping the sea god by offering him coconuts. It marks the end of no-fishing season and prays to the sea god to calm down to help to resume fishing. This ritual is entirely livelihood based and no other community or religious group celebrates this festival. Kolis are technically Christian community. But their socio-culture-religious life is a combination of Christianity, local Hindu festivals, various indigenous rituals and rites related to their livelihood. On the day of the Narial Purnima they worship the sea god with decorated coconut and in the evening offer special service in the church. For the Koliwadas which are still actively involved with the trade of fishing this remains the biggest festival. But since Dharavi Koliwada has got alienated from the fishing culture, the significance of Narial Purnima has become merely symbolic for them. The festival of Holi has emerged as the main festival for them. It is a festival to celebrate the arrival of spring. It does not relate to their life cycle in any direct way. But over the last decade the open ground near Dharavi Koliwada has become the central place to celebrate Holi for the entire area. It is generally believed that the Holi festival is patronised by Shivsena in order to mobilize the community under its fold, much as the same way Lokmanya Tilak started Ganeshotsav to invoke nationalism.
R: Where do you get water from?
Man: We get it in the tap.
M: No she is asking where it comes from. During high tide the water gets filled in the gutter and creek. They do not clean it and that is why the village gets flooded. The water gets clogged in monsoon.
Man: It is due to the nature, we can not help it.
R: I have heard lot of old koli songs, are there any new ones too?
Man: New songs are coming out of Dharavi.
There were many people in Dharavi who used to sing koli songs, now they are not there.
M: There were many earlier, now they are all dead.
Man: There was a man called Budhaji Shinde and his party. They used to sing koli songs.
M: Yes, he died. He was very good the recent ones sing any rubbish. He was the original. He was the only one in Bombay. Now after him so many other have come… they make some trashy stuff and go ahead… In Koli songs Dharavi was the number 1.
Man: That was Budhaji Shinde's party.
M: He used to sing on Akashvani (national radio station). The songs must still be there in Akashvani, if they have not thrown away the files. After those things were adopted… you did it differently, so and so did something else…
Yamuna (Y): He had gone to Delhi too, that time Nehru was there.
M: Nehru was there, Indira was there…
Man: He was a prodigy…
R: Are there any new songs and singers now?
Man: No there are none left in Dharavi.
Y: Now the people are busy in studies and work.
M: But earlier Dharavi koliwada was the best in songs and dance.
R: What are the occasions when people sing and dance?
M: Narial Purnima, Holi, Ganpati, we sing and dance during these festival.
Man: Holi is the main festival for song and dance. We celebrate holi for 13 days and burn 13 holikas.
R: How many, 13 days?
Y: If you want to see all this, you should come during holi.
Man: The holika which is burnt a day before rang panchmi is the biggest holika.
R: What happens after the 13 the day?
Man: The 13th holi is the biggest, the 12 ones happen before that. It starts from the day after amavas (no moon day) and goes on it Purnima (full moon day)
R: How do you celebrate Narial Purnima.
Man: There is a competition to break coconut, there is dance.
M: We decorate the coconut and worship it, then the coconut is taken around the village and then it is immersed in the sea. The biggest celebration happens in Khar danda because they are close to the sea. We do not have a sea nearby Dharavi, we have a creek. You should go to Khar danda for Narial Purnima.
Y: But for holi you should come here.
Man: The holi in Dharavi is the best in Bombay.
M: In other villages, every head has their own holi, but in Dharavi there is just one holi for all. Other villages have 4-5 heads, we have only one head. In our village if we have any problem we first go to our village head, if he can not solve it we go to police or court. In our village we go for holi in groups, we have 9 groups. The groups go to holi ground. In Holi ground nobody should think along the line of man and woman… you should play in good humour. Man will make the woman dance, the woman will make the man dance… children too, and there is not division. Not with narrow mind… just like siblings.
Many people wear good clothes and dance.
M: Yes, earlier there were lots of fancy dress competition.
bal gangadhar tilak
festival of coulour
Manibai demonstrates her parochial affiliation to her village with great élan. It is heartening to see the pride for her village and the people. At the same time it also exposes the deep contempt for the 'others', specially the ones who have migrated recently. By referring to an imaginary 'mini Pakistan' she has put all the rotten eggs in the basket of the Muslim inhabitants. It is ironic that in the hegemonic imagination about the city the Kolis are also associated with various dark deeds such as brewing and bootlegging illegal country liquors, being accomplished in smuggling and messy practices such as leaving foul fish smell all over the city and at public transports etc.
The residents of Dharavi are proud of their neighbourhood being centrally located and well connected by railway stations and bus depot. Ironically these facts only make the place lucrative and may become the cause of their displacement.
R: Dharavi has grown so much now. Dharavi was known for goons and people were scared to come here. How did you feel?
M: Yes people from outside used to talk like that. There are such people around, but they live in the slums. This is koliwada, our village, these things do not happen here. They talk like… Dharavi is sheet, there live thieves, pick pockets etc. But that's not true; they live on the other side, ahead of khambdev.
Y: They live that side in Sion.
M: According to the circumstances they have to do all these.
Man: These people have come from outside.
M: Yes, there is a place called small Pakistan.
Y: Yes, there is small Pakistan.
M: Everyone says, Dharavi is crowded and bad, but I am sure they have never come inside. The comfort of Dharavi is not to be found anywhere. Within ten minute is Sion station, Bandra and Mahim station. In five minute distance, there is a bus depot; there is Sion hospital, Lok Manya Tilak. Is there such facility anywhere in Bombay, nowhere.
Y: As soon as you step out there is auto rickshaw, taxi… all around.
M: If anyone falls sick, the hospital is near by, is there such facility anywhere else? The place where they have ONGC office, we had a big pond there. We used to get lots of fishes there.
Man: Yes, there was a big pond full of fishes
M: Our children used to go to fish there and we used to sell it. Children these days do not do such thing. Their parents have understood the need for education and now send them to school.
lokmanya tilak hospital
oil and natural gas commission
M: Government has not helped us, our children or husbands
R: What kind of help do you expect from government?
M: We want that our educated children should get jobs. He is my son he earns and gets money for home. Now if his children do not have a job, how will they take care of him? This is what we demand.
Y: They have taken away our land; in return they should give job.
M: The way you have reached here, our children should also get opportunities. You get 10, if our children at least get 5, they will be able to feed the family. Bombay has become very expensive.
Now when the ministers will come for the elections, they will say, you take care of us and we will look after you.
R: Which category do you fall into, SC, OBC? Have they have denied you reservation?
M: In our times there were no such things.
Man: They do not give reservation; the government has refused to give us that status. Earlier they had given reservation to Mahadev-Koli, but now government says that we are not Mahadev-Kolis. We are Mahadev-Kolis.
M: What will our children do?
Man: They do not know anything. Were they here from before? We are the origins of this place. Earlier kolis were tribal Mahadev-Koli.
M: The kolis from ghats, the people from U.P, tanners - were they here from the beginning? We are the originals and we do fishing.
Man: The government says that Bombay kolis are not Mahadev-Kolis.
R: So they took away the reservation?
Man: They took us out of SC and they put us in OBC (Other backward class), SBC- Special Backward Class.
M: That is why whoever comes to interview us, we feel very angry.
Y: Our children ask us, what have we done for them, they are educated and still have no jobs. What should we tell them?
M: What do we do, these jobs are not in our control.
Man: People get certificates from UP and Bihar and those are considered valid. But certificates from Bombay are considered invalid. Where is their validation? But only the question of validation is raised in the case of Bombay. From UP, Bihar or South they bring certificate and that is valid. What is happening here? If the certificate is proved invalid then people even stand to loose their jobs
M: We should drive these elected ministers away. Before elections they come to us folding hands and after they win they forget everything.
Y: Every minister comes here folding hands and asking for votes.
Their disappointment and anger against the Govt. is valid. They assume that only way to dodge this crisis of livelihood is to get into the public sector. Since they have been away from the mainstream practice of professional education it is extremely difficult for them to now enter the job market. So they expect some kind of reservation for themselves in the public sector. But the politics of reservation is a complicated one. There are some communities who have been marked for reservation since independence. There are other communities who claim to be backward and poor and thus have been demanding reservation. On the other hand the upper caste people have been vehemently opposing the policy of reservation. Politicians often play electoral games with these phenomena. The Kolis, first of all, are not a large enough community to be a substantial vote bank. Nor do they have much political acumen. So their demand for reservation does not cut much ice. Secondly, they are not poor in the conventional sense. Most of them own property in Bombay, many own fishing boats. Hence it is difficult to declare them as a disadvantaged community. Thirdly, in the present market driven economy public sector is itself dwindling. Even if they are given special status, there are hardly any jobs left for them to get. Mahadev Koli is the sub sect that has been recognized as disadvantaged community. But if any Koli person, belonging to other sub sects, get caught with a false caste certificate then he stands to loose his job – which he had acquired on the basis of that certificate. This has angered the community. The anger and the frustration then get converted into hatred for 'others' people who are coming to the city and earning a livelihood. But the fact is that the Kolis are so entrenched into their own culture that they find it very difficult to get into any other livelihood practice such as, taxi driving, vending other things than fish etc.
other backward castes
special backward class
In '70s and '80s Koliwada was infamous for its home based breweries (Haat Bhatti, literary means manual oven). The cliché was that the community is generally promiscuous and fun loving and both men and women are drunkards. But our protagonists argument is home based breweries were a supplementary source of income. The ill reputation of the community and unnecessary publicity about the home based alcohol business brought the state into the village and eventually the business got banned. It seems the influential lobby of the alcohol manufacturers also aided the govt. to bring in the ban.
Every topic eventually comes back to the refrain of 'Govt. does not give us job'. It is the over arching concern. The indigenous communities who have witnessed the fishing hamlets in the islands grow into the metropolis that it is today, find themselves completely inadequate to survive within its current structure.
R: I have spoken to others also. Everyone says they used to fish and many also brew country liquor. What happened when the creek dried up?
Man: People used to brew liquor in the creek. It stopped eventually. What should people do, fishes reduced due to acid in the creek water. What should people do now?
M: No one had any service and that is why they had to do alcohol business Otherwise what was the need? Government put a ban on that too.
R: Then what happened?
Man: There were lots of people in this business. I have seen it as a small kid; every house had breweries (haath bhatti). And that was not so dangerous for health. But later they started country liquor and news started coming regularly that people were dying due to country liquor. The kind (of alcohol) that they made here was different. And because of the news the business here also suffered. Otherwise every house used to make it.
M: The government has taken everything from our village. The creek went.
Man: Earlier we used to get oyster also. That business also stopped. Now we have nothing. It came in the newspaper that in Shivaji park, Dadar and Mahim the growth of oysters have increased.
M: We used to have lot of oysters in the creek. But due to the acid water it died. Government has done nothing for us. What will we do, our children have nothing.
Y: If you can, please do something about our children and do come and visit us again. My grandchildren have studied for 14-15 years, but they do not get admission in schools easily. These mother fuckers have come recently, and they are getting ahead. But we have been left behind.
M: Please give this tape to the government and tell them that kolis were abusing them.
Y: These mother fuckers have come and destroyed everything.
Man: When things go beyond tolerance level then we go mad.
i like this.
M: The leader of our area, Ramkrishna Keni. He is from our caste. What has he done for us, nothing. Someone gave him money and he forgot about his caste. No one is interested.
Rrivu: Who all are contesting the elections from here?
Man: From congress Eknath Gaikwad and from Shiv Sena, Suresh Gambhir.
M: Suresh Gambhir came in the morning.
Man: And when the result comes out they forget everything.
R: It is your right to vote.
Man: Yes, government has only given us this right (to vote) and that too by force. Do we have any other right except this one?
M: Yes that time everyone comes and forces us to sit in the car and go and vote.
Y: Our children will tell us, what is the point of your existence, what have you done for us?
R: Koli women are supposed to be very strong.
Man: Yes they are dashing.
Y: We do not have that much of the strength left.
Man: Their business is taken over by the Bhaiyyas.
M: Yes. They go and sell fishes everywhere.
Y: They go from door to door and that is why no one comes to the fish market.
M: If you get fish at your doorstep even if it is for 2 rupees more, why should you come to the market?
R: The dashing kolis should do something.
M: We need strength to do all this.
Y: We did all that we could. With sticks and knives in protest, but it was of no help.
M: To show off your strength you need money. So that you can offer others some food, money. There is a man in Thana called Anant Tare. He took out such a huge protest rally of women kolis, so many people joined in. it was held in Talav Pali.
Rrivu: Did you go there?
M: I did not go, others went. Did you go?
Y: My leg was hurting so I could not go.
M: So many people and cars had gone.
Rrivu: I had gone.
M: Tell us what our leader Anant Tare said?
Man: But he did not even get the election ticket, Chaugule got it instead.
M: So many women had gone; they had made the food for morning and evening and came back at 10 in the night. But what was the use, what has government done?
The male migrants from North India (colloquially called Bhaiyya) have started vending fish at people's homes. They are ordinary migrants and try their hands in all sorts of things including fish vending. But apparently because of that practice the business in the fish market has gone down drastically. There are many other issues behind the crisis in fishing trade. Pollution of the sea, entry of the multinational companies in the fishing trade, pressure of the real estate on the fish markets and Koliwadas, loss of fishing boats as they could not be maintained without a healthy water body – all these factors have contributed to the decline of the business of the community. The Bhaiyyas and their vending strategy could be the proverbial last straw. But the right wing politicians have manipulated the whole thing such a way that for the Kolis the Bhaiyyas have become the prime villain of this pathetic story. There have been instances of violent clash and Bhaiyyas being beaten by the Kolis. But actually it is the case of organized sector and unorganized sector. Koli women are organized sector as they conduct their business from a designated place; pay tax; work within a well established network between fishing, wholesale market and retail market; build an area based faithful clientele and are in the business for generations. Whereas the Bhaiyyas came in as individuals and got into the business as a mere livelihood option. They are neither skilled, nor attached to the job. They are the casual labours of the unorganized sector. Strangely the trade union of the city never bothered to regard this problem as a labour issue. Nor has the women's movement considered this as an issue of women's economic right. Hence the right wing party Shivsena could take full advantage of it and turn the whole thing into a shrill communal campaign. (For more on this subject please see 'Koli: Devyani Chamur on Livelihood, Labour and Idetity'
on this site).
Man: In our childhood I remember when the textile mills were working, these people used to leave by 4 in the morning and come back by 10 at night. In the morning after the market they used to go to the mills, not come home and then at 3pm come back from the mills and go straight to the bazaar.
Y: We had to leave early in the morning, did not even have time for the daily prayers, and we used to light a lamp in the market.
M: Now there is a death of food for us, Koli people. We can not even send our children to school. And there is no scope for any job. The fish business is also bad; all these Bhaiyyas go and sell pomfret, surmai, mandeli at people's doors for few rupees more. Why will these people come to the market? We buy fish from far away places and bring to the local market. If we don't get even 10 rupees we feel miserable. Carry it on your head; hire some coolie… how much it comes to… Our husbands are unemployed and they keep pestering us to go to work. But what can they also do if they don't get any job. Government has not given any facility.
R: Now that there is no work, have kolis opened any other business on their own.
M: We could have done that. But our primary business is fishing. We did not have any clue about other business. We know only how to buy fish and sell it in the market. We used to go to Crawford market, Sasoon dock and get fish from there. We used to make profit of 10-20 rupees on that and we were happy. If we start any other work, there should be customers for that. If no one buys there too then we would loose everything. That is why no one started other business. Fishing is our traditional business.
R: There are lots of people who make papad?
M: Yes there are many people here, but they are from different caste.
R: No one from koli?
Y: No they are chamranis (woman tanners), they make papad.
M: They get the batter from Bandra Lijjat Papad factory, they roll it and dry it and give it to the factory. Then they get some money out of it. It does not suit us, we are in fishing business. To do any other business one needs money. If We spend two rupees on something, we should also get some profit out of it.
Y: How will we get money to start anything?
M: We do not have the power to start a new business.
Y: If anyone gives us money to start a business, we will do it.
M: Government has not helped us at all.
The textile mills industry was spine of the city's economy and culture till 1980. It started in 1853 and by mid 20th century provided employment for more that 200,000 people. Other than the regular work force there was also substantial number of women and children who worked as casual workers in the mills. Besides there were many auxiliary industries which too employed many people. Since 1980, following a mass scale workers' strike, the mill owners slowly killed the industry. This has taken a huge toll on the working class of the city.
But another interesting phenomenon is the Koli men. Traditionally they are designated to go to the sea for fishing. Hence they have never gathered much social skill. The trade was entirely handled by the women who then developed a public persona. Even the additional works either in the textile mills or in any other sweatshop are mainly taken up by the women. Even in the present crisis it is the women folks who are making desperate attempts to make their ends meet. Koli men, who cannot go to the sea, rarely get into any other occupation. The man in this video is one of the rare people who work outside. He has a job at the BMC (BrihanBombay Municipality Corporation)
bhaucha dhakka dock
brihanbombay municipality corporation
gender division of labour
R: Will you go to the fish market today in the evening?
M: You were there in the market yesterday, I saw you.
R: Oh, you were there?
M: Yes you guys were there at 9 in the evening, I saw you.
R: Will you be there today also?
M: No, but others will be there.
R: When do you sit in the market?
M: I go there for 10 minutes on Friday, Wednesday and Sunday. On other days my daughter-in-law sits. She finishes the house work and sits in the market.
R: Which market do you sit in?
Y: She sits at Sayani road depot. Now there is nothing left in the market, we do not feel like going there.
R: You say that the business is not doing well, customers don't come. But you must have earned enough earlier when business was doing well?
M: Earlier there were customers, if we bought fish for 5 rupees, we would make 10 rupees profit and if we bought for 10 then we would get 50 rupees as profit.
R: That time is gone now. You have lost a lot, but you must have earned some money too.
M: Yes we had earned at that time, but then these Bhaiyyas came and they started selling fishes door to door.
Y: Now we get one kilo for 200, earlier we used to buy a carton of fish for 200 rupees. Now if we get one piece for 200 rupees, what profit will we make?
M: Now we get one small pomfret for Rs.100. Say there are 4-5 people in the family, will it be sufficient for all?
Y: Earlier we used to get a carton of pomfret for Rs.500, now we get one piece for 500.
M: If you want to buy two, it'll cost 200. If you spend 200 for one meal, what will you do rest of the time? That is why the customers are less and the business has declined. We go to the market and buy small little fishes, and hardly make a profit of 5-10 rupees profit on it. When we don't even get that then we take loan for household expenses, then for food and then for something else… and the debt piles up.
We used to earn earlier, but now our children are feeding us. Now whether their children will feed them or not, god only knows. Our condition is so bad but who knows what our mayor is doing? Whether they are bothered or not. Since we have big houses we are making 4 portions and give it out on rent. That is how we earn money.
R: So you survive on rent money?
M: Yes, we need money to eat food.
R: Now this is my last question to you. If you want to raise your voice about any issue you can.
M: I only want to say one thing. Give us our caste certificate, so our children and their children can get jobs.
Will your grandparents not feel that after so much education, you should get good job? So we also feel the same about our grandchildren. The leaders from our area did not do anything for us. Where will we go?
Y: We went up to Delhi with our demand but nothing happened.
M: Did you need any certificate?
Y: They ask us for certificates. People who came after us got their certificate.
M: You came from outside and went to school and worked, did they ask you for certificate. Why do they ask only our children? These ministers who are sitting in the Mantralaya (ministry), why do they drive us away? What have we stolen from them?
Y: Earlier kolis used to get lot of respect, now no one asks for us. We feel like crying. In the market if we try to negotiate, they drive us away.
M: That's why we get into arguments. No one cared for us.
Y: We feel that our children have studied so much, they should get some good job, but there is lot of problem over the certificate.
M: People on high post get 20,000-25,000 as salary. Our children should at least get 5,000. So they can give 3000 to parents and keep 2000 with them to enjoy. The ministers are corrupt here.
Since 1960 this city has been witnessing sporadic outburst against the 'outsiders'. Being the biggest metropolis in the subcontinent it attracts large number of people in its fold. This influx definitely creates a demographic imbalance. If seen in isolation then there is nothing wrong in the allegation that the Koli people are making. But it is the issue of lopsided development. The city has been developing such a way that at point one set of people are encouraged to come in and in the next phase that same people are rendered redundant. During the inception of textile mills the workers were lured from the hinterland of Maharashtra and brought into the city. In the post industrial phase of today they are being treated as wastes. For construction activities large number of workers are brought in from far flung areas and kept as bonded labourers at the construction sites. After the construction is over they are called illegal migrants. Demographical issues cannot be seen in isolation from the history of development and labour policy.
M: All the ministers are corrupt… go and tell them how we kolis feel about them. No one cares about us they do not give certificate to our children, so why should we respect them?
You need no permission; you have just come to Bombay and are roaming around with a camera. Can our children go around with a camera? No.
Now you are roaming with camera, your boss must be giving you money, you can not be doing it for free. Do something for our children; give them some job to excel. We will feel good. They do not give us anything.
Y: Please go and tell the ministers what state we are in here, why do they not give us certificate?
M: Go and show this tape to ministers, that koli women are abusing them. They do not care about us.
R: People, who are asleep, need to be woken up.
M: Yes correct, the time has come to wake them up. Ask them to think about koli people and their children.
Y: Koli have not come from outside, we belong to this place. We did not even flee this place, we stayed put here.
M: Go tell your minister. He will not kill us; you go and tell him that koli people abuse him. They do not care about our children - we will not even offer him a chair to sit. We will ask first what he can give us and our children. I am so angry, just because my son asked me to come here for the interview, I came.
R: What is your name?
M: Manibai Narayan Koli.
R: Where were you born?
M: I was born here, I will die here too. This is my mother's house the other side is my husband's house.
R: And what is your name?
Y: Yamuna Namdev Koli.
Y: Yamuna Namdev Koli. We are the original kolis.
M: There is no benefit of being original.
The irony of the situation is that by the end of the conversation, Manibai has even started calling Richa Hushing, a classical Maharashtrian an outsider. A classical example of the right wing campaign of 'Bombay is for the sons of the soil' boomeranging on itself.