Glistening pomfret and Smoldering beedis

The Bombay Armada
[The flags and colours of an Armada of Fishing boats docked at Ferry Wharf. I hope this image gives the sense of the exhilerating energy of the place]

Ferry Warf, Mazgaon, is a daring mix of the bright colours of the machiwalli’s saris, dried salted fish, and the flowing melt of sea-scented blocks of ice. It smells of diesel exhaust and fish guts. The visuals are of glistening pomfret and smoldering beedis; drying bombils and piles of prawns; of turbulence in the Arabian Sea, and the squid-ink backwaters; and the air fills with crude fish-talk Marathi that end with profanities chewed up and spat into the mucky sea like the red gutka (chewing tobacco) that stains the city walls.

Ferry Wharf
[The wholesale fish market at Ferry Warf may not be as large and organized as the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo or well known as the Fulton Market in New York but what it lacks in size and notoriety it makes up in colour and uniqueness. One difference is that almost all the fish at the market is fresh sourced directly from line of fishing boats docked at the wharf. Good place to hunt for fresh ravas, pomfret and bombil.]

[A basket of prawns changes hands at Ferry Wharf. With a few exceptions women for various social reasons do not actively participate in the process of commerce in India. Fish retail is one of the welcome exceptions to this rule, the machiwallis constitute a large portion of the buyers at the wholesale market.]

Dawn is imminent and the air is brisk and saturated with the unsavory fragrance of fish. The Warf seethes with buyers, sellers and fiery machiwallis (fisher women) in their signature saris, weaving through a crowd, balancing baskets laden with iced-down fish, shouting or whistling warnings, shoving and pushing those they are overtaking. The wharf, each morning witnesses an unimaginable buzz of activity. An entire fleet of fishing boats lines the pier, as fish is slowly unloaded, only to be sold to the highest bidder a few minutes later.

[Fresh fish being unloaded]

The Sun rises over the Fishing Boats at Ferry Warf
[A rose tinted sky hangs over the Arabian Sea as sun rises over a very busy Ferry Wharf]

A torrent of transactions wrings sweat from the auctioneers at Ferry Wharf, who provide Mumbai almost all of its supply of fresh fish. A single supplier sells almost two hundred fish an hour, or about one every three minutes. The muqabla begins with loud shouting accompanied by swift movement of hands as the players in this mercantile theatre decide their price. At the low points they talk politely haggling over the price till they are consumed with emotion and they pout and shout at each other clutching their dhotis; the fish are waved and thrown up in the air to prove quality and freshness – yet the shouting match continues, up a notch to a new level of aggression. Sometimes it gives way to gentle shoving and pushing accompanied by more shouting and at times loud abuse from the buyer, “Have you gone crazy, six hundred rupees for such a small pomfret? How do you expect me to sell at such prices?” But just as you feel they are going to be at each others throats a compromise is reached, a price is agreed and there are smiles all around. The porters load the fish and its time for the next Muqabla.

[A young fisherwomen carries her purchases for day back to her transport.]

Crabs at Ferry Wharf
[A fisherwoman hawks her catch of crabs. You have got to love her colour sense.]

Not all the catch is fresh
[Not all the fish at ferry wharf is fresh as you can see. Women sell dried and salted bombil (Bombay Duck) and shrimp]

Ferry Wharf

[Fish being loaded on to a cab - which will probably find itself on the counters of a fish market somewhere in Bombay]

You can find rest of the picture here.

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Mridula said...

Akshay, wish you a very happy 2007. Your pictures speak wonderfully, let me add as usual.

I finally acquired a SLR (Canon 350 XTI) and used it on my Sikkim trip. But as they say, it is more important who is behind the lense and I have to go a really long way to understand my camera.

sanguine said...

what colours maan .. but am sure the stench killed you ..well almost.. the pics look so real i can smell the fishes ..

Arch said...

Must have been quite a treat for the senses :-)

Sudhakar said...

Mridula, Canon 350D is a XT while 400D is XTI. I too 've recently purchased 350D and I'm still wondering y I am not getting great pix like Akshay does.

Akshay, You gotta help us man :)

Anonymous said...

Really nice pics! I dropped in to your blog from

Anonymous said...

i haven't seen even 1/4 of mumbai and its almost time to leave!!
i'd love to explore the city.
don't know where to start!!
so far, have only been doing regulars:
fruit markets.
maybe i'll get on a bus today and go some place random.

Anonymous said...

These pictures are absolutely beautiful. The colours are gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

hi there
it was cool goin thru the ferry wharf pix. i have seen all this live as i stay pretty near by. really miss home as now i m based in Kolkata, but yeaa ferry wharf is a gem of a place, sans the stink. but then what wud the dock be without all the smell and the fishermen rite?


Dean said...

excellently written with apt visuals .. I loved the article on korlia fort
good job