Welcome To Sassoon Docks

December 23, 2017 India Write a Comment 8,432 Views

Welcome To Sassoon Docks, Home To Mumbai’s Forgotten Inhabitants.

When travelling to a city with a population of almost 30 million, one might be overwhelmed with the sight possibilities. We’re quite good at navigating and finding “hidden” secrets, yet megacities like Mumbai are a bit of a challenge, even for us. What we normally do in such a case is browse through our neighbouring surroundings on Google Earth. Our hotel was located near Victoria Station, which means the possibilities up North are endless, yet South offered a smaller radius. Our attention was immediately caught when we hovering above the so called Sassoon Docks. With what looked like hundreds of colourful fishing boats, it was pretty clear that this needed to be checked out.

There are two kinds of people – those who’ll go to a market to buy fish and those who won’t. Markets (especially fish markets) can be stinky, and many of us would rather go to the supermarket. We love markets not only because of the great photo opportunities, but because this where the real deal happens. Sassoon Docks is one of the largest fish markets in the city and for us, it was just the right spot to go to. Turns out that the Sassoon Docks is also one of the oldest docks in Mumbai (142 years), and one of the few docks in the city open to the public.

Where Modern And Traditional Lives Cross.

The entrance looks like the gateway of a fortress, but we knew we were at the right spot when the salty whiff of the ocean and the scent of fish greeted us from afar. More and more people shoving large boxes of fish crossed our path and we knew that we were getting closer. What we didn’t know then is that the Sassoon Docks just recently got a funky street-art turnover called Sassoon Dock Art Project as part of the St+art Mumbai 2017 Urban Art Festival. Despite its historical value and with Mumbai’s try to escape its fishy roots, this place has rather been avoided by Mumbaikars. Like the docks, the memory of Mumbai’s Koli past is all but wiped clear.

The Sassoon Dog is hard to miss when walking along the Sassoon Docks in Mumbai.
The Sassoon Dog is hard to miss when walking along the Sassoon Docks in Mumbai.
Koli women are crucial to the running of the fishing trade at the Sassoon Docks and multiple installations and paintings are built around them.
Koli women are crucial to the running of the fishing trade at the Sassoon Docks and multiple installations and paintings are built around them.
St+art India is dedicated to making art public, taking it out from niche spaces of galleries and museums and the Sassoon Docks in Mumbai where just the right spot to shed light on this historic party of the city again.
St+art India is dedicated to making art public, taking it out from niche spaces of galleries and museums and the Sassoon Docks in Mumbai where just the right spot to shed light on this historic party of the city again.

Home Of The Koli People.

The Sassoon Dock in Mumbai is home to the city’s traditional Koli fishing community. The Koli people are an ethnic Indian group native to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana states. It’s believed that the Koli people are Mumbai’s original inhabitants and whose goddess Mumbadevi lends her name to the city. The communities have thrived in the hidden quarters of the city, the koliwadas, which essentially means “a home that opens to the sea“. Much of the art here represents the lived realities of the Koli community – its people, their trade and its smell.

The art project started on November 11 and will run until December 30, 2017. Whether the Sassoon Docks will still be visited as frequently after, is unclear. After all, all the art in the world can’t make the notorious smell, the endless heat and the piercing noise – which are a few reasons people have not come here before – go away.

This has been our second visit to Sassoon Docks and tourists are still a rare sight here. The art installation has brought some upwind, yet only the eager and especially smell-resistent make it all the way to the end of the docks.

Currently, about 1,500 trawlers operate at the Sassoon Docks, bringing in around 20 tonnes of fish every day.
Currently, about 1,500 trawlers operate at the Sassoon Docks, bringing in around 20 tonnes of fish every day.
Once you reach the Sassoon Docks, at least 500 people are packed on to a partially-covered chunk of jetty, boats bobbing alongside.
Once you reach the Sassoon Docks, at least 500 people are packed on to a partially-covered chunk of jetty, boats bobbing alongside.
A typical day at Sassoon Docks begins at 5 am when the fresh catch is brought in from the sea.
A typical day at Sassoon Docks begins at 5 am when the fresh catch is brought in from the sea.
Over 150.000 people depend on the Sassoon Docks for their livelihood.
Over 150.000 people depend on the Sassoon Docks for their livelihood.
Men push loaded handcarts through the crowds at Sassoon Docks as they yell for people to get out of the way.
Men push loaded handcarts through the crowds at Sassoon Docks as they yell for people to get out of the way.
Despite the fact that most tourist wouldn't buy fish at Sassoon Docks, women holding tubs full of fish will still ask you.
Despite the fact that most tourist wouldn’t buy fish at Sassoon Docks, women holding tubs full of fish will still ask you.
The docks were built in 1875 by the merchant, Sir Albert Abdullah David Sassoon, a prominent member of the Bombay Jewish community.
The docks were built in 1875 by the merchant, Sir Albert Abdullah David Sassoon, a prominent member of the Bombay Jewish community.
Where there's fresh fish, there needs to be crushed ice. While fish is unloaded off the boats, tons of ice is crushed to keep the fish fresh at the Sassoon Docks.
Where there’s fresh fish, there needs to be crushed ice. While fish is unloaded off the boats, tons of ice is crushed to keep the fish fresh at the Sassoon Docks.
There are so many ice-trucks on Sassoon Docks, that counting them would be impossible.
There are so many ice-trucks on Sassoon Docks, that counting them would be impossible.
In addition to the jetty, the Sassoon Docks house a series of warehouses where the Koli fisherwomen shell prawns with staggering ability.
In addition to the jetty, the Sassoon Docks house a series of warehouses where the Koli fisherwomen shell prawns with staggering ability.
The sheer variety of fish on offer at Sassoon Docks is mind-blowing: red snapper, tuna, octopus, baby sharks, cuttlefish, blue crabs and stingray are some of the fish you can expect to find here.
The sheer variety of fish on offer at Sassoon Docks is mind-blowing: red snapper, tuna, octopus, baby sharks, cuttlefish, blue crabs and stingray are some of the fish you can expect to find here.
Initially, the Sassoon Docks serviced the cotton trade as the Sassoon family were cotton merchants. It was after the decline of the Indian cotton industry that fishing became the main activity here.
Initially, the Sassoon Docks serviced the cotton trade as the Sassoon family were cotton merchants. It was after the decline of the Indian cotton industry that fishing became the main activity here.
The Sassoon Docks are 'wet' docks, which means it allows boats to enter at all times because the water level remains the same regardless of the tide.
The Sassoon Docks are ‘wet’ docks, which means it allows boats to enter at all times because the water level remains the same regardless of the tide.
Appreciate this Story?

Go tell your friends by sharing or tweeting it.

This Story is Tagged With:


Start a Discussion