Fish tales of Madh: A photo-essay

Updated: Apr 26

I have lived in Mumbai for over four years now, but it doesn’t feel enough to know this city fully. One such area that amazed me was - Madh. Once I spent an evening there, the realization settled on why one of my nature-lover friends had insisted on photographing the area for so long. I was truly mesmerized.

Madh Dana Pani beach Mumbai beach sunset landscape India
When the calmness of the universe resonates

The route explored the Madh Koliwada and headed towards Dana Pani beach before sunset. I was guided and accompanied by a friend who knew the area well. We started the walk around 4 pm, but the heat could still be felt. To avoid a heat-triggered migraine, I was equipped with my baseball cap, sunglasses, and also a mask because it was right after the pandemic had trickled down in Feb 2021. I must have looked like an alien.

The route

The walk from the main road to the seaside provided limitless subjects, textures, colors, and scenes to photograph. The vegetation, architecture, people, and fishing activities were unique to my past experiences. The light was slightly warmer, but clear skies rendered for intense lighting and bold shadows.

Madh Mumbai India seaside fishing church Christian village
The sea enveloped the community in a big hug

We knew we were approaching the fishing area because the smells could not be ignored anymore. I observed that the ground was covered in bits and pieces of fish scales, all glistening in the sunlight like holographic glitters.

We reached the rocky seaside from where a part of the Mumbai skyline could be seen. The swirly impressions on the rocks reminded me of the movement of sea waves over them. Nearby, fishers were busy cleaning up and loading colorful fish cartons. I found a pile of colorful empty cartons striking against the calm sea. It called for a picture.

Fishing cartons boxes colourful seaside shapes Mumbai streets Madh india
Abstraction of daily objects into graphic shapes

Almost every person in that area was engrossed in different steps of preserving the catch. They were busy sorting, cleaning, slicing, and hanging the fish under the scorching sun for the drying process. It is a hardworking community that seemed too busy to notice me.

Bundled up yarns of fishing nets along the road were a common sight. The vibrant colors and textures enticed me. One such pile of blue fishing nets was waiting to be photographed by the roadside. Dried yellow leaves had fallen over them from the tree above. Nature must be an artist! Appreciating the complementary colors, I picked one such yellow leaf and placed it against the blue textures to create a photograph.

Blue fishing nets ropes yellow leaf Madh Koliwada Mumbai India
Textures of Madh

Little boys played cricket in the adjoining ground, where a huge abandoned boat rested against the coconut grove backdrop. Further down the road, I saw a cute little hut that I later found out to be a temple. The tree by the temple was bent awkwardly in one direction. But as I observed more, almost all the trees were inclined in that direction. It’s amazing how the sea waves play a role in constructing their surrounding landscapes.

While encountering some more colorful fishy tales, we reached the main road. This is where I saw Our Lady of the Sea Church. The colorful fresco-like architecture was aligned with the tropical character of the area. Taking a good picture of the church seemed impossible because of multiple wires interlacing the frame. Soon I found some interesting reflections of the church building on the windows of a bus standing on the opposite side of the road. So, I started experimenting with the composition.

I was happy with the new perspective. It was time to head to the Madh beach area to witness the sunset hues. We picked the Dana Pani beach for this part of the walk. The light was turning golden by this time. It was my first time there, and I was somewhat surprised to see how clean the beach was.

The humid sea breeze had encapsulated the place. The warm rays of the sun were making everything look divine: the symmetric coconut treetops, the white sparkly sand particles mixed with the little jewels of the fish scales, and the shiny waters. It was hard to separate the elements of earth from sea life.

At one point, the beach felt like a massive ground for cricket practice as multiple teams were playing along the entire length of the beach. After taking a few shots of the silhouettes in action, I was attracted to the glassy seashore during the low evening tide. It felt like a mirror to the life above. Many stories unfolded in symmetry as the light turned peachy during sunset.

As the sun was setting, I intentionally observed the opposite side outlined with the coconut trees. Sometimes the best scenes happen where you are not looking. I saw the golden full moon rise from behind the trees. It was an awe-inspiring moment when two friends, the sun and the moon, were chatting briefly before going separate ways.

Coconut trees Mumbai India Madh full moon landscape
The moonrise was a tough competitor to the sunset

The images I took transport me back to the glistening white sands and the calming sea waves carrying many fish tales. Indeed, there is a quaint and peaceful charm about Madh that makes me want to create more such photographs in the future.

That evening I had the opportunity to meet a few of the talented rap artists of the area, Irfan Qureshi (Instagram ID: @sarfira_61_se) and Saurabh Shinde (Instagram ID: @_matter_61). The whole gang was extremely welcoming, and they let me document some of their freestyling. Soon they were spilling out the gems of Madh through rhythms that described their struggles and aspirations.

Music was made in front of my eyes. The beats of their Bluetooth speaker, the rapper's inspiring vocals, and the sound of the sea waves crashing by the beach felt like a welcomed escapade. I went back home with sand in my shoes and a lot of love and respect for Madh and its people in my heart.

I am sharing below a little snippet of their renditions from that evening. You can listen to more of Irfan's work here.

All photographs and videos are copyright by Piamony Photography (Neena Majumdar).

Thanks to Mayur Solanki for suggesting the location, assistance with the route, and being a liaison to the people of Madh.

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