Mallet Ferry Wharf! I visited the place. It is a ferry terminus and fish trawlers unloading port in Bombay. Whole area smells of fishes even from a distance. Hundreds of fish traders stand on the platform and fish baskets are conveyed to top from boats by ropes and mesh nets. There are mounds of fish of every kind. Every single inch is covered with sea fish. There are porters towing it away on the carts. Water drips from the baskets made of the bamboo carrying the fish. Trucks and tempos are loaded with the fish for taking it to the different parts of the city. Every boat has a flag and while standing in the parking area these boats bob up and down in the waters.
A very popular variety of fish called “Bombay Duck” also dries on the ropes in the boats. This fish is cooked both as fresh or dried and does not have bones. The rows of hanging fish on the ropes look like buntings.
There were fisher women, very fat and strong. The boats which have emptied their catch were parked to one side. The fishermen on them were preparing the food: lentils, rice and of course fresh fish. Crows pecked at the fish filled in the baskets waiting to be put into the trucks. These seemed to have become bored by eating and eating in plenty. Seagulls caught the floating dead fish thrown out of the boats.
On the right side is the ferry wharf station from where ferries ply to Mora Bunder in Uran and Alibaug, and to Elephanta caves. People wait there on the benches. Most of them are inhabitants of fishing villages. There are shops selling refreshments in the waiting area. They come here on buses from Mumbai and take ferry for crossing the sea and to avoid the torturous road journey. The journey is thus reduced from many hours by the land route to an hour or so. In the earlier times, when British were here most of the work force belonged to people from Konkan Ghats and used the sea route for coming to Bombay. Still many people working at the docks belong to this area.
Gopal was a runty-bodied boy from Bihar; he was working in a shop here in the mini-shopping center. Anyone who saw him will take him for the proprietor of the shop which sells eatables, victuals and phone service and has a xerox machine. Shops generally are all-in-one type here.
Gopal was very agile and competent and extremely good-natured. He has a gift of gabbiness and it did not take him long to make a niche in a corner of your heart. I thought him to be Bengali but actually he was from Bihar; so many Biharis have come to this state because the British rulers brought their forefathers here as labours for tea plantations, and to do the menial jobs and rickshaw pullers and laundry.
Then one day, Gopal suddenly disappeared from the scene. How did I come to know was that I had given Gopal a parcel to courier to my native town and it did not reach the destination for a long time. I came to inquire for it from Gopal but he was not in shop. Other persons who were actually the proprietors began sitting in place of Gopal. In the beginning they will not divulge his whereabouts but they knew it for sure. Sometimes they said Gopal has gone to another village to attend a marriage; after some days version became his own marriage.
Gopal is the name of Krishna who you might have seen playing on a flute in front of cows and there are amours Gopis who dance around him. These Gopis were married women who it is said, forget everything in the world: shame, their family, husbands and society, and went running to him when his notes on flute began wafting into the air and reached their ears. And our Gopal, he was smitten by love though not of gopis but only his unwed neighbour. The girl’s father and mother are also having a shop in the same shopping place; they were next door neighbours. The affair was kept secret by the smart Gopal, but I doubt that some of the boys who loiter around all the time were knowing everything and so did the owner of the shop in which Gopal worked.
So one night, Gopal eloped with girl and to this day nobody knows where he has gone. He might be in some secluded place, must have got employment and by now may have fathered a child.