The mountains stand far fetched towards the edges of the region, a narrow road follows down the quaint interiors, towards the other side; the sun shines in vibrant gold and orange hues bursting into the entire sky with vivid colors. At a stone’s throw, I team up my camera and play with the reflections to capture good pictures! It’s white all around; pure & subtle. Tiny pathways crisscross the vast lands, clean and lifelike colors lie attractively on the waters. White heaps border the fields and local men work in the salt pans.
Yes, I’m at the salt pans of Bassein (now – Vasai) to greet and meet them without whom maybe our plates wouldn’t have had any tasty food!
Nature, the journey, the destination are fine parts of the entire traveling thing, but you know what gets it more engaging, it’s the locals, the people – knowing, exchanging ideas about each other’s lives is what actually fills in a soul to my heart while I travel!
This blog holds me back to those beautiful memories with wonderful souls where we exchanged smiles and had blissful conversations by the Sunset.
- Ganesh Dhabal, 35.
“I come from Usara, Talasari (Maharashtra – Gujarat border). Life is of hardships when you belong from the neglected tribal communities and all you have is enough social discrimination to make your life even harder; I’m an Adivasi ‘begari’ (a social practice which is abolished under the Indian Constitution but still continues to be enforced – hats off to the negligence by the Government authorities) and I’ve had my fair share of struggles, but now I love my job. I am a full-time construction worker but on a part-time basis, I come here to sit and relax with my friends who work on the salt pans. I live with my ma, baba, four brothers, and 2 sisters. I am now habituated to work, that’s why I commute for 4-5 hours in a day to come here to work”.
- Bharat Rama, 41. (above, right)
” Kurkute, Talasari; is at a distance of 100-150 km from Vasai, I live there with my wife and 3 kids (2 sons and a daughter). I and Ganesh are good friends. We commute for long hours to get to our workplace and return home by 10 pm. Our company has arranged tempos for the pickup – drop service. They deduct the transport charges from our daily wages. I love my job “(says reluctantly). With further conversations; he shares more about his tribe.
“We are now progressing towards women’s rights; these days our girls have started going to school and are studying. Girls from our tribe are married at the age of 20+. We don’t get our girls married in the same sub-caste (with same surnames). However, most often we fail to provide them with the entire education due to financial problems, then they too have to work as waged laborers and travel long distances to meet the daily sustainability needs.”
- Kailash Rupji Lakhan, 18.
Digging salt from the salt lakes; he says, “I live at Charoti, Talasari. All the workers over here belong from the tribal communities. I have studied only till 4th grade. I always wanted to study more (teary-eyed and stares towards the far-fetched mountains) but had to get to work at an early age otherwise, survival would’ve been a question! I earn Rs.200/day. “
- Dipak Rajamachada doesn’t know his age.
“Nimbapur in Charoti is a small folksy village. I live there with my Ma, Baba, 3 younger brothers and 1 sister. Being the eldest of all the siblings, I had to opt-out of school; earlier I used to be upset but now I am glad that I am working and am capable of helping my family. I earn Rs.200/day. I love my job”
- Mangesh Nausiya, 17.
“I live in Charoti with my Ma, Baba, 2 brothers and a sister. I am the youngest of all my siblings. I’ve only studied till 5th grade. I have been working on the salt pans for the past 3 years.” states this as he ports salt from one basket to the other and dumps it on the heaps of salt.
- Ranjush Dhammihadal doesn’t know his age.
“Due to lack of money, I had to quit my studies after the 8th grade and start working. I am from Charoti and I live with my Ma, Baba,3 brothers and 2 sisters. I don’t like to work here but I have to; because of the financial hardships. During the rainy seasons, we work as helpers in a company where they pay us Rs.8000-9000 in a month. As a child, I could never even afford to think of having a career because of our tough days of financial struggle”
The warmth of the sunset sheds the sky into thin linings of gold, pink and orange. Moments passed by without having a track of time. Those were timeless moments with a random bunch of men. We started off as strangers, exchanged smiles, eye glances, glee and ended up with warm memories.
The varied color linings of the Sunset reminds me of how different each persons’ life is on Earth. Sometimes, it’s unimaginably difficult whereas sometimes the difficulty lies just in the way we percept things. Amidst the bunch of these men, I learn to grow more respect, love, and gratitude for all the people around me. It’s mesmerizing how they find happiness and satisfaction in everyday trivia.
Capturing fond memories, engaging myself with life-changing experiences; I bid adieu to the awesome people, their smile, their spark in the eyes and to the tiny grains of salt that shimmer under the sunset sky.
*Essential Information –
- Vasai Road (formerly known – Bassein) – Approx. 70 km from Mumbai, easily accessible from the Virar local commuting on Western Railway line.