Dalda boats engage in 15-day trips throughout the fishing season from August to May. The arrival of these boats means a busy day for the fishing community, especially the women – boat owner wives and fish-vending women.
The air feels different on these days. Everyone in the village is either talking about the abundance or scarcity of the fish catch that day. It is like a lottery with some boat owners blessed with ample fish catches and many unfortunate ones with not enough. With two cooperative fishing societies, Satpati hosted approximately 203 dalda boats in 2019.
Women from boat-owning families come to the jetty from 5 am, supervising the unloading of fish and letting their husbands, fathers or sons rest after the long trip. Pomfret is sold to exporters via the cooperative society. The rest of the fish produce is auctioned to traders and fish-vending women on a credit basis.
By 10-11 am, the two ice factories are crowded with fish-vending women packing their fish produce on one side and boat owners arriving in their mini-trucks to measure, weigh and deposit the pomfret stock pledged to the co-operative society on the other side. Every boat owner is a member of the cooperative society and gets a loan of Rs 5 lakhs (€5610) each year against the promise of selling their pomfret catch to the society. The boat owner women are now already collecting food rations, oil, diesel, and similar for the boat alongside preparing delightful meals for the men before they leave for the next trip in a day or two. During the absence of the men, these women are responsible for their households and any administrative work with the co-operative society. Despite their contribution to the fishing business, women’s participation in the cooperative society’s meetings and decisions remains minimal.
Ethnographic documentation Ishita Patil