Documentary photography by Craig Boehman.
2020 has been an up-and-down year for the methi farmers at Versova Beach. Covid-19 and the mass migration out of Mumbai (and India's cities) aside, the government had been coming down hard on these farmers. The farmers were cleared from their traditional farming zone of some 50 years or more beginning in late January. By the time Covid-19 hit along with travel restrictions within India, methi farming on the beach had been reduced to a few guerilla plots, well-concealed from the average beach-stroller. Related posts: Versova Methi Farmers Back In Action The Last Methi Farmers [Burn Magazine submission] Have These Methi Farmers Returned To Uttar Pradesh? BMC Displacing Methi Farmer Community At Versova Beach
But the damage had been done. More than 300 farmers and families were forcibly evicted, with many joining the tens of millions of Indians who were forced to travel back to their home villages, some many hundreds of miles away. What was remarkable about this mass-migration, is that many of these poor laborers had to make the journey on foot.
In the image above: the view from the southern-most methi plot, facing down-shore to Versova's more popular cousin, Juhu Chowpatty.
Come summer, the methi farmers began to re-occupy some of their former spaces to begin growing methi once more. This group of farmers presently is more diverse than my given moniker of "methi farmers" suggests. One group is made up of existing farmers, who've farmed the land for decades. Other farmers are from the local Koli communities. Others still hail from Uttar Pradesh.
On a personal note, I find myself re-adjusting and shooting more photography in general during the Covid-19 pandemic. I take the usual precautions - mask-wearing topping the list. But like most of Mumbai, I've discovered a new way of Life + Covid. Any resident who regularly commutes to work or who frequently ventures out for supplies can tell you that life has basically returned to normal. If there ever was a barometer for this fact, it's the return of Mumbai's ubiquitous traffic. I've taken it upon myself to return to my street photography and photography business, too.
I've included a small gallery of shots I took recently on a walk with a friend among the methi farmers.