A thick wail stretched across Reay Road, shrouding it from head to toe. It was a piercing wail, dark and anguished. Just as it should have been. After all, a certain Brazilian Lady was being taken apart.
This happened last Friday. But it also happens every day - routinely and raucously – at the Reay Road dockyard, where old ships (in this case The Brazilian Lady) are broken down and the wreckage of their voyages are sold to treasure hunters. We were there, map and metal detector in hand after a tip from a friend – Captain V – who steered us in this direction. Wave!
Located on a street called Darukhana, you should know at the outset that a trip to these muck-filled bylanes – gum boots during the rains would be advisable - isn’t the most pleasant experience and the loot changes daily. And, as if to add legitimacy to the street’s name, Darukhana is dotted with drunk sailors, probably driven to the bottle by heartbreak over dying ships. Yes, even daytime drunks can be romanticized when the sea is near. Despite all this, and our total unpreparedness, our maritime trip turned out to be quite a merry time with the sight of re-assuring lifesavers and the acquisition of instruments to point us in the right direction.
You’ll probably start out like us – completely lost, wandering around the main street where dank shops sell metal sheets and other scrap. Turn into the bylane that goes towards the mosque, and you’ll start to see orange rafts. If your week could do with a lifesaver, stop and haggle, buy and save us a seat. Then, walk (paddle?) ahead right to the end of the street and look for massive ship yards along the water.
We stopped at the first one, where a Mr Shree and his boys had just offloaded a boatload of stuff from the inside of the ship. While metal sheets were being clanged together outside, he led us to a walk-in closet filled with some fun, some rubbish supplies. These, when re-arranged in varied combinations, told different stories of the Brazilian’s voyage, with all plots ultimately leading to the same fate.
There was a shelf full of new and antique Neruda-coloured compasses that double up as paper weights for your desultory day; big exposed light bulbs that may or may not help with ideating but would still look cool in a conference room; antique switches; engine room poles that could be lamp posts and a vintage tan briefcase. There was also a fax machine and microwave and some random nuts, bolts and machinery parts. The shelves are replenished every couple of hours as the boat is unloaded, so you’ll find different curios at different times of the day that are sold by weight (Rs 1,500 for a kilo). We even spoke to Mr Shree about getting one of those round brass ship windows that this Scouter plans to hang on her room wall, with a painting of the sea behind it.
As we mentioned, none of the maritime curios we found here were earth-shatteringly different from what you might get at Chor Bazaar, but the proximity to the vessel and its drunken sailor stories were all wildly romantic. The sailors, with their hearts of “compressed ash, which had resisted the most telling blows of daily reality without strain, but fell apart with the first waves of nostalgia.”
Getting there: Dockyard, Darukhana street, Reay Road, call Mr Shree on 9821011007 (he’s much more helpful in person), Rs 1,500 for one kilo of floating treasure.
Photo credit: Kuldeep Pathak
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