Downtown

A demand for discards

One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up,” sings Macklemore in Thrift Shop, which once topped the Billboard Hot 100. In this chartbusting song, the American rapper talks about the high he gets from buying second-hand, a caboodle of products with just 20 dollars. Well, only a true-blue shopaholic can understand the elation that comes from such a trip to the market.

And now, if the song was going to be re-created within a Chennai context, Macklemore would have an array of second-hand shopping markets to draw inspiration from.

To name just as few, Lily Pond Complex with its second-hand books, antique items, old gramophone players and the works; Bells Road and Pillayar Koil Street (Jafferkhanpet), both of which are lined with used motorcycle shops; a section of Third Avenue on Indira Nagar, where old furniture is a big draw; Pycroft’s Road with its pavement book shops; the Friday shandy at Pallavaram, where you can get anything from cassettes to car accessories; and the New Park Road, where film and television production houses flock to procure used items for their sets.

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Members of production houses are among regular visitors to a line of shops on New Park Road – near Central Railway station – which sells discarded electronic goods, ranging from expensive-looking television sets to desktops and typewriters. They can be seen rummaging through these items, mostly piled up under makeshift tents, to find something that can be used in their sets. These items are used for a diversity of scenes, ranging from the depiction of a bomb blast site to a quietly functioning office. Not just film makers, a cross-section of people are apparently interested in these items for the same reason.

“An architect once bought five typewriters from our shop to decorate her client’s space, whose theme was old-school,” says Sathish, who main business involves sale of functional DVD players, each costing Rs. 400 (open to bargain).Goods that are in great condition have enthusiastic buyers. Where do the traders get such goods from? Sathish, who claims to have a fully-functional home theatre that is available for Rs 10,000, says, “People who go abroad and want to quickly get rid of these items contact us.”

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Even the nearby Lily Pond Complex has shops that feed the media industry with used items. One such example is Shop no. 79 at the Complex, which stocks a collection of used alcohol bottles, another of Marapacchi dolls and one more consisting of unique cameras.

“Most of these items are used in movie sets and only collectors show interest in fiddling through the junk,” says N. Shankar, owner of the shop.

Anyone in the city who values reading has more likely than not checked out the Lily Pond Complex, near the Central Railway station. A warren of shops in this facility – built to rehabilitate traders of the Moore Market which was gutted in a fire in 1985 – sell second-hand books, ranging from Grisham thrillers to Marx’ treatises and C++ programming manuals. Hundreds of students and book lovers visit the complex to either buy and sell books or do both. Palini B. of Renuka Book Stores, says, “In the beginning of the academic year, business peaks. School and college students come here to buy and sell their course and reference books. We buy the books at 40 percent of the market price and while selling it, we sell it at 60 percent – however, a lot depends on the condition of the books.”

Book lovers also flock enthusiastically to Pycrofts Road in Triplicane, where a row of pavement shops sell used fiction and non-fiction books as well as magazines in Hindi, English and Tamil. Among smaller but popular used book markets are the one near Loyola College and another in Mylapore.

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From iconic Royal Enfield models to classic scooters and regular bikes, Pillaiyar Koil Street in Jaffarkhanpet and Bells Road in Chepauk have much to offer anyone looking for a motorcycle on the cheap.

“We deal with two-wheelers of all brands and models,” says V. Palani , owner of G.R.M Auto Consultant. He explains, “Auto showrooms these days have exchange offers where they buy used bikes. We have our agents stationed there, who buy them directly from the sellers. Apart from this, people themselves come to us to sell their bikes. Our customers include businessmen, mostly restaurant owners who place bulk orders for two-wheelers that could be pressed into home delivery.” Most shops have in-house mechanics who test the bikes before the deal is struck.

Dawood Khan Lodhi of Paradise Motor, who is also the secretary of Bells Road Two & Four Wheeler Auto Consultant Owner’s Association, says, “My father, Azad Khan Lodhi, was one of the first people to introduce this concept in the city. While buying or selling a motorcycle, we are very particular about the documents. We scrutinise the papers carefully and look at the engine number and chasis number. If any irregularities come to light, we drop the deal. We also cross-check with the sellers to make doubly sure we are not dealing with stolen bikes.”

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Mani’s& Co. at Royapettah High Road, opposite Pilot Theatre, has carried the same look through for decades – mounds of furniture crammed into rooms and some more lying scattered out in the open. Anyone digging into these piles of wood and steel is sure to be rewarded with furniture that bear the mark of great artistry and good taste.

Mani’s started its business in 1970 as an auctioning shop. Now it is only into retail, with 15 dealers supplying it furniture. It stocks both old and new furniture and is famous for its large collection of teak and rose wood furniture, some of them imbued with antique value. “But, it is becoming more difficult to get antique furniture from homes. Most of the ones we get today are mere replicas,” says N.Muthukumar, who owns the place. The shop is closed on Tuesdays.

In Indira Nagar (Adyar), Shri Sangkara Enterprises also buys and sells old furniture. S. Anandavasan procures furniturefrom families that have left the country. Book shelves and single cupboards are a few of the most sought-after goods at this store. Karpooram boxes with a number of secret chambers, sourced from Karaikudi, are another attraction. The boxes double as centre tables. If you want any specific furniture, the shop will deliver it a few weeks after the placement of an order.

(With inputs from Liffy Thomas)

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 9:10:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/a-demand-for-discards/article4727120.ece

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