Forget the face that launched a thousand ships. Welcome to the ship that launched a thousand micro enterprises — MT Pratibha Cauvery .
Grounded during Cyclone Nilam, the ship drifted towards the Chennai shoreline and now rests solidly off Nochikuppam beach, just behind the Santhome Basillica, defying attempts to tow it out. But even as the ship rests there, it has spawned several local businesses.
In fact, the entire small-scale industry that entertains beach goers to the Marina seems to have moved lock, stock and barrel from the more popular northern stretch (Anna Square to Lighthouse) to Nochikuppam, where only the service lane was used sparingly by vehicles wishing to avoid the traffic jam on Kamaraj Salai.
With their bamboo baskets, pushcarts and icecream carts, they came, bearing aluminium tins of sundal and murukku , canisters of tea and coffee, piping hot corn kernels smeared with chilly powder and slivers of green mangoes. A little distance away are merry-go-rounds and balloon-shooting boards.
Even as officials worriedly discuss the ship’s salvage operations which have, thus far, failed, for the entrepreneurs out on the beach, every minute the ship stays is worth a few bucks.
Vendors gustily cry out their wares, tempting ‘ship-seeing’ tourists with an ice cream stick, a paper-cone of piping hot, boiled groundnuts, a cold drink.
Meanwhile, two young boys scurry around by the waves, a DSLR camera slung around their necks. “Madam, one photo with ship background. Instant print,” one of them reels off at breakneck speed.
Just behind then, a whirring sound starts up. Parked under a big black umbrella sits a middle-aged man, four mini-printers resting on a plastic sheet laid on the sand in front of him. A postcard-sized print of a family cheerily posing in front of Pratibha Cauvery slowly slides out the printer. “Thirty rupees, only.”