Sunday, 17 February 2019 09:03

Panchikawatta: Where tools tell a tale

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Alarge number of vehicles are sold in Colombo almost every week, from Japanese to Indian cars to Mercedes and BMWs, the Colombo roads have them all. However, have you ever wondered what does one do after the warranty period of the car is over and you need spare parts or wheels which are not easily available in the market? Want to talk of vintage or classic automobile parts where the chances of laying your hands on the parts are as dim as seeing the midnight sun in Colombo?.

To solve these problems, iconic Panchikawatta and the suburb Sri Sangaraja Mawatha host the best market for all vehicles and everything related to vintage and classic automobiles, ranging from spare parts to used wheels and machine tools.

Apart from the imported spare part shops in Panchikawatta, some pavement vendors sell used rusty nuts and bolts, coils, wheels, and automobile spare parts along the pavement in Sangaraja Mawatha, laid out in an array of artistic design. It is of course, a delight for an artistic photographer. So, one sunny morning, I roamed around the pavement and just hung around with my camera to capture the happenings.

As a buyer, I never had any interest in the market beyond a stretch where handy items such as, used iron coils in various sizes, wheels and engine parts were sold. Venturing into the far corners of the pavement in Sangaraja Mawatha, I came across box type painted stalls (sheds) along the pavement, brimming with spare parts. They are referred to as ‘small’ traders dealing in old and used spare parts and tools. But, these men really trade in products of colossal proportions. Have you seen a machine wheel so large that it can knock an elephant unconscious? I find myself in the midst of used machine tools, displayed in various sizes taken from factories, and an assortment of other industrial units.

Each day, a set of customers, mostly mechanics from distant areas come to this pavement market to search for their requirements. Sometimes, the buyers visit the sheds for days on end. Each shed has a set of customers who come back to them whenever there is a need. The customers, who are keen on cutting costs, rely on these pavement vendors for their spare parts.

I met a vendor, P. Kandiah, 45, who traded in used nuts and bolts for Japanese vehicles and motor bikes. Amid busy trading he says, “Used instruments that cost Rs. 5,000 are sometimes sold here for Rs. 10,000. At this market, anything is possible.”

“All the machinery and spare parts are first brought to the market by contractors who have picked them up at auctions organized by factories and garages. Traders at this market buy them cheap. Each one can name a price for his wares. Nobody would counter it,” Kandiah explained.

He said, there are around 50 sheds, and there has been peaceful co-existence among the vendors since they commenced in 1980, when the market was set up with the help of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC). Pointing at his shed, painted green, Kandiah says, “This used to be a very unclean place before we moved in. We sanitized it”.

“Now, business is low.” he says in a dim voice. Kandiah, from his childhood worked in a garage that repaired machinery, in the same area. When he grew old he decided to start his own business that forced him to look for a job that demanded less physical labour. “I have been in this trade for 30 years. My father worked in the Pettah bazaar. I have three children. They are all married. The CMC has permitted me to carry on my business here,” says Kandiah who lives just off Panchikawatta with his wife who is blind and stays at home. His younger son helps him in his business.

Our conversation was disturbed from time to time by customers who came in search of nuts. Rusty used nuts, screws, bolts, rope chains and other tools, find takers among the older men, who would examine them in detail.

Walking further on, I come to an area where used spare parts of machinery, such as wheels and iron chains are neatly arranged on the road due to lack of space in the stalls. Massive metal tools and wheels are displayed for sale. Ragu, a bearded young vendor in shorts sits near his stall which had a good collection of wheels for heavy machinery, such as, oil machines and caterpillars. He says, “Preserving these wheels is the most difficult thing, you need a lot of space. These are rare and costly.” He adds, “I open this stall at 8 am and close at 6 pm. I can’t say my day’s income beforehand as it depends on the customers and the day’s sales.”

Another vendor, Anjum Parwez had a variety of spare parts ranging from door handles, wheel caps, grills and wheels of different sizes. “This is the only place for such items, in the country. It is a good place for a buyer-seller meeting, where everyone is together. Auto enthusiasts from all over the country visit us, which is quite encouraging.”

The traders lining the pavement also do small business, and they seem busy throughout the day. At noon, I saw some mechanics prising copper out of huge pieces of iron, with a mallet and chisel. When day light fades and evening falls, they are still at it. Because they offer a medley of items, these stalls have visitors at all times. One can expect to get anything, from motor-bike to heavy machinery, at Sangaraja Mawatha. When I was about to leave, I glimpse the massive metal figures of a hawk-eagle and a standing horse built with used spare parts of automobiles. They seem to be delightful creations of art and I sensed what a genuine artist he may be with the potential to create such a masterpiece using rusty iron nuts and bolts.

(Sunday Observer)

There are 30461 listings and 923 categories in our website

Call us

For Business Promotions - +94 777 200 670