Jam Salaya: Stills and Conversations
Director: Radhamohini Prasad, Nida Ghouse
Duration: 01:27:49; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 48.889; Saturation: 0.018; Lightness: 0.406; Volume: 0.129; Cuts per Minute: 10.042; Words per Minute: 70.088
This is a montage of photographs and short videos from Nida Ghouse's and Radhamohini Prasad's trip to Jam Salaya, a port town on the Gulf of Kutch, Saurashtra. Sailors from Jam Salaya have been trading in the Arabian Sea for centuries. The prosperity of this town depends on fishing and its relationship to the sea. Today, there are no commodities that leave or enter from these shores, unlike in the past. The main occupation here is dhow building and sailing, and this supports trade primarily between various Gulf states and Somalia.
Nida and Radha left for Jam Salaya on the September 6, 2009 to visit sailor friends they had met in Sharjah during the Wharfage project. Wharfage is an on-going CAMP project, which, in 2008, looked closely at the creek in Sharjah, from where a large number of dhows leave for 'Somalia'. Somalia, a collection of semi-state entities, is also a kind of free trade zone, in which these boats ply, passing through the dominant narratives of the Somali seas and piracy.
The project offered an opportunity to think about how business and these commodities are related to global trade and the current economic situation in the UAE. This movement of goods and their sailors may trace old trade routes, but it also maps out something new: a contemporary landscape of new and used objects, labour, Asian and African diasporas and giant wooden ships built in Salaya, Gujarat.
The Wharfage project consisted of two parallel pieces: Wharfage, a book containing two years of port records related to Somali trade, and Radio Meena, four evenings radio transmissions from the port and was part of the 2009 Sharjah Biennial, where it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize. (To download the book, go to http://www.camputer.org/event.php?this=wharfage
Here, two audio tracks have been placed over still images. The first is a conversation with the captain of the dhow Shiv Shiv Shambu which had been hijacked by Somali pirates in 2008. The captain's father also jumps in to narrate an encounter he had with Somali traders back in the day.
The second interview, which took place at Jam Khambalia (en route to Jam Salaya), suggests that people in this predominantly Hindu town distinguish themselves from the "uneducated Mohammedians" who occupy Salaya, a place deemed to be full of 'jhopadpattis' (slums) with a history of gold smuggling.
Siddique's neighbour and her children.
On the way to Jam Khambalia from Jam Nagar.
Nida: How many days and how many people were there with you?
Son: There were 9 of them.
Nida: From here?
Son: The hijackers, they were nine of them. They pointed guns at us and asked us to turn the launch. They came onboard. I asked why?
Nida: Which direction were you coming from?
(Conversation in Kutchi)
Son: These people wanted the ship. They wanted the 'panna'.
Son: Amidst all this there was a cyclone. Then they got stuck with us. Our situation got bad and we told them you let us go. If you don't then we'll all die. They were greedy for money. They wanted dollars. They'll get dollars if they hijack the ship.
Nida: But they often hijack big sips.
Son: Yes big ones. Most of the smaller ships that have been hijacked so far do not face much damage. They might take some money and let it go. But we didn't even have that. We had just left from India. From Bombay.
View of the dhow building yards and the pier at Jam Salaya.
Another road to Jam Salaya, adjacent to Jam Khambalia-Jam Salaya route.
Nida: You had no cargo?
Son: No we had sugar. We had left from Bombay. Then once the storm set in we were trapped for three days. We were helpless and had no option.
Nida: And were you going to Bosasso or...?
Son: Berbera. We were going to Berbera. Then the storm subsided but they did not get the ship. The Americans came. The American Navy came with their helicopters. But they were not afraid of them. They chased away the Americans.
Son: For our safety I spoke to the American captain. The captain asked me, 'what do you want to do'. I told him you leave or else these guys will kill us. I was speaking with a gun pointed at me. The Somali was telling me to chase away the Americans. They said, "if they do anything we will wipe out your crew first and kill you". So this is what I told the Americans. They said okay. The Americans were with us for two days.
The dhow building yards at 1pm.
Son: Then the Somalis took us to their own village. It is a small village in Somalia.
Nida: Which direction? From which port?
Son: Around Mogadishu.
Nida: Below Mogadishu?
Son: Yes, that side. They unloaded some sugar there. Not too much. Some fifty to sixty sacks they unloaded. Then they told us to raise the anchor. They said, 'We'll go back out'. So we did, but they did not get another ship. So I told him, 'look, our launch is running out of diesel the engine will stop and all of us will die. Let me start the radio and contact somebody.' I did and found out that there was a launch in Bossaso. It was from our company. I spoke to the captain and told him that we have been hijacked and trapped here. So he contacted the owner and told him that we had been hijacked. Our launch in Bossaso set out with eighteen policemen carrying guns on them. I had given him our position. So they set out from Bossaso with men from the military. They came and started firing. They killed the Somalis and one surrendered himself. They shot and killed three of them. We hid under the deck. We feared for our lives and so went to the bottom of the launch where the bullet would not reach us. One Somali surrendered and the other three were shot dead.
Nida: Weren't they nine of them?
Son: They were nine, but when we went to their village, there five of them left with the sugar. So the remaining four stayed with us.
Nida: Can you tell us about that town?
Son: That town is actually a village. It's called Bargaal.
Nida: But how many days did you spend there?
Son: Not days, seven to eight hours. Also because they were afraid, if other people came to know... They were also very afraid.
Nida: Of what?
Son: Say the policemen from their village may come. They may get suspicious and find out that they have hijacked this launch and come here. They don't just mention that they've hijacked a launch and bought it. When we reached the village if some big man asked, "why have you bought this launch here?" they would say that the sailors are lost and don't the direction so we are going with them to show them the way.
Nida: Thats what they said?
Son: "They are headed to Mogadishu, but they don't know the way. Knowing this we bought them here and they will set sail at night." The launch would be anchored there, how would anyone know what was going on. So then at night we left.
Stationed dhows waiting to get an overhaul and the decaying remains of an old launch.
Nida: What language did you communicate with them in?
Son: They don't know how to speak in Hindi or Arabic. A little bit of English. I understand a little bit of English. So in this way we understood each other. With a little bit of English. Hindi they don't understand at all.
Nida: But some Somalis understand Gujarati.
Son: Yes, yes they speak Hindi and Urdu extremely well. Lots of them who are in the business of export and trade. All of them know Hindi. But these are kidnappers. They are 'jungly'.
Nida: They are not traders. They don't work on the ships...
Son: They don't, they just steal... They kidnapped all those ships this year. Approximately over fifty ships.
Nida: And then they were shot dead.
Son: Yes, all three of them were shot dead.
One-year-old launch that Salemama is working on.
Nida: And you were bought back to India?
Son: No I went back to Berbera. To unload the sugar.
Nida: How many people from here were with you?
Son: The crew was more or less fine. We had no problems with that. Totally there were thirteen crew members.
Nida:So they took everyone or only you were taken?
Son: All of us were together. When they hijacked us, all thirteen men were together.
Father: They hijack the whole launch and everyone. Not just one person at a time.
Nida: No when you reached Somalia you said that...
Son: Yes then there... at the time of the encounter another launch came. It was our companies launch.
Nida: No, before that they took you to their village didn't they?
Son: Then non of us were taken up to the deck. Only the hijackers went themselves. From the nine of them, the Somalis, five took the sugar and left. The other four stayed.
Nida: And you?
Son: I was also kept at the launch.
Nida: You didn't go?
Son: No. Non of the crew members were taken either. We weren't even allowed to move. We were kept in one place.
Nida: You were saying that if someone asked them they would say that we are taking them...
Son: Yes that. He himself, was saying that this is what we have told them. People might have gotten suspicious that it was a hijacked launch. I asked him isn't there somebody here who can help us? He said they haven't mentioned the launch was hijacked.
Men at work on the owner Ibrahim's new launch.
Nida: So you must have gone to Somalia many times before that?
Son: This had been our business for the last fifty years. Actually, I've been going for the last fifty years. Even after the hijack I went to Somalia three times.
Nida: But did you go to Bossaso or Berbera?
Son: I went to Bossaso as well.
Nida: Most of the time you go there?
Son: Yes, we go to Bossaso.
Nida: What we wanted to know was that because we hear many years back trade with Somalia was not so frequent...
Son: We have been going to Somalia for many years now.
Nida: How many years?
Son: In my opinion it's been thirty to thirty-five years.
A view of fishing boats at the jetty.
Father: I went to Somalia thirty years back. At that time there were few launches. These weren't the launches that were sailing then. At that time the launches were very small. They would exchange few goods and leave. There was no hijacking. Now, I don't know why all this is happening. When people from there hijack, they only want money. They don't hurt human beings. They may take some notorious actions but for me... like this is my son (unclear)... When I was sailing as captain in a launch from Jizan (Port in Saudi Arabia) I was clueless. Even my boss was with us, And fourteen Somalis came onboard. I said, "don't take them on-board this is a cargo ship. We don't want Somalis" He said,"how will we manage our basic expenditures in Jizan if we don't earn money from transporting the Somalis". At that time Saudi Arabia was expensive. So we took all the fourteen Somalis. One man amongst them did his 'Azan' (at this time) came to me with his suitcase.
Nida: He came onto the launch?
Father: He was already in the launch with us. We had the sixteen of them stay in the bunker under deck. They were fourteen, ten and four. I told them, "you stay in here. Eat, drink and have a good time here. If you need to go then tell someone from our crew and go to the toilet. Because ours was not working. He went, ate-drank and came back with the suitcase. He told me, 'keep this with you.' I asked him "what is this?" and he said, "it is money." Then he opened it and there were dollars in it. He would sell his sheep, make money and head back to his country. I told him, "I cannot keep this. I'm even afraid of my own men, if someone steals something you will not leave me."
Wood, lathe workshops and anchors.
Inner lanes to and from storehouses, workshops and dhow assembling yards.
Nida: But why was he with you?
Son: He was not a hijacker. He would come with my father to do his own business.
Nida: Up till where would he come with you?
Father: They would come in another launch. And then if a launch was ready to set sail, the customs office themselves would request the departing launch, to take the passenger to Somalia and drop him at Bossaso.
Nida: From where to where?
Father: Jizan. It is a big port in Saudi Arabia. So he came with us. And at night the weather became very bad. Our launch was also small.
Nida: What kind of businessmen were they? Because different kinds... well we don't get to hear much but... in Somalia... Those that travelled with you, came for work...
Father: They were Muslims.
Son: They have their own goats/sheep. They sell their sheep and come back along with the launch. For selling.
Son: To sell them.
Nida: When they reach there? Okay.
Son: In those days they did not have any visa, etc. They would work on the launch itself. Even in Dubai when they'd travel to Dubai they did not get visa.
Father: At twelve in the night they (Somalis) came to me. They said Yasin is not here with us. I said, "where did he go?" They said, "we don't know." I had gone to sleep. I got up. I asked one of my guys, "did a man... a Somali leave for the toilet." He said, "I haven't seen anyone." I said, "where has he gone?" He didn't know. So then we turned on the lights and everything. Searched the whole launch. We didn't find him so I turned the launch around. Turned it once, then twice. I circled around. Just in case he had fallen into the water.
Son: The Somali had fallen into the water.
Father: He had fallen into the water, the Somali. Actually he had in truth fallen. So after the second and the third time I circled around, the Somalis asked me, "what are you doing?" I said, "I'm looking for your man." They said, "for one man why are you putting all our lives in danger?" I replied, "one man is gone. There... they will not leave me for this." They said "there are thirteen of us with you, we will be your witness, what else do you need?"
Father: So I said lets go. Now what happens while turning the launch is that if the wind blows in the wrong direction the launch begins to swing in all directions. So they got scared. We don't get so scared but an outsider will fear that it with topple over. Because of that they said, "if you turn it around one more time we'll shoot you". They keep weapons with themselves. So I let them go. When we reached there, I had an agent. He too was Somali and a Muslim.
Buyers and sellers at the Jam Khambalia local vegetable market.
Father: Bosasso. So when we reached Bosasso, everyone knew (what had happened)... I dismantled the radio, etc and kept it away when we were nearing Aden. I said, "nobody is going to speak or else they will find out. And yet when we reached there, they had figured out, that one person was less. So their agent came to me and I said, "look whatever happens, you understand the situation, don't give me a hard time. I have no fault in this. I didn't even decide to bring him and I haven't taken any money from him. He came with us for free." The cops came and took me away. Kept me there for ten-twelve days. Didn't let me meet anyone. Then I spoke to the jail superintendent. There was boy accompanying me (much smaller than this boy here). So I complained saying that he was my child and I have to... if I die then? He would talk about home and pester a lot. So I said "I want to meet my child." They allowed me to meet him. He told the policemen there to let me meet my son when he comes. They kept me for fifteen days and then took me to another place. Then, they had some incident amongst themselves. They transferred the cargo from a launch and let me go.
Nida: So for how long were you there for?
Father: I was there for a month. In jail for fifteen days, and fifteen day in the agent's house.
Son: They were asking money for that man who had fallen off.
Father: They were asking for forty-five thousand dollars. Now, forty-five thousand dollars is... Our freight ('noor') is just seven-eight hundred dollars. Where will we get forty five thousand dollars from?
Nida: Do you have to break your fast (Roza)?
Father: No I'm not fasting.
Nida: How long back did this happen?
Father: This is many years...
Son: Many years back. Approximately twenty five years back.
Father: Twenty years.
Nida: Twenty years. So when you got hijacked, did you tell them your father used to help and work with people from Somalia?
Son: Back then they were good human beings. They would not hijack like this.
Father: They would not do it before.
Son: These episodes of hijacking have just started in the last three to four years.
Nida: Yes, its recent... 2005. Yes four years.
Father: These on going incidents are different. The people from Somalia are not bad people, they are good human beings. These hijackers are...
Father: The Somalis.
Father: The Somalis are not bad people.
Father: They steal and what not, but it's because they are poor. Just like us. They are poor.
Nida: Right. And on different ports there are different...
Son: Now there is no authority either.
Son: There is no government. Everywhere. There is no government in all of Somalia.
Nida: In Berbera there is...
Son: No there isn't. They have their autonomous government. It's separate so that is better. There is some peace.
Nida: Bosasso also?
Son: Well in Bosasso also there is security at the port. Otherwise, there is nothing outside. The port inside is a small port. There is security there. No, but there is no government.
Good and Bad
Opposite our Hotel Aarti, at the motorcycle rickshaw depot.
Nida: When you used to sail, the launches were small?
Son: Yes, they were not so big.
Nida: But the big launches that are being built is meant mostly for Somalia.
Son: Yes, yes.
Nida: So the demand from there is increasing. How did this start? Firstly there is no authority but business is carrying on.
Father: It was very less before. There was not much business. Those men who were running small businesses, have become big men now in Somalia. Otherwise, just to get a two hundred ton launch...
View of the local mosque, the town of Jam Salaya and dhow construction and repairs sites, seen from the primary school rooftop on Custom's Road.
Son: Aside from goats/sheep they have no other business. They sell the goats/sheep and buy their goods.
Nida: But the goat/sheep trade has also stopped right?
Son: No no, the goats/sheep business is continuing. Who said it has stopped.
Nida: But in Sharjah it's less.
Son: On the launch it has stopped but it's continuing via the ships. They don't allow... they have stopped it on the launch. Some government issues.
Nida: So the ships take them?
Son: Yes. It goes on the ships. The goat/sheep business will carry on. But they don't go directly from Somalia, because there is some permission issues. There is no 'doctory' (vaccination/quarantine), There is no governance over the 'doctory' then how will it work?. Their own 'doctory' will not work, there is no demand. This goes first to Djibouti and Salalah (Oman). The 'doctory' happens there and then it comes to Dubai. That's what happens. The goats/sheep demand has increased in fact.
Nida: Yes. 'Bakry' (goats/sheep) and what else do they have?
Son: 'Bakry' goes.
Nida: Charcoal also goes.
Son: Yes charcoal and 'Bakry'. I've only seen these two. And nothing else.
Nida: And nothing else?
Nida: Though everything goes there. Cars also go there.
Son: Yes, food items and cars go there. Basic human necessities go there.
Nida : Did cars go during your time?
Father: No. We'd only take seven to eight cars.
Nida: Then what did you take there?
Father: Only market goods. food items, rice, sugar, clothes, and things that are needed for the household... so imagine you do a contract for one ton, then someone will come and say, "I've got two tons." Then he'll pay you according to your demands. He'll tell me, "take this two tons." In that way. This man who was doing a two hundred ton contract job is now doing thousand ton contract job. So this way, this small man has started doing big jobs. Because there was not much imports before. Not like there is now. Not in India nor anywhere else. Was absolutely nothing going from India at that time.
Nida: So trade was only from Dubai then?
Father: Yes, only Dubai. More or less from Dubai. Little bit of rice, flour, sugar (unclear) and cement as well.
Nida: Do you remember when this stared to grow? Going there...
Father: The imports?
Son: This increased bit by bit, every year.
Nida: Every year, bit by bit?
Father: This trade?
Father: Every year, this is will increase bit by bit right?
Father: Thats how...
Son: If I earn 100 rupees in one place then I'll earn 200 the next day.
Nida: But in other places it's reduced... like Yemen and Oman. Oman has completely stopped.
Son: The thing with Yemen is that very few launches go there. It's by road now. Goods go mostly by road...
Nida: True. They go by road mostly...
Son: Trucks go there. This trade had become less now.
Son: Okay then I'll head.
Son: Will you drink tea or something?
Nida: No thank you.
Father: So it'll only go there. From Iraq to India, Iraq to Bombay.
Father: Basra... there. Later due to the conflict. They had a war and what not. So the trade went to Yemen. I will go you Yemen for the last time or else I won't go. We had only one port... to Iraq... India. We'd not trade with any other port. Even Iran we would take dates.
Nida: Yes. Dates.
Father: Otherwise this trade with Somalia wasn't... only recently has it started with Somalia. Approximately twenty years with Somalia. Now, even Iraq cannot supply much goods...(unclear)... unlike the port in Somalia...
Loss and Gain
Nida: But unlike before... you were saying when people from Somalia would also travel along... even that has stopped?
Father: All the authorities have stopped that.
Nida: Where all would you take them from? From Saudi...
Father: From everywhere. Even from Dubai.
Nida: I see.
Father: In Dubai, the person would come there, sell his goats/sheep, stay there, roam around and go back in a launch which was ready to set off. Even the port authorities in Dubai would ask for them to be taken back.
Nida: But would they come mostly for selling their 'Bakry' or for other reasons as well?
Father: They would have a agent there. Some of them will have a hundred to two hundred goats (unclear). And there will be a main agent who will tell the launch crew, there are these many goats/sheep to be loaded and so many people will come along. Then we'll say, 'no, we don't want so many people...(unclear)'. They'll say, "take them, they have these many goats/sheep." So then we'll take them. Okay... I have to go.
Ranjitbhai: They only take livestock. 'Bakri'... Livestock... Goats.
Nida: But in Salaya...
Ranjitbhai: Not from Salaya. Salaya is only a tidal port. Tidal port... What happens is that through out the year, for the ship... in June-July... (in audible) June -July 15th to the August 15th... (in audible) they prepare the new vessel. Its the season for preparation (unclear). During that time they come to Salaya for the repairing work. They do all their work regarding the survey for 'MMD' (unclear). And this vessel, the wooden vessel, every year they have to do 'cooking' on it. 'Cooking' means, did you see it there?
Nida: Yes, yes...
Nida: They stuff cotton... in between two planks they fill cotton in it. They call that 'cooking'.
Nida: Is it called 'cooking'?
Ranjitbhai: Yes, that is called 'cooking'? They call it 'gudh'.
Ranjitbhai: But the English word for that is 'Cooking'.
Nida: So when you were growing up what was the condition there? On the vessels?
Ranjitbhai: As far as I know...
Nida: Who were the owners...?
Ranjitbhai: Yes, I'm coming to that, as far as I know, in the very beginning, when India and Pakistan had not separated, then the cargo would come directly from Karachi to Salaya. And the whole of the district, the entire district, from there everything downwards, all the business, used to operate from Salaya. Before 1950, before India got independence. At that time, they would go and come directly from Karachi. Because then there wasn't such a thing, no such restriction. And all types of businesses, like wood, would happen from Salaya itself. It was like this in those day... from here... You know the crossroad there?
Ranjitbhai: Till there... mostly... what you call carts... 'Carts'.
Pranji: 'Bailgadi' (bullock carts)
Ranjitbhai: 'Bailgadi'. There would be a line of 'Bailgadis'. There was so much business there.
Ranjitbhai: Then again... at that time... the Hindu 'Kharvalog' (Kharvi/Kolilog, fishermen) would do the business. These 'Momedian' (Muslim) were not many, but were staying with them. There were... all of our... 'Bhatiya' caste people and 'Lohana' cast people... these casts were there in those days. These people's 'jaat'(Muslims) were not there. And these people...
Pranji: Their 'jaat' (Muslims) wasn't there at all. At that time the Hindus 'Vaghela' from the 'Dwarka' region lived there...
Ranjitbhai: Hindu, like the 'Kharva' (seafarers community).
Parnji: 'Kharva'. Yes, there 'Kharva' comes under the Hindu religion. Did you understand the difference between 'Hindu' and 'Momedian'(Muslim)? All these people would work there. And the owner of the dhow in those days... were from our... 'Bhatia' caste, 'Bhatia'. 'Bhatias' are very big 'danvirs'(donor/givers). Lots of 'Bhatias' are in Bombay. They have opened very big colleges and schools. They are such 'danvirs'.
Nida: When is this... this is before the partition?
Ranjitbhai: Yes, before the partition.
Ranjitbhai: After that, the partition happened.
Nida: The cargo would come here from Karachi, from here?
Ranjitbhai: From here the business would go to other districts. From here, Salaya. At that time Salaya was a very big port.
Nida: But only in India?
Ranjitbhai: Not in India, throughout Gujar... the district of Jam Nagar.
Nida: But did the trade extend further from Salaya or not?
Ranjitbhai: No, there were more import. Outside...some would go to Karachi and (in audible) be exported.
Nida: But what about Oman, Yemen, all of these?
Ranjitbhai: Initially they would not go to Somalia, only Dubai, Iran, Iraq, all those places.
Nida: And from Basra, dates would be bought...
Ranjitbhai: In those days they would not go to Somalia.
Pranji: Dates would come from there. The dates would be imported here.
Nida: And they would come directly to Salaya?
Ranjitbhai: Directly to Salaya. In those days it would come directly to Salaya. And (as opposed to) those big ships... there were small small ships... (in audible) These were very small ships they would load the cargo on that and leave. It was such in those days.
Nida: Then after that?
Ranjitbhai: After that eventually the partition happened... then... these...
Nida: ... going to Karachi was stopped...
Ranjitbhai: Going to Karachi was stopped. Since then it has become mechanised... before they used sails... they were sailing based... they did not have machines. They worked on sails. After that, all this started developing and the 'Momedianlog' (Muslim people) started settling in. In the beginning they worked...
Nida: How did this transfer happen?
Nida: Uh... how did that...
Ranjitbhai: This began on the ships in Dubai . From there they figured out the new technology and then started installing the machine.
Nida: Did the 'Momedian' started this?
Ranjitbhai: 'Momedian' and 'Hindu' together. In those times they both handled it... these times maximum 'Momedians' do, Hindus don't. One or two parties might do so, not more than that. That way there is only a single party... they...
Nida: Did they (Hindus) leave? Or what happened?
Nida: Did they(Hindus)...
A space for rituals performed during cremation.
Children leaving school.
Pranji: No... who travels on the dhows? It's these people (Muslims). For eight to fifteen days... (in audible)... they are illiterate men. All 'Momedians' were illiterate. So they had to do labour work.
Ranjitbhai: In those days they had to travel from here to Dubai.
Pranji: It was stressful in those days. It would take a long time to reach.
Ranjitbhai: They would take a whole month to reach and now they take four days.
Pranji: Then... eventually the 'Kharva' left for other places and these people (Muslims) took over.
Nida: Yes. They got into other kinds of businesses.
Pranji: They (the Muslims) would also learn but did fishing most of the time... (unclear) ...and these people started travelling on the dhows. Slowly they became the owners of the dhows... (unclear) ...so they would get support from Dubai. They would make the dhows here, take it, and install the machines there.
Ranjitbhai: Even now it's carrying on .
Pranji: The machine gets fitted there itself, till date.
Vasrambhai: The machine is put there itself.
Pranji: ...all those big engines that are used to drive the dhows are available there.
Nida: What is this so? Why are they available there and not here?
Ranjitbhai: In India...
Vasrambhai: It's cheaper there.
Ranjitbhai: No no, you don't get engines with high horsepower. You get very few.
Nida: Go on...
Ranjitbhai: Don't you want to talk?
Nida: No no.
Ranjitbhai: Those high horsepower engines, you don't get them here. It's cheaper from there.
Pranji: ...seven hundred...
eight hundred! eight hundred!
Pranji: (Unclear)...seven double zero... Horsepower, HP...
Pranji: 1200 HP engine...
Ranjitbhai: Now the ships are 1000 tons, 1200 tons, 1500 tons...
Nida: Yes, lots of them have been made. Every year they get bigger.
Pranji: They are becoming increasingly big.
Ranjitbhai: Yes they are becoming big.
Pranji: I remember they had made a 300 ton weight ship (probably 3000 ton weight).
Ranjitbhai: That's big. That's very big.
Pranji: And the news spread across Gujarat that a 300 ton ship was built.
Nida: Where was it made?
Altogether: Here, in Salaya.
Close to the cremation grounds is a rain water harvesting site where water is used for washing and performing other tasks.
Nida: So you were speaking about smuggling... when did it happened and how?
Ranjitbhai: About that... the smuggling started...I think it was... the smuggling started the time Talav was around?
Pranji: Yes Talav.
Pranji: Talav wrote this... There was a man by the name of Talav.
Ranjitbhai: ...who was the first gold smuggler of India.
Pranji: He was the first man who owned this whole area...
Nida: Which year did this happen?
Ranjitbhai: This must have happened around... fifty-five... from the fifties to the sixties.
Nida: Yes, during this time something was happening in Dubai as well right?
Ranjitbhai: ...it was happening everywhere. Dubai was a free port that time. And Dubai was also developing. It was not like this in those days. It was also being developed.
Nida: We have written something about that.
Nida: About the boat.
Pranji: You know the custom's office in Salaya?
Pranji: It's his uncle...
Ranjitbhai: No no my big brother. Works in the Custom Clearing.
Pranji: He is in the Custom's Clearing department. So tomorrow Ranjitbhai... call them.
Ranjitbhai: I'll phone from here and tell them.
Pranji: You will get a lot of information there. Compared to this you will get far more from there.
'Eid ki Masjid'.
Nida: So tell us what happened exactly.
Pranji: He will tell you roughly.
Nida: Yes tell us roughly.
Ranjitbhai: I will tell you only what I know.
Nida: Yes, yes, whatever you know.
Ranjitbhai: In the sixties Talav's smuggling had begun. After that...
Nida: Here we have written... sorry.
Nida: In this book (referring to the Warfage book)...
Ranjitbhai: Whose name have you written?
Nida: No, no, no. Because of this they would also bring gold...
Ranjitbhai: Gold was the main... it was gold that was being smuggled from the start.
Pranji: Gold and silver.
Ranjitbhai: Only later did they start bringing the electronic items. Initially, silver would go from here and gold would be bought from there.
Nida: From Dubai?
Ranjitbhai: From Dubai.
Nida: Then? What happened here?
Pranji: Here, the rates became the same. And it stopped.
Ranjitbhai: Now that it's (Dubai) become a free port, the rate is not so much.
Pranji: There (Dubai) the prices where high.
Nida: No no but this smuggling, how did people find...
Vasrambhai: Now they've straightened out. The law has changed.
Pranji: They call it jacket... jacket. The gold would come in the jacket. The jacket could be worn by a person.
Ranjitbhai: In those days the customs didn't check as much as they do now.
Pranji: And from here if they had to send something then the person would wear it and put on a shirt over it. Nobody would come to know.
Remains of an old wall built during the Jadeja Rajput's reign, that used to enclose the settlement.
'Eid ki Masjid'.
Radha: And who would purchase this?
Pranji: Big people. Only big people purchase such things.
Ranjitbhai: What happens here is that those transferring the cargo, do only this. These people smuggle the goods in and it doesn't belong to them. Somebody give them the goods there and...
Pranji: Somebody will give them the goods from there and another will take it from here.
Ranjitbhai: ...he just does the transfer.
Pranji: In between they got clever. They got clever, so they would get themselves caught by the customs. They would surrender half the goods and keep the other half. So the person at the other end, the seller would not receive his goods and finds out that the customs authority have got a hold of it. Later he understands that the police or the customs authority have been give half the goods and the other half has been sold. After a series of incidences even he realises that this has become a pure business, this method of getting caught.
Salt flats and the refining factory on the outskirts of Jam Salaya.
Ranjitbhai(Gujarati): We get to know these things within the 'Marwadi' community... (unclear) about Fakira.
Radha: What did he say?
Pranji: There is this man, he too has many vessels. He lives in Khambalia.
Ranjitbhai: He has six vessels.
Pranji: He was caught in Ahmedabad. He had gold worth fifty lakhs. At that time, it was a lot.
Vasrambhai: Now it will be in cores.
Nida: What is his name?
(All in unison): Fakira Mamad.
Pranji: Now he has become old. It was his time then. He married a girl from France. He even used to look like a hero. You know the gentleman who was sitting here, he left. If you had asked him he'll give you the complete picture. This man used to work in his garage.
Ranjitbhai: His brother, Omar is his name.
Pranji: Then he became a big man. For many years they kept searching for him. Then the police finds out that Mamad was with him. The police goes there and they are given money.
Pranji: Two years back his case got over. Now he is here. Everyday he goes back to Salaya at eight o'clock.
Pranji: He has so many vessels there.
Nida: And his case...
Pranji: His case had gotten over. There were even more cases on him. He has a lot of property as well. So much land, so many bungalows, from here till Mumbai in those days. Nobody ever dared to take over his bungalows. And police all over India recognises 'Fakira' name. 'Fakira' from Kambalia... Salaya...from Salaya.
Vasrambhai: It's because of this name Salaya became infamous. It's because of Mamad name that Salaya has becomes internationally infamous.
Pranji: It's because of smuggling Salaya has become infamous.
Ranjitbhai: Smuggling started after partition. It wasn't there before that. Only after partition. Since these people have...
Pranji: This is what is happening now... everyone wants clothes from Salaya. Those clothes that come from other countries. But these clothes will not be from there, it will be from Surat. Just because it's in the hands of the 'Salayawala' (person from Salaya) it becomes an item from Dubai.
Nida: Yes we hear of this today.
Pranji: Right. This is the basic human psychology. Someone comes along and demands for these clothes from there, whereas it is made locally.
Pranji: Many items from here ...(unclear).
(Gujarati in the background)
Nida: From here itself?
Pranji: That too it's made here, but when it's in their hands...
Nida: But even before was it bought from the country or was it from outside?
Pranji: Before it used to come from outside. And due to the psychology of the people...(unclear)
Ranjitbhai: (unclear)...They go for a month and do the shopping... (unclear) they do the packaging ...(unclear)
Radha: They do the packaging as well?
Radha: We should track that actually.
Pranji: These people from Salaya have become very smart. They were illiterate before. They have become so smart all 'their wallets' (in gesture) have become fat. That's how smart they have become.
Ranjitbhai: Now they too have become educated. He has studied a lot... (Unclear)
Ranjitbhai: In Salaya...(Unclear)... He was an owner.
Nida: Really? Is he here or in Mumbai? Can we met him in Mumbai?
Ranjitbhai: Yes, you can.
Pranbji: Do one thing go to Salaya.
Pranji: In the afternoon.
Ranjitbhai: Can you go in the afternoon?
Nida: Yes, we have the whole day.
Pranji: Then you go to Salaya in the morning. Then I will take both your numbers.
Pranji: In the afternoon.
Ranjitbhai: He have been working as the Custom's clearing agent for many years now.
Radha: What is his name?
Ranjitbhai: He is my cousin.
Radha: I see.
Pranji: That is why he is saying there is no point talking here. There you will meet the sailors...(unclear). He has done all of this. He has done this smuggling as well. He has become a mahatma now.
Radha: He will not mind talking will he?
Pranji: That Ranjitbhai will know. His son is my friend. But his son will not want to talk. But it Ranjitbhai puts in a word then he might talk. It's about impressions. Depends on the impression one gets from his big brother, this person or that. They are good people. They have been living in Salaya for years. But you have to go through the right person. That is why he (Ranjitbhai) will help you with anything. Whatever you want you will get.
Nida: Great, (to Ranjitbhai) so when will you be able to come?
Junis' daughters and his wife Nafisa's immediate family. Her father's wood workshop.
Pranji: There was this lady long time ago in Salaya.
Ranjitbhai: This happened a long time back.
Pranji: Just like Jhasi Ki Rani, there was this lady. She used to sail the sea on ships.
Pranji: There is a book on her but you'll get it or not. In Salaya you'll get everything. In those days... (unclear).
Pranji: It's on the history of this. You will get it.
Radha: Great. I'll be good if you give us anything on this matter.
Pranji: And there was another one called Bhagat Sena... Bhagat Seth.
Ranjitbhai: All these were seafarers...
Pranji: He was a great man.
Radha: This is the same lady who sailed on ships.
Pranji: Nathi... Nathibai.
Nida: Nathibai. Where did she go?
Pranji: Yes... her...
Ranjitbhai: There is a book on her as well. Where it is available I don't know.
Nida: Do you have it?
Ranjitbhai: I have read it before. I don't have it now.
Ranjitbhai: I will have to find out who might have it.
Ranjitbhai: Nathibai... Nathi Behen.
Pranji: Sometimes pirate raids would occur on the ships. She had chased them away.
Radha: What happened?
Pranji: Those that come to loot the ships... the thieves. They were driven away by this 'bai' alone, in those days.
Ranjitbhai: It's been many years.
Pranji: This is many years back.
Radha: Who were the thieves... where were they from?
(All in unison): 'Chachiya' (unclear). Those thieves are called 'Chachiya'.
Pranji: They are called 'Chachiya' (probably pirates). They loot ship at sea.
Radha: Where were they from? The thieves.
Ranjitbhai: They are from outside.
Radha: I mean were they from a country?
Ranjitbhai: They can be from Afghanistan or Africa, they can be from anywhere.
Pranji: The ships aren't looted here, they raid the ship in the middle of the sea.
Ranjitbhai: They raid loot them in the ocean.
Pranji: Where you don't get any help. That's where all this happens.
At the jetty, on a speedboat with Ibrahim and his crew.
Anchored dhows waiting to set sail. Some are being repaired and repainted, as smaller fishing boats frequently pass by. This is the route to the ocean.
Sagar Samrat is one of the dhows Ibrahim owns.
Pulleys used for unloading and loading of cargo.
On the deck of the launch with the owner, the captain and his crew.
Inside the launch where the cargo is stored.
The crew members at work and Ibrahim eating 'masala'.
On the way back to the jetty.
A plastic hood of a rickshaw that advertises 'The Old Town at Downtown Dubai'.
Abdulla, a caretaker, who spoke to us at length about life in Jam Salaya and various aspects of the trade.
Final trip to the pier.
Bundar Road leading to the pier.
Freshly painted and refurbished dhows.
Men at work, waterproofing the dhow using a traditional method.
They dip long threads of cotton into whale oil and hammer them into the gaps between the wood planks.
In the weeks leading up to the Sharjah Biennial in March 2009, Hakim and I had spent time on the dhow creek, a block away from the museum and across from Khalid port, conducting research for our project, Wharfage (http://camputer.org/event.php?id=77
). During that phase, a dhow by the name of Sabir Priya, originally built in Salaya, was docked there, first, right by the shore, loading goods, then, moving away, to become the second, third, and eventually, the fourth dhow from the shore, waiting for the winds to give way, and eventually heading off to Somalia.
Over a couple of encounters on the port, an exchange of phone numbers, an interview on the deck, and a follow-up visit for a delicious lunch cooked on board and eaten with the crew in the cabin (seriously the best food I had while in Sharjah), Siddique, the captain, and Junis, the next in line, and I became friends. Even after they managed that much-delayed departure, Siddique and Junis would call whenever they had a chance at sea, from the coast of Yemen, and along to the semi-states of Somalia. During the radio show that CAMP (http://camputer.org
) put on at the Sharjah Creek during the opening week of the biennial, Sabir Priya called in and was on air from Bossaso.
When Radha and I went to Jam Salaya in the monsoon months of that same year, it was Siddique who was our main point of access, and though Junisâ who had decided he would not spend the whole year at seaâ was out for a short fishing expedition, it was his wife's family who took us in.
Maybe humari hi nazr lag geyi. For one day, as Radha and I sat on two stone-turned-stools used for anchoring the dhows at the bundar in Jam Salaya, we admired Sabir Priya (seen here) aloud. She stood across the shore from us, in her last stages of refurbishing, newly painted and shining in the sun, looking rather grand. She isn't as massive and robust as the more recently built dhows, but this only adds to something quite dignified about her. We managed to sneak in a photograph having just been discouraged by the port security officials. And in that avatar, it's the last of it we have.
In early December 2009, I got a call from Junis who was back from fishing and in Jam Salaya, telling me that Sabir Priya had been docked at the creek in Sharjah and one night, while the crew was on board, watching a film in the captain's cabin, the wood had somehow caught fire and the dhow had started to go up in flames. In subsequent conversations with Siddique, the details of how the fire engine came, and for fear that the fire would spread to the others, isolated the boat, but did not 'blow' the fire out. Somehow the dhow was dubaoed (sunken) under the water and brought back up. Claims were that 70% of it had been destroyed, but the photographs we were later sent suggested otherwise.
In any case, boats set aflame are one of the main causes of nuksan that bring on a change of fortune. The dhow did not have insurance, and it was decided that Siddique and the crew would wait there in Sharjah until the dhow owner, Siddique's cousin, came there from Jam Salaya and figured a way to tow the dhow back. It was attached to another that was returning home. Once it was in Jam Salaya, they would salvage the part they could and begin to build it again.
It took a while for them to return and the crew would sleep on the deck, on the remains of this now burnt boat. It was only near the end of January 2010 that they made it back and we got a call and a photograph to confirm their safe arrival. A month later, end February (a couple of days before I write this), Junis called to say that Sabir Priya is being rebuilt on a plot of land right across from his father's small shop on Bundar Road. "Siddique hamare samne hi khada hai," he said, the captain somehow symptomatic of his vessel. Junis himself will spend the year working building another boat nearby, but both Siddique and him will be in Jam Salaya as will Sabir Priya, through most part of this year.
Younger boys pass time entertaining themselves but also helping with small errands, thus learning on the job.
A family of fishermen and women at the jetty.
The check point authorities located at the entrance of the jetty.
Dhows and fishing boats.
On the jetty of Jam Salaya are sun-dried fish, large wooden beams, parked motorbikes and tea stalls.
Waiting for work to resume at 3pm.
Preparing a plank for men to sit on so that they can hammer on the outer sides of the dhow.
Stored gas cylinder for cooking during the voyage.
The very end of the jetty. The tip of Jam Salaya.
Mitsubishi Diesel Engine.
Afternoon on a launch that was once hijacked.
Carpenter repairing the base of a railing. Men waterproofing the launch while younger apprentices watch over and fool around.
A family of fishermen and women packing their fishing nets on the jetty.
Siddique's neighbour and his family friends.