Tales from a Salvage Hunter - Part 2

Tales from a Salvage Hunter - Part 2

October 13, 2020

Our founder Andy travelled to Bangladesh to meet a supplier of vintage & industrial lighting. It was really beneficial to meet our supplier in person to  strengthen our business relationship and truly understand how our circular business operates from salvage to restoration then final delivery to customer. Andy's travels were colourful and he came back with many tales to tell. Here we recount part 2 of that trip in "Tales of a Salvage Hunter". To read part 1 click here.

 The family home of our Bangladeshi friends' is part of an eye catching pink apartment block. On arrival my contact, lets call him Benoy to respect privacy, sounds the horn and a man came and opened the gate, which is a heavy tubular steel grid which slides across the opening.

We get out of the car and Benoy parks in the garage, as he leaves the garage he looks at one of his workers and gives a sweeping arm signal, no words, his worker swiftly came along and closed the garage door.

It was at this point I first noticed that he only has one hand, this perhaps explains his grand theft auto driving style? Benoy unfortunately lost his hand at work by absence of health and safely protocol, personal protective wear and maybe a little common sense. Something which is a huge problem in the ship breaking industry in Bangladesh. His hand was subjected to an exploding Xenon bulb that he attempted to remove from a large searchlight back in 1996. These pressurized Xenon gas filled lamps go off like grenades when not handled correctly. Back in my days as a concert lighting engineer we would never tour these lamps fitted inside the unit, and only ever remove or fit them wearing full upper body leathers, arm length leather gloves, and full face mask. His hand took the full force of the explosion, lacerations from the glass shards would have been the first shock, then the Xenon would have frozen the wounds in an instant causing frostbite. After 3 days of treatment the doctors decided to amputate.

The second garage door was open and I instantly recognized the polishing shop from the images they had sent previously. One of the workers was just finishing his days work and there were a few polished examples of the lights on my ever increasing list! The quality of the polishing was very good and the people are friendly and genuine, there's no doubt about that.

My confidence in this venture is growing by the minute. Benoy then lead me upstairs to the 2nd floor where they lived, which was a lovely apartment filled with grand handmade hard wood furniture which they had made themselves.

The first new face I met here was Rakib the eldest son of Benoy and brother to Rafi, we instantly made a good connection, his English was good with great sense of humour. 

Next I was ushered to sit down for dinner, here comes the first experience of the local cuisine. I have heard only good things. The first meal was basic, chicken legs, perfectly seasoned, and shallow fried accompanied by vegetable rice, I could not have wished for anything more. It was perfect. Only myself, Benoy, Rafi and Rakib sat at the table, there were women in the kitchen which I had not met as yet. I would go in there and introduce myself but I was happy to roll with how things were progressing for now. 

My next Bengali words were ready to broadcast. I had been learning some basics on the flight over. (All my spelling of Bengali words here and through this blog is how the words are said phonetically).

Decca hewi kushi holam! - I am pleased to meet you!

The response was fantastic and without doubt helped to break the ice and bond with my new friends. We talked about Bengali words and most importantly we all laughed and rubbed along well. 

After dinner Benoy gave me the tour of the apartment and then we all sat down in the room I was staying in, it was large enough to have two big square lounge chairs and a coffee table which made for a great place to socialize. I gifted Benoy the finest bottle of Givency perfume that Heathrow airport had to offer and thanked him for inviting me into his home. He was very pleased to accept my offering and later on I learnt that his two favourite things are cars and perfumes.

He soon after retired and left Rafi and Rakib with me, I opened my suitcase and handed Rakib the contraband along with 3kg of cadbury's chocolate and a large re-sealable bag of Hero's... big smiles!

Rakib and I poured some Whisky, Rafi passed on this occasion, we sat down and talked until 4am then went to bed. 

The next morning I met their mother. She has a lovely warm face and great smile. I gifted her a typically English floral pattern ceramic pot for keeping tea which she quickly took to the kitchen. We sat down for a breakfast of eggs, small chapatis with a little side of chicken curry followed by a local fruit which I had never seen before... a breakfast I could get used to!

Seeing all the businesses processing salvage in daylight for the first time was a lot to take in. That same road we travelled last night became even more interesting.

Benoy tackled a car travelling down the wrong side of the motorway ( their equivalent of the M1 without speed limit). My right foot was desperately trying to find a brake pedal in the passenger seat foot well, the car whipped past and then we pulled over outside Benoy's shop. 

The first stop was the unit next door to the shop. This was where they disassembled the lights to be sent for polishing, the fixings and other parts were kept in a tray on the floor. No workbenches here. The floor is more than satisfactory for Benoy's workers. I can't quite understand why they don't have work benches, the compound next door was stacked out with stainless steel tables from ships kitchens and are perfect for workshop use.

The shop space itself was just like any other typical antique shop, being quite small (appx 7m x 5m) and stacked out with items on offer. Four of us in the shop was crowded. After three or so laps I had seen all the items of interest.

Then the dealing started... 

-'is this solid brass?'

-'Yes all brass how many you want?'

-'how many do you have?'

-'What's your target?'

-'kotota' I said!

-‘Haha kotota, kotota! You speak bengali! It's Eighty pounds'

-'I pay less in the UK, I don't travel to Bangladesh to pay more!'

So this is how it goes, Rakib is the young business man going high and netting somewhere that's still hugely in their favour. Then there is Benoy, 'the old school', I get him on his own and the price is right for me first time. Honest from the off. He knows what he needs to make and so do I. Happy days, if only he could speak more English, maybe it's down to me to speak Bengali.

We spent about 3 hours there then headed back for lunch, fish curry with a side of plain rice and a plate of very thin sliced, skinned cucumber, every mouthful was lush! I went straight to the kitchen after our meal to find mother Benoy and her friend sitting on the kitchen floor eating their lunch. Why are they not included at the table, it's certainly big enough?

'Duunobarr! I said, they returned with what I think must have been 'your welcome', they smiled, looked at each other and laughed in conversation. A good vibe!

To be continued......

Click here to see our range of reclaimed lighting professionally restored to modern lighting standards. 

Photo by Niloy Biswas on Unsplash