Buying Trip to India Jan '23

Buying Trip to India Jan '23

Back in my late teens/ early twenties I was lucky enough to make several trips out to India and spent many months travelling around, chilling out and generally soaking up the vibes of what is a wonderful, crazy and intense country in the days before mobile phones, social media and certain international events completely changed travel and the world forever.

Looking at the Himalayas from Dharamsala

After my last trip, way back in 1999, I found myself longing for my own place and a bit of stability for a while and suddenly went from living out of my rucksack and sleeping on peoples floors to renting a room in a shared house, getting a job and, like so many people, acquiring enough debt to mean that I was well and truly grounded for the foreseeable future. 

Years, houses and jobs drifted by, along came children and other responsibilities and my days of roaming India seemed a million miles away so it was a huge joy to realise that I could tie my love of travel together with my business and start making regular trips out to India in search of stock.

Tobys had always imported containers from a supplier out there who made ironmongery and garden metal/ stone items for us but before I took over the business it had been restricted to almost entirely reproduction pieces ordered from a website plus the odd original piece that came along once in a while. When I asked our contact, who I had already worked with for over 10 years, if he knew of any reclamation yards worth visiting he said he worked with two near to him and that I should fly out to have a look around.....I didn't need a second invitation!! 

So, after a break of almost exactly 20 years I flew out to India just before Christmas 2019. It was an amazing trip and I loved being back in a country that had been so important to a much younger version of myself. The colours, tastes and smells all washed over me and I realised how much I had missed it right away. I spent a week with my friend out there visiting two very large reclamation yards buying stock and generally enjoying every minute of it and left saying that I would be back in a few months with the full intention of making regular trips over whenever I could manage it from then on....but then March 2020 came around and as we all know all too well Covid appeared on the scene and travel ground to halt for everyone, everywhere.

Anyway, after a couple of years grounded and trying to keep the business going through the extremely tough times I finally managed to get back out there in January 2023.

plane window with rain

I flew out of Heathrow on a wet and miserable Saturday afternoon and after a very brief stop in Dubai landed in India bright and early on Sunday morning. It was a gorgeous spring day, not too hot and definitely not in any way cold! We went back to me friends house which is on the outskirts of a huge sprawling city in a quiet gated collection of houses which is a lovely, peaceful place to relax and ease myself back in to things.

We had a gorgeous lunch of many different dishes all home cooked and prepared and I managed to stay awake through the first day so that I could align myself with the new time zone and get a full nights sleep ready for the days of buying that lay ahead.

huge grain pots stacked up by the roadside

Day 2 started with a road trip right out of the city to visit a man that sold the huge Indian grain pots that we had stocked in the past. I love these huge old pots and had decided to try and fill a container of just pots. It was a fabulous morning spent climbing over things and picking out loads of pots in all different shapes and sizes - I was in my element!       

Once I felt that I had bought enough (it is always very hard to know when to stop - I didn't want to buy too few but also didn't want to spill over in to another container as that would obviously have pushed the prices up) we went for a delicious lunch in a near by cafe and then drove on to visit a step well. Back in the nineties I spent most of my time in India visiting temples and religious sites so I don't feel as much of a need to do so nowadays (especially as I am always on such a tight schedule) but I had never visited a step well so had asked if we could do a detour to visit a large one near by - it didn't disappoint! As you can see from the photo it is a huge, ornately carved well that steps down deep in to the ground and would collect water during the wet months which would then be collected by people from all around during the dry months. The walls are covered in carvings of Hanuman, Shiva and many other Gods and goddesses and nearby was a beautiful Sun temple where the carvings are scenes from the Karma Sutra with some being really quite graphic - definitely not what you'd see on a church over here!

India step well

Day 3 was a long day of buying at the first reclamation yard, broken in the middle by a fabulous home cooked lunch that one of the guys had brought in with him ( as you can probably tell I absolutely love proper Indian food!). I bought cupboards, sideboards, wall panels, day beds, doors, pillars, fire pits and lots of small items as well like brick moulds and stools etc. It was an epic day of buying powered by lots of little cups of sweet chai and the desire to find the next cool thing.

photo of an indian reclamation yard from above

That night I checked in to a heritage hotel in the middle of the city. It is such a luxury to be able to stay with my friend in his beautiful home when I visit but I also like to relive a little bit of the feel of my past travels so always try and mix it up between his place and a hotel for a few nights for a bit of independence. The hotel building was once the home to one of the city's most important families and is therefore very grand with lots of wonderfully restored architectural features - the perfect hang out for a travelling reclaimer! That night I just took it easy and had a lovely tahli in my room and video called my kids to see how life was back at home before catching up on some admin for the shop (it never stops!).

an indian meal of mixed curries and sources

Day 4 it was reclamation yard number 2 and another full days buying. I had already bought so much with a container of big pots plus almost another containers worth of furniture that I didn't expect to buy that much but as always there was far more cool stuff than I could leave behind so another big day of buying was had! I bought lots of windows, doors (one set is 19ft wide!), more cupboards and sideboards, jalli doors, dog gates, benches, mirrors and more small items like little metal pots and planters.

a room in an indian reclamation yard filled with wooden bowls

That night I took a rickshaw to the outskirts of the city and met my friend for a delicious meal at restaurant that tries to recreate the experience of eating in a rustic Rajasthani village. It's a bit touristy being a kind of 'themed' restaurant but was mostly filled with Indian families eating and the food is great (it's the second time we have been there). You sit on the floor and food is served on big banana leave plates...a great experience and a good test for my ageing legs to sit cross legged for so long!

a huge amount of indian food laid out on a table

And that was it for buying on this trip. I said goodbye to my friend that night as the next day was my free day to wander the streets by myself, do a bit of sightseeing and find some little gifts for my kids. More than any proper sightseeing I like to just get lost walking around markets and back streets and take in the real life of a place, just people watching and checking out what products are on offer and what people are buying/paying...I find the comparison of everyday life like that so interesting.

That night I had another good thali in my hotel as I packed and rested waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport at 1am. One of the many good things about having young kids is that however much I hate to leave a country like India and head back to the cold and stress of England I look forward to seeing my boys and telling them about my travels and that far outweighs my desire to stay on the road.

I had planned to fly out again in January 2024 but sadly, after a tough winter, finances didn't allow - I now hope to fly back in the autumn for another buying trip and will post here as and when that happens.

Some photos from my day roaming the city.....

a beautiful deco house in an indian city

a man selling vegetables on a market in india

a family selling brass and copper pots in a market in india

an ancient doorway on a street in india 


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