BENGALURU: When Radeesh Shetty started collecting oil lamps at the age of 15, little did he know that one day, lighting would be an integral part of his profession.
The founder and director of the home décor brand The Purple Turtles, which also offers a range of lights and furniture, today has over 100 lamps in his collection.
Fascinated with the oil lamps used in his grandmother’s house in Mangaluru, Shetty too started collecting oil lamps and says he doesn’t actually keep a count to know the exact number he has accumulated thus far but has actively been collecting the lamps for the last 15 years.
“My work takes me to interesting places so I have access to these lamps. Some, however, find me instead,” he says, revealing how he discovered some of his finds in Kolkata, Mumbai, Egypt, Israel and even at a flea market in Amsterdam.
“Now, since people know about my collection, I even get calls from dealers from Bangkok and Sri Lanka,” adds the 38-year-old.
Beautiful lamps may be aplenty but Shetty doesn’t mind collecting the ones that are broken either: “It’s interesting to restore those ones. Sometimes, I even add details to customise it.”
But the best ones to collect, he says, are the ones with a story.
For example, the wedding ceremony lamp he found in Sri Lanka is a 150-year-old artefact passed over multiple generations of the same family.
An integral part of wedding festivities (people often dance around it), the lamp is considered auspicious and families rarely part with it, Shetty explains.
“One of these somehow landed with a dealer. I happened to show him my existing collection and without me requesting for a discount, he lowered the price of this lamp and I eventually paid around Rs 3,000 for it,” recounts the founder-director.
The most expensive lamp Shetty owns was acquired for around Rs 1–1.5 lakh and interestingly, at 20 inches, it’s probably one of the smallest ones he owns too.
Also, a part of the collection is a 4 ft tall 100-wick temple lamp. Though a stunner due to its size, it doesn’t qualify as his favourite since it’s relatively easy to find. That spot is occupied by a four-wick lamp instead.
“Most lamps often have one, three or five wicks, since odd numbers have some significance in Hindu mythology, so the four-wick one is a rarity.”
In a good year, Shetty is able to add 20 new lamps to his collection and already has added eight to 10 new ones since January.
However, the collection rarely finds an open display at home or in office and is instead neatly tucked away in a warehouse.
Turns out, there’s a lot of work that goes into using the lamps. “The oil may spoil them so the lamp has to be dismantled and cleaned every time,” explains Shetty, adding that he doesn’t collect these lamps to display them.
“I do it because I feel like I have a part of history with me and it’s a story I can hold on to.”