About Me

My photo
I never wanted to be a fitter and I didn’t even know what a fitter was or did, until it was too late. The story of how I came to be one can be seen on my website: www.calvertonfitter.com After 45 years in industry working on such diverse things as aeroplanes and textile machinery I thought it would be a good idea to start a blog and to share some of the things that I've seen and done. Some of the posts are funny and some are sad. Some are political and some are about racism. Hopefully you will find them all interesting, and even entertaining!

My Favourite Posts

Some of MY favourite posts include: The Congo, Deltic (3 posts), On the Buses, The Bus Drivers Story, Classical Music and Sherry, Working in Karachi 1988, Going to Karachi 1988 (hilarious), Broken Mug, Tilbury (4 posts).

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Working in Karachi 1988

Following on from my last post about whiskey smuggling to Karachi the job in hand was to install the ‘making up’ end to the production line where quilt covers, fitted sheets, pillow cases etc were made up and packed. The value of our machines was around the £110000 mark and represented the smallest investment in the line but extremely important in that it had to quickly make the finished goods to a high standard.

The mill complex itself was in a walled in compound and we were shown the old part, which was still producing bedding and represented a 19thC Dickensian nightmare. It was dark and hot and the old weaving machines made a cacophony of noise, which hurt the ears, and men worked stripped to the waist and with no ear protection. The new mill complex on the other hand had brand new Japanese weaving machines that were whisper quiet with robots collecting lint from the air. It was very human friendly, but with no humans. The cloth was then taken to the new German bleaching and dyeing equipment and then to the Swiss Printing machines. Then it would be Oldham’s turn with cloth laying up and cutting machines and a variety of automated sewing equipment. That was plan A.

A huge section of wall had been left out to get the four packing cases into the mill and there they were waiting for our tender ministrations. It was a shock to open them and find that they had not been tropicalized and that all our machines were rusted up. I’ve never seen so much rust damage, it seemed to be growing like fungus and paintwork was peeling off as green and blue machines turned to terracotta. Sewing machines showed an amazing amount of damage with their small highly polished chrome parts deeply pitted with rust.

Management’s first instinct was to pack it all up and send it back but the trouble there was that the whole business of finding alterative suppliers, and lead-time and shipping time would put the whole production plan into disarray. The investment had been funded partly by Pakistan Government and partly by World Bank and orders with delivery dates had been won so we had to start stripping down and ordering spare parts from our company in Oldham while they made urgent representations to the packaging and Insurance companies. Our MD actually flew out to inspect and stayed for ONE night as he had a wedding to attend back home!

Yacoob and I were made to feel like naughty schoolboys as we stood in front of the mills directors and asked ‘Is this machinery new?’ The third world has a long history of corruption with old machinery being bought as ‘new’ in financial scams and our stuff was to be examined by Gov inspectors to protect their investment.

We did get it all up and running as replacement stuff was air freighted out and I think everyone was reasonably happy at the outcome.

At lunchtimes we had our own canteen where we ate with a lone German engineer still on site. He asked where our return flight tickets were and when we said the company had them he roared with laughter. Apparently they are internationally known as ‘hanky panky’ tickets. You don’t get home until the job is done! He also gave his opinion of the curried lamb we were served daily, ‘This dog was barking an hour ago’. Yes it was that bad. On our last day we managed to get our team of locals who had been helping us, and would run the machines, to have lunch with us and they agreed the ‘dog’ was poor but said it was better than the company gave them, ‘They think we are pigs’. They also refused the coffee offered to them because, ‘We might like it and we can’t afford to buy it’.

We were treated to some sightseeing trips round and about Karachi which included a visit to the Mazar-e-Quaid the National Mausoleum and tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founder of Pakistan. It was a tremendous building and had a soldier slouching in the heat on each corner. I asked one to stand to attention (I mimed) to have his photo taken, and he did but unfortunately I can’t find it in my vast collection.

Another trip was to the zoo were I innocently photographed an elephant being ridden by his keeper. Immediately the elephant rushed towards me and thrust its trunk in my face. Fortunately the locals sat behind us new what was happening and laughingly thrust some rupees at the elephant, which lifted them to its keeper. Panic over. Mugged by an elephant!

There’s a revolving restaurant in Karachi with wonderful views over the city. Its only the outer ring containing the tables and seating that revolves and it was funny to spend time choosing food from the buffet and then finding our table had vanished as it revolved at one rev per hour.

The drink of choice was always pomegranate juice and it was wonderful stuff but hey, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘pint of bitter please’ does it?

We were treated to a tour round the ‘posh’ area of the city, Clifton, where the Bhutto’s lived and they had political slogans in neon lights on their compound walls. Most compounds had a gatehouse with an old man armed with an old rifle sat on a seat outside and I wondered how much use he would be in an attack or burglary. We also saw an uncompleted building, which was going to be a casino, and owned by the Bhutto’s but the arrest and execution of the family patriarch brought that activity to an end. I always got the impression there were scores to be settled but casinos are still illegal.We also watched political parades, which seemed to be bright lively events and the streets were lined with posters from the various parties. Benezir Bhutto was not allowed to be named in the papers by the Junta and was called ‘that woman’ instead. I was startled to read in the English language papers, straightforward reporting of Pakistan Communist Party election meetings, something I’ve never read in English non-censored papers.

The main roads through Karachi all appeared to have machine gun emplacements sandbagged in and completely blocking one pavement as if the traffic wasn’t bad enough. I just couldn’t understand what they were for. Intimidation maybe? I was almost sorry to leave but my family awaited and we finished the job and trained the operatives and received our ‘hanky panky’ return ticket and left the day before Benazir was elected that first time.

The final insurance payout for the job was about £30000 and the packaging company went into liquidation. Good riddance.
Next post will probably be weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment