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Friday, January 1, 2021

Playing 'Goodwill Ambassador' in Margherita

A very happy New Year to all of you, dear readers! I'm delighted to share another charming story from Murari Saikia today!

It was early March ’84, a balmy spring Sunday morning in the salubrious climes of Margherita. I had just returned from the factory; manufacturing for the weekend done and dusted and the factory locked and sealed.

I was lounging in the ‘jali’ verandah trying to make up my mind on whom to ‘raid’ for some beer and lunch and while lost in my thoughts, I heard someone addressing me from beyond the porch.
‘Sir, sir!'
Peering out, I could make out it was my third Tea House babu, standing a little away from my vehicle.

He looked quite distraught, so I asked him what was the problem, and the man blurted out in Assamese, ‘Sir, my wife is expecting and I had taken her to the hospital, the doctor is away and the sister says that she’s to be transferred to Digboi AOC hospital. The ambulance has already gone out with some patient, we don’t know when it will return!! Sir, my wife’s case is urgent. Emergency, sir’.

I knew what was coming next; he had come to request me to help him with my car - it does happen at times, especially in situations like the one my poor staff was in! I told him to fetch Dhaniram driver and that he should be ready to move, ASAP. The babu bolted and in a short while, Dhaniram was standing outside, to take my instructions.

I told him in the usual bagan lingo, to take the babu and his wife to the AOC hospital and return as quickly as possible after dropping them off, adding that I had to go out, so he’d better hurry back!!

Dhaniram left with my trusty steed - the ubiquitous Ambassador - while I bid adieu to my plans of going out for beer and lunch. I ambled off for a bath and that done, sat down comfortably in the jali verandah with my legs perched up on the center table, a book in hand and a mug of chilled beer by the side. Lunch would have to be a mish-mash of whatever was available in the fridge. The day drew on, but, Dhaniram had not returned, it was past three in the afternoon. There was no means to find out what was happening either. Thinking that he’d be in shortly I went off for a nap. Dhaniram was one of the trusted guys and he drove well too, I reassured myself.

It was past twilight, but, no sign of Dhaniram or my car…I was beginning to get worried while a lot of thoughts plied through my head. Time ticked on, and I realized the other lads and I would not be able to get to Digboi club in time for the Sunday movies either, none of the other Assistants had any conveyance (four wheeled types), I was the only guy with a vehicle, and the other chaps depended on me!!!!

After another nerve racking hour for me, I could see the headlamps of a vehicle at my gate, and as the car drove up the short driveway, I realized it was my car, in one piece; as good as she was when driven out in the morning!

As Dhaniram alighted I was about to bombard him with a mouthful. He disarmed me with a toothless grin under his handlebar moustache, and with a flourish brought out a folded piece of paper, ‘from the babu’. On my query as to why he was late, Dhaniram in his own way informed me that 'the babu requested him to wait, and he had to take the babu to the market to fetch some things, and babu has explained everything in this letter. I was fuming at the undue liberty my staff member had taken and mentally made a note to ‘give it to him’ at some point of time.

Dhaniram stood by, while I was seething in anger as I read the note which went thus:

“Most respected Sir,
I take pleasure in bringing to kind notice that wife has fine baby boy child. 
I beg your kind pardon for not releasing Dhaniram and vehicle quickly, I was without help and movement. Kind Sir, I thank you deeply, my wife also. Sir, the baby would not be there without you. 
Your ever obedient,
Shri……” 

My wrath vanished in a jiffy after reading the note...the baby would not have been there without me!!

As they say, it’s 'cha ki baat' - it could only happen in a tea garden!!

Meet the writer:

Murari Saikia
I was born in Dibrugarh in 1959 and grew up in Shillong. After finishing school from St. Edmund’s College (School Dept.), Shillong in December 1975, went off to Delhi University and graduated from Ramjas College in 1979. Joined FSL (Nestle) around mid-79 and was in Calcutta for a short while and thereafter joined tea in 1980-81 - almost by accident!! 

After a career spanning 36 years in the plantations of McLeod Russell & the Luxmi Group, I retired from the gardens in 2017. But, the love and the lore of tea have not left me. I am still actively involved with the industry currently with Parcon (India) Pvt. Ltd as a Visiting Advisor. 

It’s always a pleasure visiting the gardens and meeting up with some very good old friends who have weathered the storms together, and as always it’s also a treat to meet the younger generation of planters and get to learn a thing or two from these lads too, while throwing back the sundowners!!


Is this your first visit here? Welcome to Indian Chai Stories!
 
Do you have a chai story of your own to share?  
Send it to me here, please : indianchaistories@gmail.com. 

My name is Gowri Mohanakrishnan and I'm a tea planter's wife. I started this blog because one of the things that I wouldn't want us to lose in a fast changing world is the tea story - a story always told with great seriousness, no matter how funny - always true (always), maybe a tall tale, long, or short, impossible, scary, funny or exciting but never dull.
 
Happy reading! Cheers to the spirit of Indian Tea!

 

Friday, December 18, 2020

A Christmas To Remember

Hello, again, dear readers! I'm delighted to welcome Sudipta Bhattacharjee to Indian Chai Stories. Her story will make you smile even as you wipe a tear from your eye: it's all about what makes Christmas really special -- family, love and sharing. 

'There was an aura about Christmas in Kolkata...but I got my first glimpse of a real Santa Claus in a tea garden in north Bengal's Dooars !'  

There was an aura about Christmas in Kolkata, possibly induced by my schooling at La Martiniere, where 'carol evening' was an event to cherish just before the school closed for the winter vacation. The midnight Mass at St Paul's Cathedral, the festive mood on Park Street and plum cakes from Nahoum's made the occasion memorable.

But I got my first glimpse of a real Santa Claus in a tea garden in north Bengal's Dooars and had the joy of opening my first gaily-wrapped Christmas present from under a tree at the Damdim Tea Estate Club in 1975. The joy of that occasion is imprinted indelibly in my mind.

The 45-minute flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra in December offers a view of the snow-capped Himalayas and in those days, sumptuous meals were served even on short-duration flights. My cousin Joydeep, a wee bit older than me and a class senior, was returning to his parents in the tea garden from Mayo College, Ajmer, and I accompanied him from Kolkata. Two young teenagers enjoying their first flight on their own, a joyous Christmas break from boarding school, with a new class to look forward to on our return. 

The late Tanima Sengupta, wife of Damdim Tea Estate manager late Sukumar (Dhruba) Sengupta, with her son Joydeep and niece Sudipta (the author) in the bungalow garden on Christmas eve, 1975. Don't miss the roses, Tanima's pride! Pix by Sukumar (Dhruba) Sengupta, captions Sudipta Bhattacharjee

Damdim was picture-perfect

My uncle, Sukumar (Dhruba) Sengupta, worked for the Tata-Finlay garden at Damdim and was at the airport with my aunt Tanima to pick us up. The drive to the garden near Malbazar was picturesque, especially with the tea belt stretching out for miles on either side.

Damdim was picture-perfect, the manager's bungalow set in sylvan surroundings. My aunt's green fingers were much in evidence; winter blossoms adorned the flower beds around the lawn and much to our delight, there was a tennis court adjoining the swimming pool on the grounds. My cousin and I both played tennis in our schools and were delighted to be able to practise before the American-style championships to be held at Chalsa that week. 

Joydeep and the author (Sudipta) take a break after a practice match on the tennis court of Damdim Tea Estate in Dooars,  West Bengal, in December 1975. Photo by planter late Sukumar (Dhruba) Sengupta, Joydeep's father, who was the garden manager at the time
I had lost my mother to cancer on Christmas eve the previous year, and my uncle and aunt were both very caring, helping me heal as the anniversary of the greatest loss of my life drew close. To keep me from brooding, my aunt asked me to accompany her to the club as she made arrangements for Christmas. I helped her pack the presents for children, as well as prizes for games. Stalls were set up, the club was readied for a grand party and my spirits imbibed the joyous ambience.

Almost simultaneously, we headed for Chalsa every morning for the tennis meet. My cousin, an excellent player already, won the singles final easily, while I got a tome of the Webster's dictionary after winning the girls' doubles. It was the only 'book' prize I ever earned for sports (the others are usually trophies), so I have preserved it to this day.

On the last day of the tennis tournament, there was to be a party. The young boys and girls who had met for the first time at the contest were looking forward to the social. As we headed back to Damdim to change and return, our car met with an accident on the hilly terrain. We walked to the nearest tea garden, whose manager was courteous enough to let us sit while another car came to pick us up, but we had to miss the party.

So it was only in the fitness of things that I got to experience a wonderful Christmas at Damdim's Club. We reached the venue on Christmas to find a fairytale setting. And then came Santa (later I learnt it was the manager of the neighbouring Rungamuttee Tea Estate) roaring his ho ho ho and ringing a big brass bell! He took the children on his lap and handed them the large gifts I had helped my aunt pack so beautifully. After all the children of the garden staff got their Christmas presents, he beckoned me. I hadn't expected a gift as I wasn't really a 'garden child' but he handed me an oblong box and patted my head as he wished me a Merry Christmas.

I tried my hand at the various stalls set up on the ground and won a bottle of pineapple jam at the hoopla! The fete-like atmosphere culminated in a Christmas party where the elegant ladies and dapper men danced their way into the night. We youngsters merrily shook a leg too!

On returning to the bungalow, I opened my gift. It was a Scrabble, much to my delight. I tentatively picked up two of the wooden alphabets, face down: an M and an A. I knew my mother was blessing me from heaven. I have the Scrabble board and every one of those alphabets still. 

After all, that Christmas gift from a distant tea garden ultimately made me a wordsmith!

-- Sudipta Bhattacharjee 

Meet the writer:

Sudipta is a career journalist who joined The Telegraph in Kolkata as a trainee in 1985 and retired at the end of August as Resident Editor (Northeast). She moved to Shillong in 1992 after her husband was transferred to Meghalaya on a three-year posting and continued to report for The Telegraph from there. She travelled to the United States on a Fulbright Research Fellowship in 2004-5 and returned to base thereafter. Her tryst with tea gardens began as a four-year-old to Kakajan in Upper Assam, where her uncle, Sukumar (Dhruba) Sengupta was posted. She and her family visited him in Majuli Tea Estate in Assam in 1970 and 1973 and by herself in December 1975 to the Dooars, when he was posted at Damdim Tea Estate. She has visited gardens in Darjeeling (where a tea tasting session was hosted for her), the Nilgiris and Munnar, Sri Lanka and hopes to share her experiences through this blog, of which she is an avid follower.

Sudipta is now adjunct professor of media science and journalism at Brainware University. 

 More Christmas stories here: https://teastorytellers.blogspot.com/search?q=christmas

Is this your first visit here? Welcome to Indian Chai Stories!
Do you have a chai story of your own to share?  

Send it to me here, please : indianchaistories@gmail.com. 

My name is Gowri Mohanakrishnan and I'm a tea planter's wife. I started this blog because one of the things that I wouldn't want us to lose in a fast changing world is the tea story - a story always told with great seriousness, no matter how funny - always true (always), maybe a tall tale, long, or short, impossible, scary, funny or exciting but never dull. 
Happy reading! Cheers to the spirit of Indian Tea! 

 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Traditions'r'Us

Still haven't recovered from the post-Diwali blues? Christmas will be here soon, and here's some cheer for all our readers - a new post by a new writer! We've 'celebrated' family over the last few weeks at Indian Chai Stories, and now it's time for friends. One of our well loved Christmas stories on this blog is Rajesh Thomas's account of what it felt like to play Santa Claus. Today, Kamran Mohsin tells us what it was like to be his Man Friday at that same Christmas celebration. Enjoy your read!

Traditions 'r' Us 

by Kamran Mohsin

The High range has had many glorious traditions and one such tradition is the children’s Christmas party at the Club. Two assistant managers are randomly chosen, one would be Santa & the other his man Friday. There would be a grand entrance where Santa & man Friday would come swooping in & since the children were still children in those days & not the ‘glued to the screen PUBG / Mine craft playing wizards’ that they are today; they would return home with a treat & a present (from their parents of course) and a big smile. For them, it was a day full of laughter & cheer, watching ‘Simba the white lion’ and it was something they looked forward to every year. It was their big day at the club. The club on that day was full of ladies, mostly young mothers & their children. Knick knacks, balloons, and party poppers could be found all over the place. Being from the same planting district & more dangerously, the same company, we knew them all & they knew us. A cock-up here, therefore, was not an option.

The task at hand was quite simple. Make a grand entrance, wish everyone merry Christmas without scaring the bejezuz out of the little children, give them the treats & presents & pose for a few photographs (of which I have none unfortunately) & get out while your dignity was still intact. It was the man Friday’s job to hand over the presents to Santa & Santa’s job to hand over that presents to the children. One by one.

But life is not so hunky dory & so this is where the twist comes in. 

The reward for partaking in this fanfare and putting on that fancy dress & making a mockery of yourselves would be a bottle of rum. Old Monk, no less! Furthermore, as per tradition, that bottle of rum was to disappear between Santa & his side kick before the fanfare started! And as per another tradition of the high ranges, they were both expected to complete the above task, no matter how intoxicated they were & finally after it’s all over, get back to their estates in one piece.

I never knew Santa had a man Friday until I was cherry picked to become one and my good friend Rajesh was to be Santa himself. Which was great for us because 1) we both got half a day off from the daily rigmarole of the estate & more importantly, 2) free booze, DUH!

So, on the designated day, both of us arrived at the club on our steeds, straight after lunch. Bang on time, as usual, in keeping with another tradition in the high ranges. Punctuality.

We were given a club room all to ourselves where we would make the monk disappear & also change into our outfits, all while waiting for our ride to come pick us up before our grand entrance into the club. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We had the happy hour to celebrate first & the ‘old monk’ was staring us in the face. Between the two of us, Rajesh was a seasoned hand, while I was still finding my feet. But booze was never wasted, free or otherwise. Another High Range tradition! I know I had a couple of big swigs & was on the wrong side of tipsy while Rajesh, Rajesh had the rest of the monk all to himself and handled it like a pro. 

Like that seasoned boxer who tires his opponent out by soaking in all he can throw at him & then when the opponent has no more to give, our man delivers a tight right uppercut & seals it with a left hook. In no time I was happy where I was but Rajesh was happier still. In this happy state of ours, we began attempting of get into our fancy dress. 

Edmund & Tenzing must have had an easier first attempt, I can promise you that. Rajesh was into his Santa suit eventually & I don’t recall what I got into. If we knew any better, we should have gotten into our suits before saying hello to the monk. But being young & courteous assistants we didn’t want to keep the old chap waiting. Another high range tradition upheld by the young guns. Courtesy.

Now, how we finally got into our costumes is a blur. And so is the time when they handed over a flimsy bicycle for us to ride & make our grand entrance in. One lousy push bike between the two of us! I mean, we knew there were budgetary restrictions but this took the cake. I could swear it was a jeep and we were driven into the club but Rajesh insists it was a bicycle.

Apparently, I rode it & he was sitting behind me, hanging on tight for dear life! Anyhow, it’s been 25 years & you can’t blame us for not remembering the details. So off we went. Crossed the club cattle grid and all! So far so good.

And then I have some faint memories of lying flat in front of the kids on the club portico. Thank god for the balloons lying about that cushioned our unceremonious dismount. The kids found that amusing to say the least. So we made our grand entrance with a ‘bang’ then!

Eventually, I found myself in the club lounge where a small stage was set up upon which Santa would do the honors. Happy hour was over, now we had to deliver, Santa & I. Speaking of Santa, he was nowhere to be seen after we ‘hit’ the portico! A search party was sent to gather Santa and carry him to the stage. He seemed in good ‘spirits’. Anyhow, all good things must come to an end. Presents were given I am sure; although I cannot confirm if the right child got the gift his or her parents wanted them to get. It’s all a bit of a blur. I am also not so sure about what else was said and done on stage during the fanfare. No one’s complained ever since, so I am guessing Rajesh & I must have accomplished the task given to us with flying colours. It was the tradition to maintain the tradition & the two of us did it with ‘mucho gusto’. Or so we were told.

I am also assuming we rode back to our estates in one piece later that evening.

Like I said, the blur is real & it’s been 25 years! Happy days!

Meet the writer: 

Kamran Mohsin

I joined the tea plantations with Tata tea in Munnar straight out of college in 1995 and eight years later found my self in the warm heart of Africa: Malawi, doing much the same and perhaps more. After ten years in Malawi, I am now based in Mombasa, Kenya for the past seven and visit the game parks here more often than I did my fields back on the plantations. I am an amateur photographer and being on a safari is the closest I can get to the good old planting days where the great outdoors was home.

 More Christmas stories here: https://teastorytellers.blogspot.com/search?q=christmas

Is this your first visit here? Welcome to Indian Chai Stories!
Do you have a chai story of your own to share?  

Send it to me here, please : indianchaistories@gmail.com. 

My name is Gowri Mohanakrishnan and I'm a tea planter's wife. I started this blog because one of the things that I wouldn't want us to lose in a fast changing world is the tea story - a story always told with great seriousness, no matter how funny - always true (always), maybe a tall tale, long, or short, impossible, scary, funny or exciting but never dull. 
Happy reading! Cheers to the spirit of Indian Tea! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

As it happened: Dry Wit

by Murari Saikia

Some incidents always remain imprinted in one’s mind, and even age doesn’t fade away these typically ‘cha bagan’ experiences. As they say, it only happens in tea.

 As instructed, (while the ‘kit allowance’ was handed over after I was ‘inducted’ into the company), I bought myself two pairs of ‘stout’ canvas shoes, which I picked up at the Bata store in the Grand Shopping arcade in Calcutta, in addition to cotton shorts and polo neck T shirts, socks etc, shopping around in New Market along with the other lads who were also selected for postings in Assam and Dooars.

I was posted to Assam. When I landed in the garden, Tarajulie, I was surprised, yet very happy to find that I would be sharing the bungalow with an old class mate from school, Biraj Barbara, a second generation planter, who had joined a couple of months before me. Had lost touch with Biraj for a couple of years as he left school two years before we took the Sr. Cambridge exams, and yet he somehow managed to complete his graduation a year ahead of me and the rest of the class!!

Anyway, back to my tale. It was June 1981 and the monsoons had just commenced. We used to be ‘kitted up’ in our ‘battle dress’ for kamjari and by the time I came back for breakfast, more often than not, I would be soaking wet. Anyway, young Anil our ‘trainee bearer’ would place my other pair of shoes with a pair of dry socks out in verandah for me to wear when I went out for work again. It would invariably rain once more between breakfast and lunch time, so, the cycle of getting soaked would carry on. In the afternoon, I would once again find my other pair of shoes nice and dry, the thicker parts at the toe would be a tad damp, but, what the heck, much better than wearing a squishy wet pair of shoes! 

C:\Users\Lenovo\Desktop\Canvas shoes.jpg
This went on for a couple of days, but I never gave it a thought of how Anil was drying up my shoes. Realization struck me on around the third or fourth day and I decided to find out the ‘secret’ of how I would get dry shoes (in spite of the rains) when I found my shoes were a little warm to the touch……..

As usual when I came in for lunch, I wrenched out my wet shoes and socks sitting on the verandah steps, Anil came by with my glass of the compulsory ‘nimbu pani’ and carried away my dripping shoes and socks… I quietly followed him to the back to see what he’d do to get my shoes magically dry, the pouring rain notwithstanding.

Anil opens the screen door and gives a couple of violent jerks to expel the dripping water and then, walks back into the kitchen and opens up the large cast iron oven door and shoves in my shoes and socks to be ‘baked dry’….I could also spy a pair of Biraj’s shoes sitting side by side the tin bread box where our Morg cook Pradip places the dough to bake his tasty breads and croissants for us!

It’s very important that the chotta sahib gets dry shoes to wear!!! 

C:\Users\Lenovo\Desktop\Wood oven old.jpg

Meet the writer:

Murari Saikia
I was born in Dibrugarh in 1959 and grew up in Shillong. After finishing school from St. Edmund’s College (School Dept.), Shillong in December 1975, went off to Delhi University and graduated from Ramjas College, in 1979. Joined FSL (Nestle) around mid-79 and was in Calcutta for a short while and thereinafter joined tea in 1980-81 almost by accident!! 

After a career spanning 36 years in the plantations of McLeod Russell & the Luxmi Group, I retired from the gardens in 2017. But, the love and the lore of tea have not left me. I am still actively involved with the industry currently with Parcon (India) Pvt. Ltd as a Visiting Advisor. 

It’s always a pleasure visiting the gardens and meeting up with some very good old friends who have weathered the storms together, and as always it’s also a treat to meet the younger generation of planters and get to learn a thing or two from these lads too, while throwing back the sundowners!!


Is this your first visit here? Welcome to Indian Chai Stories!
 
Do you have a chai story of your own to share?  
Send it to me here, please : indianchaistories@gmail.com. 

My name is Gowri Mohanakrishnan and I'm a tea planter's wife. I started this blog because one of the things that I wouldn't want us to lose in a fast changing world is the tea story - a story always told with great seriousness, no matter how funny - always true (always), maybe a tall tale, long, or short, impossible, scary, funny or exciting but never dull.
 
Happy reading! Cheers to the spirit of Indian Tea!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

It’s always Tea-Time in my World

It's family time at Indian Chai Stories! Please welcome Noreen Wood - last month, Noreen had  sent us her brother Norman's story 'Shobha the Bison'. Three generations of planters in their family, and you will love reading what Noreen has to say about growing up in the tea estates of the Nilgiris in the 1950s: ' Life on a tea estate in Southern India was unique... everything a child could ask for.'

It’s always Tea-Time in my World

by Noreen Wood

Twenty-two miles up from the hot, dusty, South Indian town of Mettapalayam is the quaint hillside town of Coonoor, nestled 6000 feet above sea level in the Blue Mountain Range called the Nilgiris. The eucalyptus trees and green tea gardens growing in abundance give the mountains their blue-green colour. With no airport, the town is accessible by cars, buses, or lorries using a narrow, winding road with sharp hairpin bends cut into the hillside. Coonoor is not accessible by broad gauge trains either, the slope up the mountains is too steep for that. The narrow- gauge train track is fitted with a rack and pinion device between the two rails to keep the train from slipping as the track is the steepest in Asia with an average gradient of 1 in 24.5 (4.08%) and maximum gradient of 1 in 12 (8.33%). The little blue and yellow train starting from the Mettapalayam Terminus, crawls up the mountain and takes roughly 3 hours to reach Coonoor and then on to Ooty, a popular Summer resort and tourist attraction for families who flock to the Hills to get away from the heat of the plains.

I was born in the Nilgiri Hills and spent my childhood on one of the tea plantations in the area. Growing up on the tea plantations was a way of life that was handed down from one generation to another in my family. Life on a tea estate in Southern India was unique to a few Anglo-Indian families who loved the call of the wild and the adrenalin rush of big game hunting in the thick jungles that surrounded most tea estates. The remoteness of the place often dictated the way we lived. It was the 1950s and there was no electricity in these remote places, so we made do with kerosene lamps and battery- operated radios. However, the hydro lines were soon brought to our area and we ran around the rooms switching on every light in the house.

Boarding school was never optional for children of planters, so we went to school in Coonoor under the stern discipline of the nuns and we were allowed to go home on the weekends. From the close confines of the convent walls to the open fields and wilderness of the tea gardens, it was everything a child could ask for.

The big event was always the shikar hunt, organized by my father and other family members into the dense jungles that stood on the periphery of the tea gardens. Hunting deer, wild boar, and wild fowl was routine. My grandfather, father and brother all kept and maintained guns in their homes on the plantations. They were kept away in a safe place under lock and key and were only taken out when a hunt was on. The red cartridges were as commonplace to us as toys on the floor of any other child. My uncles and cousins were also good shots, and after one of their hunts we had enough fresh meat to last a week, and sufficient dried meat (“ding-ding”) to last a month.

My life on the tea estate is many, many moons away and now that I have lived in Canada for almost 40 years, the memories keep flooding back into my mind like warm April rain. The taste of tea never leaves my lips. Coffee has always been the beverage of choice for many Canadians and tea is seen as a brew to be taken when one is feeling sick or under the weather. During my career as a chartered accountant in Montreal and Toronto, my colleagues soon got used to seeing me put on the kettle for a cup of tea in the late afternoon and brush the eccentricity aside with a remark that “she is sort of British” (as opposed to Canadian).

The assortment of teas from Fortum & Mason (UK). The teas from Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon topped the list in flavour and fragrance. The painting in the background is the painter's impression of the Nilgiri Hills which we had commissioned to a well known local  artist, Deepa Kern.

All through the years that I have lived in Canada, I have continued the tradition of afternoon tea with my family or alone at the office when I was working. Recently I received a gift of an assortment of teas from Fortnum & Mason, a store in the UK that specializes in tea (see picture). Canisters of tea from Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and teas from China, Kenya, Rwanda and Russia arrived in the package, enhancing and expanding the pleasure of sitting down to tea with family and friends. My daughter and I sit down for a chat every week over a freshly brewed pot of tea. 

My 4 year- old grandson loves to sip tea from my cup and he says, “I love it” smacking his lips. The Japanese have their Tea Ceremony and we have ours. It’s always Tea- Time in my house. Tea is and has always been a strong link to my roots with the tea gardens of Southern India. In a coffee drinking world in North America, tea still has its place in my life and over the years I have got my Canadian friends to appreciate the taste of tea. At lunch and dinner parties in my home, the coffee machine sits silent in my kitchen while the kettle sings sweetly as the water comes to a boiling point for the tea pot.

There have been times when I am driving home on the straight three-lane Highway, with the snow blowing across the lanes, making it hard to see, and I imagine, if only for a moment, that I see green tea fields stretching as far as the eye can see, the yellow buttercups dancing at my feet and my father far away in the distance, instructing the coolies to start the day’s roll-call.

Meet the writer: 

Noreen Wood is a retired Chartered Accountant living in Montreal, Canada. She currently is the Financial Trustee for her Family Trust School in Coonoor, Nilgiris which is run to benefit disadvantaged children in the area. Her experience of eight years as a teacher in Frank Anthony Public School, Bangalore teaching Physics and Mathematics and her 30 plus years as a Chartered Accountant with CA Firms in Montreal and Toronto gives her the ability to run the school's accounting and financial affairs from her desk in Canada. The school employs 58 staff members and has a student body of 925 from LKG to Grade 10. 


Is this your first visit here? Welcome to Indian Chai Stories!
Do you have a chai story of your own to share?  

Send it to me here, please : indianchaistories@gmail.com. 

My name is Gowri Mohanakrishnan and I'm a tea planter's wife. I started this blog because one of the things that I wouldn't want us to lose in a fast changing world is the tea story - a story always told with great seriousness, no matter how funny - always true (always), maybe a tall tale, long, or short, impossible, scary, funny or exciting but never dull. 
Happy reading! Cheers to the spirit of Indian Tea!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Personali 'teas'

by Conrad Dennis

Any tea aficionado will proudly exalt the many types of tea and emotively describe their brightness, briskness and strength. I’ve penned a few anecdotes about the equally strong and bright men who, like tea, possess unique character… men behind the cup that cheers.

May what I do flow from me like a river. Moments of solitude  

My attempt at writing is primarily to inject a sense of humour into a profession that at best demands a tremendous amount of hard work under extremely trying conditions by a dedicated band of men and their wives (who are an indispensable part of the tea canvas). To the non-tea populace it is difficult to comprehend the effort that goes into curating their daily cuppa. To start at the very beginning… which as the song goes “is a very good place to start”.

One of the primary requisites for a prospective Duncan Planter was a clean bill of health from Dr C.K.M Thacker, the Company “Chief Medical Officer”. After clearing the interviews and armed with a letter from Duncan House I found my way to Hindustan Building on Chittaranjan Avenue. The imposing edifice reeked of heritage and the cage lift embodied it. There were no buttons, just a semi-circular burnished brass appendage akin to an old fan regulator. I was sure the wizened old operator predated it. One look at the file in my hand and he just clanged both the collapsible gates shut and we rattled up. He stopped on the fourth floor and let me out with a supercilious look that seemed to say, remember… I brought you up!!!!

The receptionist gave my letter a cursory glance (she possibly recognised the letterhead and guessed the contents). I was ushered into a large airy room to be greeted by a gentleman who was short, rotund with horn rimmed glasses and a clipped British accent. He was just an amazing blend of Billy Bunter and a character straight out of P.G Woodhouse.

I was told to strip and he conducted a very thorough examination, at the end of which I was told to stand in the “on your marks” position as if poised for a 100-yard dash. A gloved hand then reached down and cupped me not too gently from behind and he said “cough”. I was getting dressed when he was finishing off a similar examination on an overzealous lad who mistook “cough” for “off” and leapt eagerly forward…. They were still rubbing him with ice cubes when I left for Harrington Nursing home for my chest X ray. I cross checked with Mr Krupa David and Mr Navin Huria and they both confirmed that nothing had changed since the late 60’s. How’s that for consistency?

One of the many colonial throwbacks is the children’s Christmas party, looked forward to by one and all. The clubhouse would be dressed up with balloons and decorations, the Christmas tree in a place of prominence with a brightly lit star on top. The goodies - all prepared by the District ladies - were simply scrumptious.

Every yuletide one hapless Assistant was cornered into becoming Santa and he would be driven to the club on a festooned mode of transport which could range from a jeep to a bullock cart and anything in between (a far cry from the reindeer and sleigh we read about in all Christmas tales).

The year was '83 and my friend Kevyn David from Matelli was shanghaied by his Bara Memsahib to be Santa for the Chulsa Polo Club party. Traditionally, to bolster the surrogate Santa for the ordeal ahead he was plied with the better part of a bottle of “Honey Bee” brandy…neat. This helped lighten the load of a sack of toys and dealing with a hoard of children of all ages. The more mischievous would tug, poke and pull at the hapless Santa (this made a few of his Ho Hos cries of discomfort not joy). By the time Kevyn reached the club house he was so high he could have just reached out and touched the North Pole.

Traditionally Santa had to engage the children in light banter before handing over the gifts which I would pull out of the bag one by one and hand him while calling out the name of the child. Santa in his enthusiasm went a step further and with a “Hic and a holler” wanted to kiss the kids (the younger of whom were in their mother’s arms). It could have been the alcohol fumes or just his persona but each and every little one burst out crying. Kevyn, not one be out done, yelled above the cacophony, "If I can’t kiss the babies, I want to kiss the mummies!"… I had to drop the bag of gifts and restrain Kevyn from making good his threat. There were deliberations on whether to scrap Santa or get Kevyn to stay on for a few more Xmases… the more sensible said let’s just water down the brandy next year. It then made sense as to why generally bachelors were the chosen ones. There was no Mrs Claus to post mortem the poor man’s performance (!!!) once the party was over in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the word.

With Sam Sing having been sold I rode off, not into the sunset but to Hantapara Tea Estate in Dalgaon District to be part of Mr Somraj Kocchar’s team. Little did I know that after a few months with him I would wish I had joined the army or taken up something more restful like becoming a lion tamer.

He was one of the most knowledgeable people I have met in all my years in tea. He had a tenacity and an innate ability to spend nights in the factory or hours in the field till he resolved the problem at hand. His expertise covered field, factory, Accounts and labour laws to a level that left one in awe and admiration. He had the most enviable command of the English language and even his charge sheets were literary masterpieces which took a while to explain to the errant worker “in a language he understands”. He could prune a bush better than the best pruner using a 3” folding knife and his speed, standard and style of plucking was amazing. He was a perfectionist and expected all in his team to measure up to his exacting standards. We all fell short in some area or the other.

He had the habit of driving up to the section at 2.30 in the afternoon just when you were planning to get back for lunch and he would put his foot on the mudguard of his jeep and say, "The bush under the Albizzia in the north of the section is not flushing freely…Why??”

He was checking: did you know north? did you recognise the shade tree? could you tell that there was a pest called thrips which caused a bush to have a supressed growth? He was a task master and I learned a tremendous amount from him about tea but more importantly I learnt what he didn’t propound or tolerate: that you could get a lot more out of a person or a team with a little understanding and compassion and by being fair and firm. Even if you go strictly by the book oftentimes one needs to read between the lines and if you don’t you kind of lose the plot. It is then that the lines get blurred between being disciplined and dogmatic.

Apparently even the cows in the tea area did the disappearing act at the sound of his jeep. 

The Senior Assistant was an equally tough task master. He sat me down one evening after work and told me that he didn’t know the meaning of fear, he didn’t know the meaning of compromise, he didn’t know the meaning of quitting, he didn’t know the meaning of weakness. In fact, he didn’t know the meaning of so many words that I was tempted to buy him a dictionary for his birthday which was the following month. He is an amazing planter and we remain good friends.

To quote John Milton, "They also serve who only stand and wait" ...on us, hand and foot, caring for us and cooking for us. This is to acknowledge a man who was my veritable Jeeves.

It was in Hantapara that our old house help Babu Khan who had been with our family when I was growing up, expressed his wish to come and take over domestic charge of my bungalow. He was an amazing cook and I readily agreed. Babu Khan arrived on a train one cold wintry evening and the days of warm plates and excellent food for the first week of the month began (following that, money ran out, and thereafter was the start of the most innovative culinary preparations of potatoes, eggs and whatever seasonal vegetables were available in the Mali Bari for the rest of the month). My colleagues DK Arora, Darvesh and Arjun were regular visitors only during those first weeks.

A few months later I drove down to Kolkata for what is termed “long leave”. I made the most of the holiday catching up with friends and the latest in entertainment. It was at a Navy Ball in the Park Hotel one evening when I met Brenda (an ex La Martiniere, Lucknow lass whom I was meeting again after the last “inter Martiniere” meet many years earlier) and to cut a long story short, she was crowned the “Navy Queen” … I proposed before returning to the Estate and we got married in February the following year. Babu Khan was at the wedding keeping an eagle eye on the gifts and generally feeling proprietary about the whole show.

On the way back we travelled in a coupe on the Darjeeling Mail with Babu Khan on the same train. At six am the next morning we were awakened by a peremptory knock on our door accompanied by loud argument. I opened the door and found Babu Khan standing outside with two steaming earthenware pots of tea balanced on a very battered tin tray. The poor Chai Walla was screaming to get his tray back so that he could peddle his tea to others before the train pulled out of the station. Babu Khan would have none of it and was futilely explaining that it would be sacrilege to serve tea to his Sahib without a tray.

PH Bungalow-isolated- between two rivers and backed by a forest. Electricity from one small temperamental genset with a fixed quota of diesel... candlelit dinners lost their romantic appeal

Things were a little like a Hindi soap once we got home, with Babu Khan discouraging Brenda from coming into the kitchen, wooing her with promises that he should just be told what to cook and for how many people and voila, enjoy the meal. She would have none of it and since we have now been happily married for the last thirty-five years no guessing who bit the dust back in the day.

I have to confess though, that sometime past our fifth anniversary Brenda wistfully said that she wished Babu Khan was with us… she would happily abdicate the kitchen to him and enjoy her independence.

Mohan and Gowri visited us in Hantapara in ’86 and I think Gowri would disagree with the likening of Babu Khan to “Jeeves”. With his tall, gaunt look, beaky nose and white jacket just beginning to fray at the sleeves he was more akin to a character from Adams family, his whole demeanour seemed to say … I’m at home and wish you were too. 

Some of us are not luminous but are good conductors of light…

Mr Jogesh Biswas was a success story at Kilcott Tea Estate in the early 50’s. He had worked diligently over the years and reached the coveted and powerful position of Head Clerk or “Bara Babu”. Mr K.J. Perry (the Manager at that time) was an avid investor and when Jogesh Babu was told to send a telegraphic request to buy 100 shares, (trusting his Bara Sahib’s financial acumen), two telegrams would be sent and he would buy ten shares for himself… and so on. 

Over a period of time he had a reasonable number of shares in Kilcott tea Company and even attended one of the AGM’s in Kolkata. A definite first in that era that must have raised a few eyebrows and caused a few stiff upper lips to quiver in the panelled meeting hall. What is wonderful is that his son in law Bacchu was initially a Duncan planter who retired from Lakhipara and his grandson Abhijit Raha joined Duncans and rose to became the Manager of Kilcott…connecting the dots from generation to generation with pride and accomplishment.

As we live through one of the most trying times in human history let us develop the ability to look into a puddle and see beyond the mud, find happiness and peace in little thing, connect with friends and family with whom we have lost touch. I am confident that we shall overcome.

Stay strong and stay safe… remember even the worst day has just 24 hours.

Meet the writer:
Conrad Dennis is a professional with over 39 years of experience in the plantation sector. He has worked in Darjeeling, North Bengal and Assam and has headed a team setting up new tea estates and a factory in non-conventional areas of the Dooars. He oversaw the production and profitability of the Amalgamated Plantations Tea Estates in North Bengal and the Packaging. Division. He also is the Editor of the APPL Foundation’s E- Journal “Organic Growth” which seeks to connect organic Entrepreneurs and share the innovations and benefits of a shift to Organic Agriculture. 

Conrad is on the Institutional review Board of the Tata Cancer Hospital (Kolkata) and is part of the Ethics team that clears any Research and trials on treatment and drugs that seeks to control/cure the dreaded disease.

 After having retired as General Manager of Amalgamated Plantations he has moved to the social sector and is the COO of Mission Smile a Medical NGO that conducts free Compassionate Comprehensive Cleft and palate Surgeries to underprivileged children throughout the country and on Missions abroad.

Is this your first visit here? Welcome to Indian Chai Stories!
 

Do you have a chai story of your own to share?  
Send it to me here, please : indianchaistories@gmail.com. 

My name is Gowri Mohanakrishnan and I'm a tea planter's wife. I started this blog because one of the things that I wouldn't want us to lose in a fast changing world is the tea story - a story always told with great seriousness, no matter how funny - always true (always), maybe a tall tale, long, or short, impossible, scary, funny or exciting but never dull.
 Happy reading! Cheers to the spirit of Indian Tea!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Saga of Kartoo

by Indi Khanna 

I of course had to pay for the victims of his hunting expeditions, not just for the bird but also for the many eggs she would have laid.... a chicken which was supposedly the ultimate egg-layer in the lines.

Hello, dear readers! Join Indi Khanna as he takes us on another of his enjoyable 'rambles'.  

In 1987 when I was the manager of Limbuguri Estate in Upper Assam our docile and beautiful Labrador Lady (thats her in the picture above ) probably got out of the bungalow compound one day and managed to get knocked up by one of the many dogs from the labour lines who would be hanging around the fencing hopefully whenever Lady was in heat.

Two months later with Kitty and the kids away on holiday to Simla, preparations had been made in the kids' room for the day when I was to become a grandfather. The day arrived and our bearer Japan and I watched in wonder while Lady worked her way around delivering eight beautiful Lab pups, five of them a lovely golden colour like Lady's and three black ones. And then with a final push, out came a rather strange looking animal. My immediate reaction was that this one was a runt which we would probably have to put down. However, barring the fact that he was very different from his siblings, the fellow seemed to be perfectly healthy. A couple of days later after the pups had opened their eyes and had started moving around, I had a good look at the last arrival and decided that this was the one which the children would love and the one we'd keep.

He was just about the strangest looking dog one would ever see. His coat was reddish brown. Four legs which ended in white, dappled with black spotted socked paws. A tail which was thinner than a Lab's but ended in a white speckled tuft much like a lion's tail. One ear which stood erect while the other was lazily bent over double. A muzzle which, like his tail and paws, ended in black speckled with white and eyes which had a strange and beautiful golden hue. There simply was no way that I could have named him anything other than CARTOON (this fellow with Muskan in the picture below is not Cartoon, though of the same size as him).

And to the workers he became Kartoo.

Much like Jack's beanstalk, Cartoon grew by the day. He ended up a very tall and large handsome specimen, living up to his name. He loved to wander and would disappear from the bungalow compound for hours on end, most likely fathering cartoons all over Limbuguri, but would always magically appear in the dining room in time for our dinner. He loved to ride in my Gypsy and would accompany me on my garden rounds sitting proud and erect on the front seat. Driving through any of the labour lines, should he spot a chicken anywhere, he'd be off the seat in a flash and then would dart off with the bird in his mouth only to be seen in the bungalow after hours.

I of course had to pay for the victims of Cartoon's hunting expeditions, not just for the bird but also for the many eggs she would have laid. In addition to the hunting on wheels, fairly regularly I'd have workers coming to my office complaining about Kartoo having visited one of the six labour lines on the estate and having made off with a chicken. Always a chicken which was supposedly the ultimate egg-layer in the lines.

Went on for ages with the hole in my pocket becoming ever deeper , but try as I might I was unable to control Cartoon's hunting adventures. In Limbuguri labour lines Cartoon became something of a legend, being famously known as 'burra sahib ka murghi chor' (the Manager's chicken thief).

And then that day while walking out of my bungalow gate next to which were the bungalow staff houses, I spotted Cartoon sitting erect and very alert in front of Gokulchand, our rather lovable and regularly drunk house boy. I was taken aback to see the gentleman busy plucking the feathers off a chicken. It being almost the fag end of the month, by which time most workers would normally have exhausted their salaries and would be scrounging, that scene stopped me in my tracks. The penny having dropped, I called Gokulchand and in my most stern voice I asked him how on earth at the end of the month he had money for buying a chicken. After much humming and hawing and shuffling of feet, it was explained to me that on a regular basis Kartoo would bring a chicken for Gokulchand and that the bird would be cooked and shared between the two.

Other than glaring at the duo, both looking at me most innocently, there really was not much else that I could do. The bottom line was that Gokulchand kept getting his regular supply of protein and hapless me had no option but to keep paying for it.

When we finally left Limbuguri in 1990, since there was no way that we could take Cartoon with us, we very reluctantly had to leave him behind to be adopted by his hunting buddy. With Gokulchand being of a ripe age, he and Kartoo must have carried on with their expeditions long after we had left Assam and would, I am sure be still at it in their happy hunting ground - wherever that may be.

Meet the writer:

Indi Khanna with Xerox
With an industry experience and a tea knowledge base of four and a half decades and counting, I literally live and breathe tea. 

Starting my career in 1975 as an Assistant Superintendent with Malayalam Plantations Ltd, rolling up my sleeves by 'dirtying' my hands at the grassroots level and having literally 'grown' in the business, my experiences have matured me into a ‘one of a kind’ unique entity in the industry.

My journey which literally starts from the tea nursery and stretches all the way up to the consumer shelf, is in many ways unique. Regularly roaming the tea world, delving into the most remote areas wherever tea is grown or consumed, constantly interacting with Tea folk, I have always been learning and innovating. The invaluable experiences along this very interesting route have culminated into a unique new venture, a one-of-a-kind specialty tea manufacturing facility unit in the Nilgiris - www.teastudio.info.

My life has been and continues to be blessed.

Thankfully this very interesting Tea journey continues as an ongoing learning experience.


Is this your first visit here? Welcome to Indian Chai Stories!
 

Do you have a chai story of your own to share?  
Send it to me here, please : indianchaistories@gmail.com. 

My name is Gowri Mohanakrishnan and I'm a tea planter's wife. I started this blog because one of the things that I wouldn't want us to lose in a fast changing world is the tea story - a story always told with great seriousness, no matter how funny - always true (always), maybe a tall tale, long, or short, impossible, scary, funny or exciting but never dull.
 Happy reading! Cheers to the spirit of Indian Tea!

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Oh! The O’Valley

by Vina Madappa 

Once again, I'm most happy to welcome a new writer. Thanks to Radha Madappa* for sending us this engaging story by her mother-in-law. Vina Madappa tells us about her early days as a planter's wife, and about the fine man who served the family as butler.   

It was in 1958 that we were wed and honeymooned and drove up to the Ouchterlony Valley Estates in the Nilgiris. This was the valley that the Raja of Nilambur gifted to Colonel Ouchterlony for having presented him an exclusive suit length from England. At first the Raja offered the Colonel gold in appreciation, but he expressed his desire for a piece of land. The Raja then led him up a hill in Naduvattum (about 30 kilometres from Ooty town) and pointed to a valley down below and said with a generous sweep of his arm, “All this I lease to you for a hundred years as a gift!” The gift encompassed 15,000 acres of pristine rainforest.

The Valley was then cultivated with tea and coffee and prospered. It had been sectioned into different estates for cultivation and administrative purposes. So there was Lauriston, Guynd, Glenvans, New Hope and Kelly. The Ouchterlony Valley Estates was popularly referred to as the OV or O’Valley.


 With my husband Tata Madappa at Suffolk bungalow, 1958

I was a bride when we moved to Suffolk Estate, a division of Lauriston which was the closest to Gudalur - the little town where we sourced all our essentials. The butler at Suffolk had been with my husband, Pilfering and nimble fingered, lined his pockets with no fear at all. Being just out of college I had no inkling of cooking and store-keeping, or of supervising the bungalow staff, who luckily were well trained.

In Mysore from the Metropole Hotel we interviewed and engaged a butler cum cook. A small-made, sprightly and pleasant faced man called Chinnappa. This was shortened to Chinnan which suited us all better and eventually our children (Navina and Vinod) called him ‘Chin’!!

With Vinod and Navina at Lauriston, 1964
He proved to be a good cook and punctual too. Only drawback was the quantity- having worked in a hostel and hotel, he was accustomed to producing big quantities for just the two of us!! He soon cut down and all was well.

He was willing and good at learning varied dishes. “You teach it me Madam, I make its keeping you”! Yes, Chinnan spoke not “Butler English” but his own style, a quaint language in which he was amazingly fluent. I had to unlearn my English so I could comprehend and instruct him-- as he insisted on speaking only in English! Never did he fumble for words or pause or stutter. His sentences flowed like a stream down a mountain. His narrations and statements were so utterly delightful and hilarious, but I was so intent on understanding his communications that never did I laugh. When we asked him if he had passed on a certain message, he’d promptly declare “I told me Madam” or “I tell it me Madam”. There was no ‘he’ or ‘him’ at all in his vocabulary. When I felt blue he’d be so concerned and enquire “Why Madam looking dim”?

The Valley was lush and beautiful, of a rich green, with the blue mountains of the Nilgiris bordering it along one side. The mountains so blue and magnificent such a feast for the eyes and humbling to the soul. The Nilgiri Peak and the Needle Rock were visible to most of the bungalows. In the summer, jungle fires broke out on the mountains in pretty chains, quite a spectacle. Except in the summer, the mountains were veiled and unveiled all day by the mist - an enchanting sight. The bungalows were not too far apart, about half to one hour’s drive over some good, some bad roads. The numerous streams were delightful, either tumbling over rocks or gurgling under the small bridges. Waterfalls cascaded down the mountains and just by gravity facilitated all the needs of the valley- including irrigation of some areas.

The tea in the Valley was emerald green and flourishing. The shade trees, mostly silver oak, looked ethereal and lovely. There is a tale, or a joke perhaps, about a foreigner who on his first visit to a tea estate admired the trees and finally looked down to comment- "But there are too many weeds (i.e.the tea bushes), you ought to control them”!! The Valley was teeming with wildlife. Chinnan would excitedly tell my husband, “Too much jungle pork coming in one place Sir, master shoot betters. I make it nice spig roast and spig fry”.

Our family, who visited often, loved to engage Chinnan in conversation and when they burst into laughter and he’d merrily “gallop” (actually) back to the kitchen. Our daughter Navina was fond of him and he’d patiently push the pram while we were at the table. When she was six years old there was no avoiding admitting her in a boarding school in Ooty (Nazareth Convent). The worst drawback to wedding a planter.

Chinnan with Navina and my husband
Whenever we set out once a month to visit her at school, Chinnan would call out- “Tell it Baby, ask it me”!! Meaning,     tell her, “I enquired”. This message was unfailingly entrusted to us and it went on to become a family favourite and is still used. We often entertained friends for a meal and I being no cook would get all wound up and anxious. Then repeatedly impress on Chinnan that he must prepare all the dishes really well and on time. “They’ll be here at 7 p.m Chinnan. Everything should be ready”. 7:30 then 8 p.m. and no sign of the guests. He’d corner me- “Why this Madam simply worry-ed. Guest coming coming say that, not-aay coming”!!

When my parents came from Bangalore, I'd be so excited. Wanting to show off how well I ran the home and especially the kitchen, I would draw up an elaborate menu for Chinnan to prepare. His reaction every time was, “Why this simply make it so much Madam? Big Madam bringing lots and lots- not make anything here”. It was a fact that they always came laden with food to last us a few days.

Chinnan was an excellent cook and enjoyed improvising and producing new dishes. O’ Valley club hosted the Annual inter club tennis ‘do’, it was attended by all the neighbouring clubs - Mango Range, Mepadi and Prospect club. It was always Chinnan who made the popular Biryani for lunch.

He was of the firm opinion that boy babies were better. “Girl babies we spend too much for school fees and books then marriage. Then they go away. Boy babies good. When big man, they work job and make money”!!

Never did he take a day off work. Except once when his wife went to her village and was marooned in the floods. He rushed off and returned very soon, with tales of the disasters there. His wife, he found shivering on a tree with water all around. He described this incident as- “Monkey sitting no? Thassus- way sitting”! He was honest and responsible. One day we rushed off forgetting to lock our bedroom door. What did our Chinnan do? He stood watch by the bedroom door without budging the whole day till we returned. He didn't trust the other domestic help. I am sure he was one of a kind.

He was invaluable, in that he inspired in me confidence to cook. “Why this fraiding Madam? Go to kitchen, show powers. Nothing go wrong”!! Eventually I followed his advice and fared well.

Such a dear, loyal and reliable chap was our Chinnan who stayed with us through all the transfers. When my husband retired, he did too. “After working Master and Madam, I no work for anybody”, he declared. He visited us in Coorg and attended our daughter's wedding. We were lucky indeed to have him take good care of us all those years.

  Meet the writer: Vina Madappa

I am a Kodavathi from Kodagu and was born in Mysore. At that time Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar was the The Maharaja of Mysore. I marvelled at the grandeur of the Dussehra celebrations of great pomp and splendour. I did my schooling in Mysore from where I completed the Lower Secondary School. My father, an Ayurvedic doctor, was then transferred to Bangalore where I did my final school year and then went on to complete my degree in English Literature ( Honours) from Mount Carmel College.

My favourite hobbies were reading, playing tennis, listening to music and watching movies. I married a planter and settled in the Nilgiris and took to the game of bridge like a fish to water. Besides my hobbies, the occasional get- togethers, partying and picnicking with friends in the OV, Wayanad and Ootacamund, were mainly what made our lives exciting. Lots of tennis and bridge was possible. We had two great blessings, our daughter Navina and son Vinod. On retirement we settled down in Kodagu on our property and I continue to enjoy my hobbies. 

*You can read Radha's story here: Darjeeling Days

Is this your first visit here? Welcome to Indian Chai Stories!
Do you have a chai story of your own to share?  

Send it to me here, please : indianchaistories@gmail.com. 

My name is Gowri Mohanakrishnan and I'm a tea planter's wife. I started this blog because one of the things that I wouldn't want us to lose in a fast changing world is the tea story - a story always told with great seriousness, no matter how funny - always true (always), maybe a tall tale, long, or short, impossible, scary, funny or exciting but never dull. 
Happy reading! Cheers to the spirit of Indian Tea!