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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Unrequited Love

Roma Circar
Circa 1980
Provenance: Golaghat Sub-district

‘Club night’ was a misnomer for Saturday nights at Goriajan Club, smack in the centre of Koomtai Tea Estate in Assam. Members converged on it from 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon for a spot of tennis and wound their way home at the crack of dawn on Sunday, a good 12 hours later. Dawn was yet to break, but the roosters were all a-stir to announce reveille that particular Sunday morning, the one of which I speak. In the car, K as usual had unscrewed her earrings and stuffed them in her bag as M drove steadily through the humps and bumps that led to their estate, an hour away near the town of Golaghat. Whatever the sundry ambitions they harboured at other times on other days of the week, the only objective set for early on Sunday morning was to hit the sack as swiftly as possible.

Sleepily tumbling out of their car – a Fiat, if memory serves – they entered the bungalow to behold a drawing room in utter disarray. Completely ransacked, the family silver had vanished; the majestic chamois silk cushions propped up on their prehistoric sofas had done the disappearing act; and a spotless 7x12 rectangular patch on the ground bore testimony to the carpet that had graced it not a dozen hours earlier. On the wooden bar, like alcoholic sentinels, stood a medley of opened bottles of booze, crystal glasses, coasters and scattered pipe-cleaners.

It dawned on K, exactly at the time the golden orb lifted off the horizon, that they had been robbed. Made of sterner stuff in times of less consternation, K, like a Georgette Heyer heroine, prepared to swoon. Scarcely had her lashes coalesced into a single semicircular fringe on either side of her nasal bridge, when a shout from M prised them apart at once.

Like a De Beer’s diamond, a planter radiates multiple facets. He is the original Superman, identified not by a swirling red cape, but rather a prosaic pair of shorts. Under duress, he can also function as a sleuth. Through the simple expedient of using his little grey cells, Sir M had actually nailed the culprit. Two strides later he was behind the bar yanking up the sleeping criminal who burped, gently opened his eyes, and then purposefully sprang to attention. Tsk, tsk! It was the bungalow chowkidaar, who had looted what he was deputed to guard.
K turned accusatory. “I have never trusted this man,” she announced with a degree of pomposity. “How many times have I complained about him? Does anyone ever listen to the memsahibs in this estate? And now he’s made a clean sweep of the bungalow!”

But where were the spoils? You didn’t need a magnifying glass to see they weren’t there.
Senior Assistant M lodged a case against the man at the estate office, but he proved a tough nut to crack. He insisted that armed burglars had broken into the bungalow and for a time he had valiantly held them at bay. Overpowered at last, he had collapsed into stupor, waking only after the lags had fled. To drown his sorrows, he had turned to the wine in M’s bar. It explained his position at the scene of the crime.
However, when his tribe, ashamed at his behaviour, turned against him, he capitulated and confessed. After the heist, for which he was solely responsible, he had carted the booty over to his quarters in the lines and returned to his duty. Remorse at his heinous act overtook him sometime between midnight and the false dawn, and he was forced to take recourse to bacchanalian remedies to assuage his conscience.

“I am very sorry, Sahib. I will return everything. Please forgive me,” he pleaded, genuinely sorry now, not for his grave misdeed, but for the loss of his stature among his tribesmen.
True to his word, and watched balefully by the members of his community, he returned every bit of what he had stolen – down to the last toothpick. Bric-a-brac restored, apology accepted, the matter came to an amicable close.

But had he truly returned everything?

Many months later, a junior Assistant Manager, on inspection of all the workers’ quarters in the lines to update the census register, found himself locking astounded eyeballs with a sepia-tinted snapshot of a jaunty figure, on a wall in the errant chowkidaar’s home.

It transpired that while the wily worker had indeed returned every article of value purloined from the bungalow of the Senior Assistant, there was one inexpensive item that he had kept for himself, that no one had missed – a goggled and bell-bottomed photograph of his detractor, K.
It is entirely possible that, for the ready reference of her boss, Perry Mason, Della Street may have classified this episode as under:
‘The Case of Unrequited Love’.

Meet the writer: Roma Circar

Says Roma, "At a fairly tender age, in 1979, I traipsed into the magical wonderland of Camellia Sinensis and shade trees.It was in this exquisite space that I began to give vent to my feelings, albeit in miniscule doses. A number of my short stories found their way into Eve's Weekly, the Telegraph,and The Statesman.

My experience with work in the organized sector, once we moved to Kolkata after three decades out in the sticks, was with e-learning in the corporate sphere. However, the long hours of slavery were not exactly my cup of tea. I now work from home. In addition to books, I am now turning more and more to reading what is churned out in this blog. It transports me to a slice of life that is already on its way to becoming an anachronism. Let us endeavour to record it for posterity."

 Click here to read all Roma's stories on this blog
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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!



  1. Boy oh boy! What a story and absolutely hilarious!

  2. Hilarious story....enjoyed the witty expressions!

  3. Wonderfully written story. Enjoyed it immensely.

  4. '...a planter radiates multiple facets. He is the original Superman, identified not by a swirling red cape, but rather a prosaic pair of shorts. Under duress, he can also function as a sleuth.' Bravo! What a line!!
    Your witty style, the characters and the hilarious turn of events makes this a joyride of a story. Hope to read many more such tales - the kind one would hear in a planter's club!!

  5. Having been a planter in Ceylon (then) from 1952 to 1969 I could but smile. :-)

  6. Too good! An absolute delight to read.

  7. A wonderful read and how well written! Enjoyed reading every bit of it!!

  8. Madam, why don't you share your tea stories in . Interestingly they don't have good stories/articles on the Goriajan club. The club is dead now. I want to know more about it. If you have any photograph of the club during the happy period please share with me. My mail id is please ma'm.

  9. Nice. I love the way you swagger thru your T estates and it's heart. Finally got to read your work. Now will read the rest. So proud and happy. Cheers Isaac A.


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