by Aloke Mookerjee
The estate manager’s bungalow, in particular, remained immaculate at all times with the highest care in mind. To the young assistants, this was hallowed ground upon which they could tread only on invitation or calamitous emergency. The ample grounds around the bungalow provided the necessary privacy and calm for the ‘burra saab’, after his long and hectic day at work,. The open space and good ventilation, facilitated by the large windows in every room, allowed fresh air to wash over indoors and cool it down.
|Jaldhaka river with Bhutan hills in the background Picture source https://dooarstrip.com/jaldhakaooarstrip.com/jaldhaka|
|Martin stove and range coal burner. Picture source https://collection.maas.museum/object/9735|
|Electrolux kerosene operated fridge. Picture source Pinterest|
Alcohol, of-course, was not included in our food list. We purchased this ‘vital sustenance’ ourselves, either from the club or ‘Dey Stores’. With a bottle of standard Scotch Whisky costing all of Rs.50.00, it was often necessary for the reckless young and perennially hard-up Assistant Manager to look for something that would not burn more holes in his pocket. Indian whiskies were quite undrinkable and thus ruled out. And so, it was rum that eventually came to the young man’s rescue. A bottle of the India made ‘XXX Rosa Rum’ cost around Rs.15.00. It was not bad and became the popular tipple till we heard of one that was distilled in Kingdom of Bhutan and available for Rs.7.00 across the border. Despite being variously described as a ‘varnish remover’ or ‘gut rot’ (remarks we promptly dismissed), the riveting price of the Bhutan distilled rum became the overriding factor with ‘quality’ relegated to the back burner! We went about figuring a way to acquire this questionable liquor for regular use.
Apart from providing our regular tipple, Sibsoo was also known for its fair held once every year sometime in the cold weather. This tiny hamlet could be reached through ‘Hilla’, a plantation located immediately north of Nagrakata estate. From the upper part of Hilla, an unimaginably ill maintained dirt road, strewn with large rocks, stones and pebbles, wound steeply down to the banks of river Jaldhaka across which was the Kingdom of Bhutan and Sibsoo. From the river bank, the only way to this hamlet was to wade across the gushing icy cold, waist high waters of the stony Jaldhaka. And wade in we would, shoes and socks in hand!
punkha - in this case, ceiling fan
jharoo - broom
jharan - duster, mop
dhobi - washerman
bania - merchant
naag saap - cobra
bagh - leopard
duffadar - supervisor
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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. There are over 120 stories of tea life here, all written by people who have lived in tea gardens.
Meet the writer: Aloke Mookerjee
Here's what Aloke has to say about himself : 'Long retired from tea, but still active in business. Even after all these years, tea remains to live strongly in my thoughts; they were the best years of my life. Other interests? Always loved Jazz music - still do and have written about this incredible genre. Love vintage airplanes (thus my love for Dakotas!) and cars, and intend to make this my next focus.' Here is the link to all posts by Aloke - Stories by Aloke Mookerjee
Aloke has recently published a book, The Jazz Bug, which is available on Amazon. Read about it here: https://notionpress.com/read/the-jazz-bug?fbclid=IwAR2HjxSU2rY6sq5cX_lzBxJY5oat1i_Z22qKdRRP1Tm77Dqp48B2CAlnGvY