Thursday, 4 February 2010

13th November – More Tea Anyone?…

Sirens jolted me awake. I glanced at the time and noted it was 06:00 and still dark. Phil mumbled something about early morning alarm calls for workers at the factory next door and fell back asleep.
Sirens jolted me awake again. It was now 07:00 and light. “Oh, that’s to remind them that they really, really must start work now or else they’ll get fired” said Phil. We were both awake now.
The giant factory fans had been running all night to dry the tea and I could clearly hear them now. I’d been so used to sleeping with the sound of a rushing river in my ears that I hadn’t even noticed them last night.
I wandered into the living room and saw a man crumpled on the floor under a blanket. I startled him awake and he stood up blinking at me. “Sahib?” he said. I asked for tea and coffee and the man shuffled away into another room.
We showered and drank our tea/coffee and then strolled across to the bungalow to see if anyone else was up. An armed guard peered at us from a slit in his hut and then swung open the metal gate for us to enter the bungalow’s spacious and well manicured grounds.
Bungalow in the U.K. usually refers to a smallish single story residence in a modest plot of land. Sanjay’s bungalow was similar only inasmuch as it was a single story dwelling. The building itself looked beautiful in white wood and stone with a grand drive-in entrance porch and glass conservatory/greeting room. The bungalow stood in about 2 acres of manicured lawns and borders with a swimming pool, tennis court and servant buildings around it. This all sat within 900 hectares of the tea plantation itself.
Sanjay was awake and came to greet us as we sat in the glass conservatory. I was doing my usual trick of confusing the servants by asking for a pot or glass of hot water (garam pani) and waving my tea infuser at them. They’d nod and disappear and then reappear with a glass of cold or lukewarm water. Sanjay eventually helped out.
After a hearty breakfast, we spent the day relaxing and sorting out our rucksacks for the journey home. Sand was emptied out from just about everywhere and then fishing tackle, lures and reels were carefully stowed. Our clothes were given to the servants who washed and dried them thoroughly for us.
Sanjay took us for a drive around the plantation in the evening. As the sun set, another beautiful amber full moon rose through the trees and cast a soft glow across the plantation. Dirt tracks crossed vast ‘seas’ of uniformly clipped tea plants under tall shade trees. The landscape as far as the eye could see was given up to tea. We stopped at a nursery area where baby tea plants sat under netting waiting to be planted out. We saw rice and wheat fields among the tea for locals to grow their own crops. India employs around two million people in the tea trade alone. Sanjay has 1,500 workers at this plantation which even has its own hospital. Workers live within the plantation grounds and life seemed simple but stable and secure for them.
We returned to the bungalow for supper where Billy and Alka had now joined us. We were treated to a feast which Devicar oversaw with meticulous attention. Tandoori chicken, salads, curries, rice, vegetables and chapatis kept on coming and coming until we could eat no more. Then pudding and then more tea and coffee (and alcohol) before we settled down to watch the footage that Chris had taken with his video camera.
I don’t recall what time I eventually got to bed but I remember feeling utterly satiated.

No comments:

Post a Comment