Thursday, 5 September 2013

tea garden memories

The sight of quaint tea bungalows nestled in the midst of tea gardens is perhaps what started my romance with tea gardens and their bungalows even as a child when we took road trips to upper Assam. As dad drove the car to Duliajan, Golaghat, Jorhat, Tinsukia and Sibsagar during our school vacations, the tea gardens that lined the road on both sides created a romantic sight (all the more when it drizzled) and fueled my imagination. I would spin my own tales of who lived in those bungalows and what must be happening inside one of them just as we passed by. Me and my brother always waved to the workers who would be plucking tea leaves by the roadside, baskets hanging by their heads. They were charming: the sights of tea gardens, bungalows and the busy workers. An aunt of mine would joke to me, "We'll have to look for a tea manager for you when you grow up!" And I would be pleased as dreams of spending a lot of time walking around the estate, being the mistress of a beautiful bungalow, and learning the jhumur from the workers came to me! I thought that would make a wonderful life.

I never married anyone from the tea gardens, nor did I end up working in one. But I did get to spend time every now and then at the tea gardens where relatives were posted. And the experience lived up to my expectation of tea garden life, although many tell me that it is a lonely life. So years later, even with the disturbing news about violence within tea estates as many tea managers lost their lives to mob fury, the romance of the tea gardens remains alive for me. Maybe it is because of the pictures they painted for me when I was a child. And maybe because I want the romance to stay alive.

Here I post pictures from a trip in 2011, visits to my relatives at two estates - SESSA and THANAI. I know I need to take more pictures of the tea estates!

 inside the compound of the manager's residence at SESSA Goodricke Tea Estate, located in the Dibrugarh district of Assam. The garden was first planted in the year 1897 under the British India Tea Company and derives its name from the river Sessa which flows around the estate's western northern and partially eastern boundary.

 Putul mama, the manager of the estate, recounts stories from his garden days. and for this bungalow he says that the original quintessential heritage tin-roofed structure was demolished by a fire years ago, and in its place this RCC building was built.

 a tour around the estate.

 inside the factory where tea is processed. my husband Nadeem poses here with Putul mama, the manager of the estate and the young assistant manager. It is here that Nadeem learns for the first time about 'Garden Time'. he noticed that the clocks in the factory were running an hour ahead of the usual Indian Standard Time. "This is to save daytime for the workers because the sun rises and sets much early in this part of the country," explained Putul mama.

 this is what you see right at the entrance to the estate. captured from a moving vehicle, hence a little blurred.

 moving on to The Assam Company Limited's THANAI Tea Estate. the manager of the estate, my cousin, informed that the Assam Company Limited boasts of being the oldest player in the tea industry. It is the first ever tea company in the world, established in 1839 by a deed of the British Parliament. not only that, it is also the first company in the world to establish tea gardens and export tea.

 chatting up with Rubul da, the manager of Thanai Tea Estate and his family in the first floor veranda of their bungalow.

 the fascinating 'blue' guest room in the bungalow.


  1. Ah! Lovely! Brought back pleasant memories of trips to a tea garden managed by an uncle. White wrought-iron chairs and tables beneath an old banyan tree. Which also served as a temporary tree house at times:-)

    1. Micky, one of your short stories should be based on these tea garden experiences! will wait for it :)

  2. Buy Loose Leaf Tea, Earl Grey Tea, Royal Masala Chai, Assam Tea offer finest flavor & health benefits


My short story 'Where is Arsalan Miyan?' in Himal Southasian on 27 April 2018

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