You may have heard about tea gardens, read about tea tasting, tried to understand the tea jargon and may have flirted with the world of tea. While many of us may know about the tea plantations and the varieties of teas, but do you know what it is like to live in tea estates?
I am Shikha Puri, co-founder of Teacupsfull. I am married into a tea family. My father in law Mr. Narendra Kumar Puri is an Ex-Tea Planter from Goodricke Group, India's largest producer of Tea. In a career spanning more than 40 years, he was posted in various tea gardens in Darjeeling and Dooars. My husband also started his career as a Tea Taster in 1993, he learnt the art of tea tasting at the age of 16 from his father.
For the last 13 years which I have been married, I have heard many tales about the tea estates and the life in the yesteryears. These stories are among the many that have been narrated on the dining table, some are downright funny, some adventurous and most of them are really dangerous and grave. Many of us have seen adventure, supernatural, comedy and horror movies which have enthralled us. Well, the Tea Planters have actually led a life like that, full of adventures and excitement which a modern day city slick cannot even relate to.
I have curated a collection of stories of a by-gone era and would like to take you all down the memory lane and acquaint you with a life in tea gardens through my blog series #TeacupsfullGardenTales.
First up is an introduction to the Lingo used in the tea gardens. Life in tea gardens is quite isolated, as each garden is located far away from the city, the distance between the two gardens itself is a few kilometers. Hence you actually live in a vast tea garden, spread across hundreds of hectares, some as big as the whole of Gurugram with a handful of people and each person acquires a stature and a nomenclature of its own. It is good to acquaint one with these nomenclatures so that if you ever plan to visit a Tea Bungalow, you know who is who.
Each garden has its own set of staff and hierarchy, like the manager of the estate is the BADA SAHIB and the assistant manager the CHOTA SAHIB with their respective bungalows as BADA KOTHI and CHOTA KOTHI. KAL SAHIB is the assistant manager who is actually an engineer by profession and lives in KAL KOTHI, the bungalow where the engineer stays. The manager responsible for the factory is FACTORY SAHIB while the trainee is called the NAYA SAHIB. BADA BABU is the head clerk and FACTORY BABU, the clerk responsible for the day to day functions of the factory. FITTER BABU is the car mechanic and TIME BABU is responsible for the siren, hand cranked siren. This was also used in the second world war. MALARIA BABU is the health officer and BIJLI BABU the electrician. BAWARCHI is the head cook in Bada Kothi and BERRAH the modern-day butler with CHOTA BERRAH as his assistant. And if someone comes to you at the bungalow saying "Bada Sahib Salam Bheja" do understand this actually means that the Manager is calling you. While I will take you through more as we move forward, this much is good for the start.
Seen in the main picture are Bada Sahib - N.K.Puri and Bada Memsaab - Kumkum Puri in the tea bungalow at Aibheel tea estate.