Graves Cyril


Sally Fleming visited Darjeeling and enjoyed it  --  here are some pictures of the Club













 This page is dedicated to Cyril and Tertia Graves.

The brief synopsis
is written by their daughter Sally who returned to Assam for
8 days in December 2012.

My father, Mr. Cyril Graves (1919-2004), was the Manager of Bamgaon Tea Estate from 1959  – 1972.  In memory of my father I decided to return forty years later with my husband, Mark, to visit Bamgaon Tea Estate where I spent a proportion of my childhood.

David Air had recommended us to stay at the” Wild Mahseer”, a lovely, secluded resort, located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, near Tezpur.  The “Wild Mahseer” comprises of a small group of renovated and converted tea estate bungalows in the grounds of the Adabarie Tea Estate and delightfully this colonial resort allows visitors to experience the life of British Tea Planters from bygone years.















We landed at Guwahati airport where the runway and backdrop of trees were as I remembered, but the airport building had been modernised and extended.  We were met by a driver arranged by the “Wild Mahseer”.  The journey to the “Wild Mahseer” took over five hours, but not once did we find the drive tedious. There was so much to see.  Guwahati was dusty, jammed solid with vehicles all hooting furiously and the side of the road was teeming with people of all ages all rushing to reach somewhere.  Once out of Guwahati we were mesmerised by the array of vehicles, from motor bikes to large, brightly decorated “TaTa” lorries, rickshaws to over-filled mini buses, all competing for space on the narrow roads.  Larger vehicles take precedence. 
The rule in Assam seems to be, if a vehicle wants to overtake, it parps its horn loudly. The vehicle in front (or the pedestrian) is warned and has to veer away rather quickly to the left, off the road into the dusty track on the side of the road, to give the dominating vehicle space to overtake!  Consequently there was the constant parping of hooters.



The surrounding flat countryside was a mixture of beautiful green and gold
yet poverty was everywhere

On arrival at the” Wild Mahseer” the tranquil atmosphere of the resort was apparent immediately.  It was a serene, spotless, secluded haven away from all the clamour, dirt and dust of the real Assam outside.


 For every day of our visit the sun shone out of a brilliant, blue sky.  On Saturday morning we walked to the nearby Lokra bazaar where the colours, sights, smells and odours all combined together to make it such a very evocative experience.  On the far horizon, in the early morning sunlight, shimmered the barely discernible, hazy outline of the Himalayan foothills.






In the afternoon we drove to busy, bustling Tezpur which was full of black bikes hurtling from all directions, congested roads, crowded streets, parping horns, characteristic odours and many, many shops of varying shapes, sizes and
structures crammed into any available space in the maze of the shopping area. 

On the way we stopped off at the Tezpur Mission Hospital where I was born.

On Sunday we visited Bamgaon Tea Estate.  Bamgaon Tea Estate is now amalgamated with Sonabheel Tea Estate.  The present Manager, Mr. Raghav,
had arranged a wonderful, overwhelming reception for us.  There was a
welcome group waiting to greet us when we arrived at the Bamgaon office, including retired employees who used to work with my father


Soon after our initial arrival, a large number of the rest of the workforce, men, women and children, filtered in to pay their respects.  A group of dancers performed an Assamese Tea Dance in our honour and we were given the traditional red and white ceremonial scarves. 

Afterwards we were shown round Bamgaon Bungalow and the compound which amazingly looked much the same as when I was there forty years ago. 

For lunch Mr. Raghav took us to his bungalow on Sonabheel Tea Estate where
we met his wife and were made to feel so welcome by both of them

We were served a delicious meal and I was presented with gifts: a brass sweetmeats tray; a personalised tin tea caddy and silver foil bags of fresh,
dried tea.

After lunch we returned to Bamgaon and Mr.Raghav drove us around the Tea Estate along the now, tarmac roads in between the rows of green tea bushes. 
We toured the whole Tea Estate including the areas of small brickhouses in the “Lines” where the workers live, the garden hospital, recreational area and the school.






The day ended with a cup of “char” on the veranda of Bamgaon Bungalow,
sitting on the cane furniture like we used 
to forty years ago


On Monday we had a very bone shuddering, bumpy drive to the Jiraborelli.  There used to be forest on either side of this road leading up to the river.  The trees have now been chopped down and a lot of the road is bare and devoid of the thick undergrowth and vegetation.  On the way we passed groups of labourers breaking up rocks manually to be used for surfacing the road.  The labourers had little or no protection on their feet.  Placing a large rock on the ground, the worker would secure it in position by putting his unprotected foot on the top of the rock and wield a large hammer to fragment the rock, bringing the heavy tool down very close to his vulnerable foot.

On arrival at the river, we climbed into the rubber dinghy and had a peaceful trip down the Jiraborelli, gazing at the familiar Himalayan mountain range in the distance.  For lunch we were cooked chicken curry and rice over open fires and ate this delicious meal sitting on the shingle, river bank.



After the river trip we visited the beautiful green forest of the “Nameri National Park”.  We were escorted on foot through the jungle by an armed soldier, who was our guide.  He led us to a lookout tower where we were able to watch a
herd of wild
elephants having an evening bathe in a waterhole.



On Tuesday we were shown round Sonabheel Tea Factory.  The constant whirring, juddering noise of the machinery and the wonderful, aromatic, fragrant, heady, strong smell of fresh tea which permeated the factory was all very reminiscent.






In the afternoon we were driven to Kaziranga taking the route along the bridge over the Brahmaputra at Tezpur.  At Kaziranga we stayed at a pretty hotel.

We enjoyed a dawn elephant ride through the mist and saw majestic, one horned white rhinos.


Afterwards we ate breakfast on the patio back at the hotel basking in the warmth of the morning sun.

Returning to Kaziranga in the mid morning, we experienced an exciting and dusty jeep safari through the park, where we sighted buffalo, rhino, birds,
warthogs, and a herd of wild elephants amidst the lakes and dense, green vegetation.



On Thursday we were driven along the bumpy, stony road to the Thakurbari Planters Club.  The tennis courts, squash court and clubhouse are virtually unchanged.  Sadly the swimming pool and children's play park are no longer in 




In the afternoon we returned to Bamgaon Tea Estate, where we walked through the tea bushes, found clumps of  the mimosa plant and touched the leaves to watch them curl up, watched the plucking ladies check in their baskets of
freshly picked tea leaves and visited the “Lines” to distribute sweets to all the children of the workers on the Tea Estate.

In the early evening we were driven to Tezpur Station Club where we were shown the famous Chummery Cup, the tennis trophy presented annually to the winning planters' team and which is still in use today.  Afterwards we visited the club shop and drank a cup of tea sitting in the area of the club where we used to play “Housie Housie.”



Sally and Mark holding the Chummery Cup.

On Friday evening we were invited to a farewell curry meal in the beautiful, large, Heritage bungalow at “The Wild Mahseer".  The dinner party guests were, Mr.Kajal Chanda who had travelled a distance to meet us as he was a previous Manager of Bamgaon Tea Estate, Mr.and Mrs. Raghav and the Managers of “The Wild Mahseer”.

On Saturday we sadly bid adieu to Assam and drove back to Guwahati where we boarded a plane to Goa.

Our thanks go to Mr and Mrs Raghav, David Air, Richard Leitch, Ranjit Barthakur, and to the staff at Wild Mahseer who all contributed, to enable us to make this unique, unforgettable journey down memory lane.


                       All rights reserved                 Copyright © Sally Fleming