Ajay Mehra


T These are some memories from Ajay Mehra who retired from Tea in 2002 and has
settled down in his  home town, AJMER; in the heart of Rajasthan. We thank him for
taking the time and trouble to write his reminiscences and share them with us

Stationmaster Bola Hai

Recollection of Language

Dukhan Lagao

 A day in a Tea Planters Life

   October 30 2011

We thank Ajay for his nostalgic story from many years ago

This Could Happen Only At DOOLAHAT at North LAkhimpur!!!
The Doolahat chota Bungalow was close to the Doolahat Station; and one could hear the train whistle past; due to its proxcimity.My friend Raj Thomas was proceeding on annual leave.I suggested to him to come over and have dinner with me on a saturday night, and he could catch the train, which halted briefly around 11 p.m at the Doolahat station. I drove Raj to the station, and after waiting for a little while at the station( which was lighted by hurricane lamps, in those days);all the waiting passengers were informed by The Station master"TRAIN KAAL AAYEGA,ENGINE TOOT GAYA"!!!
We came back to the bungalow; after me telling the Station master to send me an informer, when the train is about to come.A rest full night followed and a  breakfast on the lawn , on a Sunday morning!!! Around 10.30 am in the morning, a man came running to the bungalow saying"STATION MASTER BOLA HAI, TRAIN AATA HAI".
We quickly got into the car, and drove to the station; and RAJ could catch the train.Such service iwould be  unheard of anywhere else; except in the garden of my first posting: DOOLAHAT!!!
Ajay Mehra 


 Aug 7 2011
An amusing recollection of language from Ajay whom we thank "Anyone who has worked for a few years in the plantations in Assam; enriched his vocabulary with these most expressive words, that described many situations in Tea. Readers may also like to add more popular words to this collection.

1) GOL MAAL------A cock and bull story or a cock up of a delicate situation.

2) JIGLIPOOKRI-------A fudged situation.

3) Ghusal-------Bath
4)GONDOGOL------A problem created by the LABOUR.

5) BHAAL--------ALL IS WELL.

6) GURI OF THE BAAT-------What is the main issue.

7)GAYJOO POLICY---------A dilatory tactic.

8) MISA KHATHA--------Total lies.

9) KHUDI--------A young Girl/also a count of 20

10) DANGUR BABOO------An address of Elevation for a clerk/babu.

11) MURGI DAAK--------At the crack of Dawn.

12) DANGUA MAKHNA------A rogue elephant.

13/ ------BURBOOK --------- An IDIOT!!!!

ajay mehra"

 May 23 2011
Thanks to Ajay for this memory story

                                                DUKHAN LAGAO.

Both our children were in St. Paul's School, Darjeeling and I was a Manager with Doom Dooma India, posted in a remote garden called MESAIJAN; where the elephants regularly visited the paddy fields, when the grain used to ripen.

Around Poojas, we decided to visit our children at the School andtravelled by air to Baghdogra. One had to take the taxi up to the Planter's club in Darjeeling and on arrival at Baghdogra the taxi driver informed me that he could not take us to Darjeeling on that day; due to a bundh, in the hills.

I quickly remembered that my good friend DIPEN BANNERJEE was posted at Taiphoo tea estate; and so I told the taxi driver to take us to Taiphoo. It was nice talking to Dipen. He maintained a large collection of ducks, bees, poultry,cows and what not!!!

Freshening up after an evening stroll we were in the drawing room; when Dipen delivered the Punch line. BEARER-"DUKHAN LAGAO", and soon the bearer rolled in a trolley of neatly placed glasses and drinks!!! That was Brown Saheb, Dipen Bannerjee at his best!!! with all  his storiesof KOI-Hai, in their full glory!!!!

Now when We are into retirement; such spit and polish and service at the clap of a hand is difficult and unseen, in most Planter'shouses. My children, say the same; though they live in the first world.

I now have to tell my friends and guests to help themselves, while they wait with a glass in hand , close to the bar; for a fill or a refill!!!

I am reminded of the old Planter's lament "KASIA KASIA, There is no future , for him ,you or I".The days of the DUKHAN LAGAO, are finally over!!!!



June 14 2010

Morning starts early on a Tea Garden.The " Palang Chai" or bed tea; brought to my bedroom by the Night chowkidar was an hour earlier than the I.S.T( because the GARDEN TIME was adjusted tactfully by the Old British Planter, a good one hour earlier!!).REASON--The sun shines earlier in the EAST.

It's office time at 7a.m; where a load of paper is awaiting my signature or my personal intervention is required to settle a quarrel in the labour lines or there is a report that a stray leopard, has mauled a cow; or even someone has come to complain to the MANAGER "SAHEB! My wife has run away?"A Tea Garden is a lobour intensive organization, run by people; not machines.

It's now 7.30am and the old adge on the wall written by a Burra saheb is staring at my face."UNSCREW YOUR ARSE from the office table and get to the field; as soon as possible.

The day's Plucking and Manufacture programmes; their immediate priorities, alterations, based on current weather conditions, rainfall pattern, labour availability and a host of other priorities take you up to 9.30am; when it is time for a good breakfast ,in the bungalow.

Soon after the breakfast, the Planter is there in the field and factory for the next four hours; supervising the growth and cultivation practises and the manufacture of the tea leaves, into a well dried, finished product as seen on the shelf.The previous day's harvest of green leaf has to be withereed, rolled, fermented and fired in the Tea Drier's, and than sorted and packed.The field has a lot of maintenace operations to be attended to- There is planting of new fields/uprooting/Draining/irrigation/Planting of shade trees/spraying of pesticides/ Nursery workd/labour wag payments/Head Office and Legal correspondence/and the day to day problems and issues of running ,maintaining, and planning an island of sanity, producing a good crop of quality and quantity.

A manager is supposed to be a " Mr. Know ALL" and a fixer of every single item/issue/problem/and a forward planner.He is called the "MAI- BAAP" for all the social and welfare matters; not to speak od the quality Control and ALL the H.O. and Market requiremnet immediate priorities.When one of the grades manufactured was a bit too large fro the market; i rememeber a rather urgent and terse message from the Superintendent" Please reduce the size of the BPS 1. they look like goat's ball's!!!

It's lunch time and a short lie back from 1.30p.m to 2.45p.m.and again off to the field/Factory/office; rounded off with a visit to the factory late in the evening, to check the production in progress and the spreading of leaf in the withwering troughs; to be made succulent for the manufacturing process, starting at midnight!!!
a lucky planterwould squueze in a game of tennis or squash on a wednesday midweek or on a saturday evening. The committed golfer would not like to forgo his sunday morning golf.

The life of a tea planter is one hectic merri-go round and when the clock strikes 58; he is told to pack up and go home.Its time for retirement!!!This is the story of many a Tea planter happily retired from an Agency house tea company. they live an active life from the age of 20 to 58 years on a tea garden; so involved in all the hectic routine that all they are left with at retirement is the nostalgia of a good and busy working life- the friends/ memories of a comfortable life well lived and their tenures at the different gardens and estates.

A superb website is maitained by the Expatriate Planters at Koi-hai.com and is full of rich experiences and great tales of adventure.

I joined Tea in December 1965 and spent 37 hectic years on the Estates in assam. and fondly remember the good days.Recently; when i was sitting down, for a bucket bath, the words " MASTER, BATH IS READ", rung my memory, and i smiled at the passage of time.It's a nice feeling to sometimes laugh at yourself!"


January 10 2010

The Late DAMAN SINGH, Ex Superitendent of Doom Dooma Company was a keen golfer, well known for his long Tee offs!!!

At a golfing do at Dibrugarh golf club, one morning he teeed his ball on the first tee and went through the swing.The ball landed in the near by bamboo bari, instead of the fairway.

He took another ball and followed it with a massive swing.This ball again sliced towards the bambboo bari.

Daman was furious and grumbled louded" I TOLD INDER, NOT TO GIVE ME PARATHAS for BREAKFAST; and now look the second ball has also gone to the Bamboo bari!!!!".

December 31 2009
Ajay says,  I have Eric's permission to show this story.

ERIC Ram's Farewell Speech, at the Doom Dooma Club.

Eric recalled this story at his farewell. When he was posted as an Assistant , at Pengaree T.E. One day he asked his cook to make a roast chicken for lunch. When the chicken arrived at the table, Eric noticed it had only one leg; and so called the cook to find out about the other leg!!!

To his utter surprise and without batting an eyelid the cook told Eric that the chicken was lame and had only one leg.

Eric noticed that the cook had a little smile, which told the story. The cook too had relished the roast!!!!
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December 7 2009
Doolahat T.E.

I was a young Asst. at Doolahat; and it was my first year in TEA.
In those days, it was customary for the Asst. to give out first and second warning letters, to absentee garden workers and they had to report to him before they were allowed to resume work.

There was one woman, rather buxom and a good looker, who never showed up; and when I asked about her the Jemader.Babu. would tell me " don't worry saheb, she will report to me, later."

A few weeks later; her husband, a rather frail man came to the office and complained to me that the Jemader.Babu. had made a kutch house behind his, near the Doolahat bazar. This was a crafty move of the J.B. as she used to visit him in this house often for a romp. The matter being serious I took him to see the Manager, Charles Crompton. A date was set to hear the complaint.

At the work site, the J.B. always went where she was plucking and she offered her some pan tamul always.

Now on the day of the hearing, the charge was put to the J.B. regarding the husband's complaint. He denied it flatly to the Manager.

Her name was Koli and she was holding a small baby, very assamese looking, with a round Ahom face. Charles told the J.B." I fully believe what you say; but I don't understand why this baby resembles you???

To that the J.B. said" Oh Sir; that is the work of God; who can say who will resemble whom.

The matter was soon dismissed, when Koli told Charles that her Husband was frail, weak and just a no good guy.

Charles dismissed the matter; as an ACT OF GOD, and the bichar ended!!!!
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I had joined Tea on the 20th of December,1965,at Doolahat; on the North Bank, in Upper Assam. It was a time for merry making, with Christmas around the corner. The Club do's/lunch parties and playing Darts, at the Burra Bungalow/etc continued for quite a few days. I asked the Senior Asst. Jagdish Jamwall; Well Jag, when do we start work here? Jag told me "Oh! let the rains come, and you will soon find out"!

We went to a golf 'do' at Joyhing, where an elderly Planter; Alec Mackie; called me aside, and told me "Young man, you have just joined Tea; and I am on the verge of my retirement,Let me tell you something:
Always remember  "THE SUN ALWAYS SHINES FROM THE MANAGER's asshole".
I must have remembered those pearls of wisdom, as I completed 37 years in TEA!!!!

Than in 1971, I was transferred to Tippuk T.E. and on my first day had to go and meet the Supt. Jimmy Foster, at Daisajan T.E. I had a very short meeting with Mr. Foster. He told me that we believe "ONLY the BEST will DO".Yes, you can go for two club nights a week here on the South bank; but remember "Never shit on your own doorstep"!!!!!

1968-The Calcutta offce advised that there was a good demand for the BOP and BPS grades, and hence we were all asked to make larger percentage of these grades. All Factory Assts were sent on a BALL MAKING course, at the Panitola Group. On return, I made some changes, to the green leaf sifter, and sent fresh samples to the Supt. Jimmy Strang; whose only comment to Charles Crompton; was to reduce the size of BPS1, as it resembles resembles GOAT's BALLS!!!!
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1972-At Nalani; on a weekend along with my old friend and colleague Gulu Lamba, I went for a long weekend to the Digboi Club,and thereafter to some garden in the Margerita area;only to return early, on Monday morning.
Gulu and I were proceeding towards the outgarden,when I met my Bearer going towards the main garden Manager's office. We stopped the car and asked him "WHERE are you GOING"? He replied "OH! I was going to the Manager's office to report that you have not returned, since Saturday night.!!!!
My instruction to the bearer was to turn right back, and fix my breakfast, as I was proceeding direct to the Outgarden Garden Office, and there was no need for him to go to the Manager now!!!
In those days ,it was customary to get written approval from the Manager, prior to proceeding for a long weekend!!!

When on a visit to the Tea Estates in South India;I noticed that the bearers of the guest house there spoke in English, unlike their counterparts in Assam.
After a tiring day of visit in the field, Shottu Malhotra, and I were having a drink, at the Guest house fireplace, when the Bearer came and said "MASTER, BATH IS READY" .Shotuu looked and me and suggested "I think this calls for another drink"!!!

Such were the days in TEA!!!!!

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1990: The estates owned by Brooke Bond passed on to Unilever, by virtue of the sale of Brooke Bond in the UK ,to the Unilever Group. Perhaps the Board took a decision to phase out the Plantation business in India and Africa, but in a phased manner, as it did not fit in the core business. We were fed with a lot of theory, on how to graduate from TWO LEAVES and a BUD, to FIVE LEAVES and a bud; as that would put more dry matter in the bag, and consequently, increase profits.

Some who had worked in the traditional agency houses, where Quality was the watchword, were left wondering whether they had wasted their time, trying to make quality teas ,all these years.

But that was the time when the Planter took the back seat and Policy decisions were in the hands of the Accountants and the Commercial guys.

Weightages increased, and profits also soared. But the honeymoon was short lived. The business of Tea is a long term commitment, of Quality and sustained good practices, and has little time for short term , fly by night means. The market rejected such poor teas, and this synchronised with Unilever's exit from the Plantation business.

Fortunately for the Doom dooma group; ownership passed into the hands of a Quality conscious Company; and I was glad to learn from a senior planter; Arun Kaul, that the group has resumed its path to quality teas , once again. AMEN.

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 1971-I found myself at Tippuk, working for Pat Sherriff. He was undoubtedly the easiest Manager to work for. Promptly, at 11am he would pick me up from wherever i was, factory or the garden, and we would drive to the bungalow for a cup of coffee!!!! he would say "Myrtle would be waiting". I also had the distinction of working for some of the toughest Manager's in tea. Now that they are well into their retirement; I can name them-  ROMI SURI and DULAL MOITRA!!! 
But, one learned a lot from them, and they really made to take the rough with the smooth.

TIPPUK FLAVOUR: in the sixties; Tippuk climbed up the Price League for their teas, to the top of the table. The secret was guarded. However the Company wanted to know the secret behind this phenomena. The teas had an outstanding flavour, and no other garden could replicate it; nor could the TEA TASTER,put his finger on it. Finally; when the cat was out of the bag; it turned out that a handful of AGERATUM was being added, at the time of rolling the green leaves, in the TEA rollers !!!I do not know, whether the manager or the Taster lost his job; but the practise had to be abandoned, and all were told to keep shut about the TIPPUK flavour. I understand soon the rating on Tippuk Teas, returned to its usual place on the Price league; second from the bottom!!!!

Doolahat Again::
Harry Jay had the unique distinction of going up the ladder from Asst. Manager to Manager and thereafter being promoted to being the Superintendent, whilst being on the same garden for a few decades. He was than transferred to Joyhing, and used to visit Doolahat, as Supt. when Charles Crompton was the Manager. On one of his visits, he was delayed at arriving at the Manager's office, whilst Charles kept waiting for him. The reason -he stopped by at the Old line, to give a LAL KAPRA, to his old girl friend!! Well; that's nothing unusual, when someone was posted on the same garden, for such a long time; in those days, in TEA.
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December 12 2009

Roopy Patney was returnting from Annual leave, and happened to be on the same aircraft, as Romi Suri!!!!Once the flight,had completed its take off, Romi went near Roopy Patney's seat and told him....Roopy, let's discuss your Manuring Programme!!! Roopy was taken aback, and said in haste"Oh Romi! i am just getting back to the garden from Annual Leave, and the Manuring Programme, is really not one of my favourites ,to take it along when on Annual leave"!!!!!

Romi was and is still is one of the most enthusiastic Planter's the industry would ever know.Ranga Naidoo once told me that he had a little problem controlling him ;as Romi wanted to jump out of the Jeep for AN INSPECTION OF THE YOUNG Tea Section; even before Ranga could put the brakes and switch off the jeep engine.

The Late Narendra Lal was Acting for Romi, at Dikom; when he went on Annual Leave.I was the Factory Asst.at Dikom.One morning, Narendra walked in the factory office, and told me that he had instructions from Romi, that the Burra Bungalow had to be given a coat of Paint; and the work has to be completed, before Romi get's back; but there is a rider!!! There is no money left in the budget a/c Bungalow No:1.
Narendra was sharp in fixing such matters.He said " No problem, just exchange the required drums of Aluminium Paint from the Godown with the Dibrugarh supplier, in lieu of Plastic emulsion, and we can get the job done.Just show the debit of the Aluminium Paint as issued to the labour lines, for roof Paintng!!!The job was done!!!

A.C. GOPINATH:Gopi was a real brown saheb.He always occupied a far end of the bar and continued to drink Brandy, at the North lakhimpur Club.At the Annual meeting some youngsters in 1968, voiced that a Diwali do should be held, at the Club;not that the Guy fawlkes day is not going to be celebrated.Gopi in his usual self said"Diwali...What Diwali"!!!!A perfect BROWN SAHEB was the late A.C. GOPINATH!!!

The story goes about Gopi that when he walked into the club with his wife Prem; some of his Planter friend remarked"Oh!look, Gopi has come with his new wife!!!!And soon a round of drinks followed and Prem was welcomed to the fraternity!!!

MR.GHOSH OF KOILAMARI:At a party in Joyhing the conversation was about
Bungalows and memsasahebs.Mr. Ghosh came up with a unique idea, Planter's should have Two wives; one for the Bungalow and one for the Club!!!! However;he was within hearing of Mrs.Ghosh, who not only gave him a stern stare,but went on to say;wait until you get to the bungalow, and I shall tell you more about your brilliant ideas!!!!
Mr. Ghosh just shut above and the topic was soon changed!!!!

Rashid Kidwai was better known as ELLAHI, at the North lakhimpur Club; and whenever he walked in the Club, on a Saturday film night; he first motioned the bearer, saying "GURAAHO"!!! That set the evening rolling.Such were the Saturday Film evenings, at the Dejoo Club; where we watched some really old films ,on a small screen,with a repaired projector!!!!!

It was customary to say "cheers", when offered a drink. Some Calcutta executives from Balmer Lawrie visited us and when offered a drink, said  "MUCH OBLIGED"!!!
This greeting was novel for some young planters, and so the rest of the evening continued with many many greetings of "MUCH OBLIGED"!!!!!

Few would know that Jimmy Strang joined Tea in 1948, and reached the last lap of his journey from the U.K. to join his first garden by a journey on a BULLOCK CART from the Ghat to the Estate!!!!!

I do not know whether this one is true; but did hear that there was one Asst. who was sent to the Ghat, to supervise the unloading of the Blackstone engine, from the steamer.I do not know his fate , when he reported to the Manager that the engine fell in the river, whilst they were unloading it!!!!

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