Items of Interest


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Mr. Gour mixes different types of locally grown tea-three black teas and one green tea- from four types of bushes, with milk and various spices. Each mixture has a distinct color and taste, and he pours one on top of another to create seven distinct bands. Customers sip each layer slowly:  Trying to figure out what's in each one is a fun act of gustatory detective work. The top layer of the seven-layer tea has hints of cinnamon; the layer below has a slight citrus flavor to it. Mr. Gour says the fourth layer from the top and bottom layer get the most reaction from his customers. The fourth layer is a black tea mixed with condensed milk, while the bottom layer is a sweet, syrupy green tea with cloves, cinnamon and "secret spices." (Customers can choose to have one to seven layers of tea in their drink.)

In a country that consumes more than 55 million kilograms of tea leaves a year, Mr. Gour's layered tea has turned him into something of a celebrity. He has shared a cup of his tea with many of Bangladesh's top politicians, including members of Parliament and the governor of Bangladesh Bank. Bangladeshi newspaper clippings about his tea cover one wall of his open-air shop. In January, he opened a second tea cabin, just down the street from his first one.

A seven-layer drink costs 70 taka, or about one U.S. dollar. It may not sound like much, but most cups of tea in the area cost about seven U.S. cents.

Just how, exactly, Mr. Gour layers the tea is a closely guarded secret. Mr. Gour heads to a back room so he can make his concoction away from prying eyes. He has trusted the recipe to his three sons and brother who work at the shops-only the five them are allowed into the tea-preparation room.

Though imitators have popped up around town, offering their own layered teas, Mr. Gour is leading the competition with most layers. He says after years of practice, he will release a 10-layer tea later this year.

So, is the tea worth the trip?

With its varied flavors, tea connoisseurs are bound to find at least a layer or two they like. The fourth layer from the top stood out with its strong spices, likely some mixture of ginger and cinnamon in a black tea, while the popular bottom layer was a bit on the sweet side (though would have tasted great as a syrup on ice cream). Mr. Gour claims the flavors "will live with you a lifetime," but there's no one tea flavor that makes that memorable of a mark. It's more about the experience - and drink - as a whole: the mystery of the ingredients, the rows of tea bushes just outside the shops and the chance to drink from the hands of a Bangladeshi tea master.

Nilkantha Tea Cabins are on Kalighat Road just a few kilometers outside of the town of Srimongol in Sylhet division, Bangladesh


July 12 2011

   We have to thank Willie Wood and Alan lane for getting this article to us

Rivers and Oceans

By - Renee Godfrey, Assistant Producer on Human Planet, explains her favourite part of making Rivers and Oceans

One of the most magical ways of living with rivers is found in the Khasi Hills of North East India; an environment, during monsoon season, engulfed by raging rivers. Searching for the secrets the deep Khasi tribal valleys and villages hold is a dream come true for any adventurous film maker.

Once a part of Assam in Northeast India, the tropically lush and verdant massif of Meghalaya stands proudly above the pancake flat plains of Bangladesh. As the Southwest Indian monsoon moves its moisture laden way up the Bay of Bengal and over Bangladesh, the Khasi Hills are the first major landmass it meets. Huge teams of nimbostratus clouds tower and linger with excited intent at having reached their destination - one of the wettest places on our planet.

With each twist and turn of the road, new and magnificent vistas are revealed. There is an air of mystery to the geography - its tropical forest draped in orchids, misty ridges, impossibly steep and seemingly inaccessible gorges, and moody rivers all begging to be explored.

During monsoon, the Khasi are faced with dealing with biblical amounts of water falling from the sky. Their traditional villages magically appear from nowhere through the enchanted forest, all cope wonderfully with days of downpours.

While the crew are all kitted out with umbrellas and waterproof jackets, Khasi society is lacking in such Gortex items, rather the women weave curved bamboo and palm leaf rain shields or `knub' to protect themselves from the beatings of rain. There is also one, very unique and magical Khasi solution to coping with the rainfall; one that the Khasi are particularly proud of, and that is what I have come in search for.

During monsoon, the rivers intersecting Khasi villages swell greedily and become raging rapids washing away anything in their path. Faced with the problem that man made bridges and walkways of concrete or wood rot and are destroyed by the forces of water, the Khasi have come up with a unique and organic architectural solution using what mother nature provides - they have learnt to make living bridges from tree roots.

Ficus elastica, or more commonly, the Indian Rubber Tree, is a loyal and useful character in the colourful cast within the forest canopy. Perched wisely on huge boulders or alongside riverbanks, the ficus trees sit, adorned with party streamer like aerial roots. Each root shoots out in medusa style fashion, on a mission to find soils with greater stability. Well rehearsed in the shifting moods and flows of the rivers, the help of these loyal root tendrils keeps the ficus trees standing strong. By encouraging the aerial roots across impassable rivers and gorges, bridges form and areas once impassable became accessible.

To find the root bridges takes dedication and concentration. An impossibly steep and knee numbing descent takes me down through layers of forest into the enchanted Khasi world.

Local villagers have made tiny steps down the steep gorge slopes, plunging into the heart of the forest - hundreds upon thousands of pebbles smoothed by years of Khasi feet trotting up and down.

Each pebble marked by footprints of times past, each with stories to tell as they take the weight of the local tribes.

As I hop across streams, sway dramatically over rickety steel bridges with heart in throat, too scared to look down at the white water below, my curiosity drives me on. These bridges of ornate organic architecture are hidden within this fairytale forest and these endless paths will, I know, eventually unveil their wonder.

Three hours into the trek, a small perfectly manicured village, Nogkriet appears at the end of the steps. Just beyond Nongkriet, I look up and am transported into an unbelievable scene; a mix between Alice in Wonderland and Lord of the Rings - colourful spiders look on from silvery webs and at any minute I expect to see fairies dancing around the bamboos. There in all its magical glory is the 200 year old Umshiang double decker root bridge. Sitting with an omnipotent grace, the bridge is bejewelled in aerial roots of all shapes, ages and textures - like a Monarch draped in regal gold - the ficus; treasure is equally as impressive and precious.

The Khasi of Nonkriet village have trained the roots of one single ficus tree on two levels across the river; the result, a surreal double decker root bridge sketched into the forest landscape like some sort of magical computer generated graphic on mother nature's stunningly crafted film set; nature's magic.


 July 8 2011

Arunchal Pradesh used to be NEFA and here is a
fascinating reminisce supplied to us by Jasbir Randhawa whom we thank for taking the time and trouble to inform us


Khathing & the taking of Tawang

Published on June 1, 2011 in Articles/Opinion of the Manipur News/Imphal News/Kanglaonline


By Yambem Laba
TAWANG was lately in the news because of the unfortunate demise of Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu, who hailed from the area, in an unfortunate helicopter crash. But last year Tawang made headlines for a totally different reason: China`s reassertion of its claim over the area prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare time and again that Arunachal Pradesh was an integral part of India. The Chinese claim is nothing new. In 1962, they attacked India and occupied the entire area, almost reaching the foothills near Tezpur. The abrupt Indian withdrawal then prompted Jawaharalal Nehru`s infamous statement that my heart goes out to the people of Assam`s, meaning that the Indian Army was withdrawing to defend the Indian mainland, leaving Assam and the entire North-east to the Chinese.

Why that country withdrew thereafter is for contemporary historians to ponder, but the fact remains that as late as 1951 the entire area up to Dirang Dzong was under Tibetan administration, long after the Indian tricolour had been hoisted at the Red Fort on 15 August 1947. Dzong in Tibetan means a fort, where sat the magistrates or dzongpens to administer the area. That is why the Chinese had once stated that Tawang would have been their territory had it not been for Manipuri adventurer Major Bob Khathing who, in 1951, occupied the area for India. The truth is that while the McMahon Line was laid as early as 1914 between British India and Tibet, with the Chinese refusing to participate in the deliberations, it had never been demarcated `" meaning the border lines were never laid out on the ground. That was when Khathing became a legend in his own lifetime.

Born Ranenglao Khathing on 28 February 1912 in Manipur`s Ukhrul district, he was a Tangkhul Naga. He studied initially at Sir Johnstone High School in Imphal, completed his matriculation from Shillong and later joined Cotton College in Guwahati. Though he failed to clear his BA examinations in 1936, he was determined not to return home until he had his degree. So he went to Harasingha in Assam`s Darrang district, founded a middle elementary school and planted a tree that stands to this day. He cleared his examinations in 1937, the same year SJ Duncan, the British subdivisional officer of Ukhrul, asked him to come back and teach. By 1939, Khathing was serving as headmaster of Ukhrul High School, and when World War II broke out over Europe and soon found reflections across Asia, he bade the blackboard farewell and enrolled at the Officer`s Training School.

Commissioned into the 9/11 Hyderabad Regiment, he had General Thimaya as his company commander and there was another person who was later to became Chief of Army Staff `" General TN Raina.

By 1942, Khathing was transferred to the newly raised Assam Regiment in Shillong and became a captain. It was in the officer`s mess at Jorhat that he acquired the name Bob. Apparently the Americans found it difficult to pronounce `Ranenglao` and instead called him Robert, then truncated that to Bob. It was also at this time that the Allied Forces fighting the Japanese decided to raise V-Force, a guerrilla outfit like Wingate`s famed Chindits but comprising hill people of the region, led by an Allied officer. These people, because of the topography and their ability to live off the land, sometimes operated 150 miles from the nearest supply base and inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese behind their own lines, acting as a screen for the 14th Army of the Allied forces.

Khathing was sent to command a V-Force group in the Ukhrul area, his happy hunting ground. He shed his army tunic, shaved his head like a typical Tangkhul tribesman, with a thick mane running down the middle of his scalp. Mohawk style. On his back he carried a basket with dried meat and salt, rations for two weeks, and concealed his gun in his Tangkhul shawl. It is believed that he himself killed some 120 Japanese soldiers. He was awarded the Military Cross and made a Member of the British Empire.

With the war won, he was, on request by the late Maharaj Kumar Priyabrata Singh, returned to Manipur in 1947 and joined the then interim government as minister in charge of the hill areas. In 1949, when Manipur merged with India following the now controversial merger agreement, the interim government was dissolved and Khathing, by his own admission, found himself `without a job for six months`.

That was when Sir Akbar Hydari, then Assam governor, asked him to join the Assam Rifles as a stopgap measure. He served with the 2nd Assam Rifles in Sadiya and by 1951 he was inducted into the Indian Frontier Administrative Service as an assistant political officer. Summoned by then Assam governor Jairamdas Daulatram, he was asked, `Do you know Tawang?` He was then given a `secret` file to study and told to `go and bring Tawang under Indian administration`. This task could not be implemented by the British for 50-odd years.

On 17 January 1951, Khathing, accompanied by Captain Hem Bahadur Limbu of 5th Assam Rifles and 200 troops and Captain Modiero of the Army Medical Corps left Lokra for the foothills, bound for Tawang. They were later joined by a 600-strong team of porters. On 19 January, they reached Sisiri and were joined by Major TC Allen, the last British political officer of the North East Frontier Agency. Five days later the party reached Dirang Dzong, the last Tibetan administrative headquarters, and were met by Katuk Lama, assistant Tibetan agent, and the Goanburras of Dirang. On 26 January, Major Khathing hoisted the Indian flag and a barakhana followed. The party stayed in Dirang for four days, during which time they received airdrops. On 1 February, they moved out and halted at Chakpurpu on their way to Sangje Dzong. On the third day, they made a five-mile climb to cross Sela Pass and pressed on to what was entered in Khathing`s diary as the `Tea Place` where water could be collected from the frozen surface to make tea. By 7.30 pm, the party closed in on Nurunang.

On 4 February, they reached Jang village where two locals were sent out to collect information and gauge the people`s feelings towards their coming. The next day, the headmen and elders of Rho,Changda and the surrounding villages of Jang called on Khathing, who lost no time in explaining the purpose of his visit and told them in no uncertain terms that they were no longer to take orders from the Tsona Dzongpens. That day, he, Captain Limbu, Subedar Bir Bahadur and Jamadar Udaibir Gurung climbed about half a mile on the Sela Tract to choose the site for the checkpost and construct a barracks.

On 6 February they camped at Gyankar and Tibetan representatives of the Tsona Dzongpens came to meet them. It was also Tibetan New Year or Lhosar, the first day of the Year of the Iron Horse. In the evening it snowed heavily and the villagers took this as a very good omen. Tawang was reached on 7 February and two days were spent scouting the area for a permanent site where both civil and military lines could be laid out with sufficient area for a playground.

A place was chosen north-east of Tawang Monastery and a meeting with Tibetan officials was scheduled for 9 February, but they had shown a reluctance to accept Indian authority overnight. Khathing told me in 1985 `" when I`d accompanied him on his last trip to Tawang `" that, left with no option, he told Captain Limbu to order his troops to fix bayonets and stage a flag march around Tawang to show he meant business. By the evening it had the desired effect and the Tibetan officials and elders of the monastery came to meet him. They were then given notice that the Tsona Dzongpens or any representatives of the Tibetan government could no longer exercise any power over the people living south of the Bumla range.

On 11 February, Khathing visited the monastery, called on the abbot and presented him and the other monks gifts that comprised gramophone players, cloth and tiffin-carriers. The next day all the chhgergans (officials) of the 11 tsos or Tibetan administrative units were called up and a general order was issued directing them not to take any more order from the Dzongpens or Drekhong or pay tribute to them any longer. That afternoon, Tibetan officials and the Nyertsang called for time and permission to exercise their authority till they heard from the Tibetan government in Lhasa. Khathing put his foot down and told them the `area is ours according to the Treaty of 1914` and there was no question of a reply from their government in Lhasa and, hence, no extension could be given. Thus did Tawang effectively become a part of India from that day on.


June 15 2011

Thanks to Jimmie Bain we have an amusing story from Africa

  Jimmie points out that although not an Assam Rhino he thought this would amuse those who know the species,
 "Artificial  Insemination" : Black Rhino chuckle 
Wilbur Smith and the Rhino.   
A factual account by Wilbur Smith. 
The plight of the  Black Rhinoceros is, of course, due mostly to the value of its  horn and the ferocious poaching that this engenders. However,  a contributory factor to the declining rhino population is the  animals disorganized mating habits. It seems that the female  rhino only becomes receptive to the male's attentions every three  years or so, while the male only becomes interested in her at the  same intervals. A condition known 
quite appropriately as "Must".   
The problem is one of synchronization, for their amorous  inclinations do not always coincide. 
In the early  Sixties, I was invited, along with a host of journalists and other luminaries, to be present at an attempt by the  Rhodesian Game and Tsetse Department to solve this problem of  poor timing. The idea was to capture a male rhino and induce him  to deliver up that which could be stored 
until that day in the  distant future when his mate's fancy turned
lightly to thoughts  of love. We departed from the Zambezi Valley in an  impressive convoy of trucks and Land Rovers, counting in our  midst none other than the Director of the game department in  person, together with his minions, a veterinary surgeon, an  electrician and sundry other technicians, all deemed necessary to  make the harvest. 
The local game scouts had been sent out to  scout the bush for the largest, most virile rhino they could  find. They had done their job to perfection and led us to a beast  at least the size of a small granite koppie with a horn on his  nose considerably longer than my arm. The trick was to get this monster into a robust mobile pen, which had been constructed to  accommodate him. 
With the Director of the Game Department  shouting frantic orders from the safety of the largest truck, the  pursuit was on. The tumult and the shouting were apocalyptic.  Clouds of dust flew in all directions, trees, and vegetation were  destroyed, game scouts scattered like chaff, but finally  the Rhino had about a litre of narcotics shot into his rump and  his mood became 
dreamy and benign. With forty black game guards  heaving and shoving, and the Director still shouting orders from  the truck, the rhino was wedged into his cage, and stood there  with a happy grin on his face. 
At this stage, the Director  deemed it safe to emerge from the cab of his truck and he came  amongst us resplendent in starched and immaculately ironed bush  jacket with a colourful silk scarf at this throat. With an imperial gesture, he ordered the portable electric generator to  be brought forward and positioned behind the captured animal.  This was a machine, which was capable of lighting up a small  city, and it was equipped with two wheels 
that made it resemble a  roman chariot. 
The Director climbed up on the generator to  better address us. We gathered around attentively while he  explained what was to happen next. It seemed that the only way to  get what we had come for was to introduce an electrode into the  rhino's rear end, and to deliver a mild electric shock, no more  than a few volts, which would be enough to pull his trigger for  him. 
The Director gave another order and the veterinary  surgeon greased something that looked like an acoustic torpedo  and which was attached to the generator with sturdy insulated  wires. He then went up behind the somnolent beast and thrust it  up him to a full arms length, at which the Rhino opened his  eyes very wide indeed. 
The veterinary and his two black  assistants now moved into position with a large bucket and  assumed expectant expressions. We, the audience, crowded closer  so as not to miss a single detail of the drama. The Director still mounted on the generator trailer, nodded to the electrician  who threw the switch and chaos reigned. In the subsequent  departmental enquiry the blame 
was placed squarely on the  shoulders of the electrician. It seems that in the heat of the  moment his wits had deserted him and instead of connecting up his  apparatus to deliver a gentle 5 volts, he had crossed his wires and the Rhino received a full 500 volts up his rear end.   
His reaction was spectacular. Four tons of rhinoceros shot  six feet straight up in the air. The cage, made of great timber  baulks, exploded into its separate pieces and the rhinoceros now  very much awake, took off at a gallop. 
We, the audience,  were no less spritely. We took to the trees with alacrity. This  was the only occasion on which I have ever been passed by  two journalists half way up a Mopane tree. 
From the top  branches we beheld an amazing sight, for the chariot was still connected to the Rhinoceros per rectum, and the director of  the game department was still mounted upon it, very much like Ben  Hur, the charioteer. 
As they disappeared from view, the  rhinoceros was snorting and blowing like a steam locomotive and  the Director was clinging to the front rail of his chariot and  howling like the north wind, which only encouraged the beast  to greater speed. 
The story has a happy ending for the  following day after the director had returned hurriedly to his  office in Salisbury, another male Rhinoceros was captured and  caged and this time the electrician got his wiring right. 
I  can still see the Rhinoceros's expression of surprised gratification as the switch was thrown. You could almost hear him think to  himself. "Oh Boy! I didn't think this was going to happen to me  for at least another three years". 



Issue Date: Tuesday , October 19 , 2010
Finally, pot boils on ‘Father of Assam Tea'

Jorhat, Oct. 18: When you sip your morning cuppa, do raise a silent cheer in tribute to Maniram Dewan.

Not just because the businessman, perhaps Assam's most prominent citizen during the early days of the Raj, guided the discovery of tea in the state but also because he, in a way, fell martyr to his pioneering effort.

"He became the first Indian commercial tea planter and opened two tea gardens, giving the British companies stiff competition. So the Raj framed him in the 1857 revolt and hanged him," said Arup Dutta, author of the book Cha Garam, which has details of Dewan's life.

Dewan's achievements may now be officially acknowledged with a memorial and the tag of "Father of Assam Tea". Armed with documentary evidence, the Maniram Dewan Memorial Trust has approached both Dispur and New Delhi to honour Dewan, whose real name was Maniram Dutta.

Dewan, born near Jorhat in April 1806, was in his teens when, one day in Calcutta, he heard a group of British merchants discuss the profitability of the tea business in China. He told them the same bushes were grown by the Singphoo tribe in a region that now falls on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

One of his listeners was Scotsman Robert Bruce, who went on to be known as the man who discovered tea in Assam in 1823. It was a momentous event in the economy of the state which, to large parts of the outside world, is almost synonymous with tea.

Retired professor Ajit Dutta, who has written two books on Dewan's life, said there was "sufficient (historical) material" to prove that Maniram was the first Indian commercial tea planter. He said the 19th-century British writer, Samuel Baildon, too had credited Dewan with guiding Bruce to the discovery of tea in the state.

"We want the government to accord the title ‘Father of Assam Tea' to Maniram," said Aroon Chandra Barooah, Maniram's great-grandson and working president of the trust, which is headed by journalist Dhirendra Nath Chakravartty.

The trust wants a memorial built to Dewan at Cinnamara tea estate and has demanded that the garden, located on the southern outskirts of Jorhat town, be promoted as a "tea tourism" destination.

According to historical records, Dewan set up the garden in 1845 after resigning his post of dewan (chief executive) with the British-instituted Assam Tea Company, the first tea firm in Assam.

Barooah said the Tea Board had responded positively to the memorial plan, and the trust had sent it a project report that estimated the cost at Rs 35 lakh.

Dewan had played a leading role in Assam politics during early British rule, initially helping the Raj establish peace with various tribes and chieftains after two Burmese invasions.

He was an aide to the last Ahom king, Purandhar Singha, who appointed him Borbhandar Borua (head of royal treasury) after being restored as a tributary king in 1833 by the Raj.

Dewan, who ran many other businesses such as coal supply, elephant-rearing, iron-smelting and salt-manufacturing, later fell out with the British after receiving unequal treatment. His flourishing tea estates, Cinnamara and Singlo (near Sivasagar), too were giving British planters a headache, said author Arup Dutta.

Dewan was arrested in Calcutta when he went there to hand the British a memorandum from the king. He was just 51 when he was hanged in public in Jorhat along with aide Piyali Baruah on February 26, 1858, on the banks of the Tocklai stream.

Barooah said Singlo, now part of Suffry tea estate, had an area called Mani Ting where Dewan had himself planted bushes, and so this garden too deserved to be turned into a tea tourism site.

The trust sent its memorandum to the chief minister's office last month, with copies to the Tea Board, the Union tourism ministry and all major tea planters' bodies.

Barooah hoped the November 26-28 tea tourism festival at Jorhat Court Field would highlight his ancestor's role. The secretary of the organising committee, additional deputy commissioner D.K. Nath, said the festival brochure did mention Dewan but no special function had been planned so far. He said that if the trust came up with a proposal, the committee would consider it.

Trust member Kirpal Goswami said Jorhat MLA Rana Goswami had promised to take the matter up at the highest level of the government.

  September 4 2010
Driving and traffic in India.    

This hilarious article was written by an Expat from Baan, Netherlands who spent two years in Hyderabad.

For the benefit of every Tom, Dick and Harry visiting India and daring to drive on Indian roads, I am offering a few hints for survival. They are applicable to every place in India except Bihar, where life outside a vehicle is only marginally safer.

Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your best, and leave the results to your insurance company. The hints are as follows:

Do we drive on the left or right of the road?

The answer is "both". Basically you start on the left of the road, unless it is occupied. In that case, go to the right, unless that is also occupied. Then proceed by occupying the next available gap, as in chess. Just trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, and proceed. Adherence to road rules leads to much misery and occasional fatality. Most drivers don't drive, but just aim their vehicles in the intended direction. Don't you get discouraged or underestimate yourself except for a belief in reincarnation, the other drivers are not in any better position.

Don't stop at pedestrian crossings just because some fool wants to cross the road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumped in the back. Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when traffic is moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister is in town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us not talk ill of the dead.

Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. We horn to express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust (two brisk blasts), or, just mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of the bazaar. 

Keep informative books in the glove compartment. You may read them during traffic jams, while awaiting the chief minister's motorcade, or waiting for the rainwaters to recede when over ground traffic meets underground drainage.

Occasionally you might see what looks like a UFO with blinking colored lights and weird sounds emanating from within. This is an illuminated bus, full of happy pilgrims singing bhajans. These pilgrims go at breakneck speed, seeking contact with the Almighty,
often meeting with success.

Auto Rickshaw (Baby Taxi): The result of a collision between a rickshaw and an automobile, this three-wheeled vehicle works on an external combustion engine that runs on a mixture of kerosene oil and creosote. This triangular vehicle carries iron rods, gas cylinders or passengers three times its weight and dimension, at an unspecified fare. After careful geometric calculations, children are folded and packed into these auto rickshaws until some children in the periphery are not in contact with the vehicle at all. Then their school bags are pushed into the microscopic gaps all round so those minor collisions with other vehicles on the road cause no permanent damage. Of course, the peripheral children are charged half the fare and also learn Newton's laws of motion en route to school. Auto-rickshaw drivers follow the road rules depicted in the film Ben Hur, and are licensed to irritate.

Mopeds: The moped looks like an oil tin on wheels and makes noise like an electric shaver. It runs 30 miles on a teaspoon of petrol and travels at break-bottom speed. As the sides of the road are too rough for a ride, the moped drivers tend to drive in the middle of the road; they would rather drive under heavier vehicles instead of around them and are often "mopped" off the tarmac.

Leaning Towers of Passes: Most bus passengers are given free passes and during rush hours, there is absolute mayhem. There are passengers hanging off other passengers, who in turn hang off the railings and the overloaded bus leans dangerously, defying laws of gravity but obeying laws of surface tension. As drivers get paid for overload (so many Rupees per kg of passenger), no questions are ever asked. Steer clear of these buses by a width of three passengers.

One-way Street: These boards are put up by traffic people to add jest in their otherwise drab lives. Don't stick to the literal meaning and proceed in one direction. In metaphysical terms, it means that you cannot proceed in two directions at once. So drive, as you like, in reverse throughout, if you are the fussy type. Least I sound hypercritical; I must add a positive point also. Rash and fast driving in residential areas has been prevented by providing a "speed breaker"; two for each house.

This mound, incidentally, covers the water and drainage pipes for that residence and is left untarred for easy identification by the corporation authorities, should they want to recover the pipe for year-end accounting.

Night driving on Indian roads can be an exhilarating experience (for those with the mental makeup of Genghis Khan). In a way, it is like playing Russian roulette, because you do not know who amongst the drivers is loaded. What looks like premature dawn on the horizon turns out to be a truck attempting a speed record. On encountering it, just pull partly into the field adjoining the road until the phenomenon passes. Our roads do not have shoulders, but occasional boulders. Do not blink your lights expecting reciprocation. The only dim thing in the truck is the driver, and with the peg of illicit arrack (alcohol) he has had at the last stop, his total cerebral functions add up to little more than a naught. Truck drivers are the James Bonds of India, and are licensed to kill. Often you may encounter a single powerful beam of light about six feet above the ground. This is not a super motorbike, but a truck approaching you with a single light on, usually the left one. It could be the right one, but never get too close to investigate. You may prove your point posthumously. Of course, all this occurs at night, on the trunk roads. During the daytime, trucks are more visible, except that the drivers will never show any Signal. (And you must watch for the absent signals; they are the greater threat). Only, you will often observe that the cleaner who sits next to the driver, will project his hand and wave hysterically.

This is definitely not to be construed as a signal for a left turn. The waving is just a statement of physical relief on a hot day. 
If, after all this, you still want to drive in India, have your lessons between 8 pm and 11 am-when the police have gone home and The citizen is then free to enjoy the 'FREEDOM OF SPEED' enshrined in our constitution.

Having said all this, isn't it true that the accident rate and related deaths are less in India compared to the US or other countries?

Yes, of course! Obviously, it is impossible to keep an account of those who attain Nirvana!

Peter B. added the following of his memories of Assam ;

This is magnificent and almost completely correct!  I love his description of those "one eyed monsters" ... often Hino or Mercedes trucks bent on
"ruling the road"!  I have never forgotten the army trucks one sometimes met approaching Tinsukia from Tingri ... car drivers had to have amazing reactions and superb eyesight to escape being winged by them and avoid being clobbered by the one following immediately behind!  I am not sure that
he has done justice of the etiquette employed for sounding the horn ...
those multi-toned ones etc.  I do hope they haven't been banned!  And what about those Shillong coal lorries .......?
Thank you Peter


October 31 2006 
   Peter Bartlett kindly sent us this information

Subject: WEPA 25th Anniversary News

It seems like the World Elephant Polo Association was established at Tiger Tops in Nepal only a few years back and its quite amazing to realise that with a blink, years have passed by so quickly. Its now time for the 25th anniversary of the most unusual sport of the year - World Elephant Polo Tournament at Tiger Tops. The silver jubilee of one of the world's unique games has been set for November 26th to December 2nd, 2006. To celebrate this wonderful event, friends of Elephant Polo from around the world are participating this year along with our regular teams, Tiger Tops Tuskers, British Gurkhas, National Park and sponsors for many years Chivas Scotland.

A WEPA Ball organised in London on the 21st October, 2006 to celebrate the 25th anniversary was a great success. Monies were raised for charity including International Trust for Nature Conservation (ITNC), a London registered Charity Number 281101 ( ) as well as for community development in Chitwan and Nawalparasi in Nepal.

We wish all participants all the very best for the grand game of 2006.

Please visit our website  for the origin, development and rules of the game and  for information about Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge and the Tiger Mountain Group


 July 19 2006
Excerpts from "The Heritage of Indian Tea" - D.K. Taknet
Tea has brought cheer to people across the world for over 4500 years. The ancient Chinese first drank it for its medicinal value, and later, from the third century onwards, as a refreshing beverage. Japan was the only other country where the growing and drinking of tea took early root, the Japanese raising tea drinking to a fine art in their tea ceremonies. The popularity of tea spread to other parts of the world after the seventeenth century.

In England, tea received royal patronage when King Charles II married the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, who was an inveterate tea-drinker. Britain was engaged in a war with France between 1756 and 1763, and obliged to levy several taxes to maintain its standing army in America. Following protests by the colonists, the British government withdrew all the taxes except that on tea. This did not appease the colonists,who boarded a ship in Boston harbour loaded with chests of tea, and threw them overboard into the sea as a protest to proclaim that there could be no taxation without representation in the British parliament. This event was described then and ever after as the Boston Tea Party.

The Boston Tea Party fracas led to the American Revolution and the declaration of American Independence in 1773. Thus it was that tea played a key role in altering the course of history! Through the centuries, tea has also symbolized warmth, friendship, mutual respect, and caring. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in the eighteenth century. 'There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiments in a chest of tea'.

Today tea is the reigning beverage in over 45 countries and is consumed in over 115 countries around the globe. The Irish are the world's largest consumers, each person on an average consuming eight cups a day. However, the largest producer and overall the greatest consumer is India, where, at any time and anywhere, chai is an essential part of daily life.Pioneering Initiatives:

The year was 1823. Robert Bruce, a Scottish trader and explorer, visited Rangpur, the Ahom capital in Upper Assam. He had Thjourneyed many times of these frontiers but this particular foray had a very special purpose, He planned to meet Bessa Gaum, the chief of the Singhpo, one of the principal indigenous tribes of the Indian north-east, in connection with tea.

Bruce had learnt from a native nobleman, Maniram Datta Barua, that the Singhpo grew a variety of tea unknown to the rest of the world. If all that he had wanted was samples of the plants and seeds, he could have obtained them from just about any tribal contact. Bruce, however, wanted much more: the friendship of the Singhpo tribe and long-term access to the areas where the tea grew. If this was good tea, Assam could rival China, and Bruce sensed that he was on the threshold of something really big.

His meeting with the Singhpo chief inspired further hope. The brew from the plant did very closely resemble tea, and Bruce was permitted to carry away plants and seeds. This magnanimous gesture by the tribe opened Assam's doors to an industry that would sustain it for generations to come. Long after that happened - indeed, to this day - growing tea is the mainstay of Assam's economy. Bruch was an adventurous pioneer who sensed that history could be made, though he had no inkling of the remarkable consequences his initiative would have. Other Europeans followed him. He died in 1824 soon after his meeting with the Singhpo chief.

His younger brother, Charles Alexander Bruce, collected the tea plants and dispatched them to David Scott, the governor-general's agent in Assam. The plants were then sent to Dr N. Wallich, superintendent of the Calcutta Botanical Garden, who declared they were not genuine tea! The indigenous Assam tea plant had to wait for another decade for recognition.

In 1833 the East India Company's monopoly of the Chinese trade came to an end. The British government decided to initiate tea-planting in India on a war footing. On 1 February 1834, Lord Bentinck, as governor general, set up the historic Tea Committee with George James Gordon as its secretary. The Tea Committee sent out a circular asking where tea could be grown. Captain F. Jenkins, based in Assam, responded by saying that Assam was ideal for tea cultivation.

His assistant, Lieutenant Charlton, collected the indigenous tea plants and sent them to Calcutta. Dr Wallich now pronounced Charlton's samples to be genuine tea, 'not different from the plant of China'. Jenkins and Charlton were awarded gold medals by the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of Bengal while Charles Alexander Bruce was unceremoniously ignored.

In 1835, the Tea Committee appointed a Scientific Commission to select appropriate sites for planting tea, and Assam was again found to be the most suitable. The committee, however, decided that the Chinese plant and not the 'degraded Assam plant' should be used. The Tea Committee's secretary, Gordon, returned from a trip to China armed with tea seeds which were raised in nurseries in Calcutta. Young bushes raised in these nurseries were sent to Charles Alexander Bruce. He dutifully started several plantations with tem in Chubwa. The Chinese plants proved to be a terrible disaster because they cross-pollinated with the native plant and produced a hybrid that would torment planters for many years to come.

The Breakthrough:

Bruce did not give up. He set up a nursery at Sadiya consisting entirely of native bushes, and these survived. With the help of Chinese workmen, whom Gordon had sent to Assam, he managed to quietly dispatch a small sample of manufactured tea grown from the local Assamese plant to the Tea Committee in 1836. The first samples were approved by the viceroy, Lord Auckland. Experts pronounced their verdict: it was of good quality.

In 1837, Bruce dispatched another consignment of 46 chests of tea made entirely from the leaves of the Assamese bush to the Tea Committee. After removing a portion that had spoilt in transit, 350 pounds in eight chests were sent to the London auctions on 8 May 1838. This historic consignment was auctioned in London on 10 January 1839 and generated great excitement and patriotic fervour. Bruce had shown the way!

The Assam Company:

The East India company was the first to develop plantations in north-east India. In 1839, the Bengal Tea Association was set up in Calcutta. Private enterprise needed no further incentive and stepped into the nascent industry. In 1839, the first company for growing and making tea in India, Assam Company, was set up. Shares worth 500,000 pounds were floated, and such was the euphoria generated that they were immediately snapped up. In 1840, the government handed over almost all its tea holding to the company, and the latter, in addition, leased large tracts of land under the Assam Wasteland Rules of 1838.

From the outset the company was bedeviled by shortage of labour ad technical expertise. Despite the poor performance of the Chinese plant, Assam Company still grew it and employed Chinese methods of cultivation and manufacture. The expenses were exorbitant and the actual production insignificant. The company slipped into the red, and by 1843 was facing bankruptcy and liquidation. A saviour, in the form of Henry Burking Young from Calcutta, revived it in 1847, and Stephen Mornay took charge in Assam. Together they improved cultivation, streamlined the company's finances, and within five years they were a success story.

In May 1855, indigenous tea bushes were first discovered in Cachar district of Assam. The very next year proprietary gardens were established there. Tea cultivation spread to Tripura, Sylhet, and Chittagong, Jorehaut Tea Company followed in the footsteps of Assam Company and was incorporated on 29 June 1859. By 1859 there were nearly 50 tea gardens in Assam. Seeds and saplings were also planted in Kumaon, Dehra Dun, Kangra, Kullu and Garhwal on an experimental basis.

By 1862, the tea industry in Assam comprised 160 gardens owned by 57 private and five public companies. In 1868 the government appointed a commission to enquire into all aspects of the industry and expressed the view that it was basically sound. The total amount of capital invested in the industry increased from less than £ 1 m. in 1872 to £ 14 m. within three decades. In 1881, the Indian Tea Association was founded to represent north Indian planters, and in 1893 the United Planters' Association of Southern India was set up to represent those in the south.

Tea Travels:

All was not, however, lost for the Chinese tea bush. It was found suitable for Darjeeling. In 1841, Dr A. Campbell brought Chinese tea seeds from Kumaon and planted them in his garden in Darjeeling town. Commercial cultivation began around 1852-3. By 1874, there were 113 tea gardens in Darjeeling district alone. This inspired planters to try out tea cultivation in the Terai region. James white set up the first Terai plantation called Champta in 1862. Planting was then extended to the Dooars, but the Assamese tea bush proved more suited to this region. Gazeldubi was the first Dooars garden, and by 1876 the area boasted 13 plantations, which in 1877 led the British to set up the dooars Tea Planters' Association.

In the south, the pioneers cleared the forests to grow crops and following much experimentation, finally settled on tea. In the process they faced much hardship, combating disease, the depredations of wild animals and a chronic shortage of capital. They were, however, enterprising and determined men who shrugged off these adversities and persevered. James Finlay & Co. was the first to attempt tea cultivation in the high ranges of Kerala. The hills of Kerala, especially Munnar, are now home to the highest teas grown in the world. The specific geographical conditions and the height of the plantations make the tea unique. Tea was planted over the graveyard of coffee. Miles and miles of coffee plantations had been infested with 'leaf rust'. Mann was the first planter to manufacture Nilgiri teas. He started a tea plantation near Coonoor in 1854, which is now known as Coonoor Tea Estate. Around this time, another planter, Rae, set up Dunsandle Estate near Kulhatty. Following their success, other planters in the Nilgiris began to follow suit in 1859.

The Nilgiris or the Blue Mountains, popularly known as the 'Queen of the Hills', are situated at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. The region is well known for a concentration of 80 native plant species, which is a rare occurrence in nature. Notwithstanding this, southern tea production stagnated for a long time, gathering momentum only in the early twentieth century. Today, the total cultivated area of the Nilgiris is 77,469 ha of which 69.5 per cent is under tea. Most south Indian tea is grown in the hilly regions of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka states, but the bulk of Indian tea comes from the Eastern and North-Eastern parts of the country where tea estates are mostly located in the plains.

The Early Entrepreneurs:


The role played by the pioneers of tea prior to Independence is a saga of courage, entrepreneurship and determination. Sir Percival Griffiths, in his History of the Indian Tea Industry (London, 1967) - considered to be one of the best accounts of the early years - described the first planters as having had 'to hew their way through trackless jungles to cope with disease and the ravages of wild beasts, to recruit and maintain the morale of the workers from distant provinces and last but not least, to learn the technique of tea cultivation and manufacture'.

There were dense, impenetrable tropical forests. Herds of wild elephants tramped right across the young tea bushes. There were no means of transport and communication. Right up to the late nineteenth century, people in Assam traveled mostly by boat up and down the mighty Brahmaputra river. The pioneers and local inhabitants played a major role in building roads, bridges and other infrastructural facilities in the tea-producing areas.

The Plantation Inquiry Commission mentioned in its report that the tea-planting industry had played a valuable part in opening up and developing what were previously inaccessible jungles and forests. Doing business in Assam has entailed tackling the challenge of backwardness. Assam is a microcosm of the problems relating to the environment, health, employment, habitat, gender inequality and ethnic unrest that afflict the country as a whole

Maniram Dewan, the prime minister of the last Ahom king, Purandhar Singha, was the first Indian to grow tea on a commercial basis in Assam. He was followed by Rosheswar Barua, who established six tea estates. Many other Indian planters followed their lead. Among them, some noteworthy names were Bistooram Barooah, Kaliprasad Chaliha, Hemadhar Barua, Rai Bahadur Jagannath Barua, Rai Bahadur Krishnakant Barua, Colonel Sibram Bora, Sarbananda Borkakoti, Rai Bahadur Bisturam Barua, Rai Bahadur Sib Prasad Barua, Rai Bahadur Debi Charan Barua, Ganga Gobind Phukan, Malabo Barua, Aryan Barbara, Grantham Barua, Radhakanta Handique and Narayan Bedia.

From Faraway Rajasthan, the land of heat and dust, came the Marwaris who found their leafy fortunes in tea cultivation. In 1819, Navrangrai, the father of Harbilash Agrawal, migrated from Churu and settled in Tezpur. A few years later he was joined by a stream of traders. They braved immense hardship, but battled on and built their businesses from scratch. From Tezpur.

The Marwaris travelled across rough mountainous terrain, often on foot. There were no transport facilities and it used to be said: Jahan na pahunche belgadi, vahan pahunche Marwari (the Marwari can even reach a place which is inaccessible to a bullock cart). Innumerable Marwaris succumbed to illness and lack of medical care. They had to rely on their own intelligence and skill to develop plantations, clearing the jungles and identifying the soil best suited to tea. So expert did they become that very soon European and other Indian planters began to seek their advice.

The former chief commissioner of Assam, R.H. Keating, commented " 'The Assamese with their subsistence economy were not interested in large trade and industry in 1874. Hence, the Marwaris were allowed to facilitate commercial transactions with Bengal. Later, a large number of Marwaris took over trade and business and benefited immensely.' According to the 1881 census, there were 2400 Marwaris living in Assam. Many of them were money lenders or worked as traders supplying foodgrains to the tea estates. The Census Report, 1921, notes that 'Wholesale and important retail trade is in the hands of men of Rajputana and of Eastern Bengal'.

Later the Marwaris even began buying out British plantations. Their role in the development of Assam was quite significant and was highlighted by the first Congress chief minister of Assam, Gopinath Bordoloi, 'I always praise the unremitting efforts of the Marwaris which have resulted in making Assam a prosperous place worth living in. they have performed a great service for Assam and the Assamese masses.' Bordoloi added, 'The credit for changing the face of Guwahati, Noganva, Jorhat, Dhubri, Gowalpada, Shivasagar, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and other cities situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra goes to the Marwaris who came to Assam in the last century and settled here. Likewise, they deserve the credit for bringing prosperity to Shillong, Dimapur, Kohima, Tinsukhia, Digboi and Imphal.'

Courtesy: The Heritage of Indian Tea - D.K. TAKNET

January 23 2006

   Leopard attacks "Planters corner" from the New Statesman kindly sent in by Venk Shenoi

In another of those incidents of man-animal conflict, a leopard mauled three workers of the Aibheel Tea Estate in the Dooars and itself got killed in the bargain. The incident took place last week and has sent an alarm throughout the industry, particularly in the remotely located plantations.
Leopards and elephants often wander into tea plantations for physiological reasons or to breed. According to industry officials, the leopard in this particular instance had taken refuge  in a stretch of tall grass that had been planted to revitalise soil conditions after uprooting tea bushes. The practice is a normal  and routine exercise in tea plantations.
"Unless the forest department makes arrangements to ensure that animals  did not stray out of the forests, there is no way the  industry can solve such a problem. Tea workers fall prey to 
such leopard attacks almost every year," tea officials lamented".

- Sudipta Chanda"

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August 10 2008   

Here are some great photos of Keyhung Tea Estate as is today We are grateful to Tulip Lakhar for forwarding them for us to enjoy.

A young girl in the Jhumor costume
(A very pretty young lady-- Editor)

Beautifuuly decorated traditional Assamese style for Bihu Nite

Holiat Tingri Club

Junis getting a haircut from the Garden barber (Thakur) on a Sunday

Lychees at Laipuli B'low Keyhung T E.

 Oh Calcutta

Peach blossom at Laipuli B'low Keyhung T.E. 

Tea Tasting Keyhung factory

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June 28th 2005

    Gogi Bajaj's Contribution

This a photo was from a party thrown by J.K.Baruah and obviously being enjoyed by all--Gogi supplied it and we thank him
Below is Gogi's best efforts to recall the names--there are gaps and we would be delighted if some readers would kindly name some of the missing please


STANDING......Nos; 1,2,3,and 4 are brothers, relatives of JK No: 5 is  Mihir Chaudrey a pilot of Williamson Magors Cessna which was based at Dirial T E. Gentleman behind him I cant make out.
Next is Roy Anderson with his arms wide open. He was my Manager on Zaloni T. E. when I joined in 1961. Next to him is Mike Harding of Itakooli,then David Finnis.  

Vic Pearson has kindly helped to fill in the gaps, 
Thanks Vic

I am sure the viewers will fill in the gaps, which could also be put on the site for the benefit of all.The smiling gentleman in front is Dickie Marchant and behind him are, I think, 3 planters from WM.'s

SITTING MIDDLE ROW.....Cynthia Anderson, Mary Wheatcroft, Alma O'Flynn, the lady half concealed and the one in front, cant remember,
Maurice Wheatcroft, the other Asst: Manager on Zaloni when I joined, the next gentleman and lady, memory fails once more, yours truly, Vic Pearson (one of the trio recently pictured on your website......planters settled in Australia) and next to Vic is Mr. Paddy O'Flynn who was our General Manager, Warren Tea Group.

SITTING ON THE GROUND....First face is semi concealed, the next persons name I cant remember, and the lady with the frown is the wife of the Manager on Jutlibari T E , I think.

SITTING IN FRONT..........The host of the evening, JK, and next to him is Gil Marshall who was the Manager on Itahkoolie T E. Thats the best I could do..... Gogi


December 5 2004


Dick Barton's trip to the place of his birth to celebrate his 80th Birthday with his wife Clare 
Dick sent us this story of his visit to Assam

       From the time that we arrived at Dibrugah airport until we took off a week later, we were wonderfully looked after by Purvi Discovery.  
            (Details of travel organisers at bottom of article)

The accommodation and food in their Heritage Mancotta bungalow was superb and the services of a Guide/Escort and driver were included in a very reasonable price per day.
      The first night we were at the bungalow, there were four lads staying other wise we had the bungalow to ourselves.  One of them introduced himself as Mark SLIM.  I asked if he was related to General (Now Field Marshall & Lord) SLIM of the 14th Army & Burma campaign.  He was his grandson !
      They had been 4 days fishing on the North Bank and were off to Kohima (Imphal was on their itinerary but there was some labour problems there.)

      Visits were made to the Tai Phake Village where we were honoured to see 600 year old manuscripts written in the Thai language, to the Digboi Oil Museum, to a 'Bells' Temple and we had a picnic cruise on the Dibru River.
The highlights of the trip (for me) were visits to Panitola T.E. (where we lived just before my sister and I were sent back to the UK in 1931) and to Kutchujan T.E. where I was born in 1924.   That visit was made exactly on my 80th birthday so was quite an emotional experience.  Unfortunately that Estate is in dire financial problems and appears quite run down.  

In contrast Panitola and Dum Duma - which we also visited - were immaculate.  Our reception at both Estates was so welcoming and warm that we were overwhelmed.  
Both clubs were visited too for a life supporting "Burra peg".  9 golf courses flourish within easy reach of Dibrugah.

      Dibrugah & District Planters Club laid on a special club night for us and  we had a great time with lots of friendly folk.  We were showered with gifts and such a welcome !
      On our last evening after that visit to Kutchujan, Manoj & Vineeta Jalan (owners of Purvi Discovery)  laid on a birthday dinner complete with presents and a birthday cake.

      I took about 200 digital photos in Assam but there is only space for a few:-

 Mancotta bungalow

Panitola bungalow

Manoj & Vineeta Jalan

       Unkept Tea at Kutchujan

 At Dibrugah & District Planters Club  who had laid on a special club night for us. We had a great time with lots of very  friendly folk.  We were showered with gifts and such a welcome !

with left to right  Mrs Pradyna Girme,   Mrs Shalini Mehra,  Clare & Dick Barton,  Rajan Mehra

In view of the wonderful service that Dick and Clare had, we felt we should publicise the good folks who organised it 

Organiser Mary Stephens in Uk  [email protected]
Purvi website is
e-mail is [email protected]

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By Cathie Campbell    May 2004

The "Fasten Seat Belt" sign lit up, indicating we were about to arrive at Calcutta our final destination after 30 odd hours flying from London by Pan American
Clipper. My husband was to be employed as an Engineer/Tea Planter in North Bengal , and this our first trip out East had so far been both interesting and enjoyable. After landing, we travelled by Airport bus to our hotel in the city centre. Our journey took us first of all through slum like areas of shacks and shelters, made mostly of what appeared to be flattened tins, sewer pipes, bits of wood, and mud.

It was strange, at first, of course, to realise that every one on the streets had brown skin, and lots were bare footed, and clothed in rather grubby loose cotton garments We saw buffalo carts trundling rather erratically along the sides of the road. Occasionally, however, one took it upon itself to wander on to the road, whereupon the bus brakes were hurriedly applied, and the raucous din of our bulb horn, together with similar horns on other vehicles tried unsuccessfully to hasten its crossing. Masses of men, women and children carried giant loads on their heads and backs, or pushed and pulled handcarts piled high with assorted loads. Bicycle rickshaws wove their way in and out of the traffic, with their bells also adding to the general din. Cows with clapper bells around their necks wandered aimlessly across the streets, which resulted in all traffic stopping to allow them to cross. Obviously, this holy animal of India had "Right of Way"!!   

Over this cacophony of traffic and horns, we were still able to overhear the pedestrians shouting to one another, but of course, in a language we couldn't understand.           

All those unfamiliar sights and sounds kept us keenly interested in our surroundings, but apart from that, we wondered about the acrid sweetly smells that sometimes wafted into the bus - all very alien to a western nose !

Eventually we left the hovels behind, and passed by substantial buildings, the streets were wider and cleaner, and shops began to appear. Cars outnumbered the buffalo carts, as we drew slowly to a halt outside the Grand Hotel. December is one of the cooler months in India, but to us then, Calcutta felt very hot indeed, having just left a U.K. winter. During the bus trip, we were aware of the perspiration running down our backs and legs, so a cool bath and change of clothes were most welcome.

After lunch, we decided to have a walk, but not too far, as we were feeling the heat, somewhat. As we walked, beggars approached us with outstretched hands shouting "Buksheesh". Some of them were pitiful sights with twisted limbs, sightless eyes and some even propelling themselves along with their hands, on low wheeled trolleys, as they had no legs, and sadly lot of them were children.

Traffic travelled fast along the main thoroughfare, Chowringhee, buses with more people hanging on outside then were inside, taxis mostly driven by burly Sikhs in colourful turbans, passing slower moving traffic on either side, shouting to brother drivers, and banging the outside of their car doors to warn unwary pedestrians to get out of the way.

We noticed the pavements were stained with red blotches, which we later discovered were caused by many Indians chewing betal nut, resulting in them spitting out a red juice, which in the heat dried where it landed. Small stalls situated, often at street corners, had a smouldering length of "rope" hanging from their low roofs, where passers-by could light their small brown leaf cigarettes. Hand carts pulled at front and pushed from behind transported gigantic blocks of ice, covered in sawdust. On the insides of the pavements were what looked like corpses lying wrapped in cocoons of dirty white cotton. They were in fact people lying sleeping, apparently oblivious to the noise of living going on around them. Like any city there was the usual bustle of people waiting to cross the busy streets, but unlike western cities, there were no prams! All small children were carried by their mothers, either on their back, or clutched in front, and all bound firmly by a length of cloth tied around their mothers, body.

The heat was beginning to weary us, so we slowly made our way back to the Hotel, where cold drinks with ice cubes tinkling in the glass awaited us, and also a comfortable seat under a whirling fan. Was this what living in India would be like, perhaps not, but it was pleasant to be able to return to the cool and comfortable surrounding of the Hotel, after gaining our first noisy but fascinating glimpse of the day to day life of an Oriental city  
We stayed five days in Calcutta , by which time we had amassed a vast amount of luggage, including such things as mattresses, pillows, mosquito net, Indian cooking pots called dekchies, and a motly collection of household necessities. Two taxis were necessary to transport everything to Sealdah Station, where we boarded our train to take us up country to the tea garden area called the Dooars.. A Company representative saw us to our coupe, supplied us with a box of pastries and sandwiches, and drinks to see us through the night till about lunch time next day, when we would arrive at a station called Siliguri It was a large compartment fitted out for four passengers, but all our luggage ensured that we would have it to ourselves. There was a long seat in front of the windows on either side, which would be our beds at night. I found the window structure rather interesting. On the outside, were iron bars, then wooden louvred slats, a glass window, a wire window and a blind.           

Just as the train was pulling out of the station, hoards of faces appeared at all the windows on the platform side. This gave us quite a start for a moment, until we realised that, of course, they would be the non paying passengers. To have a little privacy we closed the glass windows and the blinds on that side, leaving just the wire mesh ones on the other. The further we travelled from Calcutta , the numbers decreased, so that was obviously the city workers going home. We eventually had a meal, and settled down for the night. I don't sleep too well when travelling, so decided to make the most of my time by studying a book on Hindustani.           

I was keen to learn the language as soon as possible, so before dawn I had memorised the numbers from one to ten, and a few words that I thought I should know. It began to get daylight about 3.30 am , and I found many sights from the train window most interesting. We passed over many wide rivers, where I could see the truly biblical sight of fishermen casting their nets upon the water. There were cotton enshrouded figures herding goats, presumably to better pastures. There were also people wading in water, cutting down tall straight sticks. In later months, I discovered this was actually jute. At stations, there were always food vendors shouting their wares, tea sellers offered their brew from five gallon drums suspended on a wooden yoke across their shoulders, and boys selling brightly coloured sweetmeats, and of course, men with trays selling the ever popular betal nut.

1 I am our E.T.A. at Siliguri came and went, but we did arrive eventually two hours late. As we left the train a little chap in khaki trousers and white shirt presented himself, and told us he was the tea garden driver. Once more, our mountain of luggage was placed on many porters heads, who jogged along to waiting transport, which was a rather ancient green Ford lorry All the boxes were loaded in the back, and my husband and I clambered up front with the driver, who in broken English told us we had about 50 miles to go. Not the most comfortable of journeys, the lorry we felt needed new springs, and although there was a tar macadam road, it was only one vehicle wide. Consequently, whenever, we had to pass other vehicles, clouds of dust covered everything, so we were very happy to eventually arrive at our final destination. We presented ourselves to the Manager at the Office, who took us to his bungalow for a bath and a meal.   The Manager was a bachelor of about forty and came from Edinburgh. After our meal, and a chat, he took us to see our bungalow, which comprised of a sitting room, dining room and one bedroom, two dressing rooms and two bathrooms. It appears that two bachelors had shared the bungalow previously, and what was now to become our sitting room had been the second bedroom Apart from the bungalow, there was a cookhouse with a sink, a table and a coal fired cast iron stove. We were then taken for a drive around the tea garden where there were, of course, row upon row of tea bushes, and trees here and there called shade trees. We were also shown around the factory, where the tea was transformed from green leaf to black tea Stage 3.

We stayed the night at the Manager's bungalow, and had breakfast next morning which was very different. We started with something like grapefruit, but was told it was called pumelo. We had scrambled eggs, tomatoes and sausages. The sausages we were told were tinned and came from Australia. We had toast in small slices, which was home made. The butter, however, wasn't so good. It was also tinned and from Australia, but as this was before the days of fridges, the butter soon became an oily liquid

After breakfast we went back to our bungalow where the Manager was kind enough to engage the necessary servants for us.                  

When I remarked that five seemed excessive, he informed me about the Caste system, where certain people would only do certain jobs. He employed a Bearer, who would be the head servant. We also had a cook, who would only cook, being assisted by a paniwallah, who prepared food, and washed dishes etc. As there was no hot water in the bungalow, five gallon drums of water were heated on an outside fire all day long, and was used for baths and washing dishes. There was also a sweeper who kept the concrete floors well swept with a clutch of strong soft grasses, called a jharu. The fifth servant didn't need to be chosen as he was the night watchman, and had been looking after the bungalow during the time it had stood empty The interviews were all conducted in Hindustani, and the Manager suggested that I learn to speak the language as soon as possible, as none of the servants could speak much English..

The Manager then told us about procuring food. The cook would go once a week to the local Bazaar, which was held on Sundays, and bring home such things as eggs, potatoes, onions and some Indian vegetables. As Hindus will not kill cattle, there was no beef, but mutton was available (which was goat rather than sheep) as were chickens and ducks, and also local fish. Such things as sugar,flour, rice and lentils etc. could be had at a small store on the garden, but all other tinned goods and household items would require to be ordered from Calcutta , and would come up country by train. The Manager then took my husband off to start his training to be a tea planter.           

So here was I left with my four Indians, and wondering what I would do or say. I needn't have worried, however, as the Bearer soon had all the other servants opening all our boxes and packages. Dishes were all washed and stored on shelves, beds were made up and the mosquito net fixed.   The Bearer then handed me a piece of paper and a pencil and asked me to write a chit for rice, potatoes, onion, ghee, matches, lentils, sugar and "foretin" Foretin puzzled me, so the bearer said "ek, do, tin, char", then I remembered I had learned this on the train. One,two,three, four, so I wrote 4 tin. I felt I would find out eventually why 4-tin, so the Bearer asked me to sign it, and off went the paniwallah to collect.           

The cook then appeared and said "Tiffen" I remembered also that in the hotel lunch had been called tiffen. The cook suggested he make tomato soup, chicken, potato and vegetable, followed by rice pudding. As I was unable to tell him otherwise, that would have to be our lunch menu.           

Minutes later, the paniwallah returned with his bundle. As the flour rice, sugar etc. were opened up, there appeared four aluminium tins with lids, into which the cook put the sugar and rice etc, I was told "no tin - chimti come" Chimti baffled me, and they were unable to tell me more, so I made a note to ask the Manager what it was. The ghee turned out to be Cocogem which was cooking fat.           

I was then taken by the Bearer outside where I met the Mali, who showed me a tree bearing pumelo (which I had had for breakfast) also there were pumpkins, green beans and aubergines, and rows of pineapples. There were one or two cabbages and a few cauliflowers, which were all very nice, although once again I could not tell him so.

I returned to the bungalow to hear "Good morning, Madam" from the verandah Before me stood an elderly gentleman dressed in spotless white shirt and dhoti. He told me he was the Doctor Babu, and he had brought men to spray the walls and monsoon ditch around the bungalow, as a malaria deterrent. He also handed over Paluderine tablets which he said my husband and I must take every day. We chatted while the men finished the spraying, so I asked him what chimti was, and when told "ants", of course everything became clear about the foodstuffs being put in tins.

When my husband came home for lunch we exchanged our stories as to how we had spent the morning, and he was quite impressed at how much had been achieved in the bungalow. Probably because my husband and I had come to India together, and I could not go to him for help with the language, I learned to speak quite reasonable Hindustani very quickly

As this was an old bungalow I gradually got used to all the scorpions, centipedes and spiders that periodically appeared, and even learned to ignore the presence of the non dangerous species, such as tic-tics which were small lizards, and rail gharries which were a type of centipede. Having entered the bathroom one day to find a krait snake curled up in the bath taught me to fear snakes of all kinds.

The social side of life centred around our local club. This was about five miles away, and comprised of a large hall with a billiard table, and bar, and many cane chairs. In a small room off„ there was a very good Library, ladies and gents cloakrooms, and a store room made up the rest of the building. There was a nine hole golf course and tennis courts. We had a film show on Sunday nights, which was enjoyable as the films were not too old. In the Cold Weather, we had sports competitions, amateur dramatic plays put on by a local drama club, and a dance or two was held during the festive period. At home we had the radio and books to entertain us, when we were not either playing host to friends or visiting others. We soon settled in to our new surroundings and life in Tea, and for the first year at least continued to have new experiences thrown at us. The lovely climate during the Cold Weather, gradually changed to ever increasing heat, until the Monsoon broke, and brought different beetles and insects with every change in the weather           

Once I had mastered the language I could take more of an interest in all things around me, and also the different customs and interests of the people, and grew to enjoy my life in India

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This appears with thanks to Farouk Husain of Shillong

December 2001


by Dhrubananda Das

The British ruled India for almost two hundred years, using a blend of absolute integrity, pragmatism, a deep sense of justice and fair play, and a thorough knowledge of the customs and traditions of the people among whom they worked. British officers preferred postings in interior areas unlike many of their present-day Indian counterparts, and those officers who sought assignments at the secretariat, especially when still comparatively junior, were contemptuously described as "lounge lizards." It is in the field rather than at the headquarters level that the essence of British administration is to be found.

In 1942, the Japanese were advancing through Burma and an invasion into India through Assam was imminent. Panic had set in, and people were fleeing westward to safer areas. The administration put the protocols of disaster management into effect such as removal of signposts in order to confuse the enemy, preparation of records for destruction or removal to safe areas, and closure of schools and colleges. C B C Paine was Deputy Commissioner of Nagaon district in Assam, and his immediate subordinate was my father. With the Japanese just a few hundred miles away, my father received a strongly worded note from Paine asking him to explain why he had not conducted the annual verification of revenue and court-fee stamps in the district treasury. It was this attention to detail and the determination to ensure that, come what may, the "show must go on," which formed the solid bedrock of Britist administration in India.

In 1942, also, there occurred another incident which underscored the British passion for justice, a quality which earned the administration considerable respect from the people. A Mr. Shaw was Deputy Commissioner of Tura, where, once again, the Extra Assistant Commissioner happened to be my father. Wartime rationing was in force. The Deputy Commissioner's wife wanted a tin of powdered milk and asked the local shopkeeper. He obliged, supplying her from a secret stock he maintained for the use of his newly born grandchild, only to have a case slapped against him by the Deputy Commissioner. My father was asked to hear the case. He found the shopkeeper innocent and ruled against Shaw. It is a lasting testament to British justice that not only did Shaw not harass my father in any way, he even recorded a commendation in his annual report.

An interesting sequel to this incident occurred many years later in my own career. My Chief Secretay had grown up in the shadow of the RAJ and imbibed many of its values. His wife filed a complaint in my court against a relative. I heard the case and decided against the Chief Secretary's wife. It is to the credit of the Chief Secretary that he never once referred to the matter, and his relations with me continued to be the same as before.

British Indian Civil Service officers never underestimated the mystique of the Sahib. One Deputy Commissioner decided to personally supervise land survey and settlement operations which involved extensive measurements. The midday sun made it almost impossible for a European to remain the field for any length of time, and yet, if the Sahib adjourned to the inspection bungalow nearly, the survey staff would also disappear. The Deputy Commiussioner then planted his walking stick at one corner of the field and place his solar hat at another, and retired to the rest house. Not a man left his post, fearing that the Sahib might return at any moment to retrieve his walking stick and solar hat.

On of the distinguishing characteristics of the averale Indian Civil Service officer was the ability to bend rules to suit a specific person or situation. My grandfather was posted in the Secretariat under a Brisish Secretary who was very finicky about rules and regulations. This officer was unhappy with my grandfather because, although he did his work well, he was invariably late in reporting to office and quite particular about leaving early. He decided to complain to the Chief Secretary, Sir Harold Dennehy. Dennehy was quite familiar with my grandfather's somewhat eccentric nature and knew that he always got his work done; and so he wrote, "Dilip will come when he comes. Dilip will go when he goes." He realized that there was no point in disrupting an arrangement that was working well merely in order to enforce the letter of the law.

Dennehy once visited a district on tour. The Deputy Commissioner, after the formalities of the visit were completed, asked the Chief Secretary somewhat hopefully, "I hope, Sir, you have not received any complaints against me?" "No," replied Dennehy, "which is why I know that you are not working. Had you been working, I'd have received several complaints against you by now." An apt summation of the Indian mind, indeed!

In India, as in other countries where the British operated, the principle of "divide and rule" was applied with great success. Hindus and Muslims were constantly at loggerheads, mainly for historical reasons, and the British government exploited this distrust between the two communities to the full. While it suited colonial policy to keep Hindus and Muslims divided, the fall-out of this policy was often uncomfortable for the administrator in the field. One Deputy Commissioner managed to avert a potnetilly dangerous situation form developing only because he was familiar with Indian histoy and the individual culture of both Hindus and Muslims.

In a small township in Central India , an annual religious procession traditionally followed a particular route. Between one year and the next , a bel tree, sacred to the Hindus , sent out a branch across the road which obstructed the tall Tazias, pyramidal structures constructed from wood and bamboo, carried by processionists. The Hindus refused to remove the branch, since the tree was sacred to their religion. The Muslims refused to alter their route. The situation began to heat up and both communities started arming themselves for war. Impaled on the horns of a dilemma, the Deputy Commissioner called on the hugely popularHindu elephant god, Ganesh, for help. He obtained an elephant and tethered it to the base of the bel tree. The elephant obligingly broke down the offending branch and ate up the leaves. The crisis was diffused, the route was cleared, and the Hindus could not complain since Ganesh himself had removed the branch.

They are all gone now, the members of the old Indian Civil Service and most of its successor Indian Administrative Service who joined them and for a long time cherished the traditions they created. Those traditions are now dying and the few who hold on to them are anachronisms in today's world. Only the ghosts of the old British Administrators remain, making an occasional appearance in the towns and villages they once ruled and loved as their own. But the example they set, and the value system they established, will perhaps rise once again to guide a new generation along the treacherous path of civil administration in India today.

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