Today’s day (March 16, 2006) will be the most memorable day in my life. Why? An honorable meeting with the most reputed Tea Guru I have ever known, Mr. Rajah Banerjee of Makaibari Tea Estates, was possible. I had heard hundreds of stories about him and his tea estate particularly his love for animals, environment and above all his people.
Upon hearing so many stories, I had taken a ‘particular snapshot’ of him in my mind and was eagerly waiting to synchronize as soon as I set my foot on Makaibari’s premises. Although, I had gone there to procure some organic teas for my selected clients, I found out that I was inclined more towards meeting him than procuring the teas. I guess, the love for tea which Mr. Banerjee shares with the world made my thoughts draw an arrow of urgency towards Mr. Banerjee’s presence.
I got down and entered the Makaibari gate – Guess what? “Excuse me Sir, what work do you have here?
Whom do you want to meet?” the guard standing on the gate asked. I guess those were necessary questions to be asked to anyone entering inside and I totally agree, afterall its one of the most reputed tea estates of the world. As Mr. Bannerjee and I were having email sessions from beforehand, I was called inside instantly without any hesitation.
The first impression of my imprinted thoughts synchronized well regarding the outfit he was wearing – an essence of the British Raj reflected with his Khaki outfit, and I guess that is how it must have felt when anyone was meeting a ‘Bara Sahib’ in the olden days. He signaled me to take a seat and requested me to wait for sometime as he was attending to his official work with one of his office staff. After a couple of moments, he was free to chat with me. Well, I was literally hesitant to speak up anything, thinking that I might speak something which may prove to be blatant and inappropriate. Well, the silence was broken when the Tea Guru handed me his visiting card, shook hands with me and asked me with a smiling and welcoming face - “So young man, it’s a pleasure to meet you, please tell me your story?” The down to earth behaviour from the other side evaporated my hesitant feeling from every pore of my body into thin air. I started my part and after a while we were laughing like little kids engrossed in our own world of friendship. Yes, we were friends in no time and I assume we could understand each other maybe through the common platform we shared – “Our Love for Tea”.
By the time we finished our little chat for about an hour (yes, with heavenly amber sips in between), I could devise my brain instruments to record it and synchronize with my previous imagery. I found him to be a person, who is capable of walking hand-in-hand with his tea laborers, a person who respects life, believes in equality and above all a person who understands the importance of respecting other’s feelings. A person you would dream to meet.
Now it was time for our little tea tasting session of the First Flush Silver Tips I was buying. Oh Boy! A heavenly brew which opened all of my sensory gates. The Tea Guru gave me a good number of tips on tea tasting and guess what; it was of great help and a new discovery when done following his guidelines. What he says about tea tasting – “Tea tasting is ABSTRACT, learn to associate with known flavors you know about and you will get your tea’s divine description”.
The tea tasting session was over and after spending more than two hours with him, I didn’t want to waste anymore of Mr. Banerjee’s time. Some Japanese group was waiting for his presence downstairs and it was now time for me to pay and head for home.
My Wife Made Me Look Stupid! (quoted with her permission):
In the morning when I headed for Makaibari, I had told my wife to get the money in the bag and leave it on the bed. I got my digital camera, pushed it inside my bag and bid goodbye. I had about One Lac INR and now I was in Makaibari ready to pay the required amount to the man concerned. I had kept the bag inside Mr. Banerjee’s office which had an open door leading to the tasting room and a long corridor which could be traversed by any of his staff members. I opened the bag and Boom! A thunder exploded right on my head – No money in the bag!! Guess about the situation!! I informed Mr. Banerjee about the situation and he too was utterly confused. All of the staff members were confused and don’t ask about me – you can guess – A Dead Man standing live! My brains could not work and from a corner, one of the staff members suggested me – "why don’t you try and call home, you might have left it at home" - Not in a million. I was sure that my wife had put the money inside the bag otherwise she wouldn’t have placed the bag on the bed as I had directed her to do. I was dialing and at the very moment my wife called – “Darling, I want to tell you one thing, but before I say, promise me you won’t get angry”; I was literally irritated and she said, “I am sorry, but I put the money in the wrong bag” – A mixed feeling of joy and anger ran through my vein. The news brought a sigh of relief to all of the staff members and Mr. Banerjee too couldn’t express his feelings properly, but he was calm and told me that mistakes do happen and there was nothing to worry about.
After a while everything was normal and the memory was cherished instantly when the accountant of Makaibari and myself sat laughing and chatting sipping in the ethereal silver tips.
The Makaibari Silver Tips got loaded on my vehicle and I bid Mr. Banerjee goodbye – “Benoy keep dropping down to Makaibari" with a similing face that had initially welcomed me. I headed home with a tremendous feeling of joy, happiness and yes of course with a yearning to scold my wife, but that didn’t happen – the story itself proved so funny that I forgot everything and we were busy brewing the new silver tips.
To conclude, the words of Dalle (Mr. Banerjee’s personal tea maker assistant) still is reverberating in my ears “Sir, whatever happens, it happens for good and maybe it was God’s wish which prevented you from really losing your money through other means”. Guess Dalle is right!
Or is it that God wanted the whole Makaibari family to remember the incident forever. Maybe it is! Even if Mr. Banerjee forget’s me in the future, I can pull in the story anytime I meet him and bring back the hilarious past. :)
About The Author
This article may be freely published as long as all the credit and hyperlinks stay alive.
By Benoy Thapa © 2006 Thunderbolt Tea.
Benoy Thapa is a tea lover and a tea merchant based in Darjeeling, India. Since his company is based in Darjeeling, it enables tea connoisseurs to procure their favorite single estate Darjeeling teas directly from Darjeeling - http://www.thunderbolttea.com.
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