Saturday, November 24, 2007

Goethals Centenary Celebration

The school I attended as a boarder is a private institute ,established by the Congregation Of Christian Brothers in India (no doubt it has its American congregation as well).

The Irish Christian Brothers have been at the helm of management, after the Belgian aristocrat Goethals, gave up his worldly belongings and set up trusts to promote a Christian education in India in 1907. Its tucked away amongst 200acres of verdant temperate woodlands, halfway between Kurseong and Darjeeling.

Goethals Memorial School was inaugurated by the British Governor of Bengal, Sir Andrew Fraser in 1907. A special siding was built for the Governor's entourage to alight at Goethals, from the Heritage Toy Train -which was then the only means of transportation, barring horses and bullock carts. To recap history, the current Governor of Bengal had graciously accepted to repeat history, by riding the special train chartered for the centenary. The train ride would commence at Kurseong station, situated at a height of 4860 feet above sea level. The Himalayan Empress would then chug up the hill, carrying in its three bogies, the Governor, his entourage, the Presidents of all Goethals Alumni chapters globally, selected old boys in another, and the third with all the outstanding achievers of the present junior schoolboys.

The 20 minute ride , was enjoyed by all, as I provided a running commentary for the privileged bogey riders. A brief history of Kurseong, the advent of the toy train in 1881, the four panoramic tea growing valleys of the district- Kurseong, Mirik, Sukhiapokri and Sonada, and its specialties, and the ingenuity of the train's engineering , captivated all . Moreover,I am the President of the Home Alumni/ Kurseong, Darjeeling, Sikkim and North Bengal constitute a sizable percentage of all alumini members globally. The train stopped at the siding , elevation 5800 feet, where all were whisked off to the principal playing field(first field-the school has 5 more smaller fields for other sporting disciplines), where the march past , maze drill were held. I had anticipated around 50 old boys to participate in the march past, and had trained the Sikkim chapter, with Sonam Dorjee-who is a member of the Sikkim Planning Commission- and a dear friend to be the flag bearer of this contingent. Sonam , is a wonderfully uncomplicated man, in spite of his high position in society. Moreover he is an astonishing mimic, and I seriously think he's in a misplaced vocation, and would certainly been a runaway success in the Bollywood scenario.. Without hesitation, Sonam had participated in all the rehearsals, in spite of his tight and hectic schedules. UNBELIEVABLY 250 OLD BOYS MARCHED PAST, AND IT WAS BRILLIANTLY EXECUTED. ALL THE OLD BOYS UPHELD THE SPIRIT OF THE SCHOOL IN BREATHTAKING MANNER. THE CHIEF GUEST WAS SIMPLY BOWLED OVER AS WELL AS ALL ATTENDEES.

To all my blogger friends worldwide its my pleasure to treat you to a visual treat of the centenary celebrations. Enjoy it. Rajah Banerjee.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Makaibari, 1970

My intention to return to the family plantation was for a short holiday. Touch base with my folk, soak up the tranquility of the mystical Himalayas, and return with renewed vigour to pursue my frenetic life. Man proposes and God disposes.

My father (the patriarch with the hat and britches with a Sam Browne belt), adroitly gifted me a thoroughbred and a gun, saying "Son, you look weary, ride, shoot and relax now. Have a long holiday."

I accepted the horse with delight, and careened around the precipitous bridle paths, without a care in the world. It was unbridled pleasure to race around the non-existent mountain slopes, the wind sweeping the hat away, guiding the magnificent charger, over terrain that none would dare to ride on. I paid the price a few days later, when I was flung off. That fall altered my life irrevocably.

The split second between the saddle and crash to the ground was a spellbinding one. I was in a timeless, spaceless zone. A tunnel of light with an incredible intensity and clarity. The woods orchestrated a melancholic yet powerful symphony that bewitched me with a soulful "save us, save us," chant. It was eternal. I felt the impact of hitting the ground, and watched the nearby pluckers rushing to me, picking me up, asking soliticiously of my well being. I was in a stupor--completely disconnected--with the intensity of the visage I had experienced. It was real, yet it was not. I smiled wanly at the concerned ladies, assured them that my bones were intact, remounted my stallion, and trotted him back in a state of contemplative confusion. I just couldn't fathom my experience.

The extraordinary revelation pursued me constantly, and towards dusk I realized that I had to remain at Makaibari to crack the riddle.

My parents were delighted when I announced my intentions to extend my sojourn that night over dinner. Doubly delighted that I would try my hand at planting tea. Of course they had not the faintest clue why. Thus began the greatest voyage of my life-- a life that led me to unravel the three critical questions that assail all of us. Three questions that all of us quietly sweep under the table and hope it would remain dormant. Where do we come from? What are we Doing Here? Where do we go?

Next week my run in with a Pied Hornbill-- the King of Birds.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Makaibari library press

The Calcutta Telegraph recently published an article on Makaibari's new library.

It says, "From The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai to Timi Bhayako Nabhayako Bhela by Nepali author Satish Rasaily — the new library at Makaibari Tea Estate has it all."

Read the rest here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

rookie on the job

When one's 20, bursting with hyper energy, fairly easy on the eye backed up by an ability to assimilate academics easily and disseminate it with clever oratory, success is assured. The ego is tittilated sufficiently and goes overboard with the ensuing following. The colour of ones skin pales into insignificance, as one plays GOD in this niche fraternity. The traditional tea plantation, where I grew up recedes to a distant memory, as one lives one's life at a frenetic pace in this intellectual conclave. The enire concept of returning to the tea roots is untenable.
Returning home for a short holiday was a critical turning point.Man proposes and God disposes. How the holiday turned to a lifelong pursuit of growing and making the finest Darjeeling tea vintages, that answered the THRE BASIC QUESTIONS that all of us seek, TO BE FREE, is a voyage I would dearly love to share with all. How were the questions , WHERE DO WE STEM FROM, WHAT ARE WE DOING IN THIS TERRESTRIAL INFIRMA--WHERE DO WE GO -THAT assail all of us -evolved by being passionate of creating the finest teas in the world. It is a simple to maintain a 150 year old tradition in Darjeeling, handed down by my forefathers, and something else to evolve it to a biotrope that reflects the answers by being an integral part of a Rhythm Of Nature.
Do watch out for this spot as I introduce you to my seduction to this magical, mystical land- Makaibari in Darjeeling in my next post.
Cheerio for now Rajah Banerjee.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Happy Birthday!!! from the TEA DEVAS 2 of them

2 tea devas popped in. to get to know them better have a peek at the Makaibari Tea Estate website for all its fantastic details. Its a terrific augury as this blog has just been gifted to me on a very special day, by a very special person , Lindsey. Lindsey arrived a couple of days ago with her excitably arty friend Natalia and Natalia's cyberspacy partner Pat. We have been having a blast trying to crack the sustainable code unleashed at Makaibari. The voyage has definitely taken a turn for alternative creative exchanges. God alone knows where all this synergy is going to end up- but hey theres no gain without experimentation, and if its a voyage to freedom. I say GO FOR IT BIG TIME. Isn't that whats sustainable solutions about?
Keep watching this space all followers of Makaibari, particularly The Baroness of Silver Tips perched at Tarrytown, who is responsible for unleashing the trio on us.
Keep everything Crossed- and keep watching this space via crossed eyes.
Cheerio for now. The Thunderbolt Rajah