If you missed Part 1, read here – My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 1) – An Early Appointment With The Sun and Suicide Points
Alam (our driver) was telling us about his daily life before we stopped at the suicide point. He was used to making three, sometimes four round trips to the Kolukkumalai factory. That is six to eight hours of driving on the rocky terrain at a tardy speed of 5-10 kmph with frequent stops to let other cars pass and to click pictures. He was from a village in Tamil Nadu from where he and his parents would come to work in the tea estates in Kerala every day. Sometimes they took thirty minutes to walk from their village, small village problems he said, not like the cities with roads and highways. I thought about myself, spending an hour stuck in bumper to bumper traffic to reach the glass windows, the claustrophobic steel of my office. Well, this did look like a tiny village problem.
Now that the day was ripe, more jeeps had joined us on the rickety road. Alam turned up the sound system and then we realized how very special our jeep was in comparison to the others. He was a fan of Pop music and was humming to Justin Bieber’s hit single ‘Baby Baby Baby ooooh’. Akon, however was his favorite star. Conversation was stemmed because of the music so we lifted the flaps which acted as doors of the jeep to let in the sunshine and the view. Everything was surreal, the rocks, the endless cover of green symmetry. There were the dreamy, so-clean-it-could-hurt-your-eyes-if-you-stare-for-too-long jade inhabitants of the plantation our aim was to explore today, lined up all about us in a surreal symmetrical fashion. The tea gardens were a reminder of order, that was absent in my daily, chaotic existence of caffeine fuelled writing and sleep held ransom by internet.
When we finally reached the gates of the tea factory, quite eager to discover the art of tea-making, we were greeted by an excited bunch of workers, strolling, getting ready to work. Most of them egged us on to enjoy a cup of tea before we set to explore. I was rather delighted at the prospect. But my friend, who stays away from all caffeinated products wasn’t. Still, she sat down to sip some milky tea with me, dipping Parle-G biscuits fished from my bag. Quite refreshed we moved on to discover the factory.
As we walked from the iron gates towards the factory, we were greeted by rows of neat flowers in bright, happy colors. And before I could set foot inside the factory, the beautiful fragrance which is characteristic of buildings which have aged gracefully, came to hug me. The structure is made of wood, old school construction with white painted French window panes, which was made cozier by the comforting smell of tea.
Though the factory has changed many hands since it was set up in the 1930s by the British, the process of making tea has not been interrupted or changed. The pretty, nearly dilapidated staircase set my heart racing as we climbed up. There were different sections of the factory that we went through and a worker who took it upon himself to give us a tour told us stories all through. In fact he insisted that we learn how to make tea and I can now proudly say that I can not only make tea, but I can also make tea from scratch.
We finally said bye to the good fellows at the factory and came to the jeep to find Alam deeply engrossed in conversations about politics, movies with workers. I had been thinking how did he find time for himself in this grueling schedule but he seemed quite happy. And one of his friends accompanied us back to the hotel, and this time round, both of them were singing, ‘Nobody wanna see us together, but it don’t matter no, coz I got you’.
Psst psst! A post about the technical aspects of making tea coming soon. Stay tuned 🙂
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