The best days of living and working on tea estates in India were when we were assistant managers. It was a life led with gay abandon – free from serious responsibility; attending parties, playing games and living for the day – at that stage one had no ambitions and the only aim in life was to have fun.
Within a month of my joining, I received an invitation on an embossed card for a party in Nyamakad Bungalow, which stated that ‘pajamas /night suits were dress de rigueur’.
I went and checked in the Oxford dictionary and ‘de rigueur’ meant order of the day. I had never attended a pajama party before and was not totally convinced, at the same time did not want to show my ignorance by asking my manager. On Saturday my friend from the neighbouring estate and I went on our motorcycles for the party, taking our pajama and kurtas in a bag.
We parked the motorcycle far away from the bungalow and peered over the hedge in the bungalow garden to see a party on in full swing with everyone including the women in their night dress - one of our managers was wearing satin shorts and a silk dressing gown! We changed and walked into the party nonchalantly and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, knowing that we will never see our bosses again in their night dress!
The tea estates were a beautiful place to start a career in planting and if one had like-minded people posted there it was bliss. We were three assistant managers in the 1980s, who enjoyed great bonhomie - we met practically on a daily basis and discussed everything under the sun.
The New Year’s Party was the best event of the year. We all looked forward to it, as it was the only party when all hierarchy was broken and as we sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ushered in the new year, we all hugged each other.
The New Year’s Day was spent in going around the estate wishing all the staff and workers.
These traditions created a bond between the management, staff and workers - made us realise that we were all dependent on each other to survive. The innocence of the days spent as an assistant manager were lost when we were promoted as acting managers and became in charge of an estate and came under the scrutiny of the top management, and performance became vital for survival.
- The reader is based in India.