Chai for Cancer x Indian Chai Stories

We are ecstatic to publicly announce our collaboration with Indian Chai Stories as part of the Chai for Cancer Season 8 Campaign!

Indian Chai Stories is a blog by Gowri Mohanakrishnan with almost 200 original stories from 58 contributors from the tea gardens of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka!

This year our campaign tagline is “Ek Chai Zindagi ke Naam”, and what better way to take the campaign forward than to showcase the real life stories of tea planters? As Gowri herself puts it, “Back in the tea gardens, our motto has always been “Ek Zindagi Chai ke Naam””.

When Gowri was married to a tea planter in 1986, she had to leave her city life behind and experience first hand, life in the “Dooars”. Amazed by the incredible stories people shared at the tea clubs, she decided to start a blog and share their stories with the world! “Life here is a celebration of the human spirit. Indian Chai Stories is all about the people who live here!”

Tune in to Chai for Cancer every Wednesday for stories of elephants and leopards, of people and of ghosts; some stories so vivid and amazing, they beggar belief!

Read On!

1. Flying into the Unknown
A big hello to all of you. Let’s take our first flight into a tea garden with Aloke Mookerjee. That moment of arrival – that first breath of air and the effect on your senses – unforgettable.

Says Aloke: My appointment as an Assistant Manager of Nagrakata Tea Estate of the Dooars Tea Company was tied to a ‘signed and sealed’ covenant of three years including an initial six months period of probation.

Dum Dum Aerodrome, Calcutta, May 7, 1963, 3:30 a.m. : I entered grandly with air ticket in pocket – the only document in possession. Security checks were non-existent; hijacks and human bombs unheard of.

Read the story

2. Settling Down: His World and Hers
I have chosen two lovely stories to share today, one by a tea planter and the other by a cha bagan memsaab – a tea planter’s wife.

Venk Shenoi, who says, ” It was a hell of a life in 1962: I would have been poorer without those experiences and my memories of those days,” writes about his first days as a Chhotta Saab in the breathtakingly beautiful Nagrakata area of the Dooars. He recalls a myriad of little things with such clarity, you’d think he was talking about yesterday!

Here is Venk’s story

Simran Sandhu writes about her early days in the tea gardens of Assam when she was a young bride. This brand new world was filled with several wonders, some terrors and some hilarious misadventures.

Over to Simran

3. Pugla Primate and Pooches
We’ve had stories from the tea planter and his lady, so now it’s time for one from a ‘cha ka baba’ – someone who grew up in a tea garden!

Alan Lane takes us to the Barak Valley in southern Assam. Don’t lose any time if you want to meet the charming occupants of the various bungalows. You’ll realise why we say life in a tea garden is a life like no other!

Read the story

4. One ( plus one! ) for the road!
I’ve chosen two Indian chai stories for you this week, and they are both road stories: ‘The Bridge of No Return’ by Madhumita Neog, a ‘cha ka baby’, and ‘Blazing the Scholastic Trail’ by Roma Circar, a tea planter’s ‘mem’ who brought up her children in the tea gardens.

Hold tight, off we go – one story takes us to Assam and the other to the Dooars!

Read the story – The bridge of no return
Read the story – Blazing scholastic trail

5. A taste of life in a tea garden
Ranu Singh Taragi’s ‘Freshly Brewed and Packaged Beautifully’ was the first story to go up on Indian Chai Stories. Ranu puts her finger on the very thing that makes this life so unique and so blessed.
Read the story – Freshly Brewed and Packaged Beautifully

Sarita Dasgupta’s ‘The Gracious Hostess’ gives you a little peek into what goes on behind the scenes:
just what it takes to give the visitor that ‘perfect’ experience of staying in a tea bungalow.
Read the story – The Gracious Hostess

Enjoy the stories – be sure you have your cup of chai in hand! Cheers to life!

6. Cha Bagaan babies
Hello everyone! This Wednesday, we have stories from two tea growing regions of India: Munnar in Kerala and the Dooars in Bengal. Both our storytellers are planters’ children – cha bagan ka baby and baba log.

Shipra Castledine writes from in Australia. She grew up in the tea gardens of the Dooars. Her stories will make you wish you too had spent your childhood in the wonderful world she brings to life.
Read the story – Back in the day part 2

Rajesh Thomas, a planter like his father, writes from the beautiful tea estates of the Upper Nilgiris. He serves up a feast in this story from his days as a young ‘Sinna Durai’.
Read the story – The Dinner

7. The Haunted Bungalow of Dumchipara Tea
When Wednesday comes around, you know you will have a story from the tea gardens to enjoy with your cup of chai!

When we started sharing stories here, one of the first things I mentioned was ghosts! You’ve waited long enough: here it is, the ghost story I have heard many times from the writer, S. Mohanakrishnan, who happens to be the man who brought me to the tea gardens many years ago.

Read the story – The Haunted Bungalow of Dumchipara Tea
P.S. Do not read this story after dark!

8. The Tale of a Wedding Less Ordinary
The planter and his family live in surroundings that are far from anybody’s idea of ‘normal’. But has anyone ever let that get in the way? Life goes on: children go to school, we have Diwali and Christmas, Bihu and Eid, births and weddings. Yes, beautiful weddings, held in Burra Bungalows.

Today I’m sharing one of my favourites from Indian Chai Stories – the story of a monsoon wedding by Mrinalini Rautela Pahwa. She writes: “… in the midst of friends, family, love and laughter, set against the backdrop of a political agitation that would change the face of the state I knew as home and draw the curtains on a way of life…I got married.”

Read the story – The Tale of a Wedding Less Ordinary
P.S. Do not read this story after dark!

9. A Home Beside Two Areca Palms
This story is as heartwarming as a cup of chai on a rainy day! Joyshri Lobo writes about a feisty woman from the tea gardens of the Dooars – one of those who ‘sock life in the face and take its hurdles in their stride.’

Joyshri was among the first six contributors to Indian Chai Stories. Many years ago – in the 1980s – she gave us our very own tea garden magazine in the Dooars ( North Bengal ), “Reach Out”. My friends and I were so grateful to have a chance to write and publish right there in the tea gardens!! That’s a story for another day.

Today, I leave you to enjoy ‘A Home Beside Two Areca Palms’.

10. A Predator- Lost & Lovelorn
Shalini started the Camellia magazine over twenty years ago from her bungalow at Nuddwa Tea Estate in Upper Assam, and was among the first contributors to ‘Indian Chai Stories’. The Camellia ( named for the tea bush ) was a magazine much loved by the tea community, and it was a huge success. One day, I hope Shalini will tell us more about her journey with the Camellia and beyond!

For now, I leave you with this – A Predator- Lost & Lovelorn

11. Ghenwa the Jewel: A Birpara Tale
This baby – Indian Chai Stories – came to life in 2018, and as I told you, my old friends were the first people to send me their stories. It would be a very bad mother who didn’t feed the baby herself – so I wrote a new story too.
The people who serve us in tea bungalows become family, but it takes time. Just as a bride or groom is inspected and ‘passed’ by prospective in-laws, a new memsaab has to pass a tough examination by the ex-bachelor’s devoted retinue.
I lived in terror – not of leopards, elephants or of the dacoits who struck everywhere those days, but of Ghenwa, whose word was law in the domain I had dared to enter! Hope you’ll have a good laugh at the plight of the hapless 24year old city girl set adrift in a wild world – her new husband’s natural habitat, the tea gardens!

Here it is, this week’s offering: Ghenwa the Jewel: A Birpara Tale

12. Teatime in a Tea Bungalow
What is a life in a tea bungalow without teatime ? Where else would you be served the most princely teas on multi-layered trolleys with all the time in the world to work your way through at least two savouries and two sweets?
All of this to be followed by the drinks trolley with rounds of snacks and eventually dinner, of course.

But I’m rushing you…no, let’s go back to the tea trolley of Mandira Moitra Sarkar’s childhood; she’s going to share lots of goodies with you here

And then she takes us all to the river Bhareli to a picnic, here:Teatime in a Tea Bungalow

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