Written by Andrea Stepheson
I was pleasantly surprised with the Daily word prompt – TEA.
My glorious childhood was among’st this backdrop. Sri Lanka’s upcountry was mainly adorned by Tea estates. But this was no ordinary Tea Estate. This was my little utopia.
My dad worked as a Scientist at the Tea Research Institute (TRI) in Sri Lanka. Tea being the major export of the country, this research facility also was one of the largest organisations of the country. It was also important to establish the research centre where the Tea actually grew rather than in a major city.
Very large laboratories of all disciplines such as Bio Chemistry, Entomology, Pathology etc were established with the latest equipment’s. All the staff were given Housing. Rather beautiful and luxuries houses were built for the staff. They were maintained by TRI as well. The lawns were mowed, regularly painted and furniture’s were upgraded. Most of these things were primarily established by the British. So you did get a feel of the British presence in the decor and style of the Bungalows.
We had our own transport. Buses for the staff and their family to go to school, shopping etc. A large fleet of cars with drivers for staff and family. Our own little hospital and medical facility, Post Office, Telecom and even a Water dam and purification plant. Our own club house, sporting venues the list goes on.
We were all removed from our core extended families. This became our extended family. It’s not a cliche’ when I say, we lived together in harmony without any racial or other disputes.
The labs were my playground. This was the era before Occupational Health and Safety or Work Cover mandates. But we didn’t have any accidents, this was also an era where people used something called common sense. We didn’t need a sign that said “Slippery when wet”. Anyway, coming back to my playground or playgrounds, I had no siblings and no playstation or any other electronic device. Not even internet, so I had to learn to amuse my self and I lived mostly outdoors.
The soil here was really great. Everyone had a great garden filled with flowers, fruit treas and vegetables. Constantly we would exchange our produce. I spent most of my time up a fruit tree. When I got bored with that I would walk to the lab. On the way I would frolic through the Tea fields, run up and down the extensive stairs that went from the Tea Factory to the Lab. Every one knew me. I was like the common village dog, that was fed by every butcher.
I mainly played in the Bio Chemistry Department as that’s where my dad worked. But I knew the entire geography of all other labs as well and had at least one friend in each department. Yeah I know they were grown ups and I was a kid, but they were still my friends and showed me “cool” stuff. I knew to operate the centrifuge and I played with Magnets. I knew about Poly Phenol’s long before I went to high school. When I think about it now, it wasn’t really playing, my dad was teaching me Science and I was doing science experiments.
One bud and two leaves – all that is plucked to produce tea. Silver tip is the only one uses just the buds and hence the high cost. I would accompany my dad on many of the guided tours he would take our visitors and I knew all this information long before I started school.
The above is my dad on an old Sri Lankan Postal Stamp. He is injecting radio active isotopes into tea leaves to study the pattern of the nutrients movement. Nutrients from the root did not evenly go all over the plant. The mother leaf (the bigger leaf on the bottom) fed the one on top and so forth. When you removed the big leaf right underneath baby leaf, the leaves further down acted as a surrogate and fed the bud.
That was one amazing child hood, it all came to an end when I lost my dad at 19. Such is life, still grateful that I had this childhood and to all the uncle’s and aunties of TRI who were there for us then and even now. Children of TRI hold a special bond. All of us grown up and adults now. But most of us are still in contact even from different parts of the world.
Disclaimer: It’s a long time since I left TRI, some information shared here may not be completely accurate.
We moved from Baga Beach to Candolim for the last leg of the Holidays. Beautiful Hotel, slightly pricier and more up market than Acron. Can’t really fault any of the facilities. customer service, etc. Beautiful setting right on the beach, amazing gardens, decor etc, etc. however, I felt it lacked the personal touch.
HA.. Yes, had to snap that one.
Amazing spa, massage treatments. We got ourselves thoroughly spoiled. We didn’t do too much sightseeing after we came to Candolim. But we did roam the roads during the day and sometimes late evening/ early night.
We came across couple of great restaurants. Soi was one of our favourites. For many reasons – good food, great service and so close to our hotel. When the mercury hits high, along with humidity, you just don’t want to drag that leg of yours too far.
Loved the sign in front of Tuscany, showed that when you are on holidays just take it easy. Throw away that schedule. Gutsy move for a business though. We wanted to check the place just because of the sign. But neither of us were in the mood for Italian food. Maybe next time.
Months of planning, then finally the day arrives for our flights from opposite hemispheres to take off, then 1.00 am in the middle of Mumbai Airport, two 50 years old’s, hugging and almost shrieking like two teenagers, then the late night chats about our personal lives, we cried for each other, we advised each other, we laughed at each other and tomorrow it comes to an end. We say good bye to Goa and to each other.
I will make another post to cap off everything. Especially about my trip back via Mumbai, my misconceptions about India etc. I think I owe them that much.
Sharing one Barber Ahmed’s article
One only has to see the images of firefighters sitting outside the Grenfell Tower crying their eyes out, to see whether they are unemotional robots or real people with real feelings for the people that they are trying to save.
As they say it’s been a long time between drinks. But in my case there has been many drinks but not much writing. What are the excuses that I can pin it on … broken finger, work and possibly a lack of interest or if I am to be totally honest and say addiction to Asian Teledramas. I know how stupid it sounds but I think it was an escapism. Started with watching Japanese dramas with subtitles with the excuse of learning the language, then I ran out of Jap dramas so I merged to Taiwanese so I started to learn a bit Mandarin. I have now progressed to Korean. Finding Korean hard to learn. Its a bit like French and German, similar grammar patterns but German has a stronger accent making it hard to pronounce than Japanese. The two subjects I started to write about has brought about the writers block. What I am finding out is that travelling is great but writing about it is not so much.
The other piece that I am currently writing is about my friend whom I lost in the civil war in Sri Lanka. In all my other writings/stories I hardly had to think about the audience. But, somehow in this one I am aware of the audience. Not necessarily because I am scared to upset the Sri Lankan readers, I think the issues that I am touching upon are necessary for reconciliation, it’s an actual snapshot of real life in a war torn country, along with other social issues, in my opinion an unbiased recount of evils of both sides. I am not by any means condoning Terrorism but, I do visit the possible reasons for the birth of one. In this regard feel it’s an important topic for the current climate in the world. Prevention is always better than a cure. My reason for writing this story is probably as most times to heal my heart of losing my dear friend Lalith. I have probably a lot of anger inside me regarding this. But the irony is I come from the clan that killed him. I haven’t settled on a title either. I have changed it so many times “Friendship and war”, “Friend from the other side”, “Friendship across enemy lines” the last one I have come up with is “Ammba Yalluwa” which translates to something like childhood friend/soul mate. I think I might settle with that.
I am usually not worried about offending someone when I write, but in this story I am and that is really having an effect on my writing. Discussing this with my son, he started to say, you can’t really worry about offending people, it’s your thoughts, it’s your reasoning, it’s your point of view. I get that but this subject is a hard one. This is not a subject where I tell a Christian what I think of his Anti Gay sentiments. The wounds go deeper than that in this. As a Tamil who lived amongst the Sinhalese and understood them way better than my own kith and kin from Jaffna (north of Sri Lanka) my so called unbiased views may not sit well with those who were tortured by the Sri Lankan Army. My views on why Terrorism grew in Sri Lanka will not be accepted by the Sinhalese either. My sister-in-laws friend and mum who had to witness her two brothers and her dad being burnt alive will never accept my theories and explanations about the Sinhalese. Lalith’s family never thought that all tamils were terrorists and they all had to die. However, wrong that theory is, I will have to accept that anger. Arj (my son) said something that really hit the nail. “Emotions aren’t rational, there is no way you could explain to kid in Syria that the Americans are nice people” All that kid has, heard, seen and experienced is the opposite. It is such a charged subject, I want to do justice to this story, but I am so torn as well.
I started to write about Goa and I have written two paragraphs of my other project. So, lets start about Goa. Today’s topic is Goan food, music and culture.
Maybe the reason I fell in love with Goa is due to the similarities of Goa and Sri Lanka. They were both Portuguese Colonies and hence the similarities I guess. But it’s just uncanny how similar Goa is to Sri Lanka and how different it is to the rest of India.
The above is stuffed okra. That was one of my favourite dishes (that I took a photo of before digging into it first). I don’t think Sri Lanka has a stuffed okra dish, but similar to stuffed banana chillies. Similar dishes are pan rolls (in sri lanka we call them Chinese rolls not sure why because I don’t think the Chinese are aware of that roll), muscat (Goan’s call it Bibinka) and Thothal
The best thing about it is that they view these as possible breakfast items and it is on the hotel breakfast buffet. Yes, of course I thought I was in heaven.
The curries are so different to the normal Indian Cuisine. A curry with the Rechad spice mix a must try. Fish is big in Goa. Not sure, if the laws have changed in the recent months but at the time we were there, Goa is one of the places in India where you can buy beef and alcohol in Restaurants rather freely. Most places in India have a ban on beef due to the cow being a revered animal as most of them claim to be Hindu’s. Not sure which part of Hinduism says its okay to eat all other meats but not beef, per my understanding of the religion all meats were out as it was considered to be killing another animal. I guess that’s another argument/beef (sorry for the dad pun, couldn’t help myself) for another day.
Clothing/culture: Goa is still kind of part of South India. The South India that I know is very conservative. Goa not so much or not at all. It’s a party town. Again very similar to Sri Lanka, Negambo in particular. Night life is very alive, and not just filled with tourists, this is mainly by the locals. Ladies in pretty sexy clothes, having a drink or two or more. Nothing atrocious, but no conservative woman in a saree with flowers in her hair sitting quietly in a corner.
Music: At these live music places its all English music, the one place we were at was all 80’s gems. But their local music is very similar to the Sri Lankan Baila. Again I think we can thank the Portuguese for that.
Ok the above is just a clip from the youtube to give you an idea of the Goan music, next I will post one from the Sri Lankan Baila to show you the similarities
Memories are a bit vague now, but I think the two places that we tried out was Tito’s and Kohi bar. Personal preference is Tito’s but I guess for the young ones Kohi Bar may be more attractive.
Just like in Sri Lanka Goa produces a lot of Spices as well Cashews. Cashew snacks are very similar to Sri Lanka as well. They go one better and have produced an alcohol drink with it as well called “Feni”, Looks clear like Vodka, as a shot it feels pretty potent, but great in a cocktail.
I like to end it here for today. Adeus (good bye in Konkani – Goan language)