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.