Taylors Tea Garden – by Ajit MuttuCumaraswamy
CHAPTER ONE (14)
The company contracted to make the water mill came to Loolecondere with several workers. The installation was done in two days. A gate was built to divert the water temporarily to allow installation of the water mill . The gate became a permanent feature, allowing James to use the water mill as when required. The work began on the installation of the tea rolling machine. The building housing the tea rolling machine was extended to allow for fermentation of the rolled leaves, as recommended by Jenkins. Jenkins came to Loolecondere and was happy with all the trays and equipment to dry the fermented leaves. Jenkins enjoyed meeting Sinniah and making friends with Thangam and Samuel. Samuel became a great favourite with Jenkins.
The tea rolling machine was a success. The two leaves and a bud formula was also working well. Jenkins was very active in all the processing, advising and mentoring James, Sinniah and the workers. The tea leaves were ready for plucking every six weeks. Sinniah ensured that there was sufficient tea ready for an initial shipment to London. Many visitors came to see the water mill in action. There was festive mood in Loolecondere. Some village folk from local villages came to see the new mill.
“ Looks like your tea will be going to Colombo on the first railway run from Ambepussa to Colombo” said Jenkins.
“ I’m happy about it.” said James.
“ More than likely Governor Gregory will be there.” said Jenkins.
“ I’ve heard that the Governor is very keen on tea and getting tea exported from Ceylon.” said James.
“ Yes. In fact he was doing his best to get me over. He was talking to Harrison and Barron about getting me to come to help with the tea growing and tea making.” said Jenkins.
“ That’s good. He is our good supporter.”
“ That he is. He has even been contacting Thomas Lipton. You know about Lipton don’t you” asked Jenkins.
“ I’ve heard that Lipton has a lot of shops opened in Scotland and England.” said James.
“ That’s right. He is also a campaigner for tea. He is part of the temperance movement. The supporters of temperance want to stop people drinking beer. The alternative is tea and coffee. Lipton is hoping that he will improve his sales of tea and coffee by being part of the temperance movement.” said Jenkins.
“ I guess making people drink more tea and coffee is good for us planters.” said James.
“ It is very good for us. Gregory being a supporter is also good. He is certainly doing his best for tea drinking.”
“ I would like to meet him if he is coming to the opening of the railway in Ambepussa.” said James.
“ You should bring your family as well. It’s good to meet the governor.” said Jenkins.
“ Yes. I will bring Thangam. She is rather shy.” said James.
“ Just a matter of shaking hands with the governor. It’s time for me to get back and have an inspection at Ramboda” said Jenkins.
“ Thanks for all your help. Harrison was telling me that I can go to Darjeeling and Assam. he is pleased with our success with the machines.” said James.
“ That’s good news. You should spend some time there. It will give you more ideas about the way tea is prepared there.” said Jenkins.
“ Maybe next year if everything goes well.” said James
“ Good for you. I’m disappointed with the tea plantation in Ramboda. I brought all these Bengali workers here because I wanted make sure that this plantation will succeed. I know the set up costs for tea are very high. Just trying to make sure everything works out . It’s very sad that things have not been up to expectations.” said Jenkins.
“ It’s a big risk whichever way you look at it. Plantations don’t happen easily. I realise that only now. I was getting advice from Robert at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. He has been very helpful”
“ I will ask him to come and check how things are working out in Kondagala Estate. He is my last hope. I must get moving. Bye for now James. We will meet for the launch of the railway at Ambepussa next week” said Jenkins.
“ Yes. We will meet in Ambepussa. Thanks for coming over.” said James.
20pxJenkins got into his coach and returned to Ramboda Pass.
A week passed by and the day for the launch of the railway in Ambepussa arrived.
Thangam was fretting about her cloths, what cloths will be good for the occasion.
“ Don’t worry about the dress Thangam. Nobody will notice how you are dressed. Wear your favourite purple dress. It always looks great on you.” said James.
“ Alright. I’ ll wear the purple dress. I’m looking at something for Samuel.” she said, looking through the storage box where she kept most of her cloths and jewellery. It was a well designed storage box with brass fittings and a large brass key. Her jewellery was given to her by her grandmother. She treasured them. She wore them occasionally and James used to admire the fine workmanship of the ear studs. The studs were made in gold and held tiny bits of rubies. She would wear them for a day and put them away. He was also aware that it was customary among the Tamils to wear the Thali, a thick gold necklace, when you were married woman and Thangam never had one. James had noticed that her mother’s necklace had several pieces of jewel studded gold ornaments.
“ Don’t worry too much. Samuel is going to look good whatever he wears.” said James as he got himself his best shirt which had been washed and ironed the day before. This was to ensure that he looked his best when he met the Governor, if he did meet him. It was likely that the local planters will be formally introduced to the Governor by the Government Agent for the District.
They went to bed early because they had to set off in the night to reach Ambepussa in the morning. The carriage arrived in the early hours of the morning. They had brought a breakfast of sandwiches. They parked the carriage near the station. Jenkins and Robert arrived a little while later. They were pleased to have each other’s company. Some of the planters arrived. The discussion centred on the the capacity of the train and the coming of the Governor. The Government Agent based in Kandy arrived along with some of his staff.
The staff had been there before to make arrangements to welcome the Governor.
“ Hello there Taylor.” said a voice and James turned to look. It was McKenzie.
Thangam moved away from James.
“ Hello” replied James.
“ You are still around. I see you are a stubborn man.” said McKenzie.
“ I’m working on the newly planted tea bushes.” said James.
“ You are dreaming. Do you know that Jenkins is facing a serous problem with his tea plantation in Ramboda?” asked Mckenzie.
“ Yes. In fact I go there to meet Jenkins on instructions from Harrison.”
“ Well, what did I say. Jenkins has so much experience. Yet he is facing the end of all his efforts. Tea is a foolish idea. You are going to regret not taking my advice.”
“ I’m following Harrison’s orders.” said James.
“ Harrison is using you. You watch out.” McKenzie said and walked away.
Tables were prepared with table clothes spread over them. Frangipani flowers decorated the tables. Vases with flowers stood in the middle of the table. Chairs were cleaned and made ready for the dignitaries to sit and face the crowd that was gathering to witness the formal launch of the railway in Ambepussa.
The train was leaving Colombo at six in the morning. It was expected to arrive by ten and the formal cutting of the ribbon to open the railway station was to be at eleven. The Governor would give a speech, followed by the Government Agent and the village leader, a person who had retired from government service.
The hoot of the train was heard by nine o clock. They were all excited. Some persons had climbed the trees and kept shouting in Sinhala, describing the smoke coming out of the engine and the number of coaches the train was pulling. It had stopped they said to take water into the steam engine and then left again. The train arrived a few minutes before eleven. The smoke and the noise was deafening. Samuel screamed and looked at the engine in terrified manner.
The train was driven by two Europeans, who were wearing white overalls. The overalls were covered in coal dust. Even the faces of the men were covered in coal dust.
Coal was heaped at the back of the engine. The coaches were full of persons from Colombo. The man were dressed in white and cream coloured suits and wore ties. There were English and local ladies elegantly dressed in printed cotton dresses. There were a few local ladies dressed in sarees. There were some men getting down holding note books and writing on them as they walked. They had cards stuck on their hats. She realised they were reporters from the newspaper.
Governor Gregory was dressed in white cotton trouser and white cotton coat. He wore a red tie. His moustache was impressive. His grey hair was combed elegantly. His wife followed him. They were welcomed by the crowd with a round of clapping led by the Government Agent. The Government Agent made the first speech, welcoming the Governor and thanking him for assisting in the venture. The Governor made a speech thanking the local people for the assistance they had provided in building the railway and the station. The Government Agent spoke again thanking the Governor for coming all the way and the ceremony seemed to be coming to an end.
Thangam and Samuel went to the back of the crowd as Samuel was trying to get down which meant that he wanted to urinate. She took him to a tree and he pissed onto the tree. After picking Samuel up, she turned around and looked towards the crowd looking for James. She saw a white woman walk up to James and give him a kiss on his cheeks. James seemed to be happy to see that woman. He hugged her. And she hugged him. Then they were engaged in conversation. She saw James pointing in the direction of the tree and the woman seemed to hurry away from him.
Thangam had a intuitive feeling that they had known each other intimately. She decided to keep quiet and bring the matter up when they went home.
While she was walking back towards James, Sinniah walked towards her and talked to her.
“ Did you see that white lady. She is his girl friend. I did not want to tell you.” said Sinniah.
“ How do you know she is his girl friend. They could have known each other before.”
“ One of the cooks in the kitchen in the hotel had mentioned it. She is married but she comes to see him in the hotel.” he replied.
“ Maybe they are good friends. I will ask him when we get home.” she replied.
“ They are more than good friends. She goes into the kitchen and slips out through the kitchen back door. She goes to the his room without anyone seeing her go towards the rooms.”
Thangam’s face was grim. She had to admit that there was more to it than met the eye. She had tried to dismiss the incident as an innocent show of friendship. But there was no doubt that James had been seeing the white lady. She felt that her whole life had changed.
“ I’ll find out what he is trying to do.” she said.
“ It’s time you thought of finding a husband. These white people will be looking for a white woman when they want to get married.” he said.
She did not reply. Her father sensed that her silence was a type of consent. He could see that she was in a mood to entertain suggestions and proposals. He knew the time was right for her to move on. Time was right for her to have a settled family life, with a family of her own, with a reliable man from the community. Someone in a steady job.
“ I got to go and check the coachman. We may be leaving soon.”
The governor’s speech ended and there an announcement .
The government agent announced the names of various persons loudly. Thangam heard James Taylor’s name being announced. James stepped up to the little platform where the Governor and various dignitaries were seated. The Governor shook James’s hands and said “ I would like to thank Mr. Taylor was being very persistent. He has impressed me as the man who has been producing good tea at a time when many are finding it difficult to grow tea, leave alone making good tea. He has been pioneering water mill driven tea making machinery. I congratulate him. Please give Mr. Taylor a round of applause.” said Governor Gregory.
The crowd applauded and James stood up to acknowledge the applause. Thangam had not taken much notice of the people seated on the platform before. This time she did. Only when she looked at the raised platform carefully she noticed that Daisy was seated at the back on the platform along with two other white ladies. Maybe her husband could not come today, she thought. Maybe he did come but did not think that her kissing James was a more than a gesture of friendship.
The people who sat on the platform got up and went towards the rest house. Thangam stood frozen. She did not know what she had to do. Her mind was disturbed. She could see her father talking to James. What was he telling James? Maybe just letting him know that she was standing under the tree. After all, they had to get back to Loolecondere. Any moves will need to be made there.
Some people, including Governor General Gregory had reached the rest house grounds and were walking up the hill leading to the rest house. James walked up to Thangam.
“ We are invited to the rest house. Shall we start walking?” he said.
“ You can go. We will wait here.” she replied.
James knew that the rejection was a sign that she had been offended. He thought that she was offended because he had sat in the platform without her. He was also wondering if she had seen Daisy giving him a kiss.
“ Sorry Thangam. I had to go to the platform when they called me. You were not to be seen.” said James.
“ It’s alright. You can go and have lunch. We will wait for you.” she said.
“ I won’t go if you are not coming. Let’s go and look for the coach.” he said, carrying Samuel and giving him a kiss on his cheeks.
“ Did you have a good time young fellow?” he asked Samuel walking out towards the area where there were several carriages parked. The trees near the open space were tall and had white flowers. Some had red flowers.
When they passed close to the railway, Samuel pointed towards the train. They took him close to the steam engine. He looked at the huge black engine and wanted to touch it. James took him close enough to touch it. Samuel’s arm stretched and touched it. It might have been warm. Samuel held his two tiny hands together and smiled.
They walked to the carriage. The man who looked after the carriage and horses was ready, seated at the front of the carriage. James, Thangam, Sinniah and Samuel sat down and the carriage moved away from Ambepussa.
* * *
In the carriage, Thangam showed her displeasure by keeping silent. James had Samuel in his lap. He showed him interesting things as they passed along. Huge trees which seemed to as broad as the road. Flowering trees with red, yellow, white flowers. Houses by the roadside. Some had little shops on the side, selling coconuts and vegetables. There were dogs, cats, cows and occasionally goats to be seen. They passed over rivulets. The department of works had built a bridge allowing the carriage to stay on the road and pass over the rivulet. James showed Samuel birds that sat on trees, parrots in green with red under their wings, only to be seen when they flew. Crows were in groups having conferences. They passed paddy fields. Lush green paddy fields ready for harvesting very soon.
Thangam had hardly said a word all the way from Ambepussa. Sinniah tried to make up for it by talking about the Governor and the Government Agent and the dignitaries. He talked about the important families that lived near Ambepussa. He had been talking to local villagers and gleaned information about the local village chieftains and families. They reached Loolecondere late at night.
Punya had cooked and the night meal was ready. Thangam served the red rice, which James enjoyed very much with dhal curry, aubergine fried and made into a tasty dark brown curry, salted fish fried with onions and cabbage cooked in coconut milk. James ate his meal and made comments about what had happened when he sat near the Governor, how the Governor asked many questions about the water mill and tea rolling machine and said that he may visit Loolecondere when he visits Kandy. Governor Gregory had also told him that plans are ready for the railway to be extended to Kandy. The Kadugannawa Pass was the difficult climb. It would need two steam engines, one pulling at the front and another pushing from the back. The surveyors and engineers had been camping near Kadugannawa, finalising the plans. Thangam only made occasional remarks, which showed that her mood was still negative. She was not the same joyful pleasant woman, smiling and being playful with Samuel.
James was becoming aware of Thangam being less intimate with him. She did not come to the room when he was working on his plans or simply lying down for a short rest. She was spending her time in the kitchen and the garden. He noticed that she did not wear jasmine flowers in her hair all the time like she did before. Sometimes she did and sometimes she did not wear the flowers.
But she came to the room and slept on the bed next to Samuel’s cot, as she did before. James made love to her but she seemed to respond to his love making in a different way. Instead of murmuring her pleasure she simply lay down while he moved. It was as if she was performing her duties as his woman. She did not come on top of him as she did before. He had to tell her to come on top him and she did.
James’s name had appeared in the newspapers. He was commended by Governor Gregory for leading the tea industry to a new improved ways of doing things. The tea sent to England was being commended by London tea brokers. The prices of tea made in Ceylon had improved as a result of James high quality leaves, being only two leaves and a bud. The use of the new type of tea rolling machine did not diminish the quality. Jenkins had been spending more time in Loolecondere, helping and supervising the tea production. Sinniah was also working with Jenkins and learning more about the fermentation and drying processes.
Normally, Thangam would have discussed his name appearing in the newspapers. But she did not say anything until he told her that he had been mentioned in the newspapers. She seemed to know about it but had not brought it up as she normally did. James put it down to her thinking that he will be returning home or that he will be looking for a white woman as a wife.
After dinner, James took a short walk along the gravel road and retired to the bedroom. He changed into his bed cloths and was lying in bed. Thangam came in carrying Samuel and placed him in his cot. Samuel was sleeping.
“ I might be going to India for two months to meet with the tea planters there. When i come back I will be looking after more estates” he said. He wanted to convey to her that he is not going away.
“ Alright. When are you going she asked”. She did not wait for an answer. She changed into bed cloths.
Her night dress was a simple sarong, a wrap around piece of cotton that covered her from her breasts to her toes.
“ Come and sit here . I can turn the lamp off later.” said James.
Thangam left the lamp on. She went to the window and closed the curtain tightly before she came to the bed and laid down, next to James. James placed his arms around her, his hand resting on her breasts. His big hands covered both her breasts. He gently felt her breasts.
“ Tell me what’s wrong. Are you thinking I will leave you.” he asked.
“ I don’t know. You are the Dorai here. The company owners are your friends. So I don’t think they will send you away.” she said.
James was feeling aroused feeling her nipple. Normally she would have moved her hand in response to his legs. But she lay there not moving her hand.
“ So you are not unhappy because McKenzie keeps saying that I’m going to be sent away. Then what can be the trouble. Are you thinking I might find another woman. You know I won’t do that.” said James.
“ I don’t know. But I think it’s right that you will like to get married to a white lady.” she said.
“ Thangam. Don’t think like that. I’m not looking for a white woman to get married to” he said, rolling her over towards him and kissing her all over. She let him remove her sarong and kiss her all over.
“ The lamp is still burning” she said.
James got out of bed and turned the lamp off.
He returned to the bed. While he was standing his tongue nipped into her. She responded without her knowing by opening her legs. James entered her. His urgency was fulfilled. Her response was muted. He noticed that she did not make those sounds that he enjoyed hearing, the grunts and moans of pleasure.
* * *
The next day, James went off to the water mill after an early breakfast. He was having some problems with the flow of water. There had been little rain and the flow was was reduced, barely able to turn the mill. He was concentrating on the fermentation process that Jenkins had been emphasising. He suspected that the most important process was the fermentation. The quality of the tea was improving after Jenkins had explained the process. Sinniah was keeping a sharp eye on the fermentation process. As tea maker, he was supervising the staff to ensure sufficient time was allowed for all processes. He could assess the stages of the tea making process.
The time for James’s departure was approaching fast. With two weeks to go he was busy making arrangements for his departure. He noticed Thangam had become quiet and hardly showed her interest in keeping the house clean and looking pleasant with new bunches of flowers in the vases. he put it down to her displeasure with his departure to India.
He made his final trip to Kondagala Estate in Ramboda Pass before his travel to Darjeeling. He left on the Tuesday and as usual he stopped to meet Robert at the Peradeniya Gardens.
They sat in the open verandah outside Roberts’s house, having tea and sandwiches.
“ Looks like things are working out for you at last.” said Robert.
“ In many ways yes. The long awaited trip to India has been arranged. But some problems are yet to be solved.” said James.
“ You mean the tea. I thought you have Jenkins helping with the tea making.” said Robert.
“ Yes. Jenkins has been great help. Sinniah has also been working with him. When i go away, Sinniah will be able to manage things. But Thangam has been diificult. She was upset when I was called to sit with the Governor”
“ She felt left out. Understandable. But things don’t always happen the proper way.”
“ Yes. Actually she was not around anyway. She took Samuel for a piss.”
“ I guess you and I have a similar problem. Do we marry natives and stay here forever or do we postpone the decision. I would like to wait and see how I feel in another few years.” said Robert.
“ I think I will commit myself because Samuel should not be punished for something he did not do.”
“ Poor little fellow. He is a lovely boy.”
“ I’m getting late. Time for me to book myself in. Don’t want to get too late and the room are all booked up.”
“ Ah! Yes. You don’t want that to happen. Hurry up and get there. She might be waiting.” said Robert laughing.
* * *
James went to Queens Hotel and booked himself in. The hotel was busy with new arrivals. Many had come expecting to be involved in tea. Some were tea brokers. Others were adventurers and travellers, interested in what was happening in the country, the changes that were taking place with the coming of the railway. There were Dutchmen interested in trading spices. The cinnamon that grew in Ceylon was considered very special and fetched a better price.
He saw Daisy walk into the hotel. Their eyes met and exchanged intimacies. Her eyes had a sparkle. She was happy to see him. His eyes took in the pink cheeks and and red lips. These he would savour later. It was simply the pleasure of seeing such a pretty woman. She walked up to him and they shook hands in a formal way, not letting excitement give it all away.
“ I will meet you later. Is it room ten?” she asked in a whisper smiling as if she had just met him.
“ Yes. It’s room ten. See you there. “ he said in soft tones.
“ See you later.” she said smiling , giving the impression that they were simply friends, to anyone watching them.
She walked away and mingled with the planters. Some had come with their wives and she sat down with some ladies. James finished his drink and went for a short walk along the lake. He saw the building in the middle of the lake and wondered how it was built. He knew that the lake had been built before the British arrived in Kandy. It could not have been built by the Dutch or the Portugese because they were not able to come as far as Kandy due to the resistance from the King who was from South India. He knew that the King of Kandy was ousted by the British only because one of the nobleman was aggrieved by a decision the king made and decided to oust the King. He brought the British soldiers through the hills surrounding Kandy and the King was dethroned and sent back to India.
Dusk was settling in. The hills above the lake were being covered in mist as the night took over. He went back and had dinner. He could see Daisy seated at a small table with three others. They were playing bridge. There were three similar groups, all looking absorbed in their game. All staring at the table in front of them. James decided he will retire and wait for Daisy. He went to the room ten and changed into his pyjamas.
He dozed off immediately. He woke up to the sound of a knock on the door. He was up and dashed towards the door. There was a second knock on the door as he was about to turn the lock. Daisy came in and he locked the door. She put her arms around him and placed her face on his chest. James embraced her tightly. Daisy was only an inch or two taller than Thangam. He blonde hair made James excited. When she looked up, he could not stop himself from bending down and kissing her lips. They kissed, lost in another world, their tongues seeking each other’s.
They made love standing. His pyjamas did not interfere. She removed her undergarment . He lifted her slightly and held her buttocks tight against him. They moved and they moaned as they came. Both felt the exhaustion of the act and moved to the bed, resting and playing with each other’s bodies. Her fingers moved to feel the softness of hairs on his chest. James felt the soft breasts and her nipples stiffened to his touch. Making him ready to make love again.
They made love again in a different way with him coming from behind. She looked at his body move by bending head down and watching him move. They relaxed in bed again.
“ Darling I must tell you I missed my period last week.”
He sat up and asked:
“ Are you sure you had the dates correct.” He felt his pulse beat faster.
“ Yes. i know the dates. But sometimes it happens and there may be nothing to worry about.” she said sensing his feeling of fear.
“ Hope so. I don’t want to be in India while you are here and worrying about it.” he said.
“ Please don’t worry too much darling. I’m a married woman and know how to handle this situation.” she said.
“ Are you going to tell him about it?” he asked.
“ No. Not now. I’m not sure yet. He might be happy about it because we don’t have any children.” she said.
“ Oh! I did not think about that.” he said.
“ Don’t worry. It’s not something you need to worry about. Your India trip is next week. You must have a lot of things to do before you go.”
“ Yes. Lots of arrangements. Good thing Jenkins is here. Noble is also very good. He has given us some good advice on the drying. Sinniah was working with him as well.”
“ Thats good. It’s good that you have these people interested in helping you.” she said.
“ I guess we must succeed or else the whole tea idea would be coming to an end and so much money would have been wasted.” he said.
“ That’s very true. So much effort would have been wasted. Darling, I’ve got to go now. The bridge game would be over and I should slip out through the kitchen and the back door.” she said getting down and getting into her dress.
James stepped out of the bed and gave her a hug.
“ Thanks for coming.” he said.
“ The pleasure is all mine. Have a good trip to India. I wish I was coming with you.” she said.
“ Thank you. It would have great if you were coming . I will think of something to bring for you.” he said.
“ Thanks. Goodbye for now .” she said giving him a last kiss on his cheek before she went to the door and peeked outside carefully. She waved before she closed the door gently.
* * *
James slept until late in the morning and took off to Ramboda Pass later than usual. The carriage made good progress and they were in Kondagala Estate before it got dark. They spent two days working in various parts of the estate. James returned to Loolecondere with Jenkins. They were going to do a hand over take over as James would be away for several months.
Samuel was delighted to see James. He jumped out of his mother’s arms when he saw James. The father and son played a game of pulling each other’s noses. James was in a different world when he was with Samuel. He had no worries and did not think of any of his problems. It was a total feeling of joy. Nothing distracted him from being with Samuel. He felt complete and joyful. Thangam stood watching the father and son playing with each other. She was as absorbed in their playing with each other. The smile on her face showed that she was as happy as the two of them. But it was short lived feeling, this time. Soon she was looking quiet. Thangam was not her usual self. She looked sorrowful, very quiet.
“ Thangam, are you not well? Is it fever or something else?” asked James.
“ I’m not sick.” replied Thangam.
“ That’s good. I don’t want to go away and think about whether you are being looked after.”
“ My father says I need to visit my relatives. He says I should be away in the village during the time you are away.”
“ I guess he is right. I’ll be going away and it’s a good time for you to be away as well.”
“ Alright. I will go and visit my relatives. My aunts keep sending me messages.”
That night they made love. James stood behind Thangam when they made love. He never ceased to be amazed by her small body. It was as if he was seeing her for the first time. She was so different from Daisy and yet she was so attractive. She lay on the bed. He enveloped her body with his as he inserted himself and heard her moan. He moved gently. Her arm was stretched across the bed. He saw her fingers extend and press themselves on the bed as he moved gently. Her round buttocks made him feel their smoothness with his hands. He kissed her buttocks. He pushed harder and saw her body move forward and he heard her moan.
* * *
Sinniah came to see James in the morning.
“ Thangam needs to go away and visit her relatives while you are away.” he said.
“ Yes. I understand. I’ll make arrangements for her travel.” he said.
“ I will also go with her. We will all go together. But I will be back after one week.” said Sinniah.
“ Alright. That’s fine with me. Jenkins will be spending every other week in Loolecondere. Noble will be here when Jenkins is away.” said Taylor.
“ Thank you Mr. Taylor. I ‘ ll make preparations for travel.” said Sinniah.
“ I’ll arrange for your advance of pay Sinniah. I’m getting some money out for Thangam and Samuel as well.” said James.
“ That’s very good. Thank you.” said Sinniah.
* * *
The newspapers had a story about James leaving for India. Governor Gregory commented that James Taylor was going to bring much expertise to Ceylon. Harrison released a news item to say that James will be travelling to various tea estates in Darjeeling and Assam to familiarise himself with tea production in India and to see if any tea production practices in India would be suitable for Ceylon.
James travelled to Colombo on the train. Thangam , Samuel, and Sinniah went to Colombo with him. When they went to the Ambepussa station, the steam engine excited Samuel. He saw the smoke rise from the funnel and pointed to it and said something. He wanted to touch the engine. They gave him a chance to touch it. The black painted engine was hot. Samuel touched it with the tip of his fingers. James told Samuel about the coal that was burning inside the engine, under the round cylinder where the water was being heated. The red coals could be seen when the engine driver opened the door of the burner and shovelled the coal into the the burner.Samuel pointed to the fire when the door to the coal burner was opened.
They walked to the carriage which had been better decorated. It was the first class carriage which had better seating and a silver wash basin. The wash basin was hidden in the wall of the carriage. It had to be brought down manually , like opening a cupboard door. The toilet had a sitting one, unlike in the third class carriages which had squatting toilets.
There was a hoot and Samuel looked startled. The engine tooted twice and there was a slight jerk as the train pulled out. Samuel wanted to look out of the window as the train moved. He sat in James’s lap and craned his neck out to look where the engine was. Some tiny bits of coal flew out out of the engine and touched his cheek. He withdrew his face, touched his face and lay back in James lap, watching the scenery pass by. Thangam sat at the other end of the long seat looking out. She was pleased to be able to take the ride that she had been looking forward to. Sinniah sat in the middle, looking at both sides as the tree lined scenery passed by.
The train moved slowly through the hilly terrain and came to a stop after about one hour. The hills were left behind and the terrain was flat . Samuel was sleeping. He got up when he heard the screech of the wheels as the train came to a halt. There were some men carrying sheafs of bananas in basins, selling bananas to travellers. Some passengers got out of the train and bought the bananas. A guard in a black uniform and peaked cap, walked along the train inspecting the couplings that connected the carriages. When the guard reached the engine, he climbed into the engine. He stepped down a little later and walked back to the last carriage. Samuel saw the guard and kept looking at him as he moved along. Thangam was sitting next to James and Samuel.
“ That’s the guard Samuel.” said James, holding his hand and kissing it, feeling the softness of his little hands, enjoying the satisfying feel of Samuel’s body against him. The Samuel’s featherlike weight of Samuel’s gave James a feeling of joy and contentment, something he was going to miss.
Thangam watched the father and son intently as if she was making a special note of it. She was aware that her family was not happy that she was not married and wanted her to leave James and settle down with a husband. Thangam’s affair with James was not be a problem to her getting married. It was almost a plus point as she was a person who had been desired by a white person. This showed that she was a worthy female. She was a desirable person,with superior qualities.
Samuel was the difficulty. She could not walk away from Samuel. She could not take him either. It was plain to see that James would be deprived of Samuel if she went away and took Samuel with her. She thought about the problem while watching Samuel and James. It was the stories of James being visited by the white lady that made her decide that she would consent to the marriage being proposed for her. The bridegroom proposed was a teacher. The teacher was always very keen on her and had been talking to her family about his wanting her to be his wife. The teaching profession was a highly regarded one. It would bring much needed high regard to the family for Thangam to be married to a teacher.
She was undecided. She could not decide even though the family pressure was strong, especially from her mother. They could not see her being a different person, married to a white man and raising a mixed race family. It would be unacceptable. It would be very strange behaviour for someone from a conservative family from the North. She must get back to the fold and be a normal person who followed the traditional way of life. Be married to a professional person like a teacher or a government servant and raise a family in the normal way. The children would be going to school and become doctors, lawyers and teachers.