Taylors Tea Garden – by Ajit MuttuCumaraswamy
CHAPTER ONE (2)
Before long Henry called over at the school and told James that he was being offered a job with a coffee estate in Ceylon. He would be a planter. He would be in charge of a large coffee estate or he could be asked to work on a new coffee plantation, clearing trees and clearing the ground to make it ready for the plants brought from the nursery. Henry dropped in at James house to inform James’s father about James getting a job as a planter. James’s father was pleased that his son was going to be a planter in Ceylon.
James was at a loss thinking about Janet. Should he be telling her about his getting a job in Ceylon? This was a vexed question. He decided that he would not do anything unless he bumped into her. Camilla was another matter. He really felt brave enough to talk to her. He could try to meet her. He walked along the road that she used to walk but he did not meet her.
The day arrived and James left Auchenblae for London. He went to see his family to say goodbye. His sister was very distressed. James was surprised because he felt he was only going away for a while. The dog hung close to James as if it knew something more. It barked and jumped up and down as if it was saying goodbye for a long time. James’s sisters shed tears. Even his brothers seemed upset. Only his father and mother seemed happy to say goodbye. His father beamed as he expected James to return a rich man. James could even be sending money home. That would be a proud moment for him.
James was not happy to be in London. It was smoky and the streets were dirty. He felt uncomfortable. Everything was different from his Scottish village and town. He was able to visit Westminster Abbey and Hyde Park. He had heard of these places but did not aspire to come to London to see these places. But he could not go the famous Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 as it was difficult to travel there and the admission was expensive. His mother’s cousin Henry was busy making arrangements for their passage. James heard that Ceylon coffee was being exhibited at Crystal Palace. He also heard about the fire that caused much damage.
The ship they were sailing in was called Sydney. It was meant to be one of the better ships. But it was quite small compared to other ships in the vicinity. The journey was tedious at times but very exciting when it anchored close to the African lands. The sight of strange people and tropical secenes was interesting and made him look forward to his arrival in Ceylon.
It was a beautiful morning when the ship sailed into Colombo harbour . The land could be seen from the boat. James and Uncle Henry stood near the helm of the ship looking towards the island’s shore. Behind the harbour, there were green hills. The harbour was large. There were several ships anchored close to the shore. They were charmed by the blue skies and the green shoreline. It was tropical haven. James felt excited.
“ Look to the right James. That white building is called the Fort. Thats where the Governor lives” said Uncle Henry.
“ I can see it. Nice building. The place looks so green and sunny. The hills are lovely” said James.
“ We won’t be able to meet the Governor. But we can meet the company people. They are not far from the Governor’s house.”
“ Are we travelling today?”
“ I’m not sure.”
“ It will be good to meet the company people. I would like to see my contract.”
“ I nearly forgot. It’s a good thing you reminded me about this. “
“ I was thinking about what would be a good salary.”
“ I’m not sure what salaries are being paid.” said Henry.
“ I was thinking I will ask for what I was getting in Scotland when I was doing my apprenticeship.” said James.
“ Mind you , they will be providing your housing and even food will be delivered.” said
“ Let me try and see if I can get the same salary” said James.
Later in the afternoon, they met up with the company officials. James asked them about his salary. They did not want to Pay £100 per annum from the start. But James argued that he was getting this amount already. Eventually, The contract was signed for £100 per annum.
Colombo town was an interesting place. There were shops selling clothing and jewellery. James thought of his mother. He felt sad that she never travelled like he did. He wished she was with him.
“ James you know you will be working in a coffee plantation”
“Yes Uncle Henry”
“ But you could also be learning about tea planting. The owners of the estate are thinking of planting tea.”
“ That’s fine. Tea is an expensive drink, Isn’t it ?”
“ Yes. it is. Tea was first brought to England, Scotland and even Ireland by a Portugese princess who married King Charles the Second. Her name was Catherine of Braganza. The King of Portugal’s daughter. The Portugese were trading with China from Macau even in 1550s when tea was only found in China”
“ Sounds like they know all about tea”
“ Its not easy to grow tea even today. Its a difficult crop to grow. Nobody has been successful so far in Ceylon. Tea bushes in Ceylon come from Assam, near India’s border with China.”
“ Are they any different from tea grown in China?
“ They are little bit different. That’s what i heard. The tea bush in Assam is related to the Chinese tea bushes but a slightly different variety”
“ Sounds interesting. I can have a go at growing it”
“ You will. There is a big demand for tea. And the price is high. So only people with money can buy it”