India is full of eccentric characters spanning from the mildly to the massively. Rajah Bannerjee falls into this bracket, though I won’t say where. Inspirational, energetic, entrepreneurial, fascinating and a delight to spend time with. He is a fifth generation tea planter at Makaibari Tea Estate near Kurseong, the first purely organic tea plantation in India – he loves that there are giant spiders around the place as it show’s that no pesticides are being used – and it also has the distinction of selling the most expensive tea in India. In addition to the tea, he believes strongly in women’s empowerment and education and runs various excellent social initiatives around Makaibari.
We caught up with him, not an easy task, for a quick question and answer session.
2. What does India means to you. India is fascinating, it is a coalescence of the past, present and future.
3. What is your favourite anecdote which epitomises India: Arriving at Bagdogra -the airport for Darjeeling, an English friend of mine on haring up the hill an hour later stated, ‘’Rajah. I am glad to get out of the tropical heat- what a relief to be away from the swelter of 40 degrees. You cannot imagine when landing at Bagdogra, the paradise you live in is so close by.’’ I promptly replied ‘’Keep driving for another hour uphill and you will be at Sandhakpu, its alpine/arctic conditions there.’’ In short, where in the world do you get to traverse the 3 major climatic zones of the world in a drive of 3 hours? This translates to diversity of flora and fauna of this region which cannot be found anywhere else in the world in such a small biotrope. That’s what Darjeeling tea is, the surplus of this magical region which we share in a tea cup with the rest of the world. The diversity of India is to be found in the spirit within as we sip from the cup. The bigger the quest the smaller the chalice to savour from.
4. What inspires you in your work? It is quite simply, a calling. Do read my book, The Rajah of Darjeeling Organic Tea – Makaibari, available on Amazon.
5. What is the one thing that you can't live without? Trees. Trees are poems that the earth writes to the skies and we cut them down to record our emptiness. Thank God for the microchip!
6. What is the one thing that you hate? My pettiness.
Rajah Bannerjee is the owner of Makaibari Tea Estate.