An Apple keeps your Doctor away! But …….
Do you know that just one cup of tea has more antioxidants and vitamins than eight apples?
Do you know that tea increases one’s metabolism?
Do you know that tea doesn't have any calories, unless you add sweetener or milk?
The benefits of tea cannot be denied, right from fighting cancer to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and allergies. From savour with lime and honey in China till the sip in tiny chipped plastic glasses with milk and sugar in Indian railway stations, Assam tea is a household name for the brew lovers. But, I really wonder how many people know about the people behind the cultivation, plucking and processing of tea leaves : How they live in, do they know the benefits of tea, do they get to taste the pure and best green tea?
The fertile valley of Brahmaputra, Assam produces 60% of total tea in India. Here, each leaf is handpicked with extreme care to provide us with the finest tea. The tea plucker community in Assam are called ‘Coolies’ in deregatory way. The majority of these Adhivasis were brought in as treatied slave-labour from Central India by the British about 100 years ago. And the rest consisting of other local tribal communities, as well as Nepalis, Bengalis, Oriyas and so on.
There are more than 1000 tea gardens in Assam in which, about 70 lakhs people are dependent for their livelihood. Unfortunately, no basic infrastructure, no proper education system, no good health facility have been developed for them even after 100 years. The average age of tea garden workers is only 50 yrs.
Every time I go to Assam, I visit Jakhalabandha the native place of my son's care taker, ‘Pokhila’ . She belongs to the tea plucker community. Her village on the bank of Brahmaputra has rich scenic beauty. There are 4-5 villages adjacent to each other. Pokhila and her mother live with her maternal uncle and aunt. All of them go to pluck tea in the season and in the off-season, they go to brick-manufacturing factory. Working 6 days - 8 hours each day - and on every Saturday, they get wages of Rs.500 approx, they are happy enough in themselves.
One day Pokhila was very happy and excited, "My mom has bought a dress for me today...she has got Bonus on the occasion of Diwali..." I asked how much the bonus was. She said very happily, "Rs. 250!!!"
Pokhila's mother got separated from her father as her father got into his second marriage. She had one elder sister who died due to Colerreha while she was around 8 years old. Their house is just on the bank of a small brook. They fish in monsoon, go to the relief camp during the flood and run to another village when wild elephants come raiding during harvesting season and destroy their village. In five years probably, one or two candidate from her village pass out the matriculation. They hardly understand Politics.....the politicians go to their village just before the Election, bribe few local leaders with money & booze and win the votes from them.
We went to Assam few days back. Pokhila went to her village to spend some good time with her family. They have a festival called Tisshu Puja during Makar Sankranti. She had a long list of plans to enjoy Tisshu Puja. But unfortunately, she had fallen sick after reaching her village, could not enjoy the festival at all. She had Typhoid. Her best friend had Anemia. And her friend and neighbour died by stomach ache. She stayed 20 days at her place. I gave some money to her Uncle specially for Doctor's check-up, he took her to a dispensary, and in the evenings, he spent rest of the money with his friends in boozing with meat and fish.
Pokhila is back, we will take care of her health till the time she will be at my place. But, then what after??? I really wonder!!!