It was dark as I peered into the bowels of the tea bushes. I must have been about five or six, when I ventured out on my own beyond the train tracks where the tea plantation was. It was perfect place to play. The huge ditches for water drainage* that grid-locked the plantation added to the thrills of a bunch of boys flapping their fledgling wings. Away from adult supervision, we just floricked in the dirt and rough play, as we crashed through the bushes playing tag and hide and seek. The tough bushes scraped our skins but it would matter little until bath time when the soap would burn.
Little did I know that one day the dark allure of the tea bushes would return to me as a grown-up and become part of my life. And in that darkness I would find light!
My boyhood was in a small village of Matigara, located in the foothills of the Himalayas. Less than 15 km north started the Darjeeling tea region, soaring from mean sea level to the heavens as it were.
*It is ironical that tea which grow in fairly warm and humid places do not like water stagnating around its roots.