“PLANTERS PERSONIFIED” – by Des Kelly
From way back when, it was understood, that, to be a Planter in Ceylon was indeed, top lucrative employment in what was always classified as a “classy” job. I have to say that I really do not know too much about “Coffee Planters”, but did have an Uncle (God rest his soul), who was the Superintendant on a Tea plantation in Warakapola, who lived like a king, in a beautiful, large home, complete with many “Domestic-aids”, at beck and call. As part of the family, we did spend some holidays with him, my Aunt, and a couple or three Cousins, and I could not help but notice the daily routine of this Planter-personified. His day would start very early each morning, as he would “attend” his plantation which consisted of many acres of lush green tea plants, already being looked after by mostly Tamil tea-plucker ladies who would have quite possibly started work around 5 am, while their children were still asleep in their tiny homes, also allocated to them by the plantation owners. Their husbands were known as “Kanda-Sahmies” who then saw to it, that their children, if any, got to the local school, before they went to work at the tea-factory in the area. This was, of course, most of them. I felt rather proud, walking along with the boss of the estate, to see a few other Kanda-Sahmies respectfully salute my Uncle, before going on their way to carry out other menial jobs around the estate.
While the Planters themselves lived in comfort, they still had to work hard to ensure plenty of Ceylon Tea to people around the World, hundreds of these Tea- plucker families had to manage in almost poverty stricken circumstances, yet seemed happy in their work, as they steadily picked millions of tender green tea-leaves, which later, found their way into the factory to go through the long, slow process of becoming the tea-leaf that everyone knows.
Once again, thanks go out to Keith Bennett who sent in this story, even as he enjoys his cup of tea, provided to him by
Planters’ lives: the myth and the facts – by ACB Pethiyagoda