“The new mantra for the future”

Makaibari Tea Estates – Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
A co-written story by Siddarth Bhujel and Miranda Willems

Accompanied by a wise young boy named Siddarth with his family and friends, they enter the village for an afternoon walk. He likes to spend time with nature, since he grew up in the abundance of nature he has respect for nature. Speaking about the origins of this place, he does not want the origin of nature to be vanished or covered by blankets of cities. Cities are the new kind of villages that have less connection with nature, or should we consider ‘lost’? Siddarth and I telling this together to share a story on our environment, the Makaibari Tea Estate and its chief. Mister Rajah Banerjee is originally named as Swaraj Kumar Banerjee and the chief of Makaibari Tea Estate.

It starts when mister Banerjee came to visit his father at the estate more than thirty years ago. Rajah Banerjee is the fourth generation of the Banerjee family to own and manage the Makaibari Tea Estate near Kurseong, Darjeeling. Siddarth believes mister Banerjee as honest, clever and he is familiar with the workers. He believes this makes a good partnership with the local community. He also is one of the few estate owners to actually live and work in the hills. Quoted by his words “The new mantra for the future is holistic partnerships not ownership”.

Photo: internet - the Makaibari Tea Estates factory where the tea is processed and produced
Photo: internet – the Makaibari Tea Estates factory where the tea is processed and produced

This appreciated leader shared his experience and purpose for the community since he said “I had no intention of living in Makaibari, I came for a holiday but I had to stay”, he says. Riding to the estate one day, he was thrown from his horse; as he fell, he says he had a vision of the trees calling out to be saved. He knew than he had to spend the rest of his life in Makaibari. Now, planting trees for Makaibari became the purpose of his life and beyond.

Mister Banerjee, schooled at Prestigious Darjeeling Institute, graduated from London University and joined Makaibari in 1970 as the fourth generation tea planter, continues to make Makaibari a healthy village community also providing cows to village ladies as a non-polluting renewable fuel substitute. And other activities like computer centre, scholarships funds, home stays for tourists and micro credit loans for workers of the community and their families. The work they do together is called – Ekta (union), the name of the program is called Organic Ekta. It is an important step in providing long term holistic sustainable agricultural initiatives and promoting healthy communities. As mentioned before the community cares about education, since scholarships are encouraged and the village established a supportive infrastructure. From a community that was non-educated, several young members have received study scholarships.

Photo: by Makaibari community - plastic picking performed together by elders and children
Photo: by Makaibari community – plastic picking performed together by elders and children

Siddarth and I share a conversation about the existence of this place, we believe to be inspired by mister Banerjee’s vision. The conservation of this village exists by the awareness of an eco-system that is in harmony with nature. The people believe nature to be respected highly, giving life to all being on the planet. As Siddarth wishes Makaibari to remain green and clean forever. In order to make this happen he believes the support of elders of the place is needed because they can guide the next generation by experience and wisdom. The village community is picking plastics every week in cooperation with all ages. The chief inspires the people to keep the place clean. Though humanity and city life harms nature in many ways we do not know, the opportunity of our future is learning to live in co-existence.