The greens and blues of the valley were risen to a new and vibrant glow by the sunrise. The spiral road was surrounded by pine trees on one side and tea gardens on the other. The first rays of the sun illuminated the snow clad mountains and few kuccha and wooden houses embellished the picturesque scenery. Pratap has been opening his hazel eyes to this scenic beauty every morning, since his birth.
Palampur, a small pahadi town nestled in Kangra district has been home for Pratap’s family for generations. His father was the care taker of the Daranga tea estate and as far as his memory goes, Pratap has been working with his father. At every step of life, Pratap is reminded of being dedicated to the masters and carrying forward the legacy of being the trustworthy servants of the Daranga Tea Estate.
Every morning, before setting out to work Pratap wore a fawn coloured kurta pyjama, a black half jacket with a red cloth wrapped around his waist. He never forgot to wear the red and black himachali topi which was gifted by his masters. Like any other morning, Pratap got ready in the same clothes to carry out the same old duties. A deep sigh and he set out to the tea estate.
On his way, Pratap brushed his finger over the tea bushes, his legs kicked the pine cones that came on his way and he hummed a song in hope of finding some life in his monotonous routine.. In hope of adding meaning and purpose to his life.
He could feel the winds changing their directions. It was April, that time of the year, when the sun was a little warmer and it was time to start tea plucking in Palampur. Many men lined up to weave bamboo baskets at the estate’s boundary.
Soon the tea gardens will be dotted with hundreds of men and women with bamboo baskets hanging on their backs. Women and girls from nearby villages flock around to pluck tea leaves and earn a living for themselves. The harvest time is busy for Pratap as he has to keep a close eye on the harvest and help his father to pay the labourer at the end of the day.
While Palampur was getting back to life, Pratap’s life continued to be amiss. The only life Pratap ever lived was as son of a caretaker of the Daranga Tea Estate. Day after day, year after year, he followed the same duties and the same routines without a break. His heart was keeping him alive, waiting for Pratap to get a life.
To be continued…..