Darjeeling Tea- Blood in my Cup



Shikha Sinchury


Interesting Tea menu in a fancy spot,

“May I take your order please”, she asked gently

Firmly I said, “Special Darjeeling Tea”

and it came in a beautiful porcelain teapot

with a design of fiery dragons in the sea.


As I opened its lid,

a complex aroma like a breeze

made my mind slid

down the lane of memories.


Memories of childhood in kamaan-bari,

of laughing aloud and playing luka-mari.

Sheer greenery called for revision,

those ukalis and orhalis clouded my vision.


Ahh! The first sip…

it graciously took me back

to that romantic nostalgia in the cold of quhiro;

and youthful promises made over “dui paath, ek suiro”


Ahh! The scent of my motherland in every sip,

it quenched the longing of my forlorn soul;

that longing for belonging to my maato

that I have always subconsciously borne.


That single cup of tea

Oh! What absolute tranquility!

Known for its quality – ‘Darjeeling Tea’

that cup gave me a sense of identity!


While I was drowning myself in its beauty still…

with a warm smile she got me the bill;

a total of RUPEES THREE HUNDRED a cup!

And in it, the taste and the smell of my tea-garden hill.


I took a pause,

and then with curiosity and concern

I googled this question-

“How much per day does a tea-garden labourer earn?”




Suddenly, I grew cold

and my heart grew hefty.


And those last few sips down my throat

felt like I was swallowing clod,

for me it wasn’t tea anymore

but labourers’ sweat and blood.


That sense of belonging got replaced,

by a sour aftertaste;

that finishing cup told me in a scream

that it is, but a mother’s vanishing dream.


Perhaps, she had to pick up doko, namlo, and ghum,

and labour tirelessly to make their future bloom.

But the system is rigged, who can fight against it?

Their lives – is it destined to doom?


‘Special Darjeeling Tea’

Indeed, what specialty…

plucked, processed and marketed

at the cost of each half-fed family.


Its aroma for me is now

odour of a labourer’s sweat,

no matter how fine its leaf or bud

it is to me but a worker’s blood!


Tea I sipped or the tea sipped me,

both of us were left feeling abrupt.

Darjeeling Tea, Oh! Darjeeling Tea

How did you become this blood in my cup?




kamaan-bari: tea garden

luka-mari: hide and seek

ukalis and orhalis: uphill and downhill

quhiro: fog

dui paath, ek suiro:  a bud and two leaves (tender and finest part of the tea plant)

maato: land

doko, namlo, and ghum: traditional agricultural tools used while hand-picking tea


Note: The daily wage of a tea-garden labourer mentioned in the poem is true as of this date. (Rs 250 per day)

Amplifying voices of the marginalized- Shikha Sinchury, Life Coach  www.chautari.in