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Debdatta Mukhopadhyay | West Bengal, India

"Two Leaves and a bud"

The phrase became synonymous with the art of plucking tea, after publication of the Mulk Raj Anand novel of the same name. The fate of the bush and the flavour of the tea depends directly upon the plucker's ability to identify these.

Nestled away in the Darjeeling district of the Himalayas, lies the little village of Mim. The name "Mim", has it's roots in the colonial era, and is a colloquial corruption of the Hindi word "Mem", which translates to Foreign Lady. The small community of settlers are all in some way or the other employed, either directly or indirectly, by the Tea Factory which was set up by a British man Andrew Yule, in the late 1800s.

Mim is a relic, which serves as a classical example of Colonialism transitioning into Capitalism. Even after gaining independence from the British, life at the plantation has remained roughly the same. With tea being a cash crop, the workers contribute to the creation of a commodity which is extremely expensive (The Moondrop tea variant retails at around 10,000 Rupees a kilogram), while their wages or standard of living have never really improved.

The purpose of the series is to document the day to day lives of the estate workers, and to juxtapose the contrasting environs of tea production. On one hand, we have the pristine, vast tea plantations that are also tourist attractions now, and on the other we have, the dark factories which are essentially time capsules, where, for over a century now, the tea production process has remained essentially the same.

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