A memoir – a letter and some pictures shared by Mr. David Lungley, son of Late Rolfe Lungley, who was Manager Doomni Tea Estate’s Manager of from 1936-1939, give us a peek into the history of Doomni Tea Gardens.
“Dear Mr. Jalan, Mr. Pareek, and Mr. ‘Tea Taster’,
It was a huge pleasure and delight to find your Tea Estate a few weeks ago when my son and my wife Frances and I drove from Guwahati one day to try to find the Tea Estate that my father managed from 1936 until 1939. My father’s name was Rolfe Lungley, and it was his first job after he graduated from Wye Agricultural College (London University) in England, working for the Brooke Bond Tea Company. I want to first thank you very much for your most kind welcome to us, for showing us the Tea Factory Mr. Pareek, and for the warm welcome into your house that your wife and daughter gave us when we first arrived. It was wonderful to learn so much more history in the telephone conversation with you, Mr. Jalan; and to meet Mr ‘Tea Taster’, whose own father must have known my father back in 1936! It was a very exciting and interesting occasion for us. We had been visiting my son in Delhi for Christmas, where he has been working for the past two years, and luckily were able to take the opportunity to visit Assam.
My father often talked to us of that time in his life before the 2nd World War, when he was living on a very remote Tea Garden in Assam, and I always remembered the name of the Plantation. My mother said that when she first met him in 1942 he was so shy, because of those lonely and remote three years, that he would not go then into a crowded room, she would always have to lead the way! When I was a child I remember two Tiger skin rugs that were in our house and a magnificent mounted Tiger’s head, of tigers that my father shot near Doomni. Later my mother gave these to a museum, so that they could be preserved. My father said there were two other Englishmen on two Tea Plantations nearby, and the three of them would meet each Sunday to have lunch together, and to be able to speak English together! One of them was called Channing-Pearce (whose name I remember and I think I once met in Kenya), who had an aeroplane. It was so interesting to hear that you knew of this same man, Mr. Jalan, and his areoplane!
As you saw, my father had some photographs from this time, which have passed down to me. I want to send you the ones of Doomni, as I know they will be of interest to you. I have attached one to this email, and I will send the others in some following emails. I am also attaching here the obituary that was written by a friend of my father’s in the Brooke Bond Tea Company when my father died, which relates his life in Tea growing after his Doomni beginnings, which I think you will also find interesting.
It was a very great pleasure to find Doomni and the house in which my father lived as an adventurous young man, thank you so much for your very kind welcome and hospitality. I wonder if you happen to know, Mr. Jalan, who managed the Plantation during the War years 1939-45, or if it was even able to be managed then? I would be most interested to learn. In 1939 (or maybe ’40, it took time to get permission) my father joined the 14th Punjab Regiment, in which he served throughout the war. He did suffer in the war as his mother and sister were both killed by the Japanese in 1942 and his father was interned in a Japanese POW Camp in Java, but just managed to survive.
With very best wishes from my family here in Somerset, south-west England,