Margaret’s Hope

I waited for Margaret who visits the tea estate manager’s bungalow every night from the guest room on the west. She then goes to the study and then to the tennis court through the verandah. Margaret, for those who are curious, was the daughter of the owner of Margaret’s Hope Tea Garden in Darjeeling who died in the 1930s, when she was still a child.

I was staying in the century old manager’s bungalow courtesy of old family friends who had graciously let us enjoy their warm hospitality, and marvel at the antique charm of the bungalow nestled in the middle of the tea garden.

Maybe it’s to do with the brown man’s (in this case woman’s) fascination with the white skin and all associated paraphernalia, but I love old British buildings. And the tea gardens in Darjeeling still retain that colonial charm that’s slowly fading in India. That haughty aloofness of the tea gardens and its folks only adds to the reclusive appeal of the garden that is reminiscent of the British Raj.

Like a bibliophile given a rare manuscript, I delighted in exploring every corner of the sprawling bungalow. The roaring fire in the huge fireplace added a kind of Christmas cheer to the place in the evening. Basking in the warm glow of the embers, I read about Margaret, the history of the garden and how it came to be called Margaret’s Hope from Bara Ringtong, the garden’s original name.

Bara Rington, which started in 1864, was one of the first tea gardens in Darjeeling. During the 1930s, when the garden was owned by a Mr Bagdon, he visited the property along with his daughters, the younger of them being Margaret. She loved the place and vowed to come back and stay there. Unfortunately, she died of an illness while returning to England. She was only 13. Mr Bagdon changed the name of the garden to Margaret’s Hope from Bara Ringtong in her memory.  The name remains in use today. 

The next morning, the factory manager gave Juni and me a factory tour. Unfortunately, winter is the machine-overhauling season and we missed watching the tea leaves being processed. After a hearty breakfast, we debated for a while on whether to go to Darjeeling town or go home, and we opted for the latter because of the possibility of a strike (more about this in the next blog).

And oh, I didn’t see Margaret, but maybe she dropped in when I fell asleep.