Before 1830’s, the Singpho tribes of Assam used to eat a local shrub as vegetables with garlic and gulped the brew after dipping its leaves in boiled water. Then came, the East India Company to identify those bushes as tea leaves. Robert Bruce, a Scottish, first discovered the tea plants near Jorhat with the aid of Singpho tribal chieftain, historically in 1823. He planned to establish a nursery; but unfortunately he died soon. Afterwards his brother Charles Bruce took up the command as India grew up to become the largest supplier of tea succeeding China. And today, Assam divides 55 percent of the total Indian tea production of about 820 million kilos.
So when the state is geared up to promote tea estate tourism then, besides including the demonstration of Singpho tribal elders on brewing tea in their traditional indigenous style, it is natural to air an urge to seek for its forefathers. The state took all possible toil within reach to locate the descendants of the Scottish brothers for the 3 days long festival starting from December 4th. But after almost 180 years, it is not an easy task. And eventually nothing could be traced out. The carnival which intends to attract more foreigners to the state would have gone splendid if it had its foreign spotters. But the show must go on. “We still have many interesting and unique events lined up for the festival” says, Tourism Commissioner S. C. Panda.
This fact – the finding of tea in Assam – breaks a common false-belief spread among Indians that English did only wrong to them. Among many others, tea is present India’s largest economic pillar. And it is due curtsey of foreigners, our once barbaric rulers. It might be the right time to build up a congenial, propitious milieu to debate over “What English did well to us and where did they err” – words that were continuously suppressed in past.
Assam stretching its hands to its past can be a humble beginning.