In 1899, my great-grandfather, the Nawab of Jalpaiguri, traveled on elephant back across the swampy jungles of northeast India, clearing great swathes of land and planting delicate tea saplings imported from China. Family legend has it that he built his fortune led entirely by his nose. Upon espying a choice piece of virgin land, the young man would scoop a handful of earth, bury his nose in it, inhale deeply and pronounce, "good, plant," or "rubbish, move on."
By the end of his life he owned 22 tea plantations from upper Assam to the Dooars. Nuxalbari, though, was one of the few tea plantations that he did not plant himself entirely. It was first established in 1884 by a British tea planter, and bought by the Nawab in 1910, who then doubled its production by planting areas thought to be unfit by the earlier owner.
The Nawab of Jalpaiguri, Musharraf Hussain was one of the first Indians to make tea planting his passion. His genes survive.
The estate was handed over to his daughter, who then passed it on to her son, my father, who decided the woman he married had greener thumbs than himself, entrusting it to my mother just before he died. Dolly Jabbar, is our managing director and everything else. My brother Iqbal and myself, Sonia, are directors who hope to keep the family tradition alive. We are assisted by our very able manager, Subhasis and 500 excellent staff— mainly super-women, who work together to bring that cup of cheer to your table.