Or Another Kind of Introduction
The paradoxes and realpolitik of patronage, power, and labor build the bed-
rock upon which the stories of plantation women are told. A Time for Tea
inhabits many spaces and undulates through and beyond the borders of a
seemingly distant landscape. It is an ethnography about postcolonial dias-
pora as much as it is about some dot on the map that I script into terms of
familiarity. These oscillations have charted the contours of its production,
its telling times. Such authorial movements suggest a highly individualized
cartography of the imagination. This is, indeed, the peril of authorship as
singularity. Yet this individuation is illusory because these are narratives
thickly peopled with the energy, kindness, and forbearance of many who
have sustained me in theyears since I began my journey into the storyof tea.
All have been my teachers. In ineffable ways, they too script this tale, even
when they have resisted its intrusions, its naivete, its grandiosities, and its
My teachers inhabit theworld.They live in Calcutta,Chicago, Jos, Jalpai-
guri, Siliguri, Sarah’s Hope Tea Estate, Debpara Tea Estate, Riverside, Los
Angeles, New Delhi, Amherst, New York, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh,
Wellesley, Greenwich.They map a terrain of connection and loss: a kinship
intended to assist me in telling a story that is fragmented, celebratory, and
sad; to weave a cosmology both paradoxical and possible. Their pedagogy
of compassion and kindness marks this text in indelible ways. To say I am
‘‘indebted’’ might reduce theiracts of generosity to tactile measures of value
and in so doing, take away the important ways in which they inhabit this
text. It is ironic then—as I beg your indulgence in ploughing through the
many words to follow—that I begin by registering the inadequacy of these
very words.
In India, kinship and patronage made it possible for me to embark on my
various journeys into North Bengal plantations. Many planters, and their
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