I just finished the wonderful Matt Gross piece on Darjeeling in Sunday’s NY Times (Oct. 14, 2007). What a fine piece of writing! In it, Matt Gross repeatedly mentions Rajah Banerjee’s out-sized ego, but this is too facile and too easily misrepresents the man himself. People with less “patrician” self-assurance are simply incapable of pioneering bio-dynamic farming, say, or pioneering much of anything else. Indeed, people simply attribute lots of things to “ego” who have never experienced what it is to be SINGULAR, as for instance how an estate owner of an old and distinguished Brahmin family in Darjeeling must feel. The truth is that Rajah is indeed a singularly intelligent man, an authentic original. It makes Rajah’s friends smile to read that he seems proud, but Matt Gross also realized he has much to his credit to take pride in.
Rajah and the Darjeeling elite to which he belongs are not entirely comfortable with one another, but he also has many friends there such as the Lord of Goomtee and MuscatelValley, the very distinguished Ashok Kumar, who knows how to value this complex and brilliant visionary tea man—and others even at the distance of San Francisco. Of no possible interest except to tea people, this observation is simply an aside, not an exception, to the Matt Gross article wittily headlined “High Tea, India Style.”