The five treasures of the high snow welcome home one of their own: David Wilson Fletcher. As the snow from the summits of the Kanchenjunga Mountain Range nestled in at the foothills of the Himalayas melts and trickles down the slopes, tears are shed for the loss of a tea planter from another time in the world of tea.
On the tea trip of a lifetime in 2010, I met and traveled the Darjeeling area with the daughter of David Fletcher, Kandy Smith. With both our trips engineered by Rajiv Lochan, Kandy traced the first twelve years of her life. Our bond was instant and upon visiting her at her home in Derbyshire, England in 2012, I met her amazing father. Both my daughter and I fell in love with this learned and gifted man. We are saddened to learn of his passing on August 25, 2019.
Mr. Fletcher lived, served, and wrote in these countries: India, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Egypt, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Malta, and South Africa.
He lived a life unlike any other. Here are a few snippets from his obituary:
“A love affair with India was deeply embedded, and when David saw a recruitment advert from Finlays (Scotland) for a tea planter role in Darjeeling, with knowledge of the Nepali language, he could not resist. After brief return to Essex to settle his wife and daughter (and another on the way) in summer 1950 he arrived in East Bengal as assistant tea estate manager on Chongtong Tea Garden, 3000 ft below Darjeeling and with morning views of the peaks of Kanchenjunga.
In December 1950, Sheila joined him with the new infant daughter, Kandy Nefret, and 2-year-old Melody Nefertiti. Flying in four hops from Heathrow to Dum Dum Airport Calcutta, and then driven in a Land Rover up through Siliguri to Darjeeling.
There followed twelve years of remarkable life in this remote corner below the Himalayas. Loreto Convent and base of Mother Theresa’s first ministry, was school for the two girls raised mainly by their Tibetan “ayah,” and a third daughter in 1955, born next to The Planters Club in Darjeeling.
He managed challenging engineering at the tea factory, and he instigated new plucking regimes and plant nurture, which furthered his reputation, and Finlays’ tea, too.”
Rajiv Lochan also managed Chongtong Tea Garden years later. As many of you have learned, the world of tea — as vast as it is — becomes much smaller because it is woven together through people, plants, and passion.
I must take this opportunity to introduce you to “The Children of Kanchenjunga,” the marvelous book written by David Wilson Fletcher about his years in the foothills of Mount Everest. I was given one of his original copies while visiting with Mr. Fletcher in England. Here are a few photos from the book:
There was also an American version of this book called, “Himalayan Tea Garden.” For those of you with a fascination for India and all things tea, it is worth the hunt and the wait for these two books. Here are Amazon links to each of them:
To be concluded in Kanchenjunga Tears – Part 2
Images provided and copyright held by author