Rajah Banerjee - The Phoenix
Reality is stranger than fiction - Oft said and heard. Yet when you hear this story about the ‘Lord of Darjeeling’, ‘Bad Boy of Darjeeling’, Guru of Marketing, the Yeti of Darjeeling, literally the King of Darjeeling........you may be reminded of a Greek Tragedy.
Once upon a time, there was a young lad named Swaraj Banerjee. He lived in, and breathed the air of Makaibari in Darjeeling. This young boy was no ordinary lad. He was groomed by the trees, forests, animals, birds and insects of Darjeeling. A child prodigy, he studied in many different schools and ultimately went on to study in England.
Destiny then played her hand, the Hills called back what was their own. As the story goes, Rajah fell off his horse while on a brief visit to Makaibari. The enchanted forests, where he had grown up, were waiting for this opportunity. They spoke to him in his forgotten mother tongue. Rajah had an out of body experience and heard them cry out for help.
The rest is history. Rajah stayed back at Makaibari and took it to heights that were unimaginable. So much has been written about him and his monumental achievements. Much ahead of his times, he was (and still is), an environmentalist, a feminist, a socialist, an animal and bird lover, before it became a fad promoted by social media. Along these lines, he seems to have done it all - Turned the Darjeeling Hills organic, empowered the women of Makaibari. He can hear a bird flap its wings and identify it. He can tell you whether it will rain today or not. Yet he has sold tea to Queen Elizabeth, the Sultan of Brunei, partnered at the Beijing Olympics and The Fifa World Cup (2014).
In an effort to secure the future of Makaibari(“his soul”), Rajah partnered with The Luxmi Group. However, tragedy soon struck and his house of four generations cindered to ashes. It took with it many valuables such as the Samurai sword, the Tsunami painting.......the smiles of four generations, the tears they had shed, their successes and failures, the experience and results of their trials and errors. Rajah, the man who was synonymous with Makaibari was thus pushed out of Makaibari.
The story until now is well known. People started writing off Rajah Banerjee as ‘Finished’ and ‘Has been’. However, you cannot put down the unputdownable. Here is where I tell you about how the Phoenix was reborn and rose out of the ashes.
Rajah is not just a name. He is a King from heart and soul. His infectious youthful energy, stoic approach to life, keen observation and idealism are evident in his spring of step.
Makaibari was too small a project for him. He has now started another brand called Rimpocha where he works with small growers reminding them of their forgotten instincts.
Thunderous as he is, he is advisor and mentor to Dorje - preparing the next generation for taking care of his beloved Darjeeling.
Up his sleeve, he has many incredible ideas such as an alternate source of fertilisation for the hills, alternate source of energy for people.
Mr. Banerjee is pushing hard to make Darjeeling a carbon sink because of the huge forest areas and its organic status.
A forest corridor passing through many different tea gardens is another of his brilliant ideas.
This impeccable gentleman, whose Nepali is better than his Bengali, who speaks the Queen’s English better than the Queen herself, talks like a sufi saint.
Watch out for him and his follow this Phoenix’s upward flight as you see the steam rise from your cup of Dorje Tea.
Write to me at Editor@Dorjeteas.com