An elephant kissed my window: and other stories from the tea plantations of South India

by Ravindran M , Saaz Aggarwal

This book is based largely in the Nilgiris, and is a collection of anecdotes and historical information about our blue hills, in particular the tea plantations amongst which we grew up.


Along with stories from M Ravindran, a tea planter in South India from 1969 to 2001, we were very lucky to get exceptional contributions from a range of people, including some of the British planters of the 1950s and 1960s. One of the precious pieces in the book is an excerpt from the diary of Edward Lear when he visited the Nilgiris and this was sent to me by Paran Balakrishnan (Nilgiri, 1969). (Did you know that Edward Lear was an artist? I didn’t! Some of the gorgeous silhouette icons at the end of the chapters are by him… while a few are by me ) the book also has interesting archival information about how the tea plantations came up, their ownership patterns and what life was like on them. One of the pieces is from Senthil Chengalvarayan (Aravalli, 1981) about his dad who was a planter, like mine, and about the kind of life we led back then.

The book also has a large collection of archival photographs and advertisements of the products in use … an era when a refrigerator was positioned as ‘a scientific marvel’. There are also some contemporary ones, including by Kuntal Desai (Vindhya, 1980) a well-known artist particularly known for his bird photography, and some by my classmate Kanchana Sunderarajan (1977) an outstanding photographer.

The gorgeous cover, as you will see, was shot by our own Sangeetha Jairam. As the book production came to an end, one rainy day followed the other and we were in despair. Then Sangeetha just happened to get on her bike and ride out to Valparai in the Anamallais (one of the important locales in the book!) and sent this in. It struck the perfect note to create the atmosphere that so many of us grew up in – the kind of place where an elephant could actually walk up to your bungalow and blow hot kisses on your window, something that did happen to Ravindran and his family.

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this book and very much hope that you will read and enjoy it! It is available on globally. It’ll be available on too in a few days, but in case you want to order copies before that please email me on [email protected].


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