All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ was an axiom Munnar’s former British tea planters took seriously. They worked hard and played equally hard and ensured that their assistants—even if the latter weren’t so inclined—followed suit. The fallout was sometimes amusing.One reluctant assistant was coerced into joining a wild pig shoot. When the hunt ended his boss enquired if he’d bagged anything. The youngster shyly admitted that he’d killed a pig.
“But I didn’t hear a gunshot!” the boss snapped, perplexed. “Well, sir, a big boar came rushing towards me,” the assistant explained nervously. “And not knowing how to work the bolt of the rifle you gave me, I clubbed it to death with the butt!” He was never asked to join a hunt again.
Another assistant was bullied by his angling-crazy boss into learning the finer points of trout fishing. One day while fishing together he demonstrated his newly acquired skills by catching far more—and much bigger—trout than his mentor did. And to rub salt into the latter’s discomfiture, the youngster had a photo taken of the two of them holding their respective catches—with his crestfallen boss miserably displaying just two sardine-sized trout!
Many assistants learnt the rudiments of golf, tennis and squash from their bosses and went on to outshine them in the annual tournaments. They were, however, prudent enough to crow about their success only behind their bosses’ backs—lest they dented their mentors’ egos and possibly their own career prospects!
A veteran planter (known to ride roughshod over his assistants) once cancelled an assistant’s leave to ensure his participation in the local annual Thorpe Cup shooting competition. The veteran later jokingly confided to a colleague that he was staying off the shooting range just in case the disgruntled youngster— carrying a shotgun for the trap shooting event—decided to settle old scores!
On the work front, too, there were a few instances of young British assistants who, having picked up the basics of tea planting and estate management from their bosses, rose in the hierarchy by dint of hard work to eventually lord it over their former bosses—and, in some cases, ‘persecutors’—much to the latters’ consternation! This apparently prompted one sulking veteran, thus affected, to philosophise regretfully in private, “Never teach your assistant all the tricks of the trade—unless you want him to outsmart you!”