Manik Pereira (2014)

I started life as a young SD on Glenugie Division of Gouravilla Group, Upcot, having ''crept'' under the then Senior SD, John Drieberg. My PD was Peter Easteal whom I never met whilst I was a Creeper. Eventually, I got my appointment as Junior SD on the same property. The estate belonged to The Standard Tea Company, UK. Peter Easteal was not a popular planter as he did not mix with the "coloured" planters. His wife, however, was ever so kind & gentle.

The Standard Tea Company purchased The Rolo Tea Company, UK and with this purchase they owned Glenugie in Upcot and Chapelton which became a part of Kotiyagala Group in the Bogo Valley.

The first Ceylonese recruited to The Standard Tea Company were Lala Wadsworth, Noel Halangoda, Maurice Koelmeyer, Selva Canagasabai, Manik Pereira, Hemannath Wickremesooriya, Bernard Holsinger, Tony De Silva, Dushy Perera, Sunil Wickramasinghe, Parakrama Hettiarachi and Suraj Jayawickrama till nationalization took place in 1976. The properties the Company owned were Kotiyagala, Waltrim, Gouravilla, Gordon, Liddesdale and St. Leonards.

When Peter Easteal was transferred to Waltrim, he took me with him as Senior SD. My first ''act'' was at St Leonards. Thereafter I acted twice on Waltrim for Peter Easteal and Chris Worthington.

We had a piggery at Waltrim & once a fortnight we slaughtered a Pig. I had to fire the bullet into the Pigs head. Mrs. Easteal complained to me that she did not have a ham & bacon slicing machine in the big bungalow. The Head Clerk refused to order it so I told the Senior Assistant Clerk to order it which he did. Six weeks later we got a letter from George Steuart's asking why we ordered a ham & bacon slicer. Peter Easteal called the Head Clerk, Anthonpillai, ''Who the hell ordered this & where is it?''. His reply was, "Sir, Mr. Pereira ordered it and it is in the Big Bungalow". On hearing this Peter Easteal informed the Head Clerk "Then ask Mr. Pereira to reply the letter". I called the Stenographer (Peter was entitled to a Stenographer as he did a lot of visiting & I had to read every report before he signed it) and Peter heard me dictate ''Reference your letter, the Ham & Bacon slicer was ordered to slice ham & bacon as we have a piggery on the estate. It has been charged to item 3 –Tools". Peter hooted with laughter.

Ronnie Mann was Chairman of The Standard Tea Company and when he came out there was a cocktail at the Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya to which the SD's were also invited. I did not attend the parties. So on his second visit to Gouravilla, the SD's were invited to the Big Bungalow to dinner. Mann made a remark, ''Chaps, shall we go out into the garden & shake the dew out of our old lilies" so off we went for a piddle and he asked me why I did not attend the party in his honour at the Hill Club. I replied, '' Sir, we are not allowed into the Hill Club because we are considered coloured and the Club is only for the colourless. So I decided I will not attend". He said "What's your first name young man? I am proud of you - I would have done exactly like you, don't let it bother you".

A week later I was called down to George Steuart's and told I should be ready for an ''act''. Obviously, Mann must have given them a hint.

Memories are made of this.

My Salaams.

Manik Pereira


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