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Cropping it up

By Aisha Edris
“A good planter is worth his weight in gold” is a well-known saying. Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a planter? What sort of personality should a planter have? I thought a planter’s job was boring because they go through the same routine every day. Well I was wrong! Sanjaya Daraynagama, the Superintendent of Eladuwa estate was able to give me a clear picture about a planter’s life.
Sanjaya’s career began as a creeper, twenty years ago, in 1987. “I wanted to be a planter from the time I was at Trinity College. As most of my friends came from planting backgrounds, I too wanted to become a planter. It seemed like an interesting job. Especially since Trinity College has been famous for producing planters, the foundation for my career was established from there. When I was doing my Ordinary level exams, I made up my mind that I will become a planter and here am I have become one” he said with a determined look!

The most important element that a planter should have is physical fitness - if you’re not a person who enjoys sports, well it’s not a job for you, says Sanjaya. “Very often famous sportsmen turn out to be planters, for example I was a rugby player at Trinity and now I’m a planter. Physical fitness plays an important role in a planter’s life because he has to walk daily for about 2 to 3 hours to monitor all the crops” If you’re a planter, you don’t have to worry about your daily exercise - as you get your exercise daily, on the job. For people who do conventional jobs, it is a little bit difficult, as they will not be able to find the time.

Are you are interested in becoming a planter? Have you have done your Advanced level exam? There is the job for you! Wait - you have to have patience before you become a planter, because it’s very important to complete the ‘creeping’ period. “I had to do the laborers’ job during my creeping period, it was very tough. I had to learn plucking, tapping rubber trees, which was around three hundred trees per day” he said with a grin. I was rather shocked when he said 300 trees, but he said it only takes less than 30 seconds to tap a tree. The list doesn’t end from there. A creeper is supposed to know holing, chemical weeding. “I had to learn from scratch - but I don’t regret it, as it is very useful as now I’m a superintendent, and I know when a laborer makes a mistake.”

The creeping period lasts from six to seven months. During which a creeper is expected to work under a superintendent. The creeper will also learn about administration, human resource management, accounting and so on.
When the creeping period is over well it’s the time to party!! The planter will be given a bungalow with two domestic aids and a bike and a good salary. Well guys these are the basics. When you are promoted the benefits are more!!!
A planter should be a human rather than a dictator “During the colonial period a planter was a tough person who went about on a horse back, and treated the laborers as if they were slaves. Now things have changed. It is not possible to treat the workers as slaves - they are human beings too. You give respect, you get respect” said Sanjaya.

“When you’re a planter you have to work as a family. As we work in a village environment, a planter has to be cordial to all. You have to move with people and get to know their moods, as it plays a major role,” he said in a serious tone.
Hey but don’t worry, a planter also has to play the ‘tough guy’s role’ at times. “Sometimes being gentle will not work, so you also have to play the tough guys role” Sanjaya said. “The tough guy has to come out when the need arises - especially when a worker is drunk, you just have to be tough and know what to do immediately”

Planting is rather a stressful job, but for those who are really obsessed like Sanjaya it’s really an interesting job. “It’s stressful when it comes to getting the crop target, checking the revenue, labour output etc., it’s very stressful. It is a job for any person who doesn’t want to be confined to the desk job!!
A planters’ job is not restricted to an eight-hour desk job. It’s a very flexible and an enjoyable job as a planter has to handle a vast area.”
“It’s a very interesting job. You have the freedom, and the time. There is so much to learn from this field daily. And at the end of the day you’re able to build up an interest”.
The best part is when a planter is promoted as the Assistant Superintendent. Everyone calls him ‘Sinna doray’ “I’ve been called ‘Periya doray” grins Sanjaya.

“Nowadays there are so many ex-planters who have turned out to be managing directors, directors etc. Once you’re a planter you’re fit to do any job” boasted Sanjaya proudly.
For a planter the most satisfying thing is when you see the crops grow. It’s as if your child is growing. That’s what brings satisfaction. And you feel that you have done your job perfectly, once you start to see the results. In the end, performance and knowledge of Tamil play the biggest role.

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Hints for a budding planter:

• Are you a sportsman?
• You need to have a love for outdoor activities
• Do you know Tamil? If not, don’t bother to learn, you will during the creeping period!
• Have patience

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