I first met Victor in 2000 just after he and his wife Jini had opened up their home, in a coffee plantation, to guests. They remain some of the most charming people I have met in my 18 years in India and are naturals when it comes to hospitality. I had the pleasure of meeting his mother, the hilarious Norma and through them discovered the best of South Indian coffee. I was delighted when he agreed to be featured in my People of India Project.
1. Who are you (naturally!)
My name is Victor Dey. I started working at the age of 20 and have been a Tea & Coffee planter in South India for the last 49 years. I currently manage a 400 acre Coffee & Spice plantation in the Wayanad District of Kerala, and am possibly the pioneer plantation operator in the South.
- What inspired you to create your particular business/join your particular industry?
In 1999, my wife & I completed renovating an old Colonial Plantation Bungalow & had 6 extra bedrooms to spare. Tourism in Kerala was opening up & this prompted us to share our home, & lifestyle, with the discerning traveler. Being a very sociable couple we looked forward to interacting with people from across the world.
- An anecdote, which epitomises your India?
During the floods in Chennai in November, residents came together irrespective of caste or creed in an amazing show of solidarity. Places of worship opened their doors to anyone in need of food & shelter. A friend even drove his amphibious Jeep all the way from Tirunelveli (625 kms) to rescue stranded people and distribute food packets.
- One thing that you can’t live without?
Wide open spaces — & a couple of dogs.
- One thing that you hate?
The total lack of civic sense by the majority of our population.
- If you could change one thing about India what would it be?
- Who is your greatest inspiration?
Undoubtedly my late father, for the value systems he followed. With him there were no ‘grey areas’ – it was black or white & he spoke his mind. His advice to me, & later to my son, was no matter where you are, be a Gentleman.
- What is your favourite quote?
The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.
- I have noticed huge changes in India over the last few years but what is the biggest change you have noticed in India over the last 10 years?
The biggest change is technology & communication, & the benefits derived thereof.
10. What do you think are the biggest challenges India faces over the next ten years?
Education and equality for all. Abolition of caste system & reservation.
11. Which is the destination at the top of your bucket list?
Have yet to visit New Orleans & Nashville, & listen to good jazz & country music live.
12.What is the one place you visited that you have NO desire to return to?
Possibly Hannoi – dirty & overcrowded with chaotic traffic.
13.Book or Movie?
Movie – The Great Escape – never get tired of watching it.
14. I am doing a survey to find India’s most popular breakfast, what is yours?
Difficut one, but I would say a good South Indian Breakfast of Idlis, Vadas & Masala Dosa, ending with a cup of South Indian Filter coffee.
15. In retrospect, what is the one thing you wish you could have told your 20 year old self?
Victor and his wife Jini have recently opened their latest venture, the wonderful Amarylis homestay in Wayanad.