Delhi, Sept. 24 -- "The tea estate is always buzzing with some or other activity. The tourists who stay here never feel bored," Nayan Lama, the homestay facilitator of Makaibari-one of the oldest tea gardens in Darjeeling-tells me while talking about how the tea pluckers of the estate have taken the reigns of tourism into their own hands.

"The Rajah Banerjee initially took the initiative to set up homestays in the tea estate in the 1990s. But it wasn't successful then due to the lack of workforce. From 2008 onwards, after the 'Volunteer in Makaibari' project came into action, the homestay programme became successful, and we saw an influx of tourists. Today, there are fourteen homestays here," he says.

Volunteer in Makaibari is an indepe...