Saturday, January 28, 2012

Opium: My Favourite Drug

Opium Poppy with Latex oozing out from a cut

"If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or six hours each day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with our fellows in a glowing exaltation of affection and make life in all its aspects seem not only worth living, but divinely beautiful and significant, and if this heavenly, world-transfiguring drug were of such a kind that we could wake up next morning with a clear head and an undamaged constitution - then, it seems to me, all our problems (and not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel pleasure) would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise."
(1894 - 1963)

Marijuana is no doubt the most widely know and abused drug today, thanks in part due to the numerous portrayals in Hollywood Movies and Contemporary Music scene and even the President of US Bill Clinton. There have been many evangelist of this drug who praised its positive effects and there are many people who grow the plant in-house for self consumption in America. It is also legally available to buy like any other medicine from drug stores in Amsterdam, one of the few places in the world where Prostitution is also legal. 

However, today I'm going to share my thought on another very popular drug - Opium. The infamous drug derived from the beautiful Poppy flower has been a fascination since a long time. No, I am not an Opium addict, much less have I seen any in real life. But my interest stems from the fact that this drug has had a very long history and had caused multiple wars between British and China. Also, it was shocking to learn that Bombay (now Mumbai), the present day financial capital of India at one time developed and prospered due to this very drug. Of course many of the big businesses converted to Cotton production later on after making a fortune out of the drug (reminds me of the Mafia trying to become a legitimate business entity like in Godfather).

Opium contains pain killing chemicals like Morphine and is also used to make Heroin, a more potent drug which is widely know due to its depiction in Hollywood movies - the white powder snorted during parties. Opium due to its medicinal properties has been used as an effective pain killer since very long time. India is know to produce half of the world's legal Opium which is used for medical purposes. However, it is also known that there are many illegal plantations and trafficking of the Drug in and around India and its neighboring countries.

China had used Opium for recreational purposes - much like the hookah bars/ lounges of today since the 15th century. There were Opium Dens where ordinary people would just go and have a smoke of Opium.
Opium Den in China
Opium prohibition began in China in 1729, but like any other prohibition (read alcohol), its abuse even increased. Now, there is an interesting and diabolic strategy employed by the British during this period. China at that time had a positive balance of trade with the British, meaning they were able to export more of their own products than they imported from the British traders. So the British slowly started diminishing their stock of silver. This prompted the British to resort to selling Opium to avert the negative balance of trade. They did this by cultivating Opium in British India and selling it illegally to China. This led to confrontations between the Chinese and the British and the Opium Wars of 1839 and 1858 are forever remembered in history. 

Shocking is the fact that a Christian British empire, (I belief that, at least, at that time, England must have been more religious minded) used such unethical and destructive policies to try and win over China. It all this were true, i cannot imagine how Christ would have approved of such a thing. A few months back, I heard a close friend of mine who believed that British Missionaries were sent before the Real Colonials Powers in order to soften and win over the hearts of unsuspecting people. Though I replied back saying that Missionaries have done so many positive things, I cannot completely let go of the facts of history. 

Another, interesting development was that during the same time, the British East India Company, a wholly owned company of the British empire, started regulating and controlling Opium production in North-Central-East India to supply to China. There were many Indians who seized the opportunity to produce their own Opium in Western Parts of India (read Bombay) and started business without the knowledge and permission of the East India Company. 

This illegal Opium business is said to lay the foundations of what we now know and admire as the biggest financial capital of India. It is also said that when many of these Opium businesses had grown big enough they switched over to more legal form of business like Cotton production. Of course not all of the Cotton mills started from Opium. Many of the Cotton producing mills are still seen in present day Mumbai (Opium has been swept under the carpets). There are now Real Estate developers fighting over these old huge areas of Cotton mills due to its prime location and corresponding astronomical monetary values.

Though I would love to continue on, it has been quite a long post and you may be tired reading. So, this is where I stop my writing and leave you to ponder and do your own research on my favorite drug!


Lalkholian Guite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lalkholian Guite said...

kon reframe thak -

The Making of Early Victorian Bombay
By Amar Farooqui
it is an interesting research paper.
and Oh! Amitav Ghosh's book Sea's of Poppies - too is a nice book to leav thru -

ken le ka na lung lut na mah mah - lung lut huai ka sak diak kha - Singpi toh Opium ki sumdong tuah na a na vanzat uh hi lung lut huai kasa mah mah ah - India te le market on creat uh - Singpi on edict sak uh - karese! singpi bei a ki hing zou lou - Amerika lamte ahih leh Boston Tea party nei zen in nak pi in na doudal ziak un Singpi duh lou in coffe lam a na tel zo ua - China gam in Singpi teh man phat dan - chih khong bang le mak thou - lungsim ah zaw thil tampi ong pai dun dun - hisap chet chet leh - Abang teng hileh - a sim nop mah mah -