The Joy Plant

The  Joy Plant

sea of poppies

Addiction menace is an ongoing issue world over  .Opiates  had always been the center piece of it .Millions have been poured  to eradicate this malady but it is still thriving world over . Now gradually , rules are being bent to accommodate this problem by making it legal but the devastation caused by it is real .

Opiates had  been used in ancient cultures .It was in prominence not only because of its medicinal values but it was an equally potent recreational tool .Neolithic man was growing poppy 30,000 years ago and there is a historical documentation of Sumerian culture growing it about 6,000 years ago .

” ibis” trilogy  written by Author, Amitava Ghosh, is a historical fiction set in the nineteenth century ,where the back drop is opium trade .Trilogy comprises of  three books ,Sea of Poppies [2008] [ Man Booker Prize Finalist of the year ], River of Smoke and Flood Of Fire .Author who  was an anthropologist in his earlier life , had taken up this ambitious project, where he painstakingly built up his characters from meager facts of those times .Plantation workers from rural India were transported to work in sugar cane fields to the countries like Mauritius , Fiji and Trinidad . The surge was seen  when the opium trade was at its peak .They were indentured workers who were escaping their home country from Societal pressures or their present living conditions.These workers paid by their labor the cost of their passage and eventually settled in those countries .We do not know much about those times or places as most of these workers were unlettered ,hence there is very little documentations available .

In the book , Sea Of Poppies , his characters begin their journey from  the Eastern part of India, Ghazipur ,in a ship called “Ibis”.In the story ,this ship was a former slave ship which was reconstructed to function as a trade ship .Interestingly ,Ghazipur, is the oldest opium factory, which was established by British East India Company in 1820 in eastern India  and is still the biggest legal opium factory in the world producing the drug for Global pharmaceutical industry .

The picture of rural India painted in the book , of so many years back ,is surprisingly the same as of Modern India .The trials and tribulations faced by a widowed rural illiterate woman would not be very different even in today’s India .In the story ,to escape it all she takes the help of a lower caste man and decides to go an unknown land for a better future .

They are joined by  other very interesting characters during their journey .A Landowner, a moneyed person , who was cheated of his dues,  because of his being a native in British India .An unscrupulous British merchant , a young french woman whose dad was a Botanist and a hypnotized Bengali agent to name a few .

Author has recreated a splendid language, spoken by his characters ,which is  a mixture of Indian languages , pidgin and creole .If we visit these island countries today , they are pretty much the same languages used by the population there .

India was the largest exporter of opium for centuries in British India .Opium was one of the commodities which was financing the Empire . After the Opium trade crashed ,it is said that the subcontinent was more of a liability .

Opium has  always wreaked havoc on human kind but sheen of money seems to have overpowered human values from times immemorial till today


Mirror of our World

Mirror of our World

god of small

One of my favorite authors ,Arundhuti Roy , has once more ventured into the fiction world .Her upcoming novel  “Ministry of Utmost Happiness ” is eagerly awaited .Her last fiction ” The God of small things “was published more than two decades ago .It had won   “The Man Booker Prize” in 1997 and I feel , it is still one of the masterpieces in the world of English literature .It still enthralls me when I re read it after so many years .

In “God Of small things “, the story weaves around a set of twins ,aged seven , Astha and Rahel , who had to be displaced from their own home to their maternal grandparent’s home as their mother had to break away from her abusive and alcoholic  husband .The back drop is a small town of one of the southern states of Kerala .

They are happy and adjusted in their own world and have accepted the quirks of adults around them but every thing changes with the visit of their beautiful young cousin , Sophie .They grudgingly admit her to their own circle but life changes forever for them .

We get a sad glimpse into the world of  children .Their dependent and fragile world is always hanging by a delicate thread from the adult world on which they have no control whatsoever .Life makes them do somersaults  when their surrounding adult world succumbs to circumstances , greed , ambition ,lust or any other wrong choices of life .They just hold on to their own being as best as they can and wait for the storm to pass.

We also witness the struggle of a single woman who made unconventional choices and faced its failures .She belonged to the higher echelon of the society but that made no difference to her not being accepted and facing its aftermath .The family support system which is Indian society’s stronghold can abandon you when you need them the most .Superiority and priority of family value system takes precedence and you are ready to sacrifice your most near and dear ones on its altar .

Her book gave us a vivid picture of the cast system and its role .Cast system is another societal blight   which still holds relevance in today’s  world .Destiny plays its unwanted hand and one has to bear the cross all their life .Politicians in India rely heavily on cast system as their vote bank is dependent on them .Rather than enlightening and educating the masses about redundancy of  cast system they thrive on fueling the divisiveness .

Author Roy’s brilliant and multilayered interpretation of each character , each situation and each turn of events is par excellence .She has worn many hats and has many non fictions to her credit .This book , though written many years ago , still ,sadly mirrors even our today’s society .