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