DEVIL'S ADVOCATE: Go to Pot Sauvik Chakraverti The Times of India Friday, January 20, 2006
Devprayag lies north of Haridwar and Rishikesh, and the great thing about the place is that there are no pilgrims at all. But it must be an even holier place, because here the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet, and it is only thereafter that the river assumes the name Ganga. At the confluence, I was met by a solitary priest. He asked me if I wanted to offer a puja, and I agreed. I tossed some grains of rice and some flower petals into the Ganga and said some mantras. I then paid the priest some money. That is when I decided to perform 'an experiment with truth':I inquired of the priest: "Panditji, main is pavitra sthaan mein ek chillum peena chahta hoon. Aap kuch intezaam kar saktay hain?" Translated: "Respected priest, I would like to smoke a chillum at this sacred spot. Can you make the necessary arrangements, please?" The priest immediately turned to some caves higher up the mountain slope and shouted, "Bhoothnath! Oi Bhoothnath!" Soon a tall sadhu with dreadlocks emerged. The priest told him to get me the needful and within no time Bhoothnath and I were blowing chillum after chillum at the extremely sacred spot. The priest kept sitting by himself in peaceful contemplation while Bhoothnath and I smoked. The point is this: Cannabis has always been an integral part of our culture, unlike alcohol. If I had decided to open a bottle of beer at the confluence, no doubt the priest would have thrown both me and the bottle into the Ganga. There are no words for "Cheers" in any Indian language. There are a thousand salutations to Shiva used when lighting a chillum. It is a shame that our democratically elected legislators have outlawed the one way of getting high we can truly call Indian. It starkly demonstrates the break between state and civil society. It is as absurd as the German parliament passing legislation outlawing beer. Cannabis is non-addictive, unlike tobacco or alcohol. Making it illegal is absurd. So let us all call for a repeal of this repressive, unrepresentative legislation that assaults our own culture. Branded cannabis will deliver better quality than what is available underground. And tourism will hit the roof.