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Starting The Day With The Cup That Kicks

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
For some in Rajasthan's Rajsamand district, the day starts not with a hot cuppa but with a bhang-laced drink made from cannabis.

At six in the morning, people begin slowly trooping into government-run bhang shops in the district for the drink, made from the leaves of cannabis that grows wild in many parts of northern India.

Bhang ki thandai is the favourite drink followed by bhang ki goli ( small bhang balls ). The crowds, including from other parts of the state, continue till late in the night till it is time to shut shop.

"Chan re chan, mat kisi ki maan, nikal jayenga pran, phir kaun kahega chan", are the words written outside a shop selling the intoxicant here. "Chan re chan" means to stir the drink vigorously.

"Consumers start coming early in the morning and continue till late in the evening," said Parmanand, a bhang shopowner.

Most people don't like calling bhang an intoxicant but a prasad ( holy offering ) of Lord Shiva.

"Don't call it nasha ( intoxicant ). It is the prasad of Lord Shiva," said Radhey Lal, in his late 60s, cradling a glass of bhang ki thandai in his hand.

"We do not drink alcohol. All we take is bhang, which we consider as prasad," said Kishna, who is in his early 30s.

Bhang ki thandai is a cold drink prepared with a mixture of almonds, spices, milk, bhang and sugar. Shopowners keep earthen pots of the drink always ready for customers. Though there are no official figures of the sale of bhang in the area, according to estimates, over five kilogram of bhang is sold by a shop every day.

The shopkeepers seem to know the tastes of their consumers.

"We don't want people to wait, so we keep their drinks ready according to their tastes. As soon as a consumer asks for it, we are ready with the drink," said Giriraj, a shopowner.

And for those who like their bhang a little different, there is bhang ki lassi, mixed with curd. The cost of a bhang product ranges from Rs 8 to Rs 35.

There are around 785 government-licensed bhang shops in Rajasthan, of which 23 are in Rajsamand district.

On an average, every year 400-450 quintals of bhang is consumed in the state. Shopkeepers are not allowed to sell bhang to those below 18 years of age.

Bhang lovers do not stop at one glass of the potent drink. Long-time drinkers maintain nothing happens to them after one glass, though it is usually enough to knock most people down.

The womenfolk do not seem to object to the men taking bhang. They say it is better than their consuming country liquor.

Source: Hindustan Times (India)
Copyright: 2007, Hindustan Times Ltd.
Contact: htedo@nda.vsnl.net.in
Website: Hindustan Times: Latest Breaking News from India, Cricket, Bollywood, World, Business, Videos
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