Tag Archives: malwa

BOOK CORNER: ‘OPIUM INC. … How a Global Drug Trade Funded the British Empire by Thomas Manuel

Copyright@shravancharitymission

    Book Review: ‘OPIUM INC. … How a Global Drug Trade Funded the British Empire’ by Thomas Manuel.

     The subject book brings to us the story of the world’s biggest drug deal ever, first published in India in 2021 by Harper Collins. It wouldn’t be out of context to mention at the very outset that the author must have researched to the hilt, digging deep into various historical texts, available, on the global opium supply chain and opium trade, before he penned the book.

     Author Thomas Manuel is a journalist. He is also an award-winning playwright whose work revolves around history, science, education, or the intersection of all three. His words can be found in Lapham’s Quarterly, Nib, Wire and The Hindu, among other publications. In 2016, he won The Hindu Playwright Award for his play Hamlet and Angad. He currently works at India Ink, a public history project where he makes videos about how the past continues to affect the world today.

    Contents: It starts with the Prologue: The Great Opium Triangle. The book is divided into eleven chapters. I would briefly take you through all of them without being a spoiler. It starts with the ‘Poppy Pioneers’ and then talks of how the opium trade flourished and travelled ‘From Calcutta to Canton’ in China. Canton is also known as Guanzhou. It was captured by the British during the first Opium War. This is followed by the ‘Smugglers of Malwa.’ Then there is also ‘The Bombay Boom’ that comes with the opium money. One of the book’s most interesting sections is ‘The Opium Wars’ which gave rise to ‘Anti-Opium Crusaders.’ The narration also takes you through ‘Opium and Independence’, its ‘Endings and Legacies’. One of the prominent chapters of the book is about the spread of ‘Opium, Cotton, Sugar and slavery’, followed by ‘Opium Smoke and Mirrors’ and it ends with ‘Opium Today’. This is followed by the Index and then a half-page on the author. The language of the author is plain English which is easy to comprehend but is garnished with a plethora of quotes from various texts that make up for a large part of the plot.

    What the book offers: This is the story of the world’s biggest drug dealers. In the 19th century, the British East India Company operated a triangle of trade that straddled the globe, running from India to China to Britain. From India to China they took opium. From China to Britain they took tea. From Britain to India, they brought the British Empire. To paraphrase the historian Tan Chung: The Chinese got opium, the British got tea, and the Indians got colonialism. It was a machination that belied what was really going on: The British were enabling the longest-running drug deal ever in the history of the world. It was a devious plan that worked with cheap Indian land and labour and spun money for them. This is the story about the banality of evil, the birth of mega-corporations and the world’s first narco-state. The British had two problems, though. They were importing enormous amounts of tea from China, but the Celestial Empire (China) looked down on British goods and only wanted silver in return. Simultaneously, the expanding colony in India was proving far too expensive to maintain. The British solved both problems with opium, which became the source of income on which they built their empire.  For more than a century, the British knew that the drug was dangerous but continued to trade in it anyway and today they talk of morality. They put their colony to work to produce something that the Chinese would buy even if they didn’t want it and that was opium. Over the 18th and 19th centuries, the British transformed the entire farming economies in Bengal and Bihar into opium-producing zones. And their agents smuggled the drug illegally into China, exchanging it for tea. Suddenly, the balance of trade leaned the other way. Silver started flowing back, out of China and into the British hands. Slowly this new equation solidified into a stable mechanism: The Great Opium Triangle. The story of the opium trade is not just about the narcotics that were stored in chests and packed in ships. It was also about how that trade shaped the world we live in today. It left an undying legacy in India, whether it was Bihar’s poverty or the affluence of Bombay, the story of opium is one of immense pain for many and huge privileges for a few.

My take on the book: If you haven’t read about opium you wouldn’t know what havoc it created and continues to create in the world. Opium Inc. sensitises you towards that. While reading the book one gets a feeling as if the author has collated the data from various texts and churned it into a book. In a span of 252 pages, he has plugged around 350 notations from various documents of various authors that go to show the extent of his extensive fact-finding. Every chapter is summarised in the preface itself in a few sentences which creates that initial enamour to run through the book. It has plenty of inside stories and anecdotes some hitherto unheard of. The detailing of how opium was processed in those times is enumerated quite well. From the opium seed to the market, the narration is comprehensive. How the opium markets in China operated is explained substantially well that many would not know. The description of Hong Merchant Pan Zhencheng in the chapter from Calcutta to Canton is engrossing. The book gets interestingly descriptive in the middle. The chapter ‘Smugglers from Malwa’ is elaborate on opium farming, its production and its trading. This is a book with a lot of yarn which otherwise for an average reader would be difficult to ferret out.

    The author must have spent an aeon reading and collecting relevant data for the title. Information such as the first clipper in India was built in the 19th century in Howrah was a treat to read, even when, it was an opium clipper. The history of Bombay (Mumbai) is well carved out with its opium past and so are the daring stories of Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy and Sasson who flourished there.

    We all talk of contract farming today. The cultivation of opium under ‘contract farming’ started way before it came to other crops in the opium-growing areas. The author has also covered the story of Lin Zexu a high Chinese official best known for his role in the ‘First Opium War’ in whose honour a statue has been erected in Chatham Square in China Town, New York. The book proclaims that the opium wars were akin to the lethal world wars. After page 136 the pace of narration slows down a bit as it is loaded with minute details and names which are difficult to remember. There is one story after another and episode after episode. The narration covers the long history of sugar, opium, tea and cotton in a triangular context—India, China and Great Britain in elaborate detail. It gives a scheming view of the cross-ocean business mercantile.

    What the book delivers: The real success of any book is how it impacts you after you’ve read it, and more so, do you feel knowledge-rich after reading it? Well, on those accounts the book is sterling. It tells you how the British demolished Asia. The narration transcends from opium to sugar to cotton under the umbrella of The East India Company. It touches upon most writers who consumed opium or have written on opium and it also includes all those languishing documents on opium. There are some rare pictures too in the book on the manufacturing of opium such as—The Mixing Room, The stacking room, The Examining Hall at the Opium Factory, Patna, 1850; and the Opium Fleet on the Ganges, 1850.

    It breezes past romantic poets who were opium users and quotes the lines of a few. The book spans from the historical past of opium to the present. A line from the poem ‘Kubla Khan’ by the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge sums up all too well. It goes as follows:

Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread,

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

    But whether the ‘milk of Paradise’ that climaxes the lines of Coleridge is opium isn’t clear. But it’s true that Coleridge consumed opium regularly. I would give the book a high rating. It definitely enhances your knowledge base when it comes to opium, tea, cotton and the triangle connecting India, China and the British Crown through The East India Company.

***

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our Publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai; Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida; India. Shoolini University, Yogananda Knowledge Center, Himachal Pradesh and Azim Premzi University, Bangalore).  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi; Available for reading in Indian National Bibliography, March 2016, in the literature section, in Central Reference Library, Ministry of Culture, India, Belvedere, Kolkata-700022)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K; Herrick District Library, Holland and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, USA; Black Gold Cooperative Library Administration, Arroyo Grande, California).

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his way through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available on Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day-to-day life. The book is available on Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

MIRAGE

(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)

AWADH ASSAM AND DALAI LAMA … The Kalachakra

(The story of the man who received His Holiness The Dalai Lama and his retinue in 1959 as a GOI representative when he fled Tibet in 1959. The book was recently launched on 21st November 2022 by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and is archived in his library).

BHAVANS JOURNAL

Short stories, Book reviews and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: 1. Reality and Perception, 15.10.19; 2. Sending the Wrong Message, 31.5.20; 3. Eagle versus Scholars June, 15 & 20 2020; 4. Indica, 15.8.20; 5. The Story of King Chitraketu, August 31 2020; 6. Breaking Through the Chakravyuh, September 30 2020. 7. The Questioning Spouse, October 31, 2020; 8. Happy Days, November 15, 2020; 9. The Karma Cycle of Paddy and Wheat, December 15, 2020; 10. Power Vs Influence, January 31, 2021; 11. Three Refugees, March 15, 2021; 12. Rise and Fall of Ajatashatru, March 31, 2021; 13. Reformed Ruler, May 15, 2021; 14. A Lasting Name, May 31, 2021; 15. Are Animals Better Teachers?, June 16, 2021; 16. Book Review: The Gram Swaraj, 1.7.21; 17. Right Age for Achievements, 15.7.21; 18. Big Things Have Small Beginnings, 15.8.21; 19. Where is Gangaridai?, 15.9.21; 20. Confront the Donkey Within You 30.9.21; 21. Know Your Strengths 15.10.21; 22. Poverty 15.11.21; 23. Top View 30.11.21; 24. The Bansuriwala 15.1.22; 25. Sale of Alaska 15.2.22; 26. The Dimasa Kingdom 28.2.22; 27. Buried Treasure 15.4.22; 28. The Kingdom of Pragjyotisha 30.4.22; 29. Who is more useful? 15.5.22; 30. The White Swan from Lake Mansarovar 30.6.22; 31. Bhool Bhulayya 15.9.22; 32. Good Karma 30.9.22; 33. Good name vs Bad Name 15.10.22; 34. Uttarapath—The Grand Trunk Road 1.12.22; 35. When Gods Get Angry 1.1.23; 36. Holinshed’s Chronicles 15.1.23

SUNDAY SHILLONG TIMES

POEM HAPPY NEW YEAR 8.1.23;

(ALL THE ABOVE BOOK TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE ON AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

Advertisement

BOOK REVIEW: MY PRINCELY COLLEGES BY HARIKISHAN LAL DUTT

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    Mr H.L. Dutt happens to be my college teacher, my Guru, and the erstwhile Principal of Colvin Taluqdar’s College Lucknow, where I studied. He taught me English. I still remember the splendour of his English class, especially, that of Sheakespeare’s, Merchant of Venice, in 1974-75, that is, still etched, like the sparkle of a diamond in my mind, where, even, the onslaught of time has not been able to faint it, in any manner.

    ‘It is a wise father that knows his own child’—says Lancelot, in act 2 scene 2 of Merchant of Venice. Mr Dutt knew each student like his father. Most certainly one of the best English teachers I’ve ever known. Erudite, handsome, with a tall pedigree, and, an, appropriate convent English accent—something that everyone, envied those days. The manner in which he monitored the college reminds me of another quote from Merchant of Venice—‘young in limbs, in Judgment old’—Morocco in act 2 scene 7.

    The publishers of this book are Notion Press. They have done a good job. The author dedicates the book to his wife—Bina Dutt, his rock of Gibraltar, his daughters Alka & Anu and his son Harsh. The price of the book is Rs 450 for a print copy and Rs 60 for a Kindle one.

    The book is a personal account of Mr H.L.Dutt—his auto-biography. A book I would recommend to teachers and students especially. It is a 161 page book, constructed over twenty eight chapters, describing the journey of his career life, and thereafter his retreat, his retirement that he is now enjoying.

    The book starts with the chapter destiny, his early days, his outdoors, and co-curricular activities. Then the scene changes to England, where, he goes for a bursary, acquires a foreign degree and then returns to Mayo College Ajmer again, where, he teaches for a good number of years and then bids adieu in the year 1966 looking for wider exposure in career terms.

    He then joins Cambridge school, followed by Pilani and then he marches into Colvin Taluqdars College Lucknow. He further goes on to teach in Hyderabad Public School, The Daly College Indore, and then returns to Mayo College Ajmer again, and even starts Mayo College Girls School.

    In short Mr Dutt started his teaching career from Mayo College Ajmer in 1954. He had splendid days there. Full of learnings and excitement. He gives a very animated account of his stay in Mayo Ajmer that includes a plethora of campus activities, excursions, sighting of animals and even shikar when it was permitted. Mayo in those times was a princely college, with children of, most princely states, of India studying there.

    He talks of the various college houses like Bharatpur House, Udaipur House, Jhalawar House, Jaisalmer House, Kota House and even talks about his campus accommodation.

    After leaving Mayo in 1966 he joined Cambridge School Delhi, followed by Pilani and then Colvin Taluqdar’s College Lucknow, spread across 99 acres on the banks of river Gomti.

    In Colvin he took over from Principal H.N. Kashyap. Reading about Colvin was nostalgic as I had studied there. The author has given quite a detailed account of his tenure in Colvin-Lucknow. He starts with the titling of Lucknow as the ‘City of Nawabs.’ He then goes on to describe the college houses such as—Hind, Anjuman, Awadh Taxila. The celebration of Janmashtami. And he hasn’t forgotten the nawabs and the Rajahs and the Taluqdars of Uttar Pradesh such as—Raja of Oel, Mankapur, Kotwara, Pratapgarh, Amethi, Kalakankar, Bhinga and Mahmoodabad. He highlights the Tandoori Chicken, Kababs and Roomali Roti and the dinner invitation of Raja Sajid Husain of Kotwara.

    The author vividly remembers Mrs M Seeley, Head Mistress of the junior school, faculty L.P. Bhardwaj and senior master P.C. Chaube.

    Colvin indeed was a powerhouse of academics producing IITians, doctors and bureaucrats galore. Some unforgettable sportsmen that he remembers are Hamidullah, Birbal, Razdan and Puri. Then the ace debaters like Trivedi, Pandey, Sharma brothers, Lakhtakia and Luv-Kush Verma, and of course Ashok Prasad and Head Prefect Satnam Singh.

    He also hasn’t forgotten S.N. Tandon, S.B Singh, Samiullah, Amanat Ullah, Sudhir Dayal, Jaiswal, G.V. Singh and Brinda Shankar.

    He fondly remembers his exquisite bungalow and even his gardeners, and the famous Darbar Day the busiest day of the college. And the old boys and their parents.

    An interesting point that the author makes is that he found certain names starting with the letter “A” to be more prominent in class and academics such as Alok, Ashok, Anil, Arun and Arunendra. In the process in no way he disparages other letters.

    The author then goes on to narrate his experiences of Hyderabad Public School. In June 1979 he takes up a new assignment—The Daly College, Indore. A princely college built by princes of Malwa.

    Finally the author returns to Mayo College, Ajmer with a great amount of nostalgia. The book also covers his starting of Mayo Girls College. But the author’s career circle is yet not complete.

    Then in 2006 Mr Dutt is invited by Dr Sanjay Singh, Raja Amethi, to head the college once again to bring back its glory at the age of 76 which he does, after which Mr H.L Dutt takes his retirement and settles in Gurgaon. His contribution to public colleges shall always be remembered. He stood for excellence.

    Friends before I close this review let me tell you. The book is a treat to read and I’m not saying this just because the author happens to be my Guru and Principal.

    What I liked about the book was the segmentation and presentation of the text into small chapters where the emotions of the author were captured very well and without being obvious. He has used plain but enticing English keeping students in mind and has desisted from verbosity. The sentences are soothing, pleasing and inviting where you don’t feel like putting the book down—a real page turner.

    I wish Mr H.L. Dutt good health and a happy retired life.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****