Bhang Journeys



‘In an engaging, conversational style, rich in anecdotes as well as data, Akshaya Bahibala gives an account of the consumption of bhang in Odisha. The narrative reads like diary entry, recounting of facts and also the stoned ramblings of a junkie by turns; and the high never wanes in this novel non-fiction work about perhaps the most popular intoxicant in India.’—Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

‘A wild ride through the dreamworlds and shadow life of bhang and ganja in Odisha… Akshaya Bahibala is the Baudelaire of Indian literature.’—Chandrahas Choudhury

For ten years, from 1998 to 2008, Akshaya Bahibala was in the grip of bhang, of ganja—drinking it, smoking it, experiencing the highs and lows of an addict on Puri’s beaches with hippies, backpackers and drop-outs from France and Japan, Italy and Norway. Then he drew back from the edge and tried to make a life, working as a waiter, a salesman, a bookseller. He starts this journal-cum-travel book with startling, fragmented memories of his lost decade. From these, he moves to stories about people across Odisha whose lives revolve around ganja-bhang-opium. There is the owner of a governmentapproved bhang shop who takes pride in selling the purest bhang available and insists it can make people as forgiving and non-violent as Jesus. The opium cutter who learned as a boy how to massage a lump of opium with mustard oil and carve it into little tablets. The girl who survived cholera by licking opium and became a lifelong addict. The goldsmith whose opium de-addiction card entitles him to 20 grams a month, but who wishes it were 25. The ganja farmer who came from Punjab in a helicopter. A young man, a victim of ganjaand-bhang-fuelled paranoia, who believes Indian and American spies are out to get him. Excise department men who go to destroy ganja plantations and are beaten up by angry villagers. Interspersed with these stories are official data on opium produced, seized and destroyed; UN reports on the medicinal properties of cannabis; and a veteran’s recipes for bhang laddoos and sharbat.

Full of surprises, utterly distinctive, this entertaining, often trippy book of memories, journeys, facts and figures about the popular intoxicant is both a celebration and a warning.

Author's Name
ImprintSpeaking Tiger


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