Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Holy Smokes: The plant-eater and the pig

An ex-pothead delves in the mystical leaf, its lucid components and wry realities

The first time I had a joint I blacked-out. I was in the 6Th grade at a boarding school in the old capital of Punakha. I swore never to smoke that funny thing stuffed in a clay pipe the Nepali cooks offered me one auspicious Hindu evening. Sitting as we were in a circle passing the “chillum” around in a ceremonious setting; blowing dense smokes in the cool evening breeze. Certainly seemed like a ritual to me. Senior high schools came and went, I say schools because the government sent me too many. Along with the obligatory grades my knowledge and know-how of marijuana kept escalating. Being selected by the state for sponsorship to the one and only university in the country was a dream fulfilled. With that I was well on my way to finding out first hand the causes and effects of marijuana use and abuse. I found out this was ‘cool’ information, and surveyed every available avenue for ‘information marijuana’ and meticulously memorized the dozen or so euphemisms it goes by.

joint” was the most popular, along with “G”, “pot”, “weed”, “grass” and “shit.” Even if the shit was appalling at times giving me fits of vomits and lumbering black-out; there was no way I was going to say I didn’t find the jaunt good! It was going to be another step forward on the road to being acknowledged as an expert on marijuana and a dodgy guy who’d experiment with anything involving mind games.

I learnt and mastered the subtle art of “rubbing” and making “shit” out of marijuana leaves, how to stuff them below the government-sponsored mattresses in our hostel rooms and gather pretty neat dry-harvests underneath!

This was harvesting “G”. Here I had my first sight of farmers with their sickles and wooden baskets chopping the plants. I prodded and found the village swine; wallowing in muddy sties grunting, chomping and hogging the precious plants!

The moment was a revelation! The mystery of the sleeping Bhutanese pig was in chorus unraveled, verified and nullified. No wonder pork in Bhutan is considered such a delicacy, especially the dried variety. And no surprises why they taste so good, at least in Bhutan, it was the bloody marijuana diet!

That’s what I thought as I walked the mustard fields, viewing the why’s and how’s of Bhutanese attitudes toward the pig plant. The villagers knew some of us at the campus smoked the leaf, and reactions were as bemused as mine was when I found out what they fed the hogs. They called us the ‘pig food smokers,’ chuckling and laughing whenever they’d saw us amidst wild marijuana fields rubbing the leaves vigorously, sweating in the searing heat.

When you are high, the thing bothering you a lot is normally the blurry focus of all your brain cells onto some pre-fixation; so my questions echoed back. Namely my obsession with the intriguing fact that though it abounded everywhere, why would we, the “drukpas” not smoke it, eat it or maybe even cooked the damn thing! As I retrieve the scattered recollections, the reasons are pretty self-evident. It was just too simple to offer any tangible satisfaction to a conspiratorial mind. I haven’t done any scientific research, academic studies or conducted interviews and the lot to authenticate this query. The way I see it, its something like this; until the arrival of the sixties, the farmers significantly never knew this shit could give you a good “kick” attached with a lazy “high” or that it could even be an accompaniment; a spiritual tool as propounded and practiced by the Indian “sadhus”.

And that’s setting aside its commercial elements.

When your head’s way up in the clouds, you forget the touch of the earth, the gravitas of things around you. There was no “smoking culture” as such rooted in the minds of the people. That explains to an extent why they never discovered the plant’s potent powers lying dormant. There was simply no need to test the plant. For there existed no contaminated knowledge of the plant other than what it was being used for, no foreknowledge of the mind altering powers of the weed that now thrive in parts of even rural Bhutan. And even if they’d known that, the average Buddhist farming in the villages would most likely ask; why would you want to alter your mind in the first place? Profoundly rooted in the Mahayana form of Tantric Buddhism, people here have believed in and abided by Guru Rinpoche’s teachings; among which is the simple counsel that smoking is literally blowing your life away, with no paybacks whatsoever. Thus its pretty anathema to follow the Guru’s teachings while indulging your-self in tobacco smokes. This holds true even now, yet it doesn’t mean there are no smokers. That’s what makes us human. The Guru’s words are held in particular allusion to tobacco, though I feel he must have pictured the wild marijuana plants growing in abundance in his omniscient mind.

It’s still considered a spiritual and societal taboo and the facts go along. All 20 dzongkhags in the country are smoke free. Plastic has been banned for sometime, you get the picture. Tobacco sales are banned along with public smokes; another feather in the cap of Gross National Happiness.

Never mind the booming hike in prices in the tobacco black market and the dark Bhutanese belly of drug abuse and growing use. The symptoms are all around, the disease is spreading, there’s no cure in sight.

Be mindful what you wish for; Marijuana to Nirvana is one long, long trek, with a lifetime of Samsara clouding the way.

Ps: YourLustForLifeStartsRightNow!


arcibaldo said...

interesting to hear it as feedstock for pigs. i know a hog-raiser here who feeds his pigs with old donuts to make his pigs taste sweeter.

in my jurisdiction we call it 'jutes' or 'chongki', and plantations also exist in remote cool climate mountain areas where with military raids on these places coupled with a thorough burning of all the plants create a seeming nirvana in and near the places.

when i was in bhutan for a short while, i was amazed when i realized that the common weed i seemingly ignored along the streets of thimpu was actually 'MJ' or 'maryjane'. at the same time i read in the local papers a government project or initiative for the youth to uproot these plants. and we joked around then, no wonder there's gross national happiness.

i was hooked for a time, but somehow it never did go right with me with beer or gin, or so i think. then again, if one does want to find that altered or higher state of mind, there's always the fulfilling road of practiced meditation.

Anonymous said...

thas good that it didnt go well for you arcibaldo! It went right for me and man! look what happened!
Theres more kids smoking it than ever. I guess its just the sign of the times.

Anonymous said...

you are interesting...what you write is anyway...i look forward to reading your posts