Marijuana is another gift of India to the world!

Marijuana is another gift of India to the world!

Photo : Dhayshwar Mahabir, an Independent senator in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago

I was happy to hear Independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir demanding that as a legislator he should have the right to debate in Parliament social issues such as the legalisation of marijuana, abortion and the right to same sex marriage.

While I welcome Dr Mahabirs’s concerns which I think is long overdue I was a bit disheartened by the fact that his concerns were raised after a trip to Canada. He recounted his visit to a shop where marijuana was sold as cake, fudge and other delicacies. However, he was quick to point out that to purchase any item one must have a prescription from a medical doctor.

Why the need to see the value in marijuana because it is legal in Canada? Marijuana was brought to Trinidad by our Indian ancestors. It was common until the 1950s to purchase marijuana in shops in the towns including Port of Spain. 

Marijuana has been used as a drug for meditation by Sadhus and Sufis. It is also associated with the god Shiva who is depicted with long matted locks-the original dreadlock. Bhang, an alcoholic drink that Indians prepare from milk and marijuana has been in use since Vedic times.  Drunk by the Sadhus and Sufis, Bhang is also offered in the worship of Lord Shiva on Shiv Ratri. No culture in the world has such an integrated association with marijuana as the Indian. Today we can say with pride that marijuana is another gift by Indians to the world.

Kenneth Parmasad, a former lecturer in the History Department at the St Augustine Campus , UWI, revealed that the rastafarian movement took roots in the parish in Jamaica with the largest concentration of Indian indentured labourers settled and hence its association with marijuana. It may be right to claim that our Indian Indentured ancestors first brought marijuana to the west!

Colonialism has successfully decried all indigenous beliefs and practices. Not only our religious beliefs, music and dances were put down but also our wines, beers and herbs. However, rum, gin and whiskey and other imported European drinks were made legal and fashionable. More so special licenses were given for the sale of those beverages in legally approved shops called bars or pubs while traditional beverages were declared illegal.

In India, Africa, Indonesia and all parts of the colonial world the native people had their customs, rituals and ideas. Unfortunately, through the education system, we have been brainwashed to shout about ‘Easter bunny and Easter eggs” but talk about Hanuman Jayanti in “hush-hush” tone. Our psyche has been battered by colonialism and continues with our education system and mass media.  We have incorporated into our life this culture of self-hate and have come to accept it as the norm!

Today we are witnessing educators in the UK endorsing the value of Sanskrit as a language. In Trinidad and Tobago everything Indian is fraught upon and treated as taboo or a plague to avoid… to be isolated and quarantined. This marginalization is reflected in the performing arts in the school system which has been reduced to soca, parang and African drumming.

There is absolutely no place in the curriculum for Indian dance and music. If it is taught at all, it is done by a part-time tutor after the regular school hours (8:30a.m.-2:30p.m).-much to the inconvenience of students- and made optional.

When the State ‘de-legitimises’ tassa and chutney it has equally de-legitmises the people associated with such cultures. So long as Indian culture-Hinduism, chutney, tassa, filmi-songs, dances, music -is marginalised so also would be Indians. We would only have legitimacy to speak about the value of Indian culture when it is endorsed by the West like how marijuana is now enjoying being embraced by Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir. How long again are we going to need the West to validate what is acceptable and what is unacceptable? 

Some Indians have bought hook, line and sinker that wearing a crucifix around their neck, colouring their hair blonde or red and naming their children Candice and Jonathan would bring them closer to being socially acceptable. These behaviours are defensive mechanisms by a group that is oppressed and need to falsify their true identity for fear of ridicule. They are like the chameleon that changes its colour to avoid attacks by predators.  Such individuals are living in fear and need help! As Hindus we need to reach out to these individual and rescue them!

Marijuana is an Indian thing with numerous health benefits. Our Indian ancestors knew that and that is enough reason for us to use it and not because Canada or the US says it has medicinal benefits.

Also, Sanskrit and Hindi are part of our Indian heritage. Indians have a right to demand that the State teach these languages in the school system. Hindi is the second language in T&T despite the fact that it is not taught in the school system. And we don’t have to travel to the UK to learn that or rely on the endorsement of BBC to advocate for such programmes!