The poppy …

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As far as I can determine, opium is illegal in India. Its use persists, especially in north-west India in certain ceremonies. When a marriage is arranged the father of the groom and the father of the bride may well drink an infusion from each other’s hand. The opportunity to welcome strangers to a village is also a suitable excuse to indulge.

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Balls of dried opium, it looked like three for each participant, were mixed with water and sieved. The resulting liquid, amal, was then poured into the mixers hand and offered to his companion, who dipped a finger and flicked three droplets to the gods and then drank …

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The brew is then offered to the strangers in welcome.

Before accepting you should perhaps read this cautionary tale. And remember, there are more opium addicts in India than alcoholics.

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