Wednesday, November 26, 2008

a botanical search

As i was walking back from the village I had visited (Attoo, Dewal Tahsil, Camoli Block, Uttarakhand),the middle Himalayas were at their stunning best. The snowclad peaks loomed majestically, streams gurgled musically, bees buzzed busily, flowers preened valiantly as they tried to attract said bees, and strange animals rustled well, strangely. All wasted on me, though. I saw none of these things. I was on a quest. I was looking for a certain shrub, with erect and bushy form, with a slightly woody stem, with deeply palmate and serrated leaves- Cannabis sativa .

I had first come across it, growing by the bushel, during a reconnaissance survey along the Bhagirathi. The main shrub along the road to the village of Mukhwa is hash. I had then managed to pluck a few leaves and stow them in my wallet- for experimental purposes. Took them to my room in great anticipation and chewed. Sadly, I was so tired with all the walking of the day, that I could just register, “Ah, fibrous. Of course, hemp!” before I fell asleep.

The next time I came across this shrub was during my visit to Chamoli as an observer for the planning processes being implemented in the villages. There was just one bush growing next to the Pradhan’s house, and I was eyeing it hopefully. But the thing about being an observer is that one is in turn, continually observed. And the credibility of said observations suffers a beating when it may be considered that they were made under the influence. I know, I know. This is blatant marginalization and I shall launch a protest. But not today.

But where one bush grows, surely there must be more? And that is why, as I walked the 6km to my hotel, my eyes were roving like a pair of bees on a search-and-consume mission. It all came to naught. Have suspicions that that one bush has been planted there. But ah well, there are other field trips and I might even visit Mukhwa again.

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