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Sunday, August 14, 2022


Novelist sheds light on the Indian opium trade

The India studies program brought prominent Indian fiction author Amitav Ghosh to the Asia Society Texas Center for the first time Thursday to lecture on the opium trade.

Creative writing program professor Chitra Divakaruni, who doubles as an award-winning novelist, introduced Ghosh.

“Ghosh was born in Kolkata, where I, too, was born,” Divakaruni said. “It is a city … that has produced worthy writers. Amitav Ghosh is worthy of that city.”

Divakaruni spoke of Ghosh’s numerous accomplishments, including the two books in his unfinished trilogy, “Sea of Poppies” and “River of Smoke,” which received nominations for the 2008 Man Booker Prize and the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize, respectively.

The audience applauded as Ghosh took over the microphone and began his lecture, “From Bombay to Canton: Traveling the Opium Route to the 19th Century.” He led the audience through Britain’s predicament, which was that they needed Chinese goods but were unable to provide necessary goods in return through the East India Company.  Ghosh explained that, to combat this problem, Britain sold China opium.

Ghosh also commented on the necessity of the opium trade in relation to today’s society.

“To this day, we all use opium all the time,” Ghosh said. “Opium has always been a very, very important medicinal substance.”

After Ghosh finished highlighting the opium trade, Divakaruni once again took the stage to converse with Ghosh on being a writer and being Indian.

“Being Indian really helps my writing. I live in a small village, surrounded by rice fields. It’s very tranquil,” Ghosh said. “It’s a very congenial atmosphere.”

After a short passage from Ghosh’s “Sea of Poppies,” the audience lined up for pictures and a book signing. At the end of the evening, the audience dispersed in anticipation of Ghosh’s final installment to the Ibis trilogy, “Flood of Fire,” which Ghosh hopes to publish by Spring 2015.

The India studies program recently started the India Studies Initiative, which will feature its first study abroad this December.

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