Rustom Pestanji Jehangir.

[A Short history of the lives of Bombay opium smokers.] online

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o — ..^tmh'^rk''-



ro those who have made up their minds to
believe that Opium is an unn ixed evil.




, /


During my visit to England last year, I was shown a
tot of rubbish literature published and circulated there, with
the avowed object of sweeping from the face of the earth,
one of the most valuable products of India — Opium. There
is no doubt that while for some time past, the Anti-
Opiumists have succeeded in gaining the ear of the English
people and are persuading them to believe that the use of
opium is an unmixed evil, no sustained effort has yet
been made by those who have studied the question to place
the true facts of the case before the public. Though, no
doubt, Sir George Birdwood, Sir William Moore and
others have done much to correctly inform the English
people on the subject, it is necessary to put forth further
efforts for counteracting the vicious effecte of the crusade
against opium.

There is a class of people in England, who, in the
words of Sir "William Moore, " having no desire to trouble
themselves by investigating matters are ready to accept
with astounding credulity the ipsi dixit of those who
speak loudest and with the greatest confidence, whether
OflScers of the Salvation Army, quack-doctors or Anti-
Opiumists." It was with the intention of enlightening
this class of men that in September last, I wrote a letter
to the London Daily Graphic, exposing the misleading
statements of the Anti-Opiumists. My letter was accom-
panied with the photos of some healthy, robust and well-
built opium smokers, which were taken at my own expense
and which were also reproduced in the Graphic. When my
letter appeared in the Daily GraphJc, it was said by the A nti-
Opium Secretary Mr. Alexander, that the cases of robust
opium-smokers cited in it were merely isolated instances of
my version- It was then at the suggestion of some of my
friends that I thought of wi'iting a short history of a large
number of such men. In this brocure will accordingly
be found short accounts of about 250, out of 600
smokers in the whole of Bombay. 'J his number was ascer-
tained — at a census taken at the desire of Mr. James
MacNab Campbell, 0. I. E., Collector of Bombay — in the
year 1890. 250 is a sufficiently large number to
afford a satisfactory test of the cperation of this drug.

In order to understand properly the bearing of the
numerous instances here cited, it is necessary to know what the
Anti-Upium Agitators urge on the so-called evil-efiects of the
consumption of opium.

They say :—

(1) That the cultivation and use of opium is an un-

mixed evil.

(2) That the continued use of opium, in however

moderate quantities, destroys the natural appetite,
deranges the digestive organs, impedes the circu-
lation, and vitiates the quality of the blood,
obstructs respiration, depresses the spirits,
weakening and exhausting the nervous system,
and producing emaciation.

(S) That the habit leads to the destruction of the moral
powers. Not only is the body killed and the
power of the will weakened, but the affections,
thoughts and desires are corrupted, thus com-
pleting the ruin of the whole man.

(4) That opium causes sterility.

(5) That cases of longevity amongst opium consumers

are rare.

(6) That the moderate and even the minimum opium-

eater is a slave to his stimulant, and the
extreme difficulty and rarity of rescue.

(7) That 99 out of 100 such persons are degraded

and worthless.

(8) That the use of opium and the number of con-

sumers is rapidly increasing.

(9) That the Government of India watches unmoved

the sale of hundreds of young girls into
immorality in order that their depraved parents
may be enabled to purchase more of the deadly

(10) That Her Majesty the Queen Empress fosters
a traffic, which, as has been repeatedly pointed
out, is the means of decoying thousands of inno-
cent girls into dens of infamy.


(11) That Government put temptations in the way of
new-comers by employing handsome young
women to wait on the smokers, and by exhibit-
ing indecent pictures in opium- smoking houses.

It is difficult to refrain from characterising in the way
they deserve the statements and charges set forth as above.
To say the least, they are most reckless and unscrupulous ;
perhaps, in no other country in the world could such gross
and revolting charges be brought against its Government
with impunity. But England is a country of freedom and

In the Anti-Opium league there are, no doubt, many
persons who are sincere and well meaning, but there are
also men who are not quite disinterested in their advocacy.
But it is imperative on all those who pose as philanthropists
and iiumanitarians to weigh their utterances, and to be
scrupulously careful as to how far the picture of abominations
they present to the public is genuine and faithful,

I have been for years in H er Majesty's Opium Depart-
ment, Bombay, and have had ample opportunities of forming
an accurate opinion about the physical condition of the opium-
consumers* What I shall state will be from long personal
experience, and also from information gathered from the
opium consumers themselves.

The results of my experience and information are briefly
summed up as follows : —

(1) Opium is not the deadly agent it has been repre-

sented to be.

(2) There are reasons connected with climate, food,

products of the country, manner of life, habits
and customs, why people of India use opium.

(3) A moderate consumption of opium not only does no,

harm but on the contrary is beneficial,

(4) As a rule, persons taking opium are cheerful, robust

and well conditioned. I have never seen one case
of "horrible destruction of God's image, more
terrible than delirium tremens, lunacy, oy idiocy,"'
nor have I seen handsome young women sprawl-
ing on the senseless bodies of men. In the


whole of ;Bombay not more than half a dozen
women (according to the census taken in 1890)
smoke opium, (^ne of them is 35 years of age
and the rest are from 40 to 56.

(5) To say that opium is intoxicating is simply

ridiculous and shows gross ignorance on
the part of the persons making such a state-
ment. The effect of opium taking is not intoxi-
cating, but soothing. A person immediately
after eating or smoking opium, feels cheerful
and active, his appetite improves and he is able
to do much work.

(6) From the histories of the smokers, it will be seen

that most of them are married and have children.
Moreover, the population of India has increased
during recent years to a great extent. These
facts do not prove that opium causes sterility.

It is equally untrue that opium consumers do not live to
old age. This will be seen from a cursory glance at the
histories of the smokers. In fact the longevity of opium-
eaters is of proverbial notoriety.

It is said that a person once addicted to the use of
opium is quite unable to give it up afterwards. This is hardly
true, though there is a strong belief to this effect amongst
some of the consumers themselves. There are a number of
men, amongst whom are chiefly seamen, who smoke one day
and don't smoke for some days afterwards. When on shore
they smoke ckundool, but when at sea they don't take opium
in any form. There is no doubt for the first few days it
creates a craving and the person feels miserable. lhi&,
however, does not last long.

From the statistics of crime during the last eight years, it
appears that there has not been a single case of criminal
offence originating from the abuse of opium, and on this
point the opinions of experienced Police Officers will be, no
doubt, read with interest. This, however, could not be said
about those who take alcohol,

90 per cent, of the opium consumers are men of business ;
such as tailors, carpenters, weavers, mill-hands, goldsmiths,
gold embroiderers, firemen, seamen and others.

Page IV., para. V.

It must be stated thai persons suffering front Chronic Cough,
Asthma or Consumption are so much benefited by the practice that
they do not give up the habit.

Read pages 71, 72, 73 and 74.

A paragraph in the latest report for this Presidency is

Causes of interesting, however, so far as it throivs light on the
Lumicy. ■'

causes of lunacy. Amongst criminal lunatics the chief

cause of aberration was ganja smoking. .....

Tins practice heads the list by a long way, no fewer than twelve of

the criminal lunatics in the Bombay asylums owing their lunacy to

that cause. Spirit drinking and epilepsy conies next, with three

cases each, and then come grief, fever, and heredity, with two each.

Opium eating also figures in the list of causes, and so does charas

smoking, with one case each. ..... Thus far

for criminal lunatics. In tJie general list, outside the classification

of mama, melancholia, and dementia, ganja smoking as[ain takes the

lead, no fewer than seventy-three out of yog of the cases in tlie

Bombay asylums being lunatics from that cause, and thiity-seven of

the 290 lunatics admitted last year came under the same heading.

Bhang, too, is credited with thirty victims, 'aihile spirit drinking

had thirty five. The evil potency of tJiese drugs is borne testimony

to with serious frequency in the records of Indian gaols and lunatic

asylums. They stand in another category from opium, wliich, despite

the much greater prevalence of the opium habit than that of ganja

smoking, is credited with only one admission into the Bombay asylums

last year, against tiventy-vne cases of lunacy from spirit drinking and

forty-four from the use of ganja and bhang. — Times of India,

May igth, 1893.

Para. V., Line 5, read "SOME" for ''Chiefly."
„ „ „ 7 „ -SMOKE",, -Take."

The riumber of consumers or the use of opium has not,
in my opinion, increased. If the number of consumers has
increased, the use of opium would surely have increased, but
this is not the case. The mere increase in the sales of duty-
paid opium does not prove that the actual use of the drug has
increased. Formerly when there was no proper supervision,
and the detective establishment was small, smuggling was
very rife, but since there has been an increase of establish-
ment and a better supervision, the licit sales, which were
low, have increased.

In Bombay, according to the census taken in 1890,
there are 7,000 persons taking dry opium. This number
added to the smokers of chundool and 7ii.adat, make a total of
7,600 persons. The population of Bombay is 821,764 ; so lesj
than one per cent, of the population only are opium consumers.
Surely this cannot be said to be a large number. It would
be as well to mention how the census was taken. For fifteen
days an officer was posted at each of the Government
licensed shops, from the time the shop opened till the
time it was closed, and the number of persons that
entered the shop was noted down. It is a known fact
that a great many men visit the shops twice a day. It was not
possible to ascertain the number of such men. So the
total number put down is a very liberal one indeed. The
census officers also visited private houses and clubs and
ascertained the number of opium-smokers in them.

Now, what has Government done in respect of opium!
traffic ! Has it done anything legally or morally wrong
to tempt persons to take opium and thereby to increase its
revenue ? I make an emphatic reply in the negative.
The opium houses have no outward attractions.
The inside is still less attractive. The houses are situated
in small, unknown lanes. Ihe rooms are small and dark.
In short, their appearances are calculated to repel men from
them. No girls or young women are ever appointed to wait on
the consumers. Nor are any indecent pictures allowed to be
hung on the walls. Government have, on the contrary, done
much to control the traffic by the imposition of a heavy duty
as well as by stringent regulations, i^'or instance, the licensees
are prohibited from giving opium on credit, nor are they
allowed to receive any wearing apparel or goods in barter for
<<>piuHi. They are not |)ermitted to keep their shops open


after a certain hour, nor are they allowed to retail opi^'m at
places other than the nominated shops, the number of which
is very limited and under no circumstances is increased.
In the whole of Bombay there are now only thirty-four
licensed shops for the sale of dry opium, churdool, viadat
and Balla gollis or children's pills, while a few years back
there were as many as 400 unlicensed shops where opium,
chundool, ■madnt, kiuumJ:a (opium mixed with Wat3r) and
JBalla gollis were surreptitiously sold. All such houses have
been now suppressed.

I might here give an instance to show that as a
rule information in England is supplied by men who are
igaorant of the subject or have no iivtimate knowledge of it
and who are always fond of exasrgerating matters. For
instance, in one of the issues of that disgraceful brocure, the
Ant i -Opium JS'ews, the Rev. Arthur Prautch of Thana (a
small place near Bombay) says: — "In Bombay Presidency,
the ' •overnment has a very direct connection with drugging
children with opium. It has assumed the legitimacy of the
custom and taken the monopoly of the business instead of
discountenancing it." This is not true, 'i he agitators
have all along been misleading the public by making them
believe that in India opium is given to infants and children.
Crude opium is seldom or never given. They are given
Ball I. go. I'S. These pills are made of about forty kinds of spices
and include an infinitesimal quantity of opium. The weight
of these pills vary according to size ; the largest weighing
two grains. In every pound of these pills one oz. of opium,
is put and 2,500 to 4!,0L)0 pills weigh a pound.

It is all very well for some of the good people of England
sitting comfortably at home to carry on an agitation — an
irresponsible and ignorant agitation — against the opium
traffic. But the question is fraught with the most
serious considerations; and no Government worthy of the
name can deal lightly with it. The Government has to
consider not only the appalling magnitude of the task,
but its serious financial and political consequences.
When it is borne in mind that opium is grown not
only in ^'ritish territory but also largely in the Native
States, that it is consumed not only by the inhabitants
of British India, but also by those of the JNative
States, and by large numbers of men both in the


Native Army of the British Government and in those
of the > ative States — when these facts are remem-
bered, a whole vlsia of dirficulties, perplexities and of
not impossible dangers unfolds itself before the
mind's eye. These are most important questions in the
consideration of the problem which no administrator,
politician or statesman can afford to ignore. I have no doubt
but that if these very philanthropic gentlemen, the Anti-
Opiumists, who make so much noise, when they are devoid
of a sense of responsibility, were to change sides and were
placed in the position of responsible rulers of the country,
they would stand aghast at the bare contemplation of the
enormous difficulties, administrative, financial and political.

But apart from these difficulties and dangers, whether,
any attempt to extirpate the growth of, and traffic in
opium will ever succeed is a most doubtful matter. I
think it can never succeed. It will be next to impos-
sible to prevent the clandestine cultivation of opium in
such a vast continent as India, or its smuggled importation
from Persia and other places, even if the question of the
enormous expense, attendant on such an undertaking, be left
out of the consideration. As it is, cases of smuggled opium
from Persia are not rare at present, and persons outbide
the department have no idea how difficult it is to detect
offences against the opium law, owing to the small bulk of
the drug and the facility with which it can be stowed away.

Granting for a moment that there will be no serious ad-
ministrative, financial or political difficulty in the suppres-
sion of the opium traffic, and that the attempt to effectually
suppress it will, after all, prove successful, the question still
remains — will the evils supposed to spring from the use of
opium end here ? In othing of the kind. 1 he people will
take to alcohol or to other deleterious drugs, which will be
a change infinitely for the worse. Such a change is said to
have already occurred in the (Central Provinces where., in
consequence of restrictions on, or total stoppage of, the
consumption of opium, the people have taken to the use of
garija, a highly deleterious drug.

Though I have, but very briefly, referred above to some
other aspects of the controversy on the general question of
opium, my chief aim, at present, has been to give a large
number of concrete instances of the physical and other condi-


tion of the generality of opium consumers. I have collected
and given in this book 250 such instances, together with
short accounts of their past and present lives. For
reasons of expense, I could give the photographs of only
100 persons out of the 250 described in this book. But
I have also got a few copies of the photographs of the
remaining ones, and shall be happy to forward them
for inspection to those who may desire to see
them. Very opportunely, just as this book was ready for
the press, a number of Sikh Soldiers, lent to the Central East
African Company and destined for Nyassa Land, arrived in.
Bombay. Having read a short paragraph about them in
the Times of India I immediately went to see them,
and I can never forget the impression their magni-
ficent physique made on my mind. How I wished that
I could take these eminently presentable ( from the
opium consuming point of view ) men to England,
and place them bodily before Sir Joseph Pease and
his confreres, thus giving them an ocular demon-
stration of the futility of the outcry they have
raised against the consumption of opium. However,
I could do the next best thing, I have been able to induce
them to allow me to have some of them photographed.
These photographs are included in this book, though they
do but scant justice to the originals in flesh and blood.
These men have been selected for service in Nyassa Land,
not so much for their splendid appearance, as for their being
of good character and having almost a clean bill of health,
the East African Company having made a particular
request that men likely to fall sick should not be sent.
Most of the men are between 24 and 35 years of
age, and have seen service in Afghanistan, Burma,
Egypt and on the N. W, Frontier, for which they wear
medals. They are regular opium-eaters, and though they
have been consuming it almost since their birth, those
amongst them who are most addicted to its use are men who
have seen much hard service in several campaigns without
ever having been on the sick list for a single day. They
told me that in time of war they required double or treble
the quantity they now take, as they then could fight better
and do any amount of hard work. These are a few specimens
of the degraded and emaciated consumers of opium ? A s
already stated, opium is largely used by the Sikhs, Rajputs,
Mahomedans, Marathas and other martial classes in


India, and it behoves the responsible rulers of the country to
carefully weigh the political danger that may be created by
any attempt to suppress the consumption of this drug.

As already stated my chief object in this paper has been
to give a pretty large number of concrete instances showing
the physical and other condition of the generality of opium
consumers, though I have, in passing, briefly referred to
the other points of the controversy on opium. But even
as regards my chief aim, I regret that owing to the very
limited space of time (about two months) during which I had
to do the work, to a recurrence of my illness and to the
expected assistance not forthcoming, I could not prepare
and bring it out in the extended form 1 had intended.
Among the diflaculties I had to contend with was the ex-
treme unwillingness of the opium consumers to allow them-
selves to be photographed and to give short accounts of
their past and present lives — the unwillingness arising from
a dread that all this was being done with a view to their
identification for the purpose of preventing them in future
from taking opium. But I hope to be able to revert to the
whole subject again in a more exhaustive form on a future

I here beg to express my acknowledgments to the Medical
gentlemen and others who have, at great loss of time and
money, helped me in this matter.

Neman Sea. Road,
Bombay y l»f March 1893,



We, the undersigned Medical Practitioners in Bombay,
having expressed a desire — in consequence of a letter that
appeared in the Times of India, of the 14th January last,
re. the Opium question — to see the opium smoking houses of
Bombay, Mr. Rustom Festanji Jehangir, of Her Majesty's
Bombay Opium Department, kindly tork us there. We had
to go for several days in order to visit all the shops. We
went there at all hours of the day and night without giving
any previous notice. We record below what came under
our observation and inquiry in the course of our visits.

In each house there were from 15 to 75 smokers. They
were of all ages, from 20 to 80 years of age and were
chiefly Mahomedans and Hindus, a few Chinamen, and two
Parsis. In all there were about half-a-dozen old women in
the houses, but no young girls were seen.

Several professions were represented — vaids or native
doctors, musicians, beggars, tailors, carpenters, lascars, petty
shop-keepers, &c.

A few were smokers of a few months, but the majority
were of 10 to 40 years' standing and upwards.

They each purchased from one anna to four annas, and
in some rare cases, as much as a rupees worth of chundool.
We did not see any man affected by the use of opium. In
our opinion opium is not at all intoxicating, but on the
contrary, it has a sedative effect.

Cases of emaciation from the effects of opium were not

A few men looked dissipated and withered. The cause
of it was insuflBcient food and excessive indulgence in opium
as also in ganja, bhang, and liquor. In most of such cases
the dissipated and withered were over 50 years of age.

Most of the smokers were cheerful, robust and well

From personal observation and inquiry, we think that
opium-smoking or eating as practised by the majority of
people who use the drug, is not carried to excess.


Whatever the effects of the excessive use of the drug
may be, when taken in moderation it is positively beneficial
under certain conditions. Even in case of abuse whatever
may be to the individual, it is much less harmful to society
than alcohol. In our opinion, there are reasons connected
with climate, disease, food, products of the country, manner
of life, habits, and customs why people of India use opium.

Opium is also taken by many as a harmless luxury.

In our opinion, opium does not cause sterility. Most of
the smokers were married men and had children.

The smokers were able to answer questions clearly and
readily. Their statements were taken down in writing by
Mr, R. D. Hughes in our presence.

The smokers seemed to be unanimous on one point viz ;
that opium-smoking or eating does not injure those who
are well fed as it injures the starving. They also seemed
to be unanimous that dry opium was absolutely necessary
for them.

In conclusion, it is our firm belief that if the cultivation
and use of opium were to be prohibited the people would
surely take to alcohol which would be a change very much
for the worse.

(Sd.) H. N. SEERWAl, l.m. & s.

( „ ) M. D. CAMA, L.M. & s.

( „ ) M. R. SKTHNA, l.m. & s.

( „ ) MERWANJI CAWASJI, l. m. & s.

Bombay, 8th March 1893.


Surgeon-Major D.N. Parakh, M. R. C. P., L. R. C. P.,

of the Indian Mediwxl Department at Bombay, says :— In
ray opinion, the evil effects mentioned in the English papfers,
in English books, and paraded so widely in the speeches of
certain enthusiasts whose bigotry and real or pretended zeal
for the good of all other nations, but their own place them on
a par with anti-vivisectionists, anti-vaccinationists and such

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