White turned brown in the heat of the flame. The cigarette collapsed in the center and tobacco crumbled in his palm. He dumped it on a pink slip, added some hash and mixed with his fingertips.

“Walk me through what you’re doing,” I said.

“There’s less tobacco this time. Usually I take equal amounts of hash and tobacco.” He then took a tiny piece of cardboard and made it into a funnel. “This is a roach. How big the roach is, and how big the joint is, depends on how much pot you have.” He transferred the hash-tobacco mixture from the pink slip on to a strip of rolling paper. He plugged in the roach, rolled the joint and took a drag. It set off a series of hoarse coughs.

“The tobacco is less, that’s why,” he said, and took another drag.

The open use of hash in Parvati Valley is a major draw for travelers. I suspect there are more ashtrays than permanent residents in the village of Katagla.

“When did you first start smoking up?” I asked.

“In school… when I was in the twelfth standard. The first time I didn’t feel anything. So I tried a few more times, and I began to feel the difference. When I got to college, I met a lot of people who smoked.”

“Did you smoke a lot then?”

“I would smoke four to five joints a day. Before getting into the college bus, after getting out…”

“Why do you smoke?”

“Stress relief. Whatever work I do, it helps me find the simplest way to do it. I concentrate better. Once I had two exams on the same day. I smoked up the previous night and studied for four hours straight. Cleared both exams. If I’m high and studying, I’m distracted when I’m on the first page. But if I get past that, I’m set.”

“But let’s say you weren’t able to smoke pot before your exam… what happens then?”

“Then it just takes me the normal amount of time to study. If I have to study, I have to study. But if there’s pot, it’s simpler.”

“Have you tried other drugs?”

“Yes, but I don’t do hard drugs. If I try once, and I see somebody else doing it, I’ll want to do it again. Look at cocaine — it’s ruined so many people.”

“How so?”

“With cocaine, you feel like the king of the world… but only for twenty minutes. When the feeling disappears, you crave it again. It’s also a costly habit, unlike pot. With heroin, you feel an immense rush in the first ten minutes. The next ten minutes, everything is slow. And this keeps alternating. It’s a downer — even if you’re a little depressed, heroin can drop you to its depths.”

“Have you ever had a bad trip?”


“Really? You’ve never had a trip where you thought to yourself I-wish-I-hadn’t-done-this?”

“Well, once when I had two dozen shrooms by myself. Nobody should disturb you when you’re tripping. I was the only one high in my group that day. And everyone was like: how do you feel? I was not able to answer because I couldn’t concentrate. If you’re the only one tripping, you feel uncomfortable. All I could think of was: when will this end?”

“How long did it last?”

“Four hours.”

“And you couldn’t sleep it off?”

“No, you can’t sleep on shrooms. You can never sleep on it. You’ll be thinking about something, you won’t be able to process it, and you’ll get stuck on it.”

“So if you’re stuck, you’re stuck.”


This piece was originally published in my People in Parvati Valley photo-essay series.