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Archive for the ‘Opium Trade’ Category

The Opium ClerkThe Opium Clerk by Kunal Basu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book is based during the era when the flourishing opium trade, carried on by the Britishers from India with China was coming to an end.

The book is about a Bengali Brahmin boy, Hiranyagarbha or Hiran who has lost his father, joins as a clerk in the opium exporting office. One of his friends Vinny is an offspring of a British officer and a Vietnamese lady. Vinny introduces him to the politics that dominate the Opium export office. He is asked to teach Sanskrit texts to the British Manager, Mr. Crabbe, to whom he reports.

During the course of these interactions, he has several interactions with the lady of the house, who is addicted to opium. He is sometimes joined during these interactions with the white man and the lady by a Parsee who also works at the opium export office.

One day Mr. Crabbe makes a strange request to Hiran asking him for a child that he could adopt. Hiran manages to get one for his manager. Soon he is asked to Canton. He sets sail for Canton. Vinny joins him. Vinny is hoping to get married to a Vietnamese girl identified for him by his mother.

In Canton the atmosphere is antagonistic towards the opium traders with only local smugglers interested in getting the opium to mainland China. Hiran manages to thrive in this atmosphere, thanks the credentials established for him by Mr. Crabbe. He manages to survive despite all odds and returns back with Mr. Crabbe to India.

Back in India it is found out that Mr. Crabbe has been amassing large sums of money by under reporting the export details. He is sent back to England. When he goes back he leaves the adopted child with Hiran. The society does not accept this fact easily and his mother finds it very difficult to accept the situation.

Soon the boy grows up and as per somebody’s suggestion he is inducted into the opium office by Hiran. In the office, thanks to his colour, he is treated as a white man. The boy is accused of making a local girl pregnant and he is forced to leave for South East Asia. There too he finds a job in an opium export office. He settles down with a local kid as his attendant. He meets his boss’s sister in a camp for lepers, run by an Indian priest and falls in love with her. They have a child, but they lose the child to illness and they emigrate to Canada.

The book ends there. Did not enjoy the book much.

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