Reading Room: Of Opium, Churchill and Chai! 🎩

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Reading Room: Of Opium, Churchill and Chai! 🎩

Welcome to your first Hump Day Newsletter. Chances are you are enjoying it with a cup of chai. It doesn’t matter what time of the day you are reading it. Indians consume tea like no one’s business. In FY21 (April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021), India consumed 1 billion kg of tea!

It’s hard to believe that this all-day beverage is consumed in such vast quantities because of opium and British colonialism. Those are strange bedfellows. Yup. But it’s true.

India’s tea story starts in 17th century China. The Chinese had been drinking tea for close to 2,000 years by this point, and they were the only producers and exporters of tea globally (apart from a small Assamese tribe, Shingpo, in India who drank it as a medicine).

The British were buying shiploads of tea from China but China didn’t reciprocate. They didn’t want to buy anything from Britain. So, the British decided to turn China into a nation of opium addicts. They forced Bengal farmers to grow opium and flooded China with it. The Chinese emperor saw his people were getting addicted and confiscated 20,000 chests of opium in 1839. This was exactly what the British wanted.

They dispatched an army to China, won the Opium Wars and forced China to trade with them. This included selling opium in China and taking over Hong Kong until 1977. By 1906, 24% of adult Chinese were addicts.

The British got tea saplings to India. And that’s how India got tea. You can check out a post we did on it  here . How India began to drink copious amounts of tea is a whole other story over a lot more cups of chai.

Anyway, the point of the above story is to illustrate the horrible extents that the British would stoop to (like turning a whole nation into opium addicts), to extract money.

November 30 is Winston Churchill’s birthday. And the West views him as this great hero who defeated Hitler. In India, we are indifferent. But he should be known as the person who allowed between 3 million to 5 million Indians to die because of a man-made famine (made by the British government, specifically).

So, we decided to celebrate this week as Colonial History Week. We take a look at a few of the atrocities the British committed against India. For instance, an 1868 law declared all women except upper-caste married Hindu women as prostitutes. The BBC has written about it  here . Today’s post is on the famine that Churchill created.

Colonialism wasn’t just limited to India. We have also posted a reel on the torture that King Leopold II meted out on the Congo (Warning: Graphic images). Check that out on the page. Upcoming posts include how France and Canada (two countries that are the cupbearers of fairplay today) ruined countries and tribes. If history is your thing, you’ll love them and be disgusted by them.

Let us know what you think about this newsletter. If you like it, please forward it to your friends and people you love. Ask them to click  here  and register for the newsletter.

So long, and see you next Wednesday.

Team Reading Room


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