It looked like an ordinary pack of gutka or paan masala. But "Ananda Munakka" was different. A Dutch tourist handed a packet to me with the words: "You have one of these in the morning and you are happy the whole day." She wanted to know what it contained. I told her that "ananda" meant "happiness".
The contents of the packet were listed in Hindi, which she could not read. Nor could I, for the lettering was too small. She got me a huge magnifying glass.
As I scanned the list of ingredients, I found the words "Shudh Bhang – 15%". Trust a Dutch woman to find it! I told her it contained 15 percent pure cannabis. She was overjoyed. I read out the other ingredients:
Munakka – 40% (crushed dates)
Mishri – 40% (natural sugar crystals)
Jeera – 1% (cumin seeds)
Dalchini – 1% (cinnamon)
Lavang – 1% (cloves)
Kali Mirch – 1% (black pepper)
Heeng – 1% (asafoetida)
And, of course:
Bhang (shudh) – 15%
The Dutchwoman said it was her last packet of Ananda Munakka. She had bought 10 for a rupee each, and had enjoyed them. She added that it was now banned, so the cost had gone up to 2 rupees a pack. That is, from 2 US cents to 4 US cents.
I would have liked to eat the entire contents of the packet, but since it was her last I asked for a small piece to taste. It was pure bhang alright – but probably closer to 50%!
We discussed the merits of Ananda Munakka for the next half-hour. Yes, it was a cheaper high than bidis, cheaper than feni, cheaper than gutka. And it was not injurious to the health at all, unlike all the others. It was manufactured in Kanpur by NIT Pharma, an ayurvedic medicine establishment. It deserved to be the toast of the town.
The Dutchwoman requested me to buy 1000 packets for her if ever I came across them. I promised to do so. I also decided to buy 1000 for myself, since pure bhang is better than the bush grass and horseshit hash you get in the black market. Three years of ananda for less than US$20. I would popularize Ananda Munakka among my friends, and also among the poor ganja smokers I know, who spend loads of good money on third-rate stuff.
Yet, it is perhaps typical of the ignorance that rules our The State that Ananda Munakka has been banned.
Things would have been better in Babur's time. In the Babur Nama, a copy of which I possess, the founder of the Mughal dynasty records many experiences under bhang (which he called "maajun"). In one of these, he wandered into a field of wild flowers and counted the colours. He found 48 colours in all. And he wrote that he loved the feeling of floating on a cloud which maajun gives. The later Mughals were all alcoholics, but the early ones were entirely maajun eaters. Babur writes about his experiences with alcohol, which he began using late in his life, and which he finally gave up, preferring to stick to maajun.
So I am going to town to check out all the ayurvedic shops for Ananda Munakka.
I suggest you do so too. And if you find ananda, let me know.
What else can give you happiness for one rupee?