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  • Changing times, changing meanings

    by Kismet hardy
    10th November, 2005 at 5:28 pm    

    History lessons depend on which side your teacher is on. As a school kid in Bangladesh, I entertained fantasies of being a heretic-killing warrior riding an elephant and waving the Moghul and Ottoman flags, torturing a few Jews and West Pakistanis along my merry way.

    Once I joined the British Library in Dhaka, I began to understand the concept of historical bias, but one issue I could never resolve was the exclusively Bangladeshi gripe: The British made poor farmers grow poppies instead of rice, leaving them unable to feed off their produce and die grizzly deaths in villages all over the country.

    I didn’t get that. I knew the Brits were fond of our muslin and our jute, but what the ruddy hell did they need to grow poppies for? I put the question to my history teacher, who, inexplicably, caned me for my impudence.

    It was only years later, in my self-funded drug lessons, that it became glaring obvious.
    Opium. I got caned for smack. I have issues with this.

    This reared its ugly head this morning, when a little old dear at Euston station asked me if I’d like to invest in a poppy. Rather aggressively (in my defence, I’m nursing a diarrhoeic camel for a hangover), I snapped: “Why would I want to wear a symbol of war?” The poor woman looked crumpled and I’ve been feeling pretty bad about it since, least of all because I’ve realised I really have no satisfactory stance on the matter of wearing poppies.

    Your opinions for or against would be much appreciated…

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Current affairs,South Asia

    17 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. The Don — on 10th November, 2005 at 6:58 pm  

      It’s not a symbol of war, it’s a symbol of loss. Wear the bloody poppy.

    2. Col. Mustafa — on 10th November, 2005 at 7:08 pm  

      It means something completely different now, as most wear because the next person is, and obviously thier paying their respects to those that fought in the war.

      But interesting article none the less, i didn’t know about the poppy farming taking place in bangladesh.
      So drugs were being exported i take it, through the means of cheap and irrelevant labour.
      Freaking druggies.

    3. Rohin — on 10th November, 2005 at 7:23 pm  

      The Flanders poppy is actually quite a separate species to the one grown in Asia, which can yield opiates.

      Don’t get stroppy, wear the little poppy. The factory is not far from me and they’re gonna go bust soon.

    4. Col. Mustafa — on 10th November, 2005 at 7:35 pm  

      hehehe, yet another reason to wear one.

      I bought 2 and stuck them in my hair, which brings me to the way youngsters wear there poppies in an attempt to be cool while wearing them.
      It sickens me to the bone, so much so that i roll big fat joint and swig down a beer to repress the feelings.

    5. Steve M — on 10th November, 2005 at 8:01 pm  

      If you’ve ever seen a poppy field where suddenly, overnight, dull green and brown turns into a carpet of brilliant red, you’ll know that the beauty and magic of it can take your breath away. It was just such an occurrence in a killing field of the 1st World War that led to the poppy becoming such a powerful emblem of the horror of warfare.

      Incidentally, the red poppies of Flanders aren’t the same as opium poppies. Should we hold all poppies responsible for the misbehaviour of a few?

    6. Col. Mustafa — on 10th November, 2005 at 9:38 pm  

      hehehehe, yes down with all poppies.
      Paranoid freaks.

    7. Siddharth — on 10th November, 2005 at 10:52 pm  

      Yeah, a right hotbed of indoctrination, the British Council Library in Dhaka. ;-)

    8. shihab — on 10th November, 2005 at 11:13 pm  

      the british council library in dhaka, i’ll have you know, gave me Tintin and The Blue Lotus and Tintin in Tibet, which gave me more reason than the beastie boys and richard gere ever did to go all gung ho over Hu Jintao’s presence in our country. Plus they had Lady Chatterley’s Lover and 1001 Arabian Nights, both of which that supplied me with much needed porn for my horn in those adolescent days…

    9. Sunny — on 10th November, 2005 at 11:35 pm  

      1001 Arabian nights for porn? Now we know why you turned out the way you did :|

    10. shihab — on 11th November, 2005 at 12:08 am  

      have you read it?! every other story is about a prince buggering off to kill heathens and the princess opens up her secret chest and up pops two kafirs who bang her to kingdom come. I tell you kama sutra has nothing compared to 1001 arabian nights.

    11. Mokum — on 11th November, 2005 at 12:28 am  

      Alf leila wa-leila (1,000 nights and a night) {c’mon Sunny, accept a bit of Arabic, I’ve got Sikh vocab to learn, so join the club} is the sexiest title on earth.

      Buy a poppy and think of Leila {night / beauty}. That’s what the troops really need (may they all come home very soon, wherever home is).

    12. shihab — on 11th November, 2005 at 1:21 am  

      Alf-Leila, you’ve got me on my knees.
      Alf-Leila, I’m begging, darling please.
      Alf-Leila, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

      Hey wa-leila
      The stars about to fall…
      So what you say wa-leila
      The world around us makes me feel so
      Small wa-leila
      If you can’t hear me call
      Then I can’t say wa-leila
      Heaven help you catch me if I fall

      (with apologies to sinbad the sailor)

    13. Rohin — on 11th November, 2005 at 1:59 am  

      ‘Scheherazade’ by Rimsky-Korsakov is a fantastic piece of music. Ach, who am I talking to here? Anyway, Sheherezad told the stories and I always thought it was a beautiful name. Until I actually met a Sheherezad. She was a dirty fat stodging porker with a nose the size of my fist.

      Shame, I’d always imagined Sheherezad as a dusky Arab beauty.

    14. shihab — on 11th November, 2005 at 2:10 am  

      hear the one about the dusky arab beauty who went to fancy ddress party dressed as a billboard?

      she-here-as-ad, announced the host.

    15. The Don — on 11th November, 2005 at 8:08 pm  

      so, Shihab, which way did you go? Wear a poppy today or not?

    16. Sajn — on 13th November, 2005 at 1:20 pm  

      I thought it was tobacco that the British forced upon Bengal rather than poppie.

      As to wearing the Poppy, I don’t because I have always felt somewhat resentful of the way that my father and others who were part of the British Indian Army during the two wars always seemd to be ignored or relegated to the margins.

    17. basically.... — on 14th November, 2005 at 10:54 pm  


      Plants that grow naturally in hot continents, stolen and used to oppress and kill many of the inhabitants.

      I’m not too sure babe, I personally wouldnt wear a poppy because of the illegitimate reasoning behind the war, I have compassion for the victims and those relatives who are still alive but some part of me does not bring me forth to make that ACTIVE step forward and say….YES I will buy a poppy.

      I believe that if the situation was reversed and white p[eople were surpressed, they would show much distain towards any type of symbology associated with their oppression…..oh woe betide us.

      But then again some of u lot have said that it no longer symbolises that………………

      so does that mean to say the swastica can still painted five-foot high on a brick wall and jews would recognise that it is a hindhu symbol of peace?

      I suppose its persdonal preference but I can tell you for sure I would rather buy a pastie from gregs than stick that FAKE wear n tear poppy on my clothing……..

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