Some kilometres away from Jodhpur in Rajastan, a group of men sit around, their grizzled faces darkened by the harsh sun, heads swathed in colourful safas. An easy desert camaraderie bellies their varied caste/religious affiliations. And there is a happy anticipation in the air.
A traditional ritual is about to start. Opium is served and drunk from the palm of the man who prepared it. These are villagers who grow the plant and know the art. They dry the poppy, grind it in a copper bowl, dilute it in water, filter it several times and then drink the ensuing liquid. It is a ceremony observed by locals and predictably by visiting tourists.
Opium is illegal in India, but the authorities will turn a blind eyeÂ when it comes to the ritual.