Following is an excerpt:
MY MEDITATION ON OPIUM is drawn from close personal experience. A beloved cousin died of a heroin overdose. A revered granduncle, brother of my maternal grandmother, became an addict who died penniless, wasted, and sick. During my father’s last days, he staved off the pain of cancer by swallowing opium pellets purchased illegally from the streets. Growing up in Malacca, Malaysia, one was surrounded by opium all around—in next door neighbors’ waftings from their evening pipe, in shady dens and opium houses visible at marketplaces and alleyways, and in crime scenes attributed to purveyors and desperate addicts of dadah (the Malay word for heroin) in the nation’s capital. Moving to Vermont, I see that opium has followed me here too, with addiction and crime reaching alarming proportions, so much so as to prompt the governor to announce it publicly at his recent State of the State address.
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