Officially, the police don’t approve of bhang, Holi’s official intoxicant. Unofficially, it’s about as freely available as SIM cards and cable TV.
“It is illegal. If we get any information about the sale of bhang cupcakes we will take action,” said Sunil Paraskar, deputy commissioner of police (Anti-Narcotic Cell). He was speaking of its rise up the social food chain, from bhang pills traditionally sold at paan shops, to bhang cupcakes now available at fancy pastry shops.
While some paan-beedi and sweet shops have historically been the place to go to for bhang pills, last year, a popular gelateria introduced bhang gelato.
A staff member at one of its outlets said: “We’re offering thandai and paan-flavoured gelato this year, but we’re not sure if we’ll have bhang gelato.”
Businessman Asheesh Vohra (25, name changed) buys 10 litres of bhang mix every Holi from a sweet shop near the Mumbadevi temple in south Mumbai. He said: “There are several places that sell bhang in bulk near the temple. You can also get small bhang sweets at Rs 5 for three.”
The owner of a paan shop near the temple said: “Bhang is available here all year round. We sell pills for Rs 15 each. The police don’t interfere because this is religious and everybody does it openly.”
Then there’s the Bandra dairy that is popular for its fresh bhang pills (Rs 20 each) and bhang thandai (Rs 20 a glass).
“The police will never bother us for one day of a holy festival,” the owner said.