Gone Up in Smoke

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies,
Somebody calls you and you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

To any veteran rock n’ roll fanatic, these surreal lines will perhaps rings a bell. These are lines from the infamously famous Beatles track, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, a song noted for its notoriously blatant narcotic associations. Hailing from the radically anti-establishment era of the 1960s, the Fab Four were part of the Flower Movement whose followers with the rather derogatory tag of “hippies”. With the passage of time, the movement was soon “weeded” out, if you get the “weed” joke. But looking at the current youth scene in the City of Joy, one need not worry. All ageing hippies be reassured, the Flower Power movement does not seem to have left Kolkata at all. In fact it seems to be in full flourish.

There is a tea shop in a certain part of the city which never pulls up its shutters, a slum under a certain bridge which always remains in darkness. People converse only in whispers, hidden transactions are made daily. One wonders what goes on here. Surely, nothing illicit about this! After all, some of these places are situated just adjacent to police battalions. One sees smartly dressed men in white strutting around and maintaining law and order. So one is reassured, until she sees her friends emerge out of these very places proudly flourishing packets of green herbs. Long live weed! Or so they say.

You enter any college nowadays and you see people talking of “trips”. Now do not conjure up images of fun-filled college excursions and trips. These trips that today’s erstwhile youth speak of are actually surreal and mental journeys in the world of hallucinatory images. A world of “cellophane flowers of yellow and green”. The ticket to these enigmatic worlds is very easily available. It can be anything from a joint of weed, also called marijuana, or ganja or maryjane. It can also be a roll of hashish, the occasional N10 with coffee or a round of “spaz”. And if you lack the money to purchase even such inexpensive vices, just go in for a tube of Dendrite and sniff it all the way to kingdom come. And of course, if your system is too far gone to be affected even by these, then you have the ultimate choice of going in for live snake bite, to get a taste of actual snake venom. Ironically such a deadly pleasure is found very close to a certain IT hub that the city is very proud of.

The biggest irony about the entire situation is probably the fact that the biggest consumer of such “divine” substances is not your average roadside junkie who is probably a school dropout. He or she is probably a good student who has been born with a creative bent of mind. The justifications for such activities are utterly bizarre. One student says that if Coleridge, the legendary Romantic poet could compose “Kubla Khan” after consuming narcotics, so why shouldn’t he do the same. Another says that narcotics give him a creative high. In certain deemed institutions the scenario is so advanced that students sit outside classrooms and roll joints without anyone batting an eyelid. This phenomenon has seeped into the school sphere as well with school students all of fifteen years of age professing themselves as self confessed fans of the “wisdom weed” and others.

The question here is, whom do we blame for this situation? Do we blame the founding fathers of music, like the Beatles, or Reggae King Bob Marley, who was a practicing Rastafarian, an Ethiopian religion which believed marijuana to be the source of all wisdom? Or do the drug peddlers who litter the streets of the city. And lastly, do we blame ourselves for our pitiful lack of self control? This is an age where rolling a joint has become an art, notebooks are used to grind weed leaves; cough syrups are drunk to “get high”. Teenagers walk around with red and green badges with silhouettes of a five branched leaf. Songs like “Comfortably numb” and “Stairway to Heaven” are called “trippy” songs and played at such smoky gatherings. Certain individuals have even ganja gardens in their houses!

The youth are lost in the swirling “smoke rings of my mind” as Bob Dylan had put it. They are walking the pathway of blurred and surreal images…lost and floating. Free from the constraints that society inflicts. But these “higher experiences” come at a price. A musician dies on the street coughing blood. A young boy suffers from multiple organ failure after surviving for three months on a diet of nothing but N10 and coffee. And the guardians of law all chose to look the other way.

This article is not a self righteous diatribe which tells the youth to become narcotic celibates. That would be hypocrisy. Youth will be youth; they all “wanna have a li’l bit of fun”. Like it or not, it is perhaps impossible to presume that such things will be completely cleaned out. The only matter that must be handled is the path to addiction. Wicked fun is perhaps acceptable, let us be practical, for our entire self righteous “holier than thou” attitude, we Indians still like our share of wild fun. The only thing is, we just got to be a little bit careful. Its better not to go on such a high that at one point the path downwards becomes impossibility.

Rudrani Dasgupta

[Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thebigdurian/70387545/]