By the way, the Delhi coke scene is very smooth now,” my writer friend said just as I was about to get up and leave. I got an idea. I sat down at the head of the table; JD was sitting to my right and my writer friend was standing, meditatively holding on to his glass — a large Old Monk mixed with cold water.
I moved to Mumbai almost four years ago. I try and go back every six months or so to hang out with my old friends. It was a strange evening. We’d been at it for an hour, almost. I remember staring at the half empty bottle of rum and wondering if I should be seeing it as half full. I had wanted to leave then, but now I had an idea.
The afternoon had not gone down well. The three of us were grappling with the mawkish despondency (perhaps suicidal) that comes with the realisation that sometimes nostalgia isn’t just banal: it is plain boring. Rum haunted our minds with memories of friends we no longer missed, of girls who no longer longed for magic, of our city that refused to get off the growth hormone.
“There’s a guy; delivers 24 hours. Three grand for a gram and the stuffs — value for money,” he said.
“Cocaine? Maybe,” I muttered aloud with the thoughtfulness of a professional drug addict and walked out to check if my car was still where I had parked it. Outside, Delhi was burning in the May heat. A drop of sweat fell on the left glass of my spectacles; another drop fell from the lobe of my right ear to my neck and sent a nervous shiver down my spine as it moved.
I imagined the first paragraph: It was called Cocaine or coke when I first started exploring the Delhi drug scene. When the crown of the world makes the head unsteady, coke proffers the impossible promise of placating the implacable. Nothing is vague. Swelling with comprehension the mind feels muscular; sublime thought and pristine order refuse to let go of each other.
A few years later as more expatriates flooded the scene a number of new names emerged — Blow, Charlie, lines (as in let’s do a line), snow etc — but no one knew what they really meant till the Delhi Police arrested an Afghan national with coke; he turned out to be a peddler. Not your ordinary peddler, he was a man who kept a secret diary.
The police interrogated him and sensationally released details of the confession to the media. The case had confounded the police. What was going on? They thought drug addicts were wasted men with poked forearms and smack addicts were coolies who huddled in the far reaches of a busy parking lot of a Delhi railway station hoping someday they make enough money to be able to poke their arms with pride, impunity and a healthy self esteem. Innocent Indians, most of them policemen and bureaucrats did not know normal people were actually not all that normal….
“Can you sense the lightheadedness?” my writer friend was saying as I entered. I was burning with shivers. I looked at JD. “The all important phone call has been made.” Lightheadedness was on its way. The writer rolled a joint, JD was fiddling with the TV guide looking for an action movie to watch later. “You cannot have wine without cheese,” he said. I gave him the look everyone calls the look I give when I am done talking and want to think and hoped the writer would also sense I am giving him that look without me having to look his way and risk losing my concentration. We waited in peace. Ten minutes later we were rewarded with the champagne of illicit substances.
The second paragraph came with a furious start: To some Coke means clarity, to me it feels like the story of the materialistic spirituality of the Indian middle; the powdered version of the immeasurable mental bliss one experiences when one finds oneself seated in one’s second hand Maruti car while the rest of the neighbourhood pushes along on a phlegmatic scooter.
Recently, I’d met two girls at a Mumbai nightclub who called themselves coke sluts: They go to a club (no one stops them for being underage maybe because they aren’t boys) and try and hang out with someone there who has enough supply of cocaine to last the night. (I am not claiming they have sex, or that if they do, it’s under duress because they have made a deal.)
“I heard a rumour,” the champagne made the writer talk. “The celebrity wife of a film star was caught with cocaine at an airport in a European country; the star had to pull a number of strings to get her back safely and avoid a scandal. Coke makes power so sexy…” Experiencing severe chemical truths, our minds have no time for rumours. I felt scared. I needed to be safe. I needed words, maybe an entire paragraph…
Third Paragraph: Coke is the champagne of illicit substances but I am neither a cocaine addict nor a recreational user. The drug, frankly speaking, is beyond my spending capacity and over ten years of consuming the illicit has taught me never to try something that I won’t be able to afford. It doesn’t make, in purely drug addiction terms, functional sense. All coke does to me is make me search my pockets and laugh at my misery.
Perhaps we all, somewhere deep in the well of our consciousness really crave untamed aggression that can pass off as being classy; an experience where notions of sanity do not interfere with our will to power over the entire universe and beyond; a zone where we can be king of the world without being insane. One doesn’t talk, one makes a conversation: an exchange so detrimental to the fate of the parties involved that the fact that the conversation is actually taking place smacks of a divine conspiracy…
“Drugs were supposed to kill and if they didn’t it meant you were either royalty or someone rich enough to be able to manage her addiction,” JD says.
“Consider Sherlock Holmes,” the writer retorts. “The sign of four begins with a despondent Dr Watson asking Holmes about the strange (and perhaps, deadly) chemicals Holmes entertains himself with. What is it going to be today? Morphine…? Dr Watson asks as he watches Holmes arming his arm for an intravenous dose. Cocaine, my dear Watson! Makes the brain sharp…” the writer laughs like a lion. JD looks at me. “Which is worse: doing coke or watching someone do it and die?”
“I am God, I cannot die,” the writer complains. JD stares at action on the TV, the writer stares with him, in protest, I think. I think hard for a last line. At last I come up with something. Last line: Perhaps the only one who knew how to deal with coke was Dr Watson. Sadly he never existed in the first place. Once I wrote this, I too stare at the TV.