In a country where 40-year-olds will not drink “in front of” assorted elders, people are gradually getting used to the idea that women who drink are not necessarily hookers. But drugs are a whole other ball game. It’s incomprehensible to the two generations that disapprove of ours that someone could enjoy the odd joint and not be a crack addict.
For most of my substance-abusing life, I’ve relied on my firm belief in gender roles to avoid getting out of the house (or office) to score a joint. Hell, I’ve even maintained that rolling joints is a male task.
Only twice in my life have I gone on the hunt – both by accident – and both treasured hallmarks. The first was important because it was my maiden legal purchase of narcotics. The second was important because it was the first time I’d paid for a joint.
Once, my brothers and I sauntered into a ‘Government licensed bhaang shop’ in Rajasthan. We’d had no idea that our government was this cool. When the proprietor absorbed the idea of a desi woman wanting to get high, he offered me a choice between light and medium, and my brothers a choice between medium and strong, bhaang milkshake.
[quote]”That’s only for the Israelis, madam”[/quote]
“I don’t get high too easily,” I explained, “I’ll have the strong. And what’s the super-strong?”
“That’s only for the Israelis, madam,” the proprietor said, “They come back the next day to fight and ask for their money back if they don’t go on a trip. I wish they’d stop coming.”
“You should rename your shop Swastika Bhaang Café,” I suggested, “That might work.”
“We can’t rename it. It has to be called ‘Government Licensed’,” the man said.
“Then, maybe you should hang a swastika at the door.” I was halfway through the strong milkshake.
“That will keep them off?” the proprietor was dubious.
“Yeah, they get offended by Hindu symbols.”
The man nodded meditatively.
I’m not entirely sure how the rest of the afternoon went, but I do believe our visit to the fort after was one of the least boring museum tours I’ve been on. Several of the paintings moved, and I was convinced the sandstone was turning into gold.
The next time I put in the hard yards for a trip was during a writing workshop I attended. Maybe because of the long tradition of degenerates turning to writing, or the other way round, there’s something about a writers’ commune that makes you want to smoke up.
But there was a problem – the out-of-towners didn’t “know a guy”, and the locals had jobs. Their only “guy” was busy that day. That’s when I usually give up. But, fortunately, there were those who were more desperate. And so, one of the workshop attendees climbed into a taxi and asked the driver where one could get ‘maal’. Since maal could refer to a range of banned substances, practices – and people – the driver needed specifics. He then directed us to an alley. We were to approach a woman who sat bathing in her housecoat all day, and it was safest for girls to go – the alley was frequented by cops.
The venture sounded like something out of a Marquez novel – I mean, a woman who bathes in a housecoat, all day, really? It panned out like something out of a Quentin Tarantino film.
I wore a salwar kameez, my friend wore a sari, and we looked like the kind of condescending NGO types who tend to visit slums. Right ahead of us was a policeman, swinging his baton as he strolled along the alley. Around the time he stopped at a tea shop, we saw a woman in a housecoat, pouring water over herself. We made eye contact, and my friend mimed smoking. The woman directed her eyes at the cop, and signalled for us to walk ahead and come back. We walked to the end of the road, using words like “funding” and “housing”. The policeman lost interest and left the alley.
When we came back, I offered her two hundred rupees. In a fluid move, she reached into a bucket of washing, threw two packets at my friend and stuffed the money into a soap dish.
It was my most worthwhile experiment with feminism.