Every time I’ve come in contact with a new customer, it’s been through one of their siblings or friends,’ says the tall and confident Eijaz, a drug user who has moved into peddling. Of mixed parentage − his mother is Arabic and father, Indian − Eijaz claims to have rebelled due to an extremely strict upbringing. He says he doesn’t need the money he earns by selling drugs as his family is wealthy and flaunts high-end brands to prove his point. He says he sells only what he consumes himself: weed, MDMA, ketamine and cocaine.
Eijaz is part of a growing tribe of young, urban and affluent drug consumers who have learnt the underground system so well that they are putting regular drug peddlers out of business. Sometimes they do it for the thrill and at other times to make some money on the side to maintain their own expensive tastes. As Naina says, the network is tight yet easily accessible if you know the ‘right people’. More often than not anyone who wants a joint has to go only as far as their friend’s elder brother or their elder sibling’s girlfriend.
Some students make a stash in their own school bus or even in the school corridor and sell to a growing number of buyers. They buy a handful of weed for just `20 and mix it with blades of grass from the garden. Then they roll it up into joints that they sell for `200. Since those supplying smoke up themselves, they know exactly how much it takes for their young clients to get a kick – which is not much. Another college dropout peddling in Mumbai suburbs agrees. ‘If you have even a hundred rupees, I can sell you a joint for that amount. The quality of weed won’t be great, but it does the job. We have something for every budget.’
‘I drink and smoke up hash and have been doing both since I was sixteen,’ says eighteen-year-old Cindy. ‘A lot of my friends are older so there was always alcohol around, which is how I became comfortable with it when I was younger. I started through my best friend’s brother who smokes up a lot since he was someone I could trust.’21 She adds, ‘In my school, the average age for beginning to drink is thirteen or fourteen. Basically, Class 9 is when you hang out with your seniors and pick everything up. I smoke up once in two weeks but there are people who do it two or three times a day.’
As the minimum age of rebellion drops, the experiments correspondingly seem to become more lethal. Dr [Yusuf] Merchant seconds what Cindy says, but with the old, something new. ‘A favourite of school children as young as twelve is Mephedrone, or “Meow Meow”,’ he tells me. ‘It does not have to be smoked and can be simply ingested by sniffing. The high induced by a couple of lines of Mephedrone lasts for about forty-five minutes to a couple of hours. It does not create any easily detectable smell, like alcohol for example, so kids could use it regularly at school, at tuition classes or at friends’ places. By the time they reach home, the effects would have diminished, so parents are none the wiser.’
Dr Merchant further talks about the problem of the consumer also being the peddler. ‘The other dangerous aspect of this drug and the ease with which it has been proliferating amongst kids is that the peddlers are kids themselves,’ he says. ‘They introduce their classmates into trying this highly addictive drug and then sell it to them in order to fund their own drug habit. So, the users do not have to go to the slums or other unsavoury places to buy their drugs. They can obtain it in their own classrooms without being noticed.’
Madhav, a Class 12 student, is an example of a genius kid gone wrong. He was a whiz at solving Rubik’s Cube. His parents are both university professors. He has grown up witnessing his father getting violent with his mother. ‘Children are a reflection of you and your parenting, a mirror image of their family environment,’ says Karishma. Madhav eventually took to drugs and became the most talked-about boy in school when he appeared stoned for his examinations. He was so far gone that he couldn’t even properly flush his cheat notes and was caught. But such was his belligerence that instead of any regret, Madhav promised to get printouts the next time so his handwriting could not be traced.
Eventually, at least for a while, he arrested his downfall, went off drugs cold turkey and became a fitness freak. But he couldn’t afford the protein supplements he needed for his workout. So, once again he turned to drugs for the solution.
Madhav may have quit drugs himself, but he earns extra pocket money by peddling it to kids. There are always willing buyers. Madhav sells within the school campus and the authorities are aware. The school has not taken any public action against him and is instead trying in its own way to integrate him back into society. The principal says with no back-up at home, Madhav needs their support. Rusticating him – as any other school might have done in similar circumstances – is the easy way out. Sometimes it is not even in their hands, the pressure from parents can dictate actions.
Seventeen-year-old Pranav who comes from a well-to- do family is clear, he sells to make profit. His clients are people he knows or knows of. Unlike the sisterhood of girls where even friendships can be transient, many boys of his generation do nothing for the love of … love. Whether it is marijuana or a piece of clothing, they are always on the lookout for the highest bidder. Pranav started his ‘side business’ once he realized that not everyone knew how to break into the drug-dealing nexus. So, instead of simply sharing his stuff, he started to sell marijuana even to his friends. He has been selling drugs for the last two years and claims not to have gotten into trouble even once. This emboldens him to continue. Another student in Gurugram says, ‘This boy from my school is one of the biggest suppliers of weed in the area. He buys his stock for 50,000 and sells it for much higher. Most of those who buy from him are very rich kids.’ How does a student have easy access to such a big sum of money?
This excerpt from Stoned Shammed Depressed: An Explosive Account of the secret lives of India’s teens has been published with special permission from Harper Collins.
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