Udta Parsi

26th June is observed as ‘International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’. Even as the controversy-ridden, superhit film, ‘Udta Punjab’ makes waves in India by exposing the ugly underbelly of the drug menace in Punjab, Parsi Times Editor and qualified psychotherapist, Anahita Subedar, shares an equally appalling reality within our community, that’s been growing menacingly over the years in our very own Baugs and alleys. ‘Udta’, meaning ‘flying’ in Hindi, symbolizes the feeling of the ‘high’ felt by drug-users, which lures them into this vicious and self-destructive habit. This article shares a basic insight into this reality and provides a few helpful tips to parents or care-takers who are either struggling to get their loved ones out of this deadly habit, or worse, are in denial of its existence.

“I still can’t believe it! He’s just 16! And always amongst the top five in his class all through school! Why would he do this? And he’s always been a happy child! Not even sad or depressed or anything! What the hell was he thinking?” ranted my exasperated friend Zenobia, still in shock to have found out that her 16-year old son, Xerxes, had been caught by the cops indulging in drug abuse with his colony

I tried placating her, “You know Zen..”

“He’s also very active, you know, not some sluggish kid lying in bed all day!” she cut me off, as she paced furiously in her living room. “It can’t be, yar! He even prays regularly! How did I miss this?”

“It’s not your…”

“Bloody it’s that damned Hanosh he hangs out with! Bloody complete loser –he passed his tenth after two attempts! And now he’s bloody destroying my son’s life! I should have never allowed him to be friends with him!”

There was no stopping or interrupting Zenobia’s justifications, questions or accusations. The only emotion she was undergoing more than shock, was anger.

“Why the hell aren’t you saying anything???” she turned to me. “He’s been in touch with you for that college journalism project na! Did you notice anything odd?”

“Well I…”

“He’s got his whole life ahead of him!” she snapped off my demotivated attempt at a response, yet again. “Is he just going to throw it all away with this nonsense? I didn’t send him to boarding school thinking he might get into this bad habit there and all this time, it was happening in my own backyard! How did this happen???


Although by now, I pretty much felt like one of Arnab Goswami’s choice-less panelists on Prime Time, I could empathise with poor Zenobia. Her son, Xerxes, had not just been caught by the cops smoking weed in the colony grounds late past midnight with his pals, he had also been accused of peddling (selling) it, as his equally rattled friends ratted on him, confessing to the cops that Xerxes was their ‘provider’. Xerxes was let off by the cops on some ‘juvenile’ clause after a ‘sum was fixed’, but not before they gave Zenobia parenting sermons, asking her to keep her son in check – which to most mothers, including Zenobia, translated to, “You’re a horrible mother.”

Accompanying Zenobia and her husband, Noshir, on our way back to their place from the cop station at 2:00 a.m., two of us family friends asked the irate parents to deal with the situation in the right manner – peacefully, tactfully and with sensitivity, as only this would bring Xerxes around to quitting the bad habit. However, once we got home, with a tearful, shivering and scared-to-his-bones Xerxes in tow, his parents displayed all the peace, tact and sensitivity of a hungry barracuda. There was screaming, thrashing, tears, drama, life-threats (both – suicidal and homicidal!) and promises made to Xerxes that he was getting grounded for life!

Though the names in the above episode have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved in this sad incident, it’s the sad and surprising truth. Not so surprising, though, to a number of our unfazed teens and young adults who unabashedly term it ‘Baug culture’. What is scarier is that so many parents, when informed about their children’s drug indulgences, clutch on to denial or are plane apathetic to this truth.

“It’s just mostly weed – and you know weed, it’s lesser harmful than cigarettes. It’s all cool, it’s in good fun,” says a 19-year-old girl, who regularly ‘smokes up’ with her friends in her colony post 11:00 p.m., once the lights are out. “It’s a ‘harmless high’ and no one’s really getting hurt. Google it!” adds her equally misinformed 20-year-old boyfriend, from another colony, not too far away.

Numerous adults who notice this ‘baug culture’ try tipping off parents but are usually warded off. “The parents feel offended, as if we are accusing them of being bad parents. We end up souring our friendships in the baug so it’s best to stay quiet,” said an elderly gentleman, who tried telling his neighbor that he had spotted his daughter smoking a ‘joint’ in a group, late night. Another woman said, “My friend of over a decade accused me of being jealous, as her son was scoring higher marks than mine was, when I told her! Now it’s quite awkward as we have stopped even acknowledging each other!” “My friends turned around and asked me to get lost, saying their son is a navar and doesn’t even touch cigarettes, leave alone drugs!” shared yet another.

Friends, it’s time to wake up and smell the marijuana – the most commonly used drug by teens and adults, in colleges (even schools!), parties… and yes, very much in our own Baugs and alleys! Marijuana has numerous slangs including ‘weed’, ‘grass’ and ‘pot’ – it’s a green, brown or gray mix of dried, crumbled leaves from the marijuana plant, which can be rolled up and smoked like a cigarette (‘joint’) or a cigar (‘blunt’). It can also be consumed in food. ‘Smoking up’ or ‘rolling joints’ is rampant amongst most of the youth in our community, some starting as early as 14 years of age!

“It’s easily available and affordable,” explains a 17-year old, upon being asked why this generation can’t seem to get enough of it. “It’s the cool factor for most. In schools we’re more accountable and over-protected but with college comes freedom. Weed is the preferred choice as it’s cheap and there are no give-away bodily marks that are usually caused by acid-users (LSD) who use syringes.”

Unfortunately this is the truth in all Baugs and colonies, across South Bombay and the suburbs (and in a few Parsi-pockets across India, though not as rampantly as it is in Bombay); amongst the middle-class as well as the rich. “How do you afford it?” I ask. “Most of us get good pocket money or do some odd part-time jobs. We make easy money selling it ourselves and earning out of the commission.”

Marijuana (cannabis) is the most commonly used drug worldwide. It has slight hallucinogenic effects, making users see reality in a distorted way, causing varying mood alterations. Some experience euphoria while others get depressed, nauseas or withdrawn. Its influence changes/retards your senses and makes it hard to think clearly. Indulgence in marijuana suppresses the body’s immune system, making the user more susceptible to certain types of cancer and infections. Studies suggest various health consequences for those indulging regularly – including gum disease, depression, reduced brain function, acute memory loss, male sexual dysfunction, severe vomiting sickness and testicular cancer. Long-term (over two years) use increases the risk of developing psychosis. It is dangerous to drive under the influence of marijuana as it impairs cognitive function and motor ability.

For those living under the misconception that marijuana is not addictive, here’s the ‘dope’ on that – regular (ab)use of Marijuana leads to ‘Marijuana Use Disorder – which takes the form of addiction. Research statistics suggest that at least 65% of regular marijuana users are afflicted with this disorder. People who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are 7 times more likely to get addicted.

So, how can you help break this destructive habit? But even before that, how can you tell if your child or loved one is actually indulging in drug-abuse? How can you control it? Unfortunately, there are no clear answers. You can’t really tell if they’re using drugs, unless you’re hovering over them 24/7, checking all their moves and moods – which is neither possible, nor recommended. We need to change our attitude towards this issue to bring in the change.

Here are a few helpful tips to beat this habit:

  1. Do away with the attitude of wanting to ‘control’ your child/drug-user. Don’t become overwhelmingly hawkish and restrict their freedom, it only makes them more wary and innovative, triggering the desire to rebel.
  2. Communicate with your children/drug-user. Befriend them – talk, don’t yell. Assure them of your unconditional love and support to beat this. Ask them candidly if they or their friends indulge in this.
  3. Help bust their myths about drugs being ‘harmless’ or ‘non-addictive’. Share this article with them, google for more information, seek professional advice.
  4. Do not alienate the child/drug-user, even if they show a strong will to continue using the drugs or are caught lying. Express disappointment, not anger.
  5. Stay calm, above all. Avoid drama or emotional blackmail. Convince with logic and emotional support, don’t coerce with conditions and threats.
  6. Get watchful… is there a change in their personality when they come home? Is the pocket money you hand them justified vis-à-vis their expenditure?
  7. Be open to feedback from others who may try to bring your notice to things that you oversee. Don’t be in denial – this is not about you.
  8. Practice what you preach. You can’t be a smoker and tell your nearly adult children not to!
  9. Be solution-oriented. Start with accepting the truth. Next see how you can help your child get out of this. If needed, get professional help, in terms of therapy or medication or a temporary relocation to a rehabilitation clinic, as the need may be.
  10. Inform parents/caretakers if you know/see children indulging in drug abuse.

Let’s all get together and fight this drug menace which is increasingly eclipsing the bright future of our young generation and community.

For answers to your queries and for other related details, mail us at mailparsitimes@gmail.com and editor@gmail.com

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