sun was going down...slowly, almost menacingly, as we treaded the danger zone at Yerwada.
Looking completely at peace with itself, the place was throbbing with life, except that
there was an eerie undercurrent that hung about us. An ominous silence prevailed. From
shopkeepers, including the one manning a small grocery store to a group of youth chatting
at the corner, innumerable suspicious eyes gauged us in distinct unisome. A familiar face
by my side did help a bit - but not much as I walked in their line of vision. What
reverberated in our minds was the word of caution we were given by Anurag, a student of
Symbiosis, in advance. "Look like druggies looking in drugsland. And yes, don't look
probing and curious. They don't quite like freshers if they are not formally introduced by
one of their trusted customers. Even a tiny seed of suspicion, and they may become very
dangerous!" And why not! Anything that threatens to thwart their livelihood must be
quashed. And this being Pune's main drugs mandi , fetching business worth rupees fifty
thousand per day, the probability couldn't have been higher. We played our part well.
The man sitting under the tin shade put his hand inside a bag and pulled out a
small packet or going by its street name, `pudi'. The `Pudi' exchanged hands and we got
the first feel of what a neatly made pillow pack of hash is really like...;One
in every five students is on drugs," reveals Anurag laconically, as we are taken
aback by his statement. The anathema of drugs is fast paralysing this Oxford of the East
with its tentacles. The gravity of the situation can be underscored when this student of a
local college continues in his sardonic tone," Yerwada hub is one of the places where
I have to wait as there are always so many customers." And yes, this hub where
surprisingly, the business is run by a lady called Bhabhi, you can get anything and in any
quantity you can afford. Bhang, marijuana, hash... for rupees ten, fifty, hundred....
"anything addictive but nothing murderous. In fact, there isn't anything sold in Pune
that can kill," offers this Mister-Know-it-All, who is hooked onto grass and hash,
As we explored the drug scene in Pune, were we surprised at the flawless network
that outlines the town right from Gultekdi to Pimpri! There is a fair division of market
ensuring peaceful coexistence. Surprisingly, finding the exact locations of these drug
havens wasn't difficult at all as the student community easily threw up names of places,
disclosing the "open secret" with unbelievable nonchalance.
Even so when they flatly informed about the customised service, bordering on a dash of
novelty, "To save students the labour of going upto the drug dealers, a man with a
bag full of these, used to come to a lodge where students lived and dropped the supply at the
doorstep, every morning," quips Ketan, a trifle amused at our shocked looks.
Little doubt then that the cumulative business done in this Oxford of the East
easily runs to the tune of a lakh of rupees per day, and that this "small
market" has potential, which is constantly growing. Little wonder then that it is a
warming business which has been taken up people least expected, like that old couple in
Khadki, selling Brown Sugar.
then, it is a game played by rules. And discretion is the cardinal rule. Or that is what
twenty-three year old Ketan would have us believe as he threw down a gauntlet before us
with unbridled cockiness. "You walk up and down that gali ten times. I'll bet
you anything, if you'll even find anything remotely suspicious."
Prophetic words! For indeed, as our olfactory senses led us to an obscure little
lane on the Bombay-Pune highway, it looked like a scene out of any basti where
children played in the narrow lanes while a group of young men engrossed in playing cards.
Though nobody bothered to even throw a cursory glance, an authoritative old lady sitting
on a chair looked up. Barely perceptible non-verbal communication with just a knowing nod
and our escort picked up the message of where to pick up a pudi.
For them the word `discretion' has far more dimensions as is evident when this
friend shares a nugget. "A friend of mine who also happens to be a regular went there
to pick up stuff. That day, they simply refused to acknowledge him. He was very puzzled as
to why they were not entertaining him. He even asked them "Band kar diya kya?"
Feigning ignorance in return, they counter questioned "Kya band kar diya?" Flummoxed,
he returned only to realise that the underlying reason for their abnormal behaviour lay in
his borrowed motorcycle which read `PRESS'."
"Doing drugs does not raise so many eyebrows nowadays," states Ketan
matter-of-factly on the growing drug menace among students. Especially with 'Do your own
thing' being the latest mantra. "The percentage of outstation students hooked on
to drugs is definitely higher than the local students. But it is not that Puneites are not
prone to the drug culture. It's all a personal choice that starts right from when one
decides to make friends and join in a group," clarifies this student from Delhi. Even
as we write this piece, we stumble upon a friend and local guardian of two students, who
is currently undergoing a nightmarish experience. Mainly because his wards who were
brilliant students, have got addicted to drugs."Ever since they came to Pune, both of
them have taken to drugs in a big way. No amount of reasoning is helping to talk them out
of it. I'm feeling so guilty as ultimately they were entrusted to me," chokes this
So while the narcotics which numbs the reality and blurs the senses is within the
reach of the exceptionally experimentative generation next, we wonder how this menace is
taking this cultural capital of Maharashtra in its grip? "Actually, sometimes even I
wonder so," admits Ketan who had stepped in Pune for a bright future but today finds
himself a hopeless slave to the dictates of dope. "The situation is scary".
How many times have I seen my college mates leave their bikes or watches as
security just to have that pinch of Brown sugar." A characteristic precursor of the
times to follow. To date there has been no case atleast reported, of criminalisation in
youth for these stupefying drugs. But that day may not be far when this revered gateway of
knowledge camouflages into a portal of sleep walkers in the city of broken dreams!