Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Grass Trouble

We are sitting in a poorly lit bar somewhere in the thronging metropolis of Chennai. The bar has a musty smell which the waiter, on enquiry, tells us is actually from the room freshener. However, the prices give no indication of the general seediness of the place – they are as high as their electricity bills are low (from the poor lighting and non-existent air conditioning). But they have draught, which is good enough for X, Y and Me. We were getting together after many months and any place with draught and chairs to sit on would have sufficed.

Conversation ranges from (as always) escapades in college to girlfriends (or more precisely the lack of it) to work. We are halfway through our second pitcher and there is a nice buzzing in our heads. This is the point when the silent-when-drunk guys go silent and the loquacious-when-drunk guys start making speeches in Swahili. But for us conversation continues as usual. The only change in us is that we are talking more serious issues now, mostly personal and family related ones.

X: Shit man! My brother has screwed up big time and I don't know what to do. [His hands leave the beer mug and slowly start massaging his forehead]

Me: What happened?

X: The thing is...see...he started doing weed in college a year back. I knew about it, but I thought that it's one of those things that guys do in engineering college, so I didn't bother much about it. But a few months back, he started acting crazy...I mean...you have seen 'A Beautiful Mind', right? He started acting like a schizophrenic...finding crazy connection between things and talking about the universe and stuff.

Y: Really?

X: Yeah. So we took him to a doctor who diagnosed him with cannabis psychosis. My parents didn't even know that he was a smoker, so cannabis psychosis was a shock to them. Whenever my mother calls me, she ends up crying and I have to console her saying it'll be all right and stuff. Whoever thought smoking grass would lead to such fuck-ups?

Y: Come on, yaar. Everybody does grass in college. But I've not heard of anybody who got this. It's hard to believe!

[Y used to be a ganja master while in college. He is a legend in his college for growing the finest marijuana inside his vast college campus when he started suspecting that the quality of grass supplied to him was not up to his standards. I, never having got high on anything other than alcohol, remain silent and commiserate with X]

X: I know, even I tried it while I was in college. The only reason I didn't continue doing it was because I didn't like the high it gave. The doctor told us that a very small percentage of people have a chance of getting cannabis psychosis and as luck would have it, my bro is one of those.

We all go silent for a while and wordlessly sip our beer. I was thinking about the mess my friend was in and many thoughts came to mind – most shocking was the discovery that 90% of the people of my age I knew had tried grass at least once in their life. In fact, soft drug usage in most of the engineering colleges in south India is pretty rampant. In other parts of the country it is fairly common in the Mallu and North-East groups, but is limited by the availability of good 'stuff'.

I remember the time I was in NIT Trichy for a couple of days. This was in my final year and I was standing in the corridor of the hostel, eyes wandering aimlessly. An NITTian joined me with what resembled a crude cigarette in his hand.

NITTian: Want a puff?

Me: No, thanks. I don't smoke.

NITTian: Quit?

Me: No, never even started.

NITTian: Oh, ok. If you don't smoke weed I've got cigarettes. Navy Cut?

Me: Thanks macha, but I don't smoke anything.

NITTian: !!??

Another thought also comes to mind as we sit around the table silently staring at our beer mugs – that no amount of momentary pleasure is worth the pain and suffering that the whole family would have to endure in a situation like this. My heart goes out to the mother for whom the world came crashing down when she heard of the condition of her younger son; to the father who was left wondering whether it was some mistake on the parents' part in bringing up the child that resulted in this; to the brother who for a lifetime will feel guilty about not doing something when he could have.

While each of us are doing all this thinking, the silence is becoming too stifling. So we go ahead and do the most rational thing we could – order a third pitcher to drown the silence.


Ms Cris said...

I am totally opposed to this idea of fun-stuff-everyone-did-in-college and of course people only find you amusing when you make speeches against it.

I wonder if there is any other way people could be brought to come in terms with these kinda impacts, than actually experiencing it to know it!

In spite of this, I actually enjoyed the last line! I must be heartless!

silverine said...

Scary!! :( Our head girl in school went through a similar experience. One whiff and her brain was cooked for ever. She committed suicide recently! She was barely 25!

mathew said...

hmm..I think such incidents are higher where colleges have more resident students and hosteliers...and that was very evident in my college..

I had many friends who tried it..and some who do it consistently inspite of being perfectly aware that they are getting addicted...Its not that they are ignorant about it..

I remember the first time when I saw someone actually smoking this stuff..It was in mysore..and he sort of 'transformed' into Tipu Sultan and was nagging us to take him to Mysore Palace...Although he quit after that...

Dhanya said...

This is really bad.. In college people are more adventurous and is keen on experimenting anything n everything.. Sad part is they venture into these areas fully aware of it's consequences :(

Philip said...

The wikipedia page on cannabis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_%28drug%29) tells me that grass is actually less addictive and less physically harmful than cigarettes and alcohol!! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Rational_scale_to_assess_the_harm_of_drugs_%28mean_physical_harm_and_mean_dependence%29.svg)

But the mental harm it does more than compensates for that, I guess!

Philip said...

ms cris: The only way people can be made to change is to make more people aware of the consequences. None of my friends knew about ganja triggering psychosis. Addiction to ganja can be overcome, but this is about screwing up permanently.

silverine: That's very sad :( I could never understand people committing suicide with their whole life ahead of them. But with their mental state being what it is...

mathew: yes, its more common in hostels. ganja addiction can be kicked relatively easily. none of my friends who did grass in college do it now. but cannabis psychosis is a whole new game altogether. I'm sure many of the people wouldn't try it if they knew about such effects.

Philip said...

dhanya: I agree, college is seen as the place to try anything and everything. But I'm not really sure whether they understand the consequences fully before doing everything. If they do, then they are plain stupid.

mathew said...

You are tagged..thats what i do to people on weekends!!;-D

Sreedharan said...

This is really sad...
I have seen a few of my class mates at college got addicted to grass. They call it Spinach (inspired from Popeye Show). Whenever they ran low on energy levels, they just pullout one and consume. Luckily none of them got into serious trouble.
Even if people are told that there is 90% possibility of such impacts, they always believe that they will make it into the 10%.

Philip said...

sree: I guess you are right. And that's really sad. But 'spinach' is a really imaginative name, i got to admit :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... felt a pin prick... I used to think it is nt addictive - some of my friend who used to take did stop, but some do continue. But Psychosis... hmmm...

Think as Mathew pointed out - in colls where more resident students...

To some extend i agree with Dhanya's argument that they are aware - i rmmbr my friend 'explaining' the 'ill effects' of drugs - he pointed out some fifteen or so - and he used to take it (stopped after he left coll - but prone to take it if in groups).

Among Juniors - dont know - but felt like a tendency to follow those 'iconic seniors'

lazy to login :-)

Praveen said...

my heart goes out to the unlucky family suffering because of this cursed substance. I have personally seen many guys spoiling their future smoking grass..In the rock community, its a common practise to smoke weed and some guys fall too deep into this that they become almost like slaves of grass. thankfully, like you, I was fortuante enough to stay away from this cancer. but sad for the millions who lost their lives just because they strayed bit during the crucial period of youth...
nice post

jeff said...

Some people are more sensitive to the stuff than others,especialy ones with troubled backgrounds and all.Weed makes you live in fantasies and you would not want to get out of that virtual world.

But weed is not addictive if you use it rarely and for occasional pleasure only.Lots of guys in my college have tried weed(almost all of the drinking community) but none,I say none have become addicted to it.Its like something you try out occasionally and forget about it.Its easier than cigerretes to quit(due to availablity ?).But once it catches you,it is really hard to escape.I know a friend who got psychosis because of weed.

... said...

I'm from NIT Trichy and the worst part is seeing smart, talented people with bright futures succumbing to marijuana... Living their days just to smoke up.
It maybe difficult to get addicted to, but once hooked it's even more difficult to quit.
People at the top have come crashing down, and it's the sad truth that no one even cares.
People here don't start smoking up because of "college pressure" or "peer pressure" for that matter. It's because there's nothing better to do! City is useless and studies... What on Earth is that?!

Dirt cheap weed rates + all the freedom in the world = NITT