“Hamarey khandaan ka ek lauta chirag ek charsi” Dad
Life on drugs can be a bit up and down. The highs of cocaine, at times, are very high and the lows tend to be lower than ever. I got into the coke habits during my latter stint in Bollywood. Nights would be coke binges in Bollywood movie launch parties. Man, everyone does it here. Some clubs have special slabs of marble in the toilets so that people can grind and cut the devil’s white powder to enjoy a sniff or two.
“You know Preity Zinta? She had to have corrective surgery on her nose. Man, the woman sniffs snow like there is no tomorrow. I am told she ended up burning her nose cartilage because of it.” Gaurav gave me the inside info as it were. He should know as he has hung around with Sanjay Dutt. I, on the other hand, was getting my set of nosebleeds. The problem is that one never knows what shit is mixed in the coke. The mornings after a coke high were spent trying to sleep with blinds on your eyes. That was the only way to recover from a coke hangover. “Hey, I got the perfect remedy for cocaine hangover here – Mustard Oil. Put a few drops in your nose and your nose itch will vanish.” Gaurav handed me a small bottle full of oil with a plastic squeezer on top. “Well, are you sure this will work, buddy?” I asked as I reluctantly took a few drops and drowned them in my nostrils. Yes, it did feel a bit cooler and more relaxed. The inner scabby skin of my nostrils peeled away with tiny clots of blood. Yes, this grudge of coke came out of my nose when I gave an almighty snort in front of my washbasin. “Waaaoo, bro! Well done, you are a real coke head. Look at the mess you made inside your nose.” Gaurav clapped with delight.
Having cocaine for us was like chewing pan parag or supari. There were times we used to do coke like M&M’s. It was all routine and no big deal. The whole of Mumbai was doing it, so why should we get left behind? The only problem was doing the right quality of coke and scoring it from the right dealer so that the stuff you got was pure. It was that simple. At 3k a gram, it was expensive shit but we begged, borrowed or stole from each other to do it.
As usual, the coke highs were short and the lows were very long. It does affect one’s routine and appetite too. So that’s a bummer, but mix it up with whiskey and it’s a deadly combination. You will see yourself as Shah Rukh Khan once you are on it.
“Salla, you are a mad man. You want discount on coke also? What you think I am Big Bazaar? Hey, tell your friends to buy it from me also and give them my number.” Choka said while he handed the white powder to me. “I hope you did not mix ketamine to it.” I said. “No, bro, this is pure shit, pure snow, you will love it. Call me after you high, man.” Choka said with delighted eyes. Mumbai was full of peddlers like Choka. They come down from Nigeria and South Africa as exchange students and bring the white powder into the country. It’s their way of earning pocket money.
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“So now, white powder is coming into our house. I am going to be strict with you. I am sending you to a rehab in Jodhpur. That is the only way to fix you.” My dad said to me with a straight and serious face. “Pataa nahi humseey tumhari parvarish mein kanha kami reh gayi. We sent you to the best schools and colleges. We gave you the best and look what you turned out to be. You are an extra in Bollywood films and on top of it, a Junkie too.” Dad almost choked with tears when he said that. “But papa, it’s not the drugs, it’s Osho’s kundalani meditation. I am able to make the kundalini rise and that’s the cause of disturbance in my behaviour and mind.” I tried to explain using Osho and my brand of modern spirituality as an excuse. “This is another sham you have gotten into. I will tear all your philosophy books and make sure you come to the straight path. Only a rehab can help you now, not Mr. Osho.” Dad was determined to send me to the clinic. “Mr. Razdan is the best psychologist in India and he is also a relative. He will do your treatment. That way, at least, the whole world will not come to know about your drug problem. Samaj main hamari tho koi izzat hai.” Dad had a point. So it was decided that I would be sent to the clinic at Jodhpur with Tiwari Ji.
“Tiwari Ji inko Jodhpur lekar jaiye. Wahan hei yeh theek hongee.” He instructed Tiwari to be with me all the time. “Chaliye Rajan, papa ji ne jo kaha hei wo follow ke jiye.” Tiwari was a trusted friend and he did what he was asked to do. Flight tickets were booked. I, dad and Tiwari Ji headed for Jodhpur.
It was my first visit to the desert town which also known as the Blue City as all the houses are painted blue in Jodhpur. It was also the place where a famous Pepsi ad with Amitabh Bachchan flying kites was shot. It is the second largest city of Rajasthan with many forts, temples and palaces, the grandest being the Umaid Palace and the Mehrangarh Fort. In those days, there were only a few Air India flights to Jodhpur. The Airport at Jodhpur also acts as a military base. Thus, you have a lot of gunmen and army security around the airport. We all sat in a typical Jodhpur auto-rickshaw. These are slightly bigger and far more colourful than the ones that we see in Delhi. They are decked up with images of Bollywood stars and Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Jodhpur is a typically sunny, hot and dusty desert town. One thing I had to get used to was vegetarianism. Marwadis and Rajasthanis are generally vegetarians and Jodhpur is not the best place in the world to enjoy non-veg food.
As my auto swerved through the dusty bylanes and bazaars of Jodhpur, I saw the first glimpse of Rajasthani culture – men wearing big colourful pagdis, traditional dhotis and pyjamas with some preferring angarkhas, sherwanis and achkans. A lot of Rajasthani men, especially royalty and upper cast, carry swords as part of their tradition and culture. This along with kundals and earrings form the main attire of the Rajputana Man. Women wearing brightly coloured ghagras and cholis laugh and giggle as they carry sugarcanes and grains from one market to the other. Of course, how could one miss camels or camel carts as they are all over the place in Rajasthan? Tourism is a big contributor to Jodhpur’s economy. The great royal heritage is open to the world to see and admire giving a true glimpse of Indian royalty and their traditions.
“Chaliye rajan uth jaye, hamara hotel agaya.” Tiwari woke me up and we all stepped out of the auto. “I specially booked this hotel as it is very close to Dr. Razdan’s clinic. You and Tiwari Ji may have to stay here for a few weeks depending on the treatment that the doctor will advise.” Dad explained the situation. “This is the last time, son. I have no more energy left to drag you to and fro from rehabilitation clinics.” Dad was serious. He wanted me out of this shit. We all sat down in our hotel room and watched Discovery channel for a while before we left for Dr. Razdan’s appointment.
Dr. Razdan lived in an old bungalow in a gali near the Jodhpur post office. A maroon Hyundai would always be parked outside his house on the porch. It seemed that he hardly used his car. Razdan had his clinic and house on the ground floor. The first floor had the beds where patients were detoxed and analysed. The whole place stank of medicine and the walls were shabby with paint peeling off. There were dust and humidity inside the clinic and the garden was unkempt with shrubs and trees falling all over the place. The dry leaves had also blown into the porch. The whole place had an untidy and shoddy look. Drawers and shelves were full of brown medicine bottles, inhalers, injections and aluminium foils. Every wall had some chart or diagram in the local language that informed people about psychological and neurotic disorders and how can one diagnose it – Manovagyanik Vikar, as they call it in Hindi, symptoms of psychological disorder.
“Papa, you were saying this is a drug rehabilitation clinic, but he is a doctor who takes care of mental patients.” I nervously told dad. “Yes, he will work on both your problems. You might also be schizophrenic. I have brought you to him so that he can totally heal you once and for all.” Dad thumped the chair when he said this. “So you are saying I am mad also?” I asked. “Yes, you are, I have no doubt of that. Only a fool would leave a job with Citi Bank and become a sadaak chaap actor like you. Not only that, you are proud of it too. It’s all because of the drugs that you have been doing all these years. On top of that, you had lied to me and mummy that you were out of it.” Dad went on. “But that does not prove that I have a disorder. Either treat me for my addiction or mental disorder. Why both at the same time?” I wanted an answer as I feared the treatment of Razdan would worsen my condition. The look of the place gave me no comfort at all. “He is a relative. He will take special care of you. After medication and treatment, you will be fine. Now, just cooperate with the doctor.” Dad said trying to calm me down.
The door opened. It was a large haveli-type door with a big iron kunda on it. Out from the shadows emerged the short and podgy figure of Dr. Razdan. He was short with a definitive hunchback. He was in his sixties and was bald with just a few white hairs growing on the side of the head. Like most Kashmiris, he was very fair. He had short legs and a huge stomach that reminded me of Jabba the Hutt. He had elephant-like ears with hair growing from the side of the ears. His eyebrows were bushy and unkempt with hair flying from side to side. His chin had a few brown warts on them. Most of the time, he was dressed up in brown or grey safari suits covered with a white doctors coat and dangling around his waist was his trademark red stethoscope. Dr. Razdan’s favourite toy was his HP electronic notepad in which he kept the records of all his patients and their histories. These were neatly keyed into an Excel file and served as a valuable data bank. He had a couple of senior doctors, one by the name of Dr. Raman who looked after the detox and brain scan, along with three nurses and one compounder.
“Nice to see you. How is your acting going?” Dr. Razdan asked me as he sat on his revolving chair. “Bas sab fit doctor.” I replied. “Doctor, I am handing my son to you. Now, you just make sure all the junk is taken out of his system and he never returns to drugs again.” My dad wanted the doctor’s affirmation on this. “Surely! We will do our best treatments, but he also has to help.” The doctor looked at me for cooperation. “Yes, doctor, I will help in my own treatment.” I thought ‘what the heck’ let’s go for it. We started off with medication first, a few tablets thrice a day. It was to get the system ready for detoxification exercises. Doctor Razdan explained to me about the treatment.
“You know how famous Razdan is in the whole of Rajasthan? People from all over come to him and he cures them of all mental ailments. He is a genius.” Dr. Raman said as he took me to the first floor for detoxification. Standing under the staircase was a huge crowd of almost a hundred patients who had queued up for the doctor’s treatments. “Yeh saab tho garib log hein, farmers, truck drivers or simple village folks.” I remarked. “Arrey yeh yanhaan mansik rog ke liye nahi hein in bechaaro ka tho asli rog hein inky gaaribi.” Dr. Raman sighed when he said this. It was a fact, I hardly saw any working class or business class people here.
The detox room had wooden cots laid out on the floor with dirty and dusty rubber mattresses on them. I was asked to lie down on one such cot. “Don’t worry, I will inject you with a serum that will make you fall asleep instantly. When the effect of the serum goes away, you will wake up on your own. Hang on, it will only prick a little.” Dr. Raman said as he tied a rubber tube to my arm and started searching for a vein. It was a little prick and plop, I fell on the mat.
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“Ahh! Mein kaun hon?!” I woke up with a jerk and sat up straight on the cot. I first looked up at the ceiling. The rickety fan was swirling slowly. There were other patients in the room sleeping like zombies. Strange howling noises were coming from below. It was like a throng of women howling and crying out in pain. My eyes fell on the window. It was dark outside. On the side was a cupboard full of surgical stuff. Two oxygen cylinders lay near my bed. “You had a good sleep, it seems. You have been asleep for four hours, but to you, it must have felt like a millisecond or so. See the magic of Razdan’s serum?” Dr. Raman explained to me as he held both my hands to lift me up from the cot. “Have I been unconscious for so long? Man, it was so strange. It’s all so strange and what are those noises?” I looked around the room in a dazed state as I was yet to recover my senses. “Who am I? Where is this? Oh! My head feels like jelly.” I held my head trying to comfort it. “It’s ok. We went deep into your subconscious mind today. We also did some brain scans. It is ok, it will take time for the memories to reappear. I walked down to Dr. Razdan’s clinic and waited outside for further instructions.
My mind was floating on clouds. It was numb. I was trying hard to remember who I was and what had happened to me. Suddenly, my memories seemed to be lost in some sort of black hole. As I sat trying to strain my brain, in the distant corner of the garden sat two old Rajasthani men playing chess. I wandered up to them and greeted them. “Namaskar shatranj khel rahein hein.” I asked. “Haan babu, baitho yanhan mera naam Eka hei aur yeh Ina. Hum untha chalatein hein, ilaaj ke liye ayein hein.” Eka explained. I sat down to watch them play their chess game. “Ek dum Mahabharat ke scene jesaa lag raha hei, Eka bhai, par aap chaar raniyon ke saath khel rahein hein aur Ina sahib ek rani ke saath. Yeh kesa shatranj hei.” I was startled to see this strange combination of pieces in a chess game. “Wo mein Mughal hun aur Ina Rajput. Hamari jitney chahein untni raniyaan ho sakti hein.” This was a strange explanation that I had heard for the first time but I was ready to buy anything at this point.
I looked around. There were mosquitos and jugnoos flying in the air. I felt like getting some air, so I walked towards the porch where I saw a little girl playing. On close investigation, I found that she was playing with a lock. She was trying to open this huge lock with a screwdriver. “Akaad bakaad baumbey boo, asse nabbe purey as, sua mein laga tala chor nikal ke bhaga.” The girl kept repeating it over and over again. She then started playing with her two ponytails which were strung by red ribbons. As I moved closer, she turned her face and looked straight at me and said “Akadd bakkaad bumbey booooo! Hahahaha!” She scared the living daylights out of me as I recoiled backwards in fear. As it is, I was battling my sudden loss of memory and dealing with an uncertain and muddy mind. On top of this, I was seeing some weird illusions which included a chess game with four queens on the chessboard and now, this little girl was making me go nuts. I ran back in fear and sat down on the bench near Dr. Razdan’s clinic door.
“Beta jab maan ashant ho apni Hanuman Chalisa yaad rakhan.” My mother’s words flashed in front of my eyes. I knew that I had to relax. I was in a rehab and I was not totally in control of my subconscious mind. I started reciting the Hanuman Chalisa in great haste to control my sudden surge of fear.
“Kya haal hein Rajaan?” The animated voice of Tiwari shook me out of my chanting. Tiwari had come over to fetch me back to the hotel. “Yaar, Tiwari, meri memory kanhin kho gayi hai.” I said with sadness. “Accha kanhaa main abhi dhoondh deta hun.” He started looking under the bench and near the flower pot. “Rajan yanhan tho nahi diikh rahi hei.” He said and then laughed aloud at his own perpetrated joke. “Accha batayen aap ne pechle kis film mein kaam kiya hein.” He asked. “I am blank, mujhey kuch yaad nahi araha.” I replied. “Rajan zor lagayin, accha apke hotel ka room number kya hei.” He asked another question. “Ghanta kuch yaar nahi.” I reaffirmed. “Ohhh, yeh tho serious problem hei!” Tiwari concurred.
“Abhi tho khel shurruu hua hei. Yeh problem nahi, Razdan ka pagal khana hei.” A nurse wearing white skirt and stockings stood in front of me with some tablets in one hand and a glass of water in the other. I looked up to take my medication and realised that she had long Rajasthani moonch and wore a white nurse cap on top of her bald head. “Aaaap aap nurse hein? Hey Bhagwaan yanhan sab ulta pulta kyon hei? Ward boy nurse ke kapdon mein?” I was almost going into a coma by now as Tiwari tried to settle me.