No Country For Young Men

Why partying is hard in India.

ByAnuvab Pal
No Country For Young Men
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“I don’t remember much of the Eighties”, said the Hollywood producer, Joel Schumacher. “I think there were a lot of drugs, a lot of women, a lot of parties and a lot of movies that made a lot of money.” He said this in an interview on television, not in a guilty way but in a show-offy way. The interviewer laughed. American comedy legend George Carlin had the famous line, “Don’t do drugs. Or you’ll end up like me. A multi-millionaire!” Then there was Bob Dylan who when asked what inspired most of his songwriting said, “Women I’ve slept with. And narcotics. No, just narcotics.”

Anywhere in the world, drugs are a serious problem. They numb your brain, slow you down, make intelligent people morons and stupid people even more stupid. There’s an urban legend that great creativity can come only from under the influence, but that’s medically, by and large, rubbish. Statistics show that Byron would have been Byron with or without hallucinogens. So why is it that there’s still so much narcotics in the world? The answer is two words. Young people.

Last week in Mumbai, a rave party was shut down because apparently a lot of party drugs were populating the environment. Being an old boring writer, ambling through my middle class life, I don’t know much about the scene so I asked a friend who does. This was his response. “Have you ever been to a Mumbai nightclub sober on a Friday night? There are middle-aged slightly overweight housewives in extremely tight dresses going crazy to Madonna’s Like a Virgin. There are multinational bank executives dancing in a circle, teenagers giggling in corners tweeting. It’s impossible to be in that environment without drugs.”

It made me wonder about something someone said to me a while ago when the film actor, Fardeen Khan, was caught with drugs and there was a moral outrage. This person said, “Look if movie stars don’t do drugs, who will do drugs? An LIC Manager paying an EMI and living in a 2-bedroom?”

The smaller point is that the law will always outlaw this sort of stuff. As it should. It’s illegal. The police, wherever they find it, on a cliff in Calangute or on a roof in Juhu, whether driven by rule of law or vendetta, will raid, media in tow, enjoying the deliciousness of exposing the wastrel elite (rich, dancing, taking pills- always an easy target). In Saudi Arabia or Thailand, you are promptly killed. Luckily here, you are let off with a urine and blood test and some TV embarrassment (hiding of face and/ or holding up of designer bag). The larger point is the moral debate it sparks. How could people do this? Do they have no morals? Values? Tradition? And other such high-handed righteous nonsense.

It reminded me of the debates during the earlier IPL controversies (there have been so many, it’s hard to keep track), where a lot of people were saying that post-match partying with models were the problem. The irony being that most of the panelists deriding the parties were often the most famous faces seen at them. Everyone likes a good time, though it’s hard to admit on national TV that one prefers the company of Uzbek models and shots over proper Indian values (whatever that means). Not to mention, the association of sportspeople and partying is longer than time itself. All-rounder Ian Botham was known to celebrate so much after victories in the West Indies that he often broke beds. The English rugby team once started a fire at a party by accident and the American football team, The Dallas Cowboys, after winning a super-bowl tried to start a barbeque in their hotel room.

The answer is that it is impossible to stop young people from doing what they do at that age. Whatever laws are made, whatever raids happen, they will somehow find a way to be a bit reckless. Which is the whole point of being young and making mistakes and doing the wrong thing and learning a bit and growing up.

“Being young is hard in India, Uncle”, explained a teenage cousin to me (yes, she called me Uncle and it was rough but that’s another matter). “Boyfriends and girlfriends have no place to be alone or have sex. Our parties are constantly busted, parents always snooping, infrastructure is the main problem.”

I thought that an insightful point.

Young people, no matter how repressed or restricted, will want to get in a car and drive fast, or drink excessively, or be in lust or do something illegal. It’s a rite of passage that’s unstoppable. It’s something they will hopefully learn from and not do when they are a father of two holding down a job. The traditional values that are so touted often result in those toppers from nationwide examinations, who at 18, are semi-blind, with no life experience, no social skills, who enter their Twenties sexually frustrated and are most likely spending Saturday nights at home, spewing insane racist sexist commentary on the internet.

Which is not to say that those out partying and living life and doing drugs are great bastions of intelligent thought.

“Our rave parties are damn stupid. And run by stupid people”, explained a regular. “First of all, when you know it’s illegal, why would you put ads on facebook that say stuff like Come Fly High? Once high, no one has anything interesting to say. You hear a lot of “mind-blowing dude” and “bro” and then a lot of people pass out. I saw one guy, totally blown, trying to run into a wall repeatedly and another woman trying to make out with a statue.”

I guess there is no right and wrong in the world of the young when one is discovering. But for everyone else passing judgment so easily about choices these people make, in a country where it’s hard to learn who one is without everyone telling you, maybe a few wrongs can make a right.

The author can be reached on twitter @AnuvabPal

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