Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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A Former User Reminiscences a Liberal Past and Pleads for a More Lenient Approach to Legalisation of Alcohol and Cannabis

Let’s try to explain some basic things about drugs and inform people better so that after the bout of Manipuri largesse in violent insurrections that lasted for decades people are not again drawn into trying unnecessarily to reform the social system, which is running just fine, if it is allowed to run on its own without people commenting too much on it or trying to dictate terms, thinking it’s their prerogative to do so. And this without valid reasons or proper education or knowledge about how society is preserved, causing confusion that is widespread.

Let me tell you a bit about myself to make the exchange lively and to show how people, each one, compose the society and life is more meaningful if seen thus. I used to like soft drugs like marijuana, alcohol sometimes and others also sometimes; and my experience with drugs started when I joined university. Like everything else it was just for fun and part of life in the college I studied. We had an equal interest in sports, reading, films, music and visiting interesting places all over the city in New Delhi. There was no metro rail then and travelling in buses was cheap like everything else. We smoked and drank all over the city and invariably at all the times were liked by people in the university, including teachers, and at other times too when we were just roaming around and met commoners and enjoyed smoking bidis and cigarettes while waiting for night buses which ran after 11 pm and had hourly services. So we had a belief in ourselves that life was much better this way, and this belief has carried on and formed the core of our lives till much later, when all of us have crossed our 50’s and are living life each in his own way.

At that time, we were noticeable especially because of our appearance which was relaxed, peaceful, always funny, and always friendly and accommodative; and also intellectually reserved, serious whenever in touch with other intelligent students or people who do not necessarily smoke or drink. Especially at the best of international music festivals, film festivals, art shows and other such events we came to know why it is so important to be in there somewhere if you are a non-conformist, doing things in and out of the usual way.

In this light it would be necessary to comment today, many years hence, that Manipur certainly needs youthful social action and liberal thinking against such hardliners as Meira Paibis (locality women vigilantes), the police and youth clubs purportedly fighting against drugs, but only disrupting life for everybody, as their ways are down to the last detail lumpen and harsh. They have to be educated on this matter. Manipuris don’t think too much or too well.

Drinking and smoking is good for the mind and sets the mood for thoughtfulness. A physical response to life is not good for Manipuris. They should have been thinking men by now if every other effort had worked. We are not be subjects of brutality or a primitive instinct. Education and pre-eminence means we need more freedom to live, and think also. This cannot be curtailed by Manipur’s past, or present, try hard as it may. Freedom is not an enormous effort – like the one which people are making in daily life at present. It is just that people should know what personal wellbeing means to each person. That is what democracy is. It is much better than we know. And better still if we live it.

Drugs or alcohol are matters within the four walls of a household; it is not a public issue, as these numberless organisations think it is. While dealing with the ‘problem’ (in their words) of drugs and alcohol these organisations or individuals like to hide or patronize the other side of the society, which are them. The violence, the family discords, and corrupt double standards of living – they are all caused by the people who are proposing that they are the better part of society, and that, because they are free from drugs. However, it may be interesting to note that the problem is only occasional on the other side consisting of drug and alcohol takers. Like any other person, if a person using drugs or alcohol does not find peaceful conditions at home and outside, for reasons a hardliner community is responsible, the tension does arise and that is precisely the problem, not the drugs. Drug takers are stigmatised; hardly any of them is a criminal; whereas everyone knows what people who have money and power do at all times.

Just because people who do not smoke or drink maybe high in number doesn’t mean they are always right or rightful in matters of life whether at home or socially. There is hardly any problem from such matters in developed countries. They drink and smoke drugs also but problems, even when they arise, are addressed in a different way, even to the extent that drugs are legal for consumption in some of them. About those who make too much self-righteous noise about the whole issue, the truth to be considered is the kind of corruption, seat-grabbing nepotism, support to terrorism, all kinds of low-grade politics and communal ill-feeling they themselves generate or indulge in – just to name a few of their daily thoughts which they think are not harmful socially, but are.

Drug takers are in fact an elite class. They are not common beasts of burden but have a very fine judgment about why and how to live the life they like to live, unlike the unthinking lot who are carried any which way the wind goes. Ganja or marijuana is a natural residue which is used by almost all religious men called sadhus and India as a nation is swept across by the good feeling this herb generates during the time the large population comes in touch with the holy men at the Kumbh and other melas. We can’t disregard this fact. But the intrusion is similar elsewhere also and the sadhus too are troubled by the cops in the highest of mountains where they live.

Alcohol too is a ritual in India amongst the tribal and the tribal festivities are to be respected. In the cities and bigger towns it is the need to relax at the bars after a hard day’s work at factories and offices. In Manipur Sekmai, Andro, Phayeng are all traditional breweries and it is their natural occupation. Ganja is too a natural herb, some of the best ones home to Manipur, and no one can say which plant is good and which bad as much as even poisonous plants are used to make useful poison arrows for hunting. Plants are God-given and any classification is impossible.

Drugs and alcohol cause only some weakening of the physical body which can be recovered through relaxation and food; but the attempt at domination over others in all walks of life is sheer criminalisation of social standards. For instance, some parts of the system are actually very corrupt. In the police force there are always some who let off rapists, killers, those who dismember children to make them beg on the streets. Then there are the red-light districts which anybody can see crystal clearly. Those police officials who cannot or do not, out of fear of their own corrupt colleagues, try to stop these activities are also party to the crime, the benefits of which come to them in some way or the other.

So the point is this is worse than the innocent and compulsive drug takers who do it out of a freer choice – their intellectual contribution to society is no less than any in terms of wisdom and philosophy of how to live life. Nothing good or bad in what they do – it’s just a matter of choice, if we put it in perspective of the democratic machinery that actually works in the sense of not just law making but also its counterpart, freedom of living as one chooses.

The conclusion is why is Manipur a dry state or also has so many inhibitions about smoking ganja. Wouldn’t it be right to just legalise it and make it convenient for the takers, rather than coming up with ideas like legalising it to the extent of medical and industrial use where the contention still remains the basic moralising over its wholly judgmental anti-social aspects. Why can’t the government accept for once the Netherland or American model that marijuana does help in thinking a lot of people that do not feel accustomed to thinking in a pack mentality? Packaging it and exporting to other places in whatever form but not allowing its local consumption is a selfish idea where the government thinks it will protect its citizens but allow others to be open to perceived hazards – and being very business-like about it. Come on! We are not running a mafia here; which would be exactly what you would end up doing if you don’t smoke it yourself but want to sell it to others.

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