Udta Punjab finally released this week to rave reviews after a mammoth battle with the censor board that pushed the state’s festering drugs problem into the spotlight.
For two weeks, television talking heads drowned us with images and stats of drug-addled youth and news of the 89 demanded cuts to the movie.
But everyone left out one thing -- just how easy is it to get high in Punjab?
Not too difficult, as HT ended up finding out.
We are in Ludhiana to get a few shots of Aamir Khan’s new wrestling flick Dangal but stumble upon a far bigger story.
Drugs don’t turn up at the doorstep when you don’t know a dealer or the local slang for drugs.
So, we decide to go out for a stroll around 11:30pm to check how true the rumours floating around are.
Walking down the deserted Ferozepur Road, we see a bunch of people smoking beedis.
One of us asks them for a smoke but struggles to get small talk going.
But it turns out that the unfamiliarity doesn’t matter. Words such as marijuana, weed, and cocaine catch on and prove to be universal language.
A few gestures later, two of them are guiding us down a narrow alley by foot.
“All the outlets are closed here, you can only find it near the station (railway station) area now,” he insists after we have walked for a kilometre, sounding apologetic.
Just that moment, two autorickshaws cross us on the road and screech to a halt. One of the drivers steps out of the auto and into our shadows, throwing a meaningful look at us.
“Shimlapuri, Khoda Colony me milega,” we are told.
We are surprised but decide to test the situation. “Charas milega? (How about hash?)” we ask.
“Ha jo bolo mil jaega. Ganja, Chitta..jo bhi chahiye (Yes, marijuana, cocaine..you will get anything you want),” he says, sounding confident.
He tells us he will take us to Khoda Colony, where the “stuff” is apparently available.
After a 30-minute ride, we reach a street with trucks parked on both sides and a group of kids chatting under a dim light. The barking dogs have fallen silent and even the moon has slipped below a cloud. Our auto driver asks us not to step out and says he he’ll get the stuff – including heroin or cocaine -- for us..
“Chitta to hazaar rupaye me aeyga. Ganja Rs 100 ka pudiya mil jaega (The cocaine will cost a thousand bucks, you can get marijuana for Rs 100),” he tell us, giving the rates and points in the direction of the darkness.
He returns with two packets of what appears like marijuana and offers it to us, in the hope that we will buy it off him.
When we go to the police, they appear dismissive when asked about the ease of availability of drugs in the area – which we have just discovered.
Commissioner of Police Ludhiana, Jatinder Singh Aulakh refuses to admit that drugs are available in the area and says, “Our job is to catch the peddlers and we do that. We trap and catch them. I have got work to do, can’t talk anymore.”
We recorded our entire attempt on Snapchat. Watch it here:
A helpful autorickshaw and some luck, it turns out, is all it takes to score in Punjab.