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Drugged and rolled in Mumbai

The question is out in the open again ? is substance abuse a malady that?s ailing Mumbai?s rich and famous?

india Updated: Jun 04, 2006 03:24 IST

The question is out in the open again — is substance abuse a malady that’s ailing Mumbai’s rich and famous? Consider the instances in the recent past: Abhishek Kasliwal’s sordid saga of rape, the Rahul Mahajan incident of near fatal dose of cocaine and champagne — people have commented about his days in the rehab stint in London. Figures are difficult to come by but according to reports in the media, the police peg the number of addicts to high-end drugs at around 50,000. Whether that loosely translates into Mumbai’s affluent class leading a life of decadence — the jury is out on that one.

Opinions are divided and the truth perhaps lies somewhere in between.

Restaurateur Farhan Azmi, who runs the very successful Cafe Basilico, opines that addiction, whether it is of cocaine, alcohol or the seemingly innocuous cough syrup, is an affliction that cuts across Mumbai’s class divide. “I am not into drugs. I was detained in Dubai because one of my business associates was in possession of drugs found in my car. But I have seen addicts and it is enough to put you off the idea of even trying it. They often get so desperate that they can go to the extent of cutting themselves up, banging their heads against the wall till they bleed.”

Kishin Mulchandani, who is famous for his partying ways, agrees that substance abuse is common in the cocktail circuit. He points out that it is unfair to single out the rich and the famous — “It’s not just the social divas but even street kids who do drugs, so why pick on those who are wealthy?”

A coke high, many say, is a must for some of the jaded party regulars. “How else would they have the confidence to step into those parties where bitchy comments about their torrid past, spouse’s paramours or dwindling family fortunes fly around?” quips a South Mumbai hostess. Surprisingly, the age old excuse of coping with the angst of hailing from a broken family is still trotted out and even finds acceptability. A brother-sister duo — whose high-profile parents went through an acrimonious separation — make the list as does an industrialist’s son, who is something of a rebel. That they have adequate money to support their fetish for nose candy, helps. Others who aren’t as fortunate are often known to either turn into groupies or resort to prostitution for the extra money. Or worse still, women sometimes end up marrying rich boors who can help them buy the stuff. 

The other thing about high society dopers is that they are a close knit sorority. “Considering the fact that celebrities are always under media scrutiny, it’s unlikely that they are going to do drugs in public places like pubs. It’s more likely that they do it at home. Travelling abroad is another way of enjoying forbidden pleasures without being found out as many gregarious socialites have discovered,” says Chaya Momaya, a grooming consultant.

The list  of those who do it is always being speculated about. A few top actresses, actors (Fardeen Khan who was arrested a few years ago), corporate chiefs, models and socialites are the usual suspects. Surprisingly, Mumbai’s politicians and political heirs at large seem to have escaped being slotted in this category. As occasional bust-ups have proved in both Delhi and Mumbai, Charlie does drop by at plush homes but as model-turned-restaurateur Mustafa Eisa puts it, “It’s very difficult to pin the blame on someone as all this usually happens in the privacy of homes or cars and among like-minded friends.”

There was a time when wild rave parties in Madh Island bungalows were rumoured to be the haven for cokeheads but now things seem to have become simpler. Drug peddlers abound in the city much to a junky’s delight and they extend their services right to your doorsteps delivered by slick looking agents. While pubs and nightclubs don’t sell any of this stuff, they admit to the possibility of their patrons carrying the stuff into the club.

Says Vicky Singh, who ran a nightclub called Rain in suburban Mumbai, “No nightclub owner will sell the stuff but you can’t really stop people from doing their thing.”