S had said, ‘In the end you will become an addict.’ Did I? Have I? Can I? Was I already? All questions seem to intersperse into one another and wander into the apartment at S.Terrace road – across seven seas where S holds it, turns its folios and gets soaked into it –this opium called Narcopolis. S sowed the seeds of Narcopolis in me and now it’s a full-fledged tree with its roots protracted deep in my mind. They say you only introduce your worst enemy to opium. Is it? Is S my friend or my enemy? Is he different from me or is he me? Is he the ‘I’ who is writing this or the ‘I’ who accompanies me while I tread on this drug journey? Now and then I turn the pages of the opium den and smell the innocent nostalgia that its author Jeet Thayil has woven within it. As I do this I reminiscence voices that are crushed and forgotten; I reminiscence a city without its veils and in all its squalor that holds these nameless voices and lets them out in the smoke of opium, heroin and weed. S made me live another life at Narcopolis – one that I had never known of, and perhaps not one but many. So, here I am making an effort to relive those lives.
Narcopolis isn’t a plot spilled with a cast that walks and talks to narrate a piece of fiction. It’s a concoction of dreams, reality, prophecy and time – all of which thrive on the drug of opium housed in another drug, the other drug being Bombay. Bombay has been the refuge for many who are homeless and lost, who are looking for themselves, who are waiting to be free, who are longing to live in addiction, who are longing to be free of addiction. What is addiction? Is it freedom or is it exile? Is freedom same as exile? Life in all its glory is an addiction and the greed to live it is a lifelong exile – exile from the emptiness that is the ultimate truth maybe. It’s an oxymoron that we live in every day, and most of us die living this paradox. While I travelled through the lanes of Narcopolis, Dom – the narrator and his opium pipe took turns to describe this enigma. Effortlessly they exchanged turns to tell the experiences of pimps, peddlers and goons, the murky and nimble desires of the lowest of the low and the highest of the high.
It’s difficult to distinguish Dom from his pipe. They seem to be one; just like S and I who seem indistinguishable many times, perhaps they too thrive on each other. Dom weaves the prologue in a single sentence spanning seven pages as if the whole of Narcopolis is a single breath of his pipe. S told me one needs to be literally high to absorb the essence of it. Aren’t we all high on life – the single drug that captivates us, at times pushes us away from it and at others pulls us into it? Each of our lives is a long sentence that we parse with phrases, clauses and punctuations to suit our needs, to control the flow of it, and to make ourselves believe that we are in control of it. We all are scared to break this illusion of life that we ourselves have created and that we strive so bad to live. Doesn’t everything in the end turn into nihility? Yet we don’t want to believe that it is a fake life that we live. If this isn’t addiction then what is?
The notion is popular that the weakest seek the doors of opium, heroin and their cousins. Also, a theory has been postulated that they descent into a world of numbness while being entranced by them, that they tend to remain incarcerated in order to escape the reality, the mortality and the chronology that define life. If that is so why do people who have tackled and endured the ghosts of life tend to seek the shelter of drugs? Surely they aren’t the weakest if they have fought the horrendous affairs life throws upon at times. If they are strong enough to sustain why do they knock the doors of drugs? What is it that they seek? It’s a matter of choice actually. All that we do is our willing and unwilling choice. As far as the defining elements of life – reality, mortality and chronology go, do they actually delimit life? Aren’t mortality and chronology killers of the self? They are manmade concepts to keep the theories of time and space intact. We know it still we deny it; still we define our own theories of right and wrong, and pretend to live up to these dogmas. We all feed on our own hypocrisy and what a pity that we also take pride in it. S had said that it’s all fake; now it makes more sense to me, to I as well and I get drawn into what goes on within S.
As strong and resilient that we may be or pretend to be when our masks are shed and when the self is divulged – a soul that pines love is all that we have. We all are lonely in our own ways and we all are scared of it. We all want to elude from its crutches. We all want to overcome this loneliness and want a friend who can accompany us in the ubiquitous ordeals of life. We come alone into this world and while we leave we are alone again. However while we are here we don’t want to be alone. We all tend to feel feeble when we face life alone. Is it a delusion of the mind that alone is weak? Or is it a conjecture that we grow up with or develop as we grow up? Sometimes we are too padlocked to ask these questions. Sometimes we ask but we don’t get the answers. Sometimes we are tired of not being answered. Sometimes the answer is a simple no but we aren’t brave to take no for an answer. Sometimes the answer is yes but we are too blinded to see it. At all times in these ‘sometimes’ we look for support and some souls find this support provisioned in the puffs and whiffs of what are called drugs. Am I questioning the good or bad of it? I am not. Neither does Narcopolis. It’s a code switching ouroboric ear candy that S introduced me to and made me an addict in turn, as he had said in the beginning.
Iridescent, gritty, grubby, contemplative and hard-core is this opium den. When the smoke comes out, there are thoughts left on the margins of it. I take deep breaths to fathom these thoughts, and sometimes to fathom S as well. Narco – the drugs, polis – its city, S – its dweller, I –its visitor – all seem synonymous to me, all intertwined by the episodes of life’s parody. All of us are addicts engulfed in the vicious circle of living and dying and seeking in between; seeking a loving heart, seeking a listening ear and a comforting hand; and S and I are no different from us.