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CAPITAL CAPERS: NO HOLDS BARRED ADDICTS AND THEIR LICENTIOUS RAJ SNIFFING & SNORTING IN DELHI

If you'd been to a fashion week party in Delhi recently, you may have noticed several models rushing to the loo every now and then. It wasn't their bladders working overtime. It was just that you need both privacy and a slab to draw a line of cocaine. Often they came out with a little bit of white powder stuck around their nostrils-the extra rubbing of the nose was another giveaway. "Without this, I couldn't work," a model told me the other day.

As Mumbai has known for years, the fashion industry lives on coke and champagne-helps keep the hunger pangs at bay. The bigger fashion gets, the more Delhi will be a hot-bed of upper end drugs. But Delhi being Delhi, it's not just fashion. There's big old money, there's politics, there's plenty of new money. So you need substance abuse symptoms far beyond booze and cigarettes. Like cocaine, ecstasy or heroin? If not, Delhi's parties are not for you.

Unlike Mumbai's parties, with their smattering of Bollywood-glamour, corporate types and sundry socialites, Delhi has that one extra ingredients-the power brokers. The capital's social set has always included fixers and politicians; even small-time personal assistants sometimes make the cut because they can offer proximity to politicians.

Recently, things have become more frenetic now and with economic liberalization have come newer substances. A decade ago, one saw the odd reefer or Manali weed, but now the white stuff is all the rage. In fact, the fashionable drug de jour is horse tranquilizers which is used by party animals immune to cocaine and ecstasy. Cannabis resin is for sadhus, and teenagers and aging hippies.

Night clubs and pubs and lounges are where you will see these drug peddlers openly. Nor is the action confined to Delhi. Some clubs in Noida, where the nouveau riche have begun building large bungalows, keep long hours and the friendly bartender stocks the stash. In the highly guarded VIP section of these night clubs on long weekend nights, every drug is available. Going into a trance with the help of substance is hip. One drug addict recognizes the other immediately. The drug dealers have also latched on to another catchment area-elite and expensive schools; after all at Rs 4000-5000 a gram, it is not everyone's high. But if you are not into quick fixes, you will not be invited.

But it can get to be a dangerous game too. Delhi's society is still talking about the arrest and subsequent jailing of the scion of a large business family who was caught buying drugs from a dealer in the Khan Market area. All attempts were made to hush it up, but the evidence was just too compelling. A year or so of confinement later, the socialite came out and with hardly a hiccup, hit the party scene again. Not only that, he became doubly popular because of his drug contacs!

One of the notable features that has emerged in the coverage of the Mahajan-Moitra affair is the Mumbai-Delhi connection. That is not limited to politicians or businessmen visiting the capital. There is a small but growing band of socialites who are comfortable in both environments and are constantly attending parties in both cities. Not surprisingly, they have built up the "right" contacts in the other city which help them whenever they are in need of a fix.
As someone who has been attending social dos in the capital for many years, I can safely say that the scene has changed beyond recognition. There were politicians, businessmen and fixers in the old days too. Indeed, at that time, because of the licence raj, politicians and babus were in greater demand. But I do not recall a single instance of a politician indulging in hard drugs; even drinking was done discreetly. But just a few months ago, on the occasion of a politician's child's wedding, the younger lot were freely indulging in hard drugs.

Today, the senior politicians continue to be circumspect, but the younger generation couldn't care less about such niceties. They have seen power and money too soon and they have access to stuff their parents did not. They want to be seen as hip and happening and as cool as their counterparts in other parts of the world. It all makes for a heady cocktail, which promises uninhibited fun. But there is a dark side to all this too and the grime behind all that glamour has become all too apparent.