Tuesday 22nd Jan 2019
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DE-ADDICTING GOA

Cover Story

, by PACHU MENON

Goa, a land of sun and sand, is the Eden of party revellers, who never miss an opportunity to turn every occasion into an event that calls for partying! From a christening ceremony to a wedding reception, life in Goa is synonymous with parties. But the fact is Goa has much more to offer than the Carnival and parties it is credited with.

Let us rewind to the early seventies when the Bollywood depiction of Goa centred around an Uncle John or Michael and his tavern, with tipsy dancers serenading to songs that were virtual imitations of some of the lilting Goan folk tunes.

Free-flowing booze characterises social life in Goa. Probably it is a legacy of the Portuguese rule that defines life thus! In any case, the rot has been methodical, with the cascading effect of the over-dependence on alcohol rendering generations of Goans impotent. Probably it suited the designs of the colonial rulers, but suffice to say that the present generation, with various brands of liquor available at rates cheaper than water, finds itself in a quandary over the matter, with many a youngster quite easily falling prey to liquor addiction.

The seventies also saw foreigners with their own queer ideas of Nirvana as propounded by a host of jet-age Indian spiritual gurus wooing the westerners with mantras of sublime bliss. The sprouting of a new breed that were unwittingly initiated into a newer and decadent style of indulgence, that could in a lighter vein be called the Boom-Shankar culture, saw life being revolutionised in Goa.

Drugs, the scourge of the western world, made a surreptitious entry into the sub-continental market – not that it was a rare commodity out here. But the advent of the hippies however transformed the very concept of use – and abuse – of these psychedelic substances that promised one a rare glimpse of the heavens.

Disillusioned youth disenchanted with the rigours of living within the confines of an orderly social structure, rebelling against any and everything that even vaguely smelt of an authoritarian imposition in the family, sought solace in the dream sequence of escaping to a wonderland that spelt only, and only, peace, love and happiness. If a dazed stupor arising out of addicted doses of these hallucinating concoctions could be called happiness, there will never be a dearth of drug runners and drug addicts in the state.

Blame it on the blatant tourism that the state has come to identify itself with, Goa is today in the throes of a cultural ‘take-over’ that doesn’t bode well for the state. Yet the fact remains that the impact of alcoholism and substance abuse on the Goan society has been there for all to see. To put it simply, addiction to these vices is gaining ever growing momentum and is having an evidently deteriorating effect on the overall social existence of the citizens.

The state of Gujarat with its prohibition laws gave glimpses of a model state that aimed to arrest the malady. But would such enforced orders curb addiction? It is said that the more stringent the laws, the more devious are those planning to violate it! Apart from bootlegging, one really wonders what other illegal system is already in place to combat prohibition?

Ironically, the spirit and tobacco industries are apparently unaffected by the global financial upheavals down the years and continue to thrive in spite of stiff competition. The deluge of ad-campaigns promoting various brands of liquor makes one gasp in horror! Not only do they convey the message that drinking is manly but one goes so far as to question viewers whether “they have made it large in life”!

Diluting the tone to imply that these are promotionals for their brand of aerated water, liquor companies are getting away with what could very emphatically be termed as ‘suggestive advertising’. The large amount of money that they pour in by way of sponsorship for various sporting events and other galas makes one believe though that the companies in the bargain have ‘made it large’ in the business world.

Tobacco companies however proffer an apologetic footnote that their products are harmful for health on their wrapper covers. But does this deter people from getting addicted to cigarettes and other tobacco products? No matter how carcinogenic the contents, the fear of oral and lung cancer has hardly kept away people from blowing their lives away in smoke.

De-addiction help-centers in the state like ‘Alcohol-Anonymous’ have proven to be those focal points that has been relentlessly pursuing the cause of those hopelessly addicted to alcohol. Acute alcoholism as the term has come to imply, is a social malaise that has come to haunt the locals in spite of the best efforts to brush it off as compulsions of a lifestyle that has ‘westernization’ as a more pronounced factor.

But more than the elders, it is the proclivity shown by the younger generation to hit the bottle that has been a disturbing trend. Beginning as social drinkers at a very young age, the adolescent generation is more prone to addiction, and with telling effects as well. It is only when they exhibit symptoms of ‘problem drinkers’ that the severity of the issue actually sinks in.

The less said about the dependency on drugs the better! As one of the most favoured global tourist destinations, Goa has been catering to a vast range of ‘clientele’. With a tourist influx that is next to amazing, it is but natural that the state would be influenced by various customs and habits brought in by visitors from across the world. Usually it is the vice that is more readily imbibed by the locals! And so also with the drugs!

With various foreign cartels operating in the state with near impudence, controlling the menace of drugs has been a daunting task for the government. Moreover, with the expose of an unholy nexus existing between the police and drug mafia, the narcotic problem has taken a turn for the worst in the state. That the beaches have become a safe haven for peddling of the psychedelic substances is a global truth and the state for the moment appears to be relaxed in the comfort of that tag.   

When the government’s attempt to combat negative effects of drug addiction and misuse in the society is itself weighed down by lethargy bordering on near disregard, one hardly sees any scope for mitigation through legislature which will lessen the harms of drugs abuse.

If theologians take their sacred books literally, addictions can be seen as vice-like grips that stem from works of the flesh. Succumbing to the pleasures of the flesh is a sin. Hence it directly means that addiction to anything is a sin! QED! Most of the people in Goa practise their respective religions very faithfully. Temples, churches, mosques and other places of worship could hence have separate cells dedicated solely to bring people out of the nefarious habit of falling victims to various addictions.

How successful the venture is once again depends on the sincerity of the counsellors and the willingness of the victims to quit the habit. “An addiction is a reoccurring compulsion that controls a person’s thoughts and actions, a stronghold that is nearly impossible to overcome.” The counsellor has to play on the victim’s ‘cannot overcome’ psyche and induce him to overcome the initial hesitation to conquer the habit.

Although the concept of counselling to overcome addiction will depend on the activism against these habit forming vices, I sincerely feel that counselling is the only way for people to give up their addictions. If religion and Holy books could be made a part of the therapy, so much the better, for man is easily motivated by religion and the word of God.

More than the inherent habits, it has been the insatiable enthusiasm for aping foreign mannerisms not in keeping with our culture and tradition which is bound to wreak havoc on the state. Rather than being mute spectators to the social devastation that is being brought upon the society, wouldn’t it be more appreciable if the Goans are warned of the catastrophic consequences?



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