TW: description of sexual harassment, mention of substance use/abuse
Editor’s Note: This is a personal narrative about recreational use of drugs. The author is also recounting their experience of harassment through this narrative. Substance use is a highly politicised and stigmatized aspect of mainstream society, and Gaysi invites its readers to think about their experiences with substance use and mental health, it’s access, the social hierarchy of its supply chain, and the need for harm reduction strategies as a public health training/service.
Guwahati, Assam is not thoroughly what people think of it as. It is way more than being green and crowded. Most main-landers think of Guwahati, Assam to be a place that is all lush green and peaceful. However, the reality is quite different and surprising because it is somewhat similar to the mainlands. A piece of news published on 20th of February, 2022 by News Live TV stated that Hemanta Biswa Sarma, Chief Minister of Assam, said that the Assam Government is handing over a few of the drugs cases to Narcotics Crime Bureau (NCB).
According to another article published on 22nd of February 2022 by EastMojo, the DGP of Assam wrote on his Twitter handle: “In a first, probably in the country, we moved competent authority to freeze the illegally acquired properties by druglord Baba Hazarika of Karbi Anglong. The competent authority concurred.”
The news coverage of drug use in Guwahati is extensive, but actual highlights can be spotted at some high-end parties. I attended one such party with my childhood buddies and their partners. In the entire friend circle of mine, it is only I and my closest friend who are single and open to dating. To recall the events before we entered the club: my friends and I had consumed a bit of alcohol at one of our houses. Seeing the price of alcohol at bars and restaurants, we prefer drinking before going to the clubs. It saves a lot of money, so when we go to the bar we order minimal things and split the bill. Most of the students in the city generally do the same.
Going to bars and restaurant has also become a response to peer pressure. I, however, prefer not to go because I don’t want to spend all my money on booze, but at times I do go to enjoy the company of my friends and the ambience. Peer pressure makes one act irrationaly at times, because we all differ in terms of our family background and wealth. To add to that, if one is queer, then the dynamics shift further. I had come out of the closet when I was 15 years old, and now I am 23. Living a queer life in a hetero-normative structure is not easy. I often excuse myself from some of the meetings because they’re abound with misogynistic and patriarchal gossip.
I entered the bar around 9pm, with several unknown faces seated in various pockets of the space. We occupied a table right next to the DJ’s corner and ordered a big pitcher of beer. Being tipsy from my earlier consumption, I walked towards the restroom only to find a long queue. A stranger turned back and asked, “Hey! I guess I know you,” to which I replied, “Maybe yes! But I fail to recall how.”
I found the person to be interesting and charming. As we inched closer to the restroom, he asked if we could enter together, to my surprise, and I found myself saying ‘yes’. So, we entered and I washed my face and looked around to notice the other guy lighting a joint. I stated, “Hey if you are caught, you and I are both going behind the bars.” To which he replied: “I do that often. Never got caught, don’t worry.” I hurried and rushed out of the restroom and went back to my seat and started sharing the incident with my friends.
After a few glasses down, I saw the same guy approaching our table. He asked me, “Hey! Can I buy you a beer?” Sensing and witnessing the mischief from earlier, I rejected politely and the guy moved towards the dance floor. My friends and I too joined the dance floor in some time. Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I see somebody sniffing some powder. I didn’t pay much mind to it and continued dancing.
The same guy then asked me if I would dance with him, and I happily agreed to that, because I knew I had my friends around. I noticed that he was a good dancer, and began chatting him up. Time passed and the clock struck 12, signalling the time for the club to start wrapping up. My friends and I were getting ready to settle the bill. I left for the restroom again and when I entered, the boy rushed in and closed the door. I panicked and asked him why he was there, to which he said: “I find you cute and want to kiss you, if you don’t mind.” I happily agreed to his charm and we kissed. Soon after, his hands moved down to my hips and I realized that he had been standing there with other guys who were doing drugs. I stopped him and left abruptly. He insisted that I stay back saying that he could drop me later but for me, the vibe had changed now. I no longer felt comfortable. Then he forcefully began rubbing his beard on my neck and grabbed my hands and pushed it towards his crotch. I jerked his hands off, trying to control mine, and stormed from the restroom and rushed to my friends. We left immediately and saw no signs of the boy thereafter.
The night went by quickly and I remembered its details the next morning. The trigger had worn off although my pulse was still high. At this point, I had been through several instances of such forceful sexual exploitation and often wondered about others who were in a more vulnerable position. Would they be able to say no and assert themselves or would they be seduced by its glamour and mystery? Is there enough education on consent? If so, then why do people break it so often? Are there enough protection measures taken to reduce harm? If so, why is there a rampant growth of such attempts to peddle drugs? Isn’t a party supposed to be happy and safe for all? If yes, then why are there so many traumas attached to these experiences. There are these questions to ponder upon.