THE ROAD LEFT to the main entrance of Andheri Station from the western side of the suburb is always packed with people in a tearing hurry. Everyone has somewhere to go, and the ones who don’t, have something to do right there. There are commuters either on their way to work or on the way back home, people stopping for a quick bite at one of the many legit stalls that do rollicking business all day. Young guys buying cheap deodorant, college girls buying popular novels, people browsing through pirated DVDs of Hindi and English films. You’ve either survived the unbelievably uncomfortable train ride or are getting mentally prepared for it or you’re just plain used to reaching your destination and coming back with plenty of other human animals, all cramped together on an uncomplaining local train. On a local in Mumbai during peak hours, the human animals aren’t bought or taken anywhere for slaughter. The train ride is the slaughter. And you buy a ticket to get pushed, shoved around and even verbally abused once in awhile. Best, buy a season pass. But all this is forgotten soon after it’s over, unless you’re new to Mumbai or find your wallet missing as you step out onto the main road. Moving on further into the galli, there are many other shops, including a liquor store. They’re called wine shops here, and humans frequent them to purchase intoxicants legally. For the illegal stuff, you get extremely low quality hashish all over Bombay. You can buy several golis of Bombay Black at one of the shanties on this road too. Bombay Black – a bastardized version of hash which has boot polish, mehndi and Iodex – to get you high and keep coming back to buy.
It is with great sadness that I announce the demise of Bua, a ganja seller who lived in a small hut on the road next to Andheri Station. He sold me many a pudi of grass, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Demonos called me yesterday to inform me that Bua had passed away a week ago. Surprisingly, it was not leprosy or boredom that killed the oldest peddler in Andheri West – it was tuberculosis. Bua was a hard-working man. He would sit back and relax and give a 30-buck pudi to anybody who went to his hut and said, “Arey Bua, jaldi pudi de.” To which he would say, “Nahi hai!” And then you’d have show him 30 Indian rupees and say “Ek pudi toh de!” Flirting was the secret of his long life, I think. One thing I admire about Bua is that he never retired. Even after he got a leg amputated, he would lie down and sell the weed like a motherfucker. He hardly ever stepped out of the hut, and every time I saw his forlorn face I wondered if he missed his wife.
Bua is survived by his son Chicken, who sells and does brown sugar. Brown Sugar – a bastardized version of heroin which has dhatura and hell knows what else – to get you hooked and leave you cooked. Chicken has been taught well by his father; I once saw him eating a watermelon. Demonos also mentioned that Bua’s dwelling had been torn down, but with the help of his prized customers, Chicken got it back in place. Bua and his son Chicken were the perfect example of a healthy father-son relationship; they had tremendous understanding and respect between them.
Unlike every other brown sugar user, Chicken doesn’t look like he’s going to die. Maybe the drive is in doing business, and perhaps having a responsibility of some kind keeps Chicken from overdosing like the rest. No matter the nature of his work, you have to agree Chicken is the most focused peddler, and he has all his connections set, too. The house is set, the old man is gone, business is good … no reason to kick the bucket.
You know how it is with brown sugar addicts, you know the story. They are born, they inject or chase the dragon, they die on the pavement, their respiratory system giving up in their sleep. Or just a good, old overdose during an afternoon siesta … nothing too fancy. Fellow addicts light a candle for the dead, place it next to the corpse and heat some of the stuff for a fix while they’re mourning. Life goes on … and might as well make the most of the candle.
Bua hated the mention of hash, and he certainly didn’t have anything to do with brown sugar. He’d scowl if I asked him for charas, just like the woman who sells ganja near the tracks at Vile Parle Station. That’s what they had in common besides leprosy: their dislike for black gold. My favourite memory of Bua is seeing him sitting outside his hut in a very old greyish suit and a grey Nehru hat, giving the neighbourhood kids gyaan on something, probably the benefits of drinking water after smoking ganja. He looked very happy, maybe it was his birthday. Bua will be missed, and I believe Chicken will carry on his father’s legacy.
Most of the cops know Chicken well, and occasionally they bother him. Then last week, a bunch of them rounded the addicts up, for seemingly no reason. Expecting the addicts to operate from weakness and cut their own wrists, the pandus tried throwing their excess weight around. What they didn’t know was the addicts hadn’t had their dose and were dying for it. Twap! A piece of shit hit a havaldar’s left cheek and fell to the ground. The stocky thola looked unsure, and before he could react, the rest of the policemen were assaulted with human excrement. They waved their lathis about threateningly, but the gardullas were in a partying mood. Chicken sat back and flashed a rare half-smile as his elite clientele made a team of cops flee in panic and embarrassment, sending them packing with faeces flying around and the odd stool hitting a shocked sub-inspector randomly. It matches the khaki, I thought. The neighbourhood kids came out to enjoy the cops’ disgust and laugh openly at them, and before long things were back to normal in the lane.
The family business is in good hands, Bua … see you in hell.
Written by Aditya Mehta in 2010