Around eight years ago, when yaba was still not ubiquitous, an aspiring theatre actor asked me if he along with friends, including women, could come over to my place to take yaba.
Obviously, a bit startled at first, my response was firm: Drinks are allowed, but no drugs. The stern refusal elicited a look of surprise on his face.
Recovering swiftly, the actor added: But what is the problem? We have taken the stuff at the house of a police officer. I was incredulous.
That was 2010.
In 2018, no news about yaba surprises me. A long string of yaba hauls recently unveiled a variety of people involved in the trade of the pink demon.
This includes members of the law enforcement agency, a doctor, woman cricket player, members of the armed forces, and businesspeople using a legitimate trade as a cover for yaba selling and buying.
What is unnerving is that this pink pill, inhaled through a cigarette while placed on a silver paper, has broken all social barriers, reaching to the lowest income segment, making it the drug of choice, replacing the once common, now banned, codeine-based cough syrup Phensidyl.
A mercenary social credo is to blame
Our society, since independence, had always been menaced by some narcotic. In the 70s, it was Mandrex or Mandy in short, by the early 80s, Pathedine, Heroin ruled for a period soon to be taken over by the codeine-based cough syrup, Phensidyl. While the cough syrup, known as Cat, Dyl, and eventually “Chhoy inchi” or, simply “Inchi” (six inches to denote the size of the bottle) became widely available, sellers usually were small time crooks or degenerates living in shanty towns or at the sharp end of society.
In the case of yaba, there is no social class barrier. People from all sections are engaged in its dealing with the drug mainly penetrating Bangladesh from the upper crust through DJ parties
The shipments obviously were controlled by masterminds who were never caught, but the operation of selling was mainly within the realm of the lower income strata of society.
In the case of yaba, there is no social class barrier. People from all sections are engaged in its dealing with the drug mainly penetrating Bangladesh from the upper crust through DJ parties where models, actresses use the immunity provided by their glamour status to peddle the stuff.
Entering upper level rave parties in around 2003-05, this was first a “harmless high” for the affluent, mainly sold by people who were either wealthy or socially established. Therefore, in the case of yaba, the popularity trickled down from the top.
In the last 15 years, the dark journey of yaba has become entangled with an evolving social ideology which has, subconsciously, become irreversibly mercenary.
In the vicious cycle of corruption in general, is a section where the source of wealth is not a concern.
When no one asks where the money came from, blissfully deciding to be impressed by the manifestation of riches presented through luxury cars, opulent living plus generous spending, trading of drugs inevitably gets a tacit approval.
In the recent arrests we find that people who had been engaged in legal businesses used the guise of legitimate trade to cover up their yaba dealings.
In other cases, professionals, law enforcers, and most disquietingly, women employed the charade of modesty plus piety to get involved in the business.
Some of these traders are addicts themselves; others have only one motive: Strike rich at the shortest possible time.
Arrests welcome but target the eroded social system
The highest authority of the country recently asked law enforcers to inject the same amount of dedication which they showed in addressing radicalism in tackling the scourge of drugs.
Such a call is laudable, though the root of the problem lies within the family sphere, where money is being relentlessly glorified as the only aim in life, with no restrictions placed on the method applied to acquire it.
The problem is rooted in our nonchalant attitude towards basic fundamentals of ethics. The doctor, the law enforcer, the aspiring actress, or the student who was caught with yaba will possibly have one thing in common: All of them decided to get into the murky world simply for fast profit.
Somehow one gets the eerie feeling that the get-rich-quick- whatever-the-means ideology has crept into our social mores with unassailable force.
Initially, the trade of yaba spread across the country using female dealers, especially those involved in the multifaceted entertainment industry.
About two months ago, a large haul was recovered from a man who was in the trade along with his wife.
As we see, this has not only gone across social sectors but also the gender divide within accepted social narratives.
The eventual harm not visible yet
The rise of this Methamphetamine-based drug has been a phenomenon of the last 10 years. Still, the diabolical impact has not hit us on the face yet.
Many families have ended, brutality committed during yaba induced sense of invincibility is common, but the dreadful face of human suffering is still not visible on a wider scale.
A feeling of foreboding tells me, it will be in five years. Just like the previous drug of choice, Phensidyl.
By the time the actual harm of the cough syrup was acknowledged, a whole generation of youth had been rendered useless, damaged mentally and physically.
The stringent actions of the law on the streets deserves praise; however, the main devil remains within the homes where life’s guiding philosophy is taught.
Perhaps, we need to give a little more effort in exorcising Mammon from within us.
Towheed Feroze is a journalist, teaching at the University of Dhaka.