Discotheques sans psychotropic drugs and alcohol. Such is the mission of Father Joe Pereira from Mumbai, India's commercial metropolis. He is a well-known crusader against drugs. His mission was sparked by a sensational crackdown by the police recently on a rave party.
Raves are organized underground parties involving music and dancing and they play electronic dance music such as techno, trance, breakbeat, jungle, and ambient. Usually starting after dusk and lasting through 'til dawn, drug use at raves often runs rampant; particularly the use of Ecstasy and LSD. Raves can vary greatly in size and scope, hosting from dozens to thousands of guests, and lasting from one night to a few days.
In the raid October last, the Mumbai police detained more than 200 youngsters, many of them call centre employees. Half of them eventually tested positive for drugs.
"We found large quantities of cocaine, LSD, charas, Acid and Ecstacy on several people in the disco, " said DCP Vishwas Nangre-Patil, who heads the Anti-Narcotics Cell.
The invitation was apparently sent out to select people through the social networking website Facebook. Wards of some film celebrities were among those arrested. The bust-up resulted from an alert by a couple of social workers who had wangled their way into the disco, and the event caused quite a stir in the city.
Now Fr.Pereira wants to set up a clean disco to prove that youngsters can hit a high without artificial agents. So, the menu at such a nightclub will only have fruit juices and mocktails.
Fr Pereira's Kripa Foundation, the voluntary organisation that has been associated with drug de-addiction, plans to build a chain of such clean discos across the city. Kripa, which also works with HIV-positive persons, runs 48 centres in 11 states and a few collaborations abroad.
At present, he is talking to various groups, including Brian Tellis of event management firm Fountainhead, to garner support for his project. The idea, he said, was to offer youth an alternative to the prevalent culture in most discos and even in some restaurants. "The new discos will give them a chance to enjoy their evenings-out without going for alcohol binges,'' he said.
The first of the clean discs will come up in Bandra or Juhu. "Initially, we will have a disco night once in two weeks. We can have it every day, once things start rolling," he said.
Kripa already runs a clean disco in Zurich as part of its drug rehabilitation centre's cultural activities. There, disco nights—popularly known as Startagain—are held once every fortnight. "Our experience has been good. It is time to try this out in Mumbai,'' Fr Pereira added.
He thought of actualising his clean disc idea after he spoke to youngsters caught at the Juhu party on October 5. "Some told me that they did not take drugs though many in the party did. So I decided to let the public know that you can have fun without being high on drugs and alcohol,'' he said.
The disco will be initially serviced by Kripa veterans who have been cured of addiction. "Having been in the game, they know how to tackle would-be drug users," he said.
Will a no-booze disco be a hit in Mumbai? Advertising personality Prahalad Kakkar said, "I think it is a good experiment. During the morning music sessions at Trinca's in Calcutta, we would have good music and lots of fun without alcohol or drugs. I hope it succeeds here.''
Actor Rahul Bose struck a more balanced note: "Let both types of discos co-exist, ones that serve alcohol and ones that don't, so that people have a choice.''