By: Azly Rahman

The Language of Doping

Stoned. Steamed. Stim. Fit. Hisap fit. Kena fit. Tarik fit. Hisap dam. Hisap barang. Tarik Tarik barang. Tarik dam Kena dam. Kena barang. Sedut. Sedut benda. Telan pil. Telan barang.Tolak barang. Ayam Kena ayam Main ayam. Sambar fit. Sambar barang, Push. Pusher. Blues. Kepala blues. Kepala stim. Stim kepala. Kepala bagus Kepala best Kepala best – SIAL!

These are some of the words associated with smoking pot/ganja and taking ecstasy pills that I heard used often. I heard them from the adults who were either on mind-altering substances, or from those un-stoned, talking about those stoned and getting high.

Those were the slang words used widely in Johor Baru, the Southern Sin City where dragons puffed into each other’s face while singing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. While the rich collected luxurious cars and sipped wine and champagne in faraway lands, the underclass in the village smoked grass and popped pills to escape from the harsh realities they were in.

Those words fascinated me. I was child roaming around the village, peeking through cracks in wooden walls of the dilapidated homes of my neighbors, wondering what those older than I were doing. I picked up those words and phrasal nouns. These slang words would live in my head for days as I tried to figure out what they meant.

Dragon on the Loose

I especially loved the phrase “chasing the dragon.” I would imagine smoke coming out of the nostrils of those creatures and I would imagine them running around in my village.

I had read plenty of stories about dragons in those books about myth and legends from faraway places. I had read about the dragons of Lake Chini in the East Coast state of Pahang (Naga Tasik Chini) and had also seen a Malay movie of that title.

Magical and comical.

I knew what dragons looked like and knew that they would only bob their heads in and out of the sea and that was it. I never knew that ganja-smokers in my kampung would also know about dragons and even be chasing those magical ones.

“Chase the magic dragon.” Hahaha, I would laugh and imagine those Mat Gians or Joe High or Joe Ganja or Joe the Puffing Dragon, in their state of mind of ganja-highness and close-to-Nirvana, would be chasing dragons.

Hahahaaa, I said, with all due seriousness. Magical and comical. I had also read a story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in which a dragon was slain. I had also heard a song by the British singer Rod Stewart and former grave-digger, who sang about a dragon being slain as well.

So the Malay men in my village chased dragons. I suspected that some of them even turned into dragons and died as those creatures too. A life unexamined chasing dragons, getting high and never taught to question things. Any way the wind blows didn’t really matter to them, the late Freddy Mercury of the awesome rock group Queen would probably say about these Hippie Days Malays.

So the Malay men in my village were chasing dragons. I suspected that some of them even turned into dragons and died as those creatures, too. A life unexamined chasing dragons, getting high and never taught to question things.

And while I was made to swallow a coconut in order for me to be silenced, older people in my village were made to swallow pills and chase dragons in order for them to be taught not to question Reality.

I asked myself: what do all these mean?

Ganja – opium of the masses? Of my kampung folk? Who was feeding them with these? Who threatened me with that coconut?

Just thinking of those questions made me high. And I was still a child, aged 11 or 12 years. I was screaming and yelling and, like a younger Harry Houdini, trying to wriggle myself out of the grip of those foul-smelling Segget River-bathing men in uniforms.

Now, that’s a different, but related story of a society vaping ganja.

And I could imagine my mother crying. Profusely this time. Bless her soul.

I did not become a Mat Gian, that Malay addict. Books and rock music as well saved me from it. Most importantly, my family – poor in material possession but rich in dignity – saved me. I too, was looking at the world as an ethnographer of life.  Of the lives of those around me, who could have lived better lives.

Dr. Azly Rahman grew up in a village in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and is the author of seven books on the socio-cultural, educational, and politics of Malaysia and international affairs. He teaches courses in Politics, Anthropology, Education, and Philosophy in New Jersey.