What is the one thing you miss most from your previous life: “My father”

A doctor meets with a drug addict at his hospital in Srinagar. In the conversation between the two reproduced below some chilling details emerged about the easy accessibility of drugs in our towns and village and the life altering consequences its use has on our youth.

R is a 20 year old student from Srinagar. As a kid he attended a local school and was one of the bright students in his class. When his mother wanted R study engineering, his father, who owns a shop, wanted their son to take responsibility of the store. To the dismay of his parents, R got hooked onto drugs and has been relapsing on it even after being treated for nearly 8 months now.

I met R in the hospital as a case of Heroin overdose. He was accompanied by his mother and a few friends. A day after he was resuscitated and was to be referred to de-addiction centre I tried to talk to him. A thirty minute conversation with him was enough to upset and traumatize me at the misadventure that many of our youth are treading upon. Below is what R told me which left me disconsolate, wondering how our future is destined to a cataclysm if all of this is left disregarded.

K: Why?

R: I don’t remember things anymore. I don’t remember why, I just know that I can’t do without it anymore even though I want to change how the things are.

K: Why?

R: Doctor Sahab, how does it matter?

K: It does, if you think it doesn’t matter for you but it does for hundreds others, don’t you care?

R: Yes I do. I wouldn’t want anybody to be in a perpetually miserable physical health and a mental and emotional cauldron like mine.

An addict from Sopore Photo by Umar Para

K: Why?

R: We had gone to a picnic for night, my friends, some of whom come from very well-known families, were already hooked on to it. They forced me to try it only once. I did not want to do it but I succumbed to the pressure from my friends, they put it on a foil and heated it (chasing), initially I choked badly but then I was motionless for next 10 hours. After that day there hasn’t been a single week when I didn’t do it.

K: What did you tell your parents when you were back?

R: Nothing. I thought they would never know, but I was wrong.

K: How did you become hooked onto it?

R: Once, just once you take it, it doesn’t leave you. You are shackled. It is worse than having some “bad disease”. I called my friends in a few days and told them that I was guilty and wanted to disclose it to my parents. They implored me not to talk to anyone until I met them again which I did the next day. We went from boulevard side and they again offered me a dose of heroin, this time in a small syringe. I injected it in my arm, and that is the last thing I remember from that incident. I could never stop after that, I was chained.

A place in Bandipora used by addicts and an addict preparing heroin snort on a foil nearby. Photo by Umar Para

K: They kept on providing it to you for free?

R: After a few days they stopped providing me drugs. I remember a few days without it and my body had started aching like anything. I was extremely uncomfortable and the intolerable churning in my stomach, something I wanted to stick a rod or a knife into, made me beg for help. I called them and begged them for it. They gave me a number of someone and asked me to talk to him. The person met me just outside my home and gave me 2 grams of heroin stuck inside a Reynolds pen, for free. By now my parents had already come to know about it.

K: Parents?

R: My father doesn’t talk to me. I come here with my mother. He stopped talking to me after I stole my mother’s jewelry. The first time my parents came to know about it they were compassionate but subsequently, with every relapse, they started hating me, she (pointing towards his mother) wants me to die so that her sisters and brother don’t taunt her for having a son like me. She sometimes doesn’t even mention that she has two sons.

K: So, did the peddler continue providing drugs for free?

R: Yes, he did it for free first two times. After that he started asking for money, 1200/gram of heroin always a WhatsApp message away. I then realized that it was a pattern, they would give you free drugs until they were sure that you are full-blown into addiction and then they would start charging you money, you are enslaved to them. I had eidyan and some more money I had put up to buy an iPhone 7, in two months I was broke.

R: Initially, he was generous enough to provide it for free. We had a group and would go to some park or sit in his car and would spend days together doing nothing, just dozing on drugs. I was off tuition centres. I had been spending the fee on my addiction. My day started with the desire to have a shot and ended with dozing on that shot. I started with one Senti (the word used for one unit on an insulin syringe by local addicts) and now 4-5 sentis. I started with tuition fee, sold my household items and finally resorted to stealing money, my mother’s jewelry.

In Srinagar, an addict calling his friend for a joint of heroine. Photo by Umar Para

K: Did you feel bad about stealing?

R: There is nothing bad in an addiction except being without the drug; I knew I would do it again just like I know right now that I will do it again. (Saying this in front of his mother).

K: Did your other friends also get into it?

R: I have to have money for my addiction. I soon realized that I could give it to my other friends, I found out people who were selling it as cheap as a box of apples, something like 600-700 per gram. I started giving it to my friends, who led me into this, for a little more money.

K: How about your brother? Will you give it to him if he asks for it?

R: Bakwas mahaz kar (Don’t talk rubbish), I have warned him that if he does anything of this sort I will kill him. I can’t bear that disgrace.

K: What else do you abuse?

R: Charas, heroine, sleeping pills, boot-polish, diluter, alcohol, cigarette. It is with all the abusers, most of them have an addiction of multiple drugs. We smoke it, snort it, inject it… I have tried injecting it into my private organs as well.

K: How common do you think is the menace?

R: You wouldn’t believe. There isn’t a single area where drug peddling isn’t done: downtown, uptown, Gaam, Shahar all alike. I have junkie friends in Srinagar, Sopore, Kulgam and Kupwara. There are kids as young as 12 years old, boys, girls, rich, poor, educated, uneducated all alike.

K: Would you name some of the peddlers?

R: Even If I did you can do nothing about it.

K: You were never caught by authorities?

R: (Just a smirk)

K: Last 4 months have been a lockdown don’t you think it was an appropriate time to get rid of your addiction?

R: Lockdown baaki cheezun ke liye tha, humko available tha tichu.. (Lockdown was for other things we had our injectables available”)

K: Kahan se available tha? (Where was it available?)

R: Cze gache ya? Hahaha… (Do you want it?), it is available everywhere, easier to procure than a packet of cigarettes even around this place (the hospital).

An addict in an alley in Bandipora in a state of delirium after injecting heroin. Photo by Umar Para.

K: You have landed here in an overdose of heroin. Your blood tested positive for so many drugs. You could die. Are you sorry?

R: I try to feel sorry magar ab meri zindagi khatam hogayi hai kya farq padhta hai ab (my life is over, how does it matter now?). I have started praying five times a day. I want to start studying again and do something for my family and Kashmir, but wanting isn’t enough when I am physically and mentally very weak.

K: Why have some youngsters taken this path?

R: Zehni paresheani chhe, zulum chhu, naukri chhene (There are anxieties, oppression, and unemployment…)

K: Yi gov wanun beyi keensi, Tell it to someone else… Don’t fool me…

R: It is just the easy availability and peer pressure… It should end. People who are in this business should be put in jail. But I have failed to understand why is it so difficult to arrest those who procure it, those who sell it, those who lead people into this hell.

K: Have you tried rehabilitation?

R: In Kashmir limited quantity of medicines are available, I tried detoxification and rehabilitation many times but I relapsed. I would go out and meet my friends and could not resist the urge to do it again with them.

My parents wanted to send me to Delhi for rehabilitation but then the situation wasn’t feasible after August 5. Now I have terrible body aches, nausea, and vomiting, aggressive behavior. If I don’t get my dose, death would be easier. Sometimes when I don’t take drugs I defecate and urinate in my pants only, it is not easy. The day you take drugs is the day when you pronounce a death sentence upon yourself.

K: If you got one chance to change your life, would you?

R: Yes!

K: What is the one thing that you miss the most from your previous life?

R: My father.