‘College was a treasure chest I had come upon. Everything was there, from cannabis to cocaine’
Srinagar : On April 21, 2014, Mohammad Ali received a phone call from Delhi at his house in downtown Srinagar. It was from his relative, Shabir. The phone call was about Ali’s 21-year-old son Adeel, who was studying for a BTech degree in Delhi under the Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme.
“Salam Alaikum,” the relative said on phone, “Adeel has consumed some drugs and is not in good health. He has been vomiting profusely. I think he should return to Kashmir.”
The next thing Ali did was to book a ticket for his son to get back to Srinagar. “It was a shock. I couldn’t believe my son had consumed drugs,” Ali said while talking to Kashmir Reader at his home. “In our family, these sorts of things are unheard of. I couldn’t speak about it even to my relatives.”
When Adeel returned home, his mother Rubeena couldn’t believe her eyes. In just two months, her son had lost a considerable amount of weight and was looking like a man suffering from some fatal disease. “I thought he was suffering from tuberculosis,” Rubeena said. “His hair was unkempt, his clothes were dirty, and he smelled foul.”
A few days after returning home, Adeel opened up about his drug addiction to his younger uncle, Suhail, a sociology scholar who had researched about the effects of drug abuse.
Talking about Adeel’s addiction, Suhail said, “In Delhi, he used to smoke cannabis day and night at his college. Drugs were easily available there, and soon he was trying newer drugs in the form of pills. Sometimes he would mix alcohol and pills, which was dangerous.”
Suhail said that Adeel would often talk about hip-hop singers and Sufi saints. “They were his inspiration. Whenever anyone would speak against drug addicts or addiction, Adeel would quote the example of these personalities to justify cannabis use,” Suhail said.
“I remember him asking weird questions: Will rap singers go to Heaven? Will I die at 26, like Kurt Cobain had died? Did Rumi and Tabrez have magical powers? Such questions were baffling to me,” Suhail said.
“Curiosity led me to drugs,” Adeel said. “It started a few days before my Class 12 exams. One of my friends arrived from Chandigarh and he was smoking something I had never seen or tasted before.”
Adeel and his friends had been smoking cigarettes since a few years, unknown to their family. Now they started smoking cannabis. To smoke, they went to Bahrar, a nearby slum, which they nick-named as “Sharjah”.
Bahrar is situated at the banks of Nigeen Lake and has become a hub of drug addicts living around the Lal Bazaar area. The place has serene surroundings and none but the slum dwellers are found there.
A few puffs of cannabis everyday at Bahrar became a routine for Adeel. After his Class 12 results, he secured admission at an engineering college in Delhi along with a prestigious scholarship. “College was a treasure chest I had come upon,” Adeel recalled. “There were all kinds of drugs, from cannabis to cocaine. I tried them all. As cannabis was cheaper, I became addicted to it. From morning to night, all I did was smoke charas. My roommates were also fond of cannabis. Our room was, therefore, always a mess. We thrived in that squalor. Ours was the dirtiest room in the hostel. We would get so engrossed in drugs that at times we did not eat for days.”
Adeel became notorious in college for his drug abuse. One day, he consumed 30 pills of Alprax after he had smoked cannabis. Soon, he started vomiting and then he lost consciousness. His friends used his phone to call his uncle who was in Delhi at the time.
“After consuming the 30 Alprax pills, I fought with someone. He hit me badly on my stomach. After that I started to puke and I was not aware of how I reached my uncle’s place at Nizamuddin. He called my father and had me sent to Srinagar,” Adeel said.
Studies have shown that withdrawal effects of drugs are more dangerous than the actual consumption of drugs. This was true with Adeel as well. In Srinagar, he immediately faced horrible pangs, mood swings, anxiety, hallucinations, despair and suicidal tendencies.
“Such were the hallucinations that sometimes I would feel that people with guns had been placed by someone to watch over me. I would get angry over small things. My mind was not able to comprehend good and bad. I once broke the windowpane of our living room when my father insisted that I take some juices. I bled profusely from the cut. More than the anger, I believe that the despair was more dangerous. I doubted God’s mercy and I was possessed by fear and anxiety. I tried committing suicide. I took some 70 pills in one go, only to find later that I had slept for 24 hours continuously that day,” Adeel said.
Twice, Adeel relapsed into drugs since he returned to Srinagar. He still suffers from withdrawal pangs, two years after giving up drugs.
Despite the two relapses, his parents haven’t given up hope for Adeel. His father said, “I have done everything I could to help my son. I put him in a rehabilitation center in Delhi for three months. I never treat him like a drug addict. To me he is like a diabetes patient who requires utmost care. It is up to him now to have the determination to stay away from drugs.”
Expressing gratitude towards his parents, Adeel said that his father’s decision to send him to a rehabilitation centre and to meetings of the Narcotics Anonymous Programme (NAP) in Delhi helped him a great deal.
“Narcotics Anonymous was a miracle. You meet people like yourself and you come to know that you are not alone in going through that hell. The people at NAP were so good, I wish such meetings take place in Kashmir as well. They help a great deal in relieving stress. Only a drug addict can understand a drug addict. Some of the people at NAP who are clean from 20 years are a ray of hope for people like me,” Adeel said.