It all started with a bottle of beer in Class IX, one he consumed with his schoolfriends sitting on scooters behind a tavern. By Class XII, he had graduated to heroin, cocaine and LSD.
Son of a school principal and a bank manager, 21-year-old Raman (name changed), shudders as he looks back at five years of his life that pased in a haze. Today, he is struggling to complete BBA from a private college of Chandigarh, while some of his friends are ready to take up their forst jobs.
Raman says he took his first step towards alcohol because he wanted to copy his father, who would occasionally drink at home. So on the way to a tuition class, he and his two friends halted at a tavern to guzzle a bottle of beer each. ”I felt good though I decided to drop tuition that day,” he recounts.
As time went by, the quanity of beer increased from a bottle a week to three bottles. In Class X, he tasted whisky. Meanwhile, his parents were cluless about his drinking habit.
Raman says he had his first joint (a rolled cannabis cigarette) with friends in Class XI. ”We used to purchase cannabis from dealers in Manimajra, Kajheri and Naya Gaon. A friend knew a dealer through another friend. It’s a word-of-mouth business. Once you are into drugs, you also get to know about the suppliers.” Most of them, he says are addicts themselves. ”Initially they would contact me on phone but later, they started meeting up in streets and the city centre. This business is based on trust, and addicts trust the addiction. They know you won’t rat on them because you are hooked,” says Raman.
Read | Chandigarh: A den of Drugs
Curiosity to try out new drugs drove him to Kasol after Class XII. His parents thought he was going for a trekking trip with his friends to Manikaran. But Raman was headed to Kasol in search for a week-long rave party. By the time he returned, he was hooked onto LSD, cocaine, and heroin. ”I returned to Chandigarh and found that heroin too was easily available here,” he recounts.
But it was expensive. In search of cheaper drugs, Raman started heading to Delhi, and Amritsar. ”It costs Rs 2000per gram there against Rs 3500 per gram in Chandigarh,” he says.
Slowly the dosage increased. “It made me feel very light, I blissed out.” But it robbed him of sleep. ”I never knew it was blocking my veins.” The day he didn’t get his dose, he would get severe bodyache, and nausea.
Raman took to stealing sundry objects at home to feed his addiction. ”My daily dose depended on the money I had. If I had 30,000, I would blow it away on a day’s supply. Otherwise I would make do with little,” he recalls, telling you how he stole from friends and broke up with his girlfriend who tried to stop him.
Raman was in the first year of BBA, when he was exposed by a friend, who was caught taking heroin at his home. Shattered, Raman’s parents took him to several hospitals in the city and even the US. Though he was prescribed medicines, he carried on taking heroin on the sly. ”I had become a monster,” says Raman.
It was in the second year of graduation that while injecting heroin in his veins, he found no blood coming out. Frightened that his veins may have been blocked by the drug, he told his parents. They took him to a rehabilitation centre at Panchkula but he ran away after a month and a half.
It is only after being disowned by family and friends that he returned to stay in rehab for eight months. But he says it is his will to live that got him to kick the habit. ”It’s a bottomless pit. Please tell youngsters not to go this route,” he says.
Chandigarh has a robust chapter of Narcotics Anonymous, a body that helps addicts to avoid slipping back. The members hold meetings at different places in the city every day. Its membership is free and the group uses a traditional 12-step model that has been expanded for people with varied substance abuse issues.