As it is considered ‘cool’ by some to drink and enjoy ‘Patiala pegs’ at Punjabi weddings, his story also started at a similar wedding almost six years ago.
“I tasted liquor for the first time when I was 11. I was in class V and had gone to attend a wedding with my father. Other boys there said I must taste it; it is jannat [heaven], they said. I gulped down a peg at once,” says this 17-year-old.
When he was in class VI, his name was struck off the rolls for coming to school drunk. “My father had to plead with sarpanch and principal to re-admit me. It was a government school, so readmission was done. I also started taking marijuana [ganja] and psychotropic drugs like Lomotil and Alprax tablets by then,” he says.
Then there was no looking back for him.
“I was 14 and in class VIII when I saw some senior boys near school snort heroin. On their insistence, I tasted it. They continued giving me heroin for free but after few months, they backed out. They left me and then I sold my mobile phones to fund my daily dose of liquor and drugs,” says this Tarn Taran youth, who now suffers from addiction of liquor, heroin (chitta), marijuana (ganja) and afeem (opium).
Last year, when PSEB announced class X results, he failed the English exam. “I had gone drunk to write that paper. I had no idea what I was writing,” he says.
He unwraps a bandage on his left arm and a swollen wrist. “This happened in December last. I was working in the fields with my father. As usual, I was high. I don’t know when my hand was crushed in fodder chopping machine,” he adds.
He claims drugs, especially heroin, are easily available in Tarn Taran and “almost every guy there takes drugs”.
Life after drugs
His family took him to a de-addiction centre in April. “In two months I realised that I still can make up for lost time. I look better, gained weight. Looking at my hand still gives me the jitters but I have decided to live now. I shall restart studies and move to Bengaluru,” he says.
In his daily confessions diary that addicts write here, he has scribbled, “I am sorry, Dad. I abused you. Thank you for giving me second life. Thank God, I am not dead.”
“I want to go out, shop and eat street food. I lost my entire childhood in liquor and drugs. I want to live now,” he says.
Dr Madhumita Banerjee, who runs Sadbhawna De-Addiction Centre at Raikot, says, “The story of every addict in Punjab is almost the same. The innocence of these young boys is exploited and smugglers leave them when they become addicts.”
“We take only 20 patients at a time. They do yoga, write diary, attend counselling. We are not using any substitute drug but only vitamin supplements. They need love, not drugs,” she says.