Disclaimer: The letters have been written by the author based on the testimonies of the drug addicts. The Kashmir Walla does not endorse or support the usage of drugs enlisted under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
Dear 12-year-old Sahil Akhtar,
Your mom misses you. You must be excited for the upcoming Eid; well, who isn’t in 5th grade? After their divorce, the distance between your father’s place in Nawakadal with your stepmother, and your mother living in Manasbal, only elongate—the idea of happiness for a 12-year-old boy like you, once so innocent, is shredding midway.
On Eid, amid high mountains, right in front of Dal lake, you will meet a friend whom you trust, Imran. He will offer you a joint—in the backdrop of violence at home, and emotional unavailability—“Take it, it will boost your confidence,” Saqib will say; you would take it.
It will give you an escape; an escape from your shit life—stepmother beats you, father doesn’t care, and the mother, whom you love more than your life, is been abused regularly in front of you, and you are small; being helpless—in search of an escape—you will drag the falling four-squares, filled with charas (cannabis). As the smoke goes up—every issue you ever had will be forgotten—and it will open up a new world, with numerous friends.
In the upcoming years, soon, you will be 17. You would have earned your name in small alleys of Downtown as a charas kingpin. The friends you made in the way will introduce various pills (tablets) to you. Oh, you should know one thing. The first night on pills will leave you numb, and back at home, you will cry over the wrong that your father do to you, and in the heat of the moment—being insanely sane—you will hit the room heater on your father’s chest, and fall asleep thereafter.
By now, the good trips would be gone; charas and pills won’t be sanitizing your pains but would make you confront it. You would think about mother, and how she used to say, “You and your younger brother are my only hope.” By this age, she would be afraid of you, too.
She remembers how you beat her up—her elder son—her hope to get-away from a fierce father when she refused to give you money. Falling prey to depression, your hands will make blades bleed the pain out of your forearms. I still have those marks on my forearm—asymmetrical cuts. Like these marks, you would also cut threads with many of your dreams—dancer, singer, and your mother’s dream, a doctor—in the high of drugs.
By now, you would prefer dying to leave it. You wouldn’t want to take another drag from that joint. But, that thirst of one last drag would keep you clinging. Following a brief trip to Chandigarh, you would fall sick—fatally – courtesy, your drugs.
Your stomach will be collapsing inside your body, knees powerless, and teeth falling down—watching death at the roundabout of your neck, feeling the end in your vicinity with every damn breath—you would wake up one day; thinking about your mom, and every inch of life left in you and will leave with Jamaat-e-Islami.
Religion will rescue you. As I believe today, “Namaazi ke chehre mai asli noor hota hai,” (real beauty is on the face of a devotee). Evil has a face; all these years that you would spend with drugs is the face of evil. Now, when I look at myself in the mirror, I can’t see you. Today, I’m 22-year-old and have chosen to walk on the path of Allah. But,
Dear 12-year-old me, please refuse Imran for the joint. This is wrong; charas will push you towards pills and countless other drugs. Don’t go ahead. It will spoil your dreams. Don’t waste your life. And Imran, if you can read this, it was not friendship; friends teach how to live, you told me how to die.
Dear 18-year-old Azaan,
It’s okay to be angry sometime. Do you really regret the day tear-gas shell that split your veins in the right leg? No, you don’t. 2008 is past now, and civilian uprising is gone. It is 2009, and your decision to go to Chandigarh to find some work is correct. Though you couldn’t clear 12th grade, the fake-certificate was need of the hour, and it will save your sinking ship.
After a few ups-downs, you will be settled in a job with a communication company. You, who had never touched a cigarette in his life, would slide towards alcohol. Now, own-earned money will be your side and slowly you will drift towards pills; a significant reason being its easy-availability.
Shifting from a job to another, you will taste the water of every bank. In 2014, you will need to visit Kashmir to see your fatally-sick brother. Within a day of your arrival, Valley would be lashed with intense floods, and you will get stuck.
Being unemployed, with nowhere to go, and nothing to do—charas and codeine phosphate would make your days bearable. And being gone through it, I can tell you, unemployment in the youth pushes many of us in drugs.
But, in Kashmir, everything is not easy. You have seen occupation and resistance—have injury marks of 2008 uprising on your legs—and because you understand politics, I tell you from where I can see all of it:
The pills, which popularly go by the name of cortex and codeine, weren’t in the mainstream; till 2008. By the way, India is trying to rule Kashmir from 70 years, and now, even if they lay golden roads, people won’t listen to them. Then, how to defeat a nation? Spoil their entire young generation with either sex or drugs. Once charas gets to mouth, one hardly feels like throwing stones.
After 2008 uprising, most of the youth who will start doing drugs, actually started it from police stations itself. Police would beat the shit out of them, and while the young lie broke, someone would slide a pill, “Take it, if you want relief from drugs,” they would say—while you end up being an addict.
My generation—you and your friends—after 2008, saw these drugs becoming a trend.
They want the revolution to die; and if this comes out to be true, they would succeed to a significant margin.
But, for you, drugs would only be enjoyable, however, something that you would depend upon. You won’t have issues—family, love, or conflict—but who doesn’t want to enjoy?
Your friends, whom you die for, will start ignoring your calls. They won’t be getting back to you. You would be an addict in your mid-20s. Yes, not something a young boy dream of, but an addict. You will run out of money, and being jobless (courtesy – drugs), you would need to lie to your friends and relatives, only to grab money out of them.
But, after a rough period, you would realize the loss of time and a lifetime. The idea of your loving parents, who still haven’t smelt a cigarette from you, will haunt you. And the threshold between the thirst of one last pill, and an era of high will loosen and you will give up.
Today, when being a 29-year-old, I see a 14-year-old taking heroine in Kashmir, who couldn’t grow a beard by now, is buying a group of adults; I see you, and me. I tell you,
Dear 18-year-old, please continue living your life. Work-family-friends-home—you are good at home, don’t leave home. If it seems uncool, stay uncool. Say no to drugs.
Dear 17-year-old Zehnish,
After 23-years of life, I know, a very few had a complex family like mine. Father—held guns for both sides in Kashmir, and much more—to be engulfed by conflict in the end. Everyone in the family has memories with him, I don’t remember anything about him.
You know, anyways, that we were thinking he lives away in Delhi for some work for a long time till I—that means you—so we, were in 7th grade. By that time, our mother, who remarried our father to become his 2nd wife, will be handling a lot of property and money issues in his absence.
Among a bunch of kids and a pile of luxury, you must be feeling alienated. Everyone comes to fight and curse you, but no one loves you. I still feel that. And I remember, what you must be thinking right now, “Can money earn happiness?”
In a very little age, as I remember, since 7th grade, you would start self-harming. The depression and the anxious anger inside you will make you unplug the light bulbs, quash them in your hand, and the small sharp remnants will ease out the psychological pain, while you bleed endlessly under a slow-yet-long shower.
How hard is it for a girl to hide the cuts? I wasn’t wearing shorts in Srinagar anyways. Though being a growing child, you had just made a small group of friends in school, and in the brief moments of your happiness, you would be asked to move to Jammu. And a new school, fresh-yet-hard bullying would leave you numb. The meaning of things would start fading for you.
The alienation inside family must be haunting you, as your closest brother, Amjad, just got married to a bitch; we both agree on that last word. And your mother will be having her own another world, which you hate like hell right now.
But, you don’t know further. You only presume, and procrastinate. I will tell you, the depression and social alienation, alongside complex web of family issues in Srinagar, will be ease down by alcohol. You will find your immediate rescue in alcohol. And within a span of time, you will be an addict.
After a few weeks, the psychological stress would fight-out the alcoholic trip, and while you would see, standing alone, all of the things slipping out of hand; alcohol would lead you to think, “What if dad was here? Things would have been different surely,” and you will force the pills down your throat, and let me break the ice for you—You will fail in your first suicide attempt.
In 2014, after 12th, drug abuse will touch the peak in Delhi during college. Now, apart from alcohol, you will be totally engulfed by charas. With all the issues on your head, and rather than facing them, you would be counting your joints in a day — 1, 2, 3… 9, 10.
It will be all fucked up. Disregarding ample of family issues, you will break up with the only love affair you ever had, and it will drag you to a saturation point—and in the fall of the night, you will attempt another suicide – pills again. But, leave the question of how, you will survive.
You will stop socializing, and the isolation will touch another peak. Expenses a month would reach 10K rupees in a month on drugs, while 10K on munchies after getting baked. And, when by the time you will start settling down with your issues, a grim would kick in. Now, in extensive high, the issues won’t be issues. They would become a laughing stock.
I remember, how in recent past, on father’s birthday, you would fill your vicinity with so much smoke that you won’t remember anything from that day. You will do that. You will just want to run away from it. You and I don’t want that memory to haunt us. And, since we have a chance to talk, being 23-year-old Zehnish, I will tell you:
All of it, that I just told you might haunt the shit out of you, but,
Dear 17-year-old, I survived. I know I can be sane while being insane. I am at peace with my soul right now. I don’t want to change anything, but I just want to live this life right now. Drugs gave me the space I needed. If drugs would not have been there, I might have attempted another suicide, and might not have survived.
Tough times are coming ahead, but don’t give up on your dream to adopt a female child and nourish an orphanage.
Dear 15-year-old Kamran,
Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7) is best. Period. That jersey under your school uniform suits you. Though, your entire collection of CR7 merchandise was ripped by your father, when he found you playing near the Bund in Srinagar, bunking school time in 8th grade. The love was much that you never touched yourself with a blade but scribbled ‘CR7’ on your forearm. I still have it.
Your father, a senior government official keeps moving between two capital cities of Jammu and Kashmir. Being alone in Jammu, in search of new friends, you will get introduced to cannabis. Frustrated from the issues at home, one day in 9th grade, you will find yourself standing in front of the ferry, still out of beard, and 100 bucks in hand. It all started from there.
But, soon, its high will get you, and rounds to ferry will become a routine. I saw her first time in 10th grade. She was beautiful. I fell for her in first sight. But, simultaneously, being out of confidence, you will choose pills to overcome the fear of approaching her.
However, once she will see you on pills, as a stranger, and you will freak her out. But, love is a bitch, and only the boy drowns in the end. Haven’t you seen Rehna hai tere dil mai, yet?
But, pills got you rolling. You will roam from a place to another, only to land yourself in the deep troubles. The privacy at home, and money minting parents, giving you, unintentionally, 14K a month to spend on drugs, will only ease the gateway to high. Your room in that big bungalow in Srinagar will be your drug haven.
With time, from 2 pills at a time to swallowing 24 pills at a time—you will grow up.
The eagerness to get high faster, you will cut the capsules with your teeth, leaving tongue to bleed, throat infected and destroying self from inside. It is not enjoyment anymore, by these days, you will be dependent on them.
Oh, in between, listen to this: Once, you will bump your car, worth more than a million, outside your home; courtesy – drugs. Police would ask you, “Where are you?” and being unaware of it, you will sit numb. Parents will get to know, and your safe haven at home will be ripped.
You will try to leave them—for yourself, but dirty withdrawal symptoms will push you back. In 12th grade, you will go to rehab on your own; just to make things better for you and your family.
In struggling times, you would remember football. There will be no enthusiasm left in you to kick that ball again. Football needs hard work, drugs don’t. Even your family thinks, “You were better playing football.”
And your love for rap songs; Tupac, Eminem, Bohemia… and that line from Bohemia’s song: “16 sala ka aasi mai, dam pehli bari pii mai,” (I was 16 when I first smoked). I can’t tell you, how much you will relate to these lines and their stories.
You will leave drugs and will relapse. It will look like a vicious cycle. But, the passion to do something will still be there. Drugs can’t numb it.
Dear 15-year-old, I promise that I won’t relapse now. Now is the time to live. Time is passing by and it ain’t coming back. Don’t do this. Don’t go to that ferry in Jammu. You will lose your time. I can’t be 15-year-old again. I can’t be you. I lost multiple years to drugs, please don’t do that.”
The names of the subjects have been changed as per request.
Yashraj Sharma is a Features Writer at The Kashmir Walla.