Alok B. Lal

Director-General of Police,

(Rules and Manual) Uttarakhand

It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons”. ~Johann Schiller’s words here have to be understood in many different contexts. The monster of drug abuse is a challenge to our race, and one way to meet the challenge is to understand how important is the support and love of the family in this fight. An individual who has become a slave to drugs, can hope for redemption when his or her family is there to render help, and takes the victim into the warmth of the family’s soothing arms.

Let us look at some real life stories.

On a cold winter morning, the sun having risen to a cloudy welcome, I was rudely woken up after a particularly short period of sleep. The previous evening had seen a flurry of activity which ultimately ended in the wee hours. Must confess, situation was hardly conducive to entertaining unexpected visitors so early in the morning. But there I had a woman with three children.

There was nothing abnormal about that. After all, I was the police chief of the district, and visitors were welcome 24X7. She was about 35, her eldest child was a son of about 17. The other two are not the immediate part of this narration, so no details are being mentioned about them. Their presence was however not unnoticeable mainly because they were making it felt through high decibel noise they were engineering. In the midst of this din, Sarbati, the woman, was telling me about Gendalal, the son. Gendalal, all this while, was looking at nothing in particular, with blank, expressionless, stony eyes. When his gaze drifted towards my face, our eye contact made me a bit uncomfortable. I was trying to find a meaning in those eyes, and there seemed to be almost nothing to decipher.

Sarbati described to me that Genda was once a bright student. He had completed nine standards, and when it came to the landmark class ten, he had fallen into bad company. Soon, his behaviour was strange, and as the half-yearly examinations approached, the teacher informed her husband that Genda had not been attending school for several weeks. The alarmed father made inquiries only to find that there had been a couple of new friends he was being seen with on an increasing frequency and they were not the desirable types.

Indeed, Genda had succumbed to opium, and in order to sustain his own needs, he had also become a minor carrier of little contraband parcels. The financial returns were good, far too good for the little effort that Genda had to put in, even though the act itself was a serious matter that entailed illicit transportation of opium. I asked him why he was destroying his life and bringing untold miseries to his mother and the rest of the family, didn’t he see the great anguish on the face of his mother, didn’t he realize how much his father expected from him when it came to tilling the small agricultural land he owned, or the bad influence he was having on the society by becoming a willing conduit in the trade? A long, blank stare later, he blurted out his own question in reply: “Kabhi tunn hue ho?” (Have you ever been sloshed?). I admitted I had not been inebriated to that extent ever. My experience had stopped far short of that, and in any case imbibing drugs was not my idea of spending a relaxed evening. “Phir tumhen kya pata….tum kya jano?” (Then what do you know….you know nothing.). I persisted for a while, and found little hope of making a dent. It was as if an Urdu poet had experienced it all before:

Natajurbakari se vaaiz ki yeh baatein hain,Is rang ko kya jane, puchho to kabhi pi hai?

I lost touch with Genda for nearly a year. He was a transformed young man when he met me next. His mother had stood by his side to wean him away from his addiction, and then to put him back on the track to continue with his studies. He was showing signs of the fighting spirit of a young man having returned to him. The support he received from his mother was invaluable in this grim battle against heavy odds. “The family is a haven in a heartless world” is what Christopher Lasch had so rightly said.

A young girl, barely 19, came to my office about 8 one evening. I was attending to some files, and her arrival was a surprise because in that small town where I was posted, the sight of lone young woman, especially one attractively turned out, was not common at all. She came very close to me as if to whisper something. “Uncleji, mera divorce karva do.” ( Please help me get a divorce.),she said. I knew this was certainly not on my charter of duties. She went on to tell me that her marriage was only a year old, and her relationship with her husband Satwant was already at the breaking point. First, he started neglecting her daily needs, then began asking her to get money from her father. His lifestyle became wayward, and he started to be violent with her. She even suspected that he was stealing money from his mother’s cupboard. The last straw came that afternoon when she discovered her jewelry was missing and she thought her husband was responsible. A few questions later it became very clear that Satwant had become addicted to opium, and to buy his daily fix, he needed all that money. His own little cloth shop was the first casualty when he sold all the stocks, and then his personal life also got affected.

The resolve of this young bride to snap links with her errant husband was near complete. Any suggestion that her continued association with Satwant was vital to keeping the hope of redemption alive was dismissed disdainfully. She was unshakably convinced that theft of first mother’s valuables and then her nuptial jewelry. Satwants very own had left him alone!

Yet another day, the President of the District Cricket Association, Chaudhary Asif, came to my office. This middle-aged gentleman had come to me on earlier occasions to invite me for various Cricket matches. In the small towns, the SP and the District Magistrates are often called upon to distribute prizes at umpteen functions; and to deliver speeches in which no one seems to be interested, hardly ever a new or interesting thing is uttered, and there is no real reason also why the audience should even feign to be awake and listening. However, what Chaudhary Asif was saying to me demanded rapt attention. He was describing to me the torment of a 17-year old young man who was as good as destroyed for almost all purposes.

Well, almost, but not entirely. His name was Hasan .A keen cricketer, he had been sent to the Sports Hostel at Lucknow for coaching in cricket, and to complete his graduation there. While he made rapid strides as a medium pacer, his pace in studies was nothing to speak of. His grades in all classes, which he barely scraped through, were quite poor. The fellow students and teachers at the Sports Hostel were noticing that Hasan was absent for long hours at night. They found him a tired man right at the morning nets. And in the indoor classes, he seemed to have been catching up lost sleep for much of the time. They also noticed that he was increasingly better endowed in terms of availability of cash.

Hasan came from a background where having spare cash was unknown. And here he was almost always in a position to take his pals for the late night cinema show and treat them to a snack to go with it. Hasan’s father it was who became alarmed by this development, and contacted Chaudhary Asif to help him.

Chaudhary Asif, whose contacts in the Sports Hostel were good due to his position in the cricket administration, spoke to the coaches. To cut the story short, they came to the horrifying conclusion that Hasan had become a small time peddler of heroin. Having established this grave reality, they withdrew Hasan from the Hostel, and brought him back to Pir Batawan, the locality where they lived.

It was not long afterwards that Hasan became my friend. He was admitted to the local college to complete his studies. I regularly kept in touch with the family. A plainclothesman kept an eye on him, mainly to ward off any threat from the drug lords. His family stood by him as rock.