Help Drug Addicts….Never Ignore Them
“Hello Akash , after such a long time!How are you?” Shruti replied
“Shruti , I’m fine. Can we please meet at the café”?
“Oh Akash, it’s so sweet of you! But (pause) I’m so sorry …….actually ma told me to stay back home… they are ready for the party ……..Bhaity’s exam is there. I’ve to be with him…….y’know. Please, don’t mind! I’ll meet you some other time, dear O.K!”
“ Oh yes, Shruti, I won’t mind certainly not……Bye take care” said Akash .
And there was perfect silence, in a dim lit room. Akash, a bit disappointed, stood up from the sofa and headed to his room. Silence followed him. He reached near his study table. Touched the table lamp, “Oh God (with a deep sigh)”, he said to himself. Suddenly, his fingers struck something.” Oh” he murmured. He found a small Trophy. At its foot, there was engraved “Best student of the year, 2002”, he read out, with a heavy heart. But soon, it brought a smile on his sunken face. Then he moved and opened the window .He could only see rude building wall till infinity ……….no life but well lit. At distance, he saw the setting sun; It was dusk. He gazed at it, till the sun sets.
After a while, he felt that it’s good to relax for few moments upon his study table. He tiptoed his books. Pulled his old diary and thought it’s good to go through it. He turned its yellowish pages. He found his first poem, and the verse start:
“Life is like a power, to reach the tower
Life is like a game, it’s not always same”
He checked few lines and suddenly, a greeting card dropped from within the pages. He closed the diary and picked the card from the floor, He murmured, “Oh Shruti’s card”. He read aloud:
“Dear Akash, Dated:12.06.02
You’re the cutest friend I’ve ever had. Happy B’day to you. You’re so handsome, smart, intelligent, brave, the best cricket player ………..you are simply all rounder. Please don’t forget me. You are the best. You know 12th June is my favourite day of the year.
Happy B’day to you.
With lots of luv
Shruti, your best friend”
Akash, reading aloud the whole card put the card once again in the diary. He switched off the table lamp, pressed his face with his palm, with a sheer hollowness, with a deep sigh which pierced the silence of the room.
Then, entered his sister, “Dada , Dada, Dada”.
“Oh Amrita , where are you off to” Akash asked with a curious eyes.
“Hee, Hee, Hee! We are going to party” Amrita replied.
“Party?” Akash astonished. Before he could think or enquire something more, his mother entered.
“Ma” Akash reacted.
“Akku , we are going to the Reception Party of Mr. Sarma’s daughter. So please be at home.I’ve prepared everything for your dinner. You’ll just need to warm it, when its time, O.K” said Ma
Akash asked “Ma, you all are going to the party” His face had a dismayed look.
“Oh, yes, we could’ve taken you” replied Ma. She continued “But, you know (a slight pause), there will be so many people….. Nothing is hidden after all. You know the people here, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I know, you‘re a brave boy dear…..But, now its better you stay at home…..Isn’t it.” His mother consoled him. “Even Pa wants you to be at home” She added “You can do a lot of things. But don’t use Pa’s computer, He’ll be angry dear.” Ma said,
“Sure Ma”, Akash replied politely, but with a plaintive smile. Behind that smile, he found a loud breaking noise inside his heart. He felt heavy and choked. No one could hear that breaking noise inside his heart, but only him.
“Before, I forget”, his mother returned,“Take this key. Some Mr. and Mrs. Mishra will be shifting to the next flat tonight. So, their owner said to give them the flat key. Keep notice, O.K”.
“Yes” Akash replied.
“ C’mon Akash , Gi’me a smile” joked Ma.
“Sure Ma” akash answered with a smile. Along with them, Akash came out to their living room.
“Dada, y’ know, the new people” whispered sister Amrita, “their daughter is MAD”.
“Shhh Amu” Ma interrupted. “You should not say this way. Very bad. I’ll tell this to Pa”.
“Oh! Sorry Ma” Amrita wailed
Ma added “She’s not mad; she has recently come from a spastic society. So this family is shifting here for rent”confirmed Ma. Akash was listening, but he had no interest to know about his would be neighbor’s family music.
Ma, Pa, Amu left. Akash closed the main door. He could hear the sound of their car, being taken out from the garage. Slowly, this sound became frail at some distance. He again sat on the sofa, picked up the telephone receiver, but then again dropped it, without any second thought. He then lazily rested on the sofa and picked up the newspaper. He went through few words, but, no could not concentrate. He turned the Editorial page. He was thrilled to see his Pa’s Article “On Drug abuse and Children”. He went through the initial paragraph, felt drowsy, his eyes were blinking. His eyes jumped to the concluding paragraph and read it aloud in his lonely house.
“…….Drug abuse is a serious problem in our society which is suffered by many children and teenagers. We cannot deny its presence in our society. Indeed there have been government initiatives to eradicate it. The efforts made by NGOs, Rehabilitation Centres are commendable. But, apart from the medicines, treatment, what is more important is to give them what they really deserve, that is unconditional love, attention and care. Parents should try to encourage them without any inferiority complex.”
At the foot of the article, he found, some word of italics “The write is a renowned psychologist”
He folded the newspaper and kept it back on the centre table. “Pa writes well” he said to himself. With this, tears rolled down his sunken cheek and he closed his eyes. His nightmarish past flashed in his mind. He recollected, how he was adjudged as the best cricketer of the Inter school Tournament, haw he befriended with Shruti’s cousin, Parikshit, who was an NRI. How, he wanted to be like him, that is imitate Parikshit’s style funda, and his “I’m so cool” funda. Things with this new fren went like a soft breeze, always loud and posh.
On one such loud day, Parikshit gave him some ‘energy tablet’ and said, “Hiya,y’ know, If you wanna like me buddy , you gotta have this…. Trust me, this is simply music music. C’mon, be a man, Yeah”.
Akash, not knowing anything swallowed the tablets.
“Yeah… good, that’s like a man” Parikshit said. After a while, Akash felt giddiness. To this Parikshit joked “Hey don’t be a kid, sweetheart”.
“Oh no, I’m feeling great, Yeah” Akash controlled.
Days passed, but, Akash was not the same person again. One day, he got the news that his school team was to represent district level Inter school cricket tournament. So, including him, the entire team was to undergo a medical test. He also remembers that how this medical test turned the course his course of life. His blood report found traces of drug consumption, positive. This report was enough to become news for the entire school and the locality in which he lived.
“What the hell do you mean by this?” Pa scorned at Akash. “You brought disgrace to the entire family. You idiot….. Every person is laughing at us” Pa was not controlling.
“Pa, Le’ me explain, it was Parikshit” Akash tried to defend.”
“What Parikshit? You spoilt child. Now I’ll teach you a lesson, wait you scoundrel”. With this Pa took out his chapel and then…..
A loud noise, a sudden jerk and here there was Akash sitting in his drawing room recollecting all these painful memories. There was a pin drop silence again with none near him. And suddenly, the door bell rang. “Oh”. Akash came back to his senses. He wiped his tears and moved to open the door. Opening, he saw a stranger but with a friendly smile.
“Are you, Akash” enquired the stranger
“Yes, but …..”, Akash grew anxious
“Oh , I’m Mr. Dileep Mishra. We are in your neighbour”
Akash, after a pause, “Oh yes, I have your keys”Saying this, Akash came out to the corridor. Mr. Mishra introduced him to his family. “Meet my wife, Aditi and our daughter, Apu , I mean, Aparajita”.
“Hello Akash,” said Aditi.
“Hello Ma’am”, greeted Akash.
He looked at Apu, “Hello Apu”.
Apu moved her hand all around and said nothing but only took out her toungue and said “Bay, Bay”. Akash felt irritated “so ugly”, he thought, on looking at her.”
“O.K, akash , good to have you next door”, said Mr. Mishra
“Same here, sir” said Akash politely. The new family went inside their doors with all their luggage.
. He decided to have a good walk along the flyover. That hollowness which he felt inside his room has gone. He juggled his key and tip-toed the staircase .While going downstairs, he found Mrs. Sangma, coming upwards, with a bag of vegetables an one hand and stick on the other.
“Aita , how are you”, Akash greeted.
“Oh Akash , my dear”, reacted Mrs. Sangma .
“Aita, please le’me carry your bag”. He said.
“No, it’s not at all heavy, I can carry” said Aita.
“Please Aita” he continued
“O.K take it’, she smiled, giving the vegetable bag with her wrinkled hand, “but, be careful, while stepping the staircase” she cautioned.
“Yes, Ma’am” she saluted her adorable Aita.
After walking few steps, Aita asked “It has been one week you have come from the Rehabilitation centre. What are you doing now?”
“Nothing!” said Akash.
She adviced “You should’ve gone to Mr. Sharma’s daughter reception.Y’ know, you should mix up thoroughly.”
“Actually Aita, Ma, insisted me to go to the party, but, I said no, it’ll be a bore. Its better, I walk a few distance”. Akash replied.
By this time, they’ve reached Aita’s flat, which was just next to their flat.
“Thank you, Akash”.
“It’s my pleasure aita”.
“Bye Akash, take care.”
When he reaches near the staircase, suddenly, for no reason, he turned back.
To his surprise , he saw Apu smiling at him, standing with her father, dressed in woolen clothes with two neatly tied plaits, was about to come out of their house. He pretended as he saw nothing and was about to move downstairs. He heard a voice.
Again he tuned back. He was shocked to see that Apu was trying to pronounce his name . “Hey, Akash”, called Mr. Mishra “going somewhere” he enquired.
“Hmmm, no, actually…….” Akash could not answer.
“Come, you can join us”, added Mr. Mishra .
Akash could not find any answer, said, ‘Sure uncle”.
Apu was so thrilled that he catchhold of Akash’s hand. They walked a few distance. When they reached the Tiniali, they thought to have some coffee, because it was cold outside. They ordered coffee and snacks. Apu was still holding his hand. Though reluctantly, but he gave her a smile. But, he was not feeling easy with her.
While sipping his coffee, he heard a familiar female voice.
“We really had a blast year, great……….This is life”, said the voice.
Akash turned, it was Shruti, with a gang of friends, all hip and bright. Shruti looked at Akash , but pretended that she did not see him. Akash came closer. Apu also came along.
“Hi, Shruti “ said Akash.
“Hey Akash”, Shruti felt embarrassed “Actually, Akash…….I mean ………Y’know” she was stumbling.
“C mon, Shruti, carry on” Akash said so and left the place. Apu held Akash’s finger and walked along. She turned her face towards Shruti, while they were leaving, said “Boo, Boo, Boo, embay, embay”.
“Shut up, Apu” Akash scorned.
She immediately turned to Akash and gave her a naughty smile. He looked at her and pulled her cheeks.
“Silly girl” he smiled, but this time not reluctantly.
Then, Mr. Mishra joined them. They walked along and had a good pastime.
Next morning, Akash thought that he’ll get some good books from the nearby Book Fair at the Chandmari field. He broke his piggy bank and accounted Rs.251/-. “Not bad”, he said. This was the amount which he had treasured since his school days. He was, for whatever reason, was happy and feeling energetic.
“Bye Ma”,he said, before leaving.
“Don’t be late” Ma replied
Coming outside, he once again found his dear Aita.
“Good Morning, Akash…. Looking good. New shirt?” Aita asked.
“Yes aita, it’s from the Rehab.”
“Good,” you should always feel good this way” Aita again said.
“By the way, Aita, how are Dada and Bow” he enquired.
“Oh, they are doing great. Both of them really love me (Aita, as Akash could see, had but a plaintive expression). Both, very good children. Busy people, y’ know, earning dollars, they don’t get time, so cannot come. Earlier, they used to send sms, every week. Very sweet they are. They always send me money order………..They’ve pampered this old lady (after a pause) C’ mon Akash , you should not waste your time, you’ll be late”. Aita said, the whole thing in a disturbed manner.
“O ya, Bye Aita”. Akash did not say much but he could understand everything.
He returned in the late afternoon. Someone was screaming from Mr. Mishra’s house. It was Apu . He went to their door, without knowing.”May I come in” he asked.
“Oh yes Akash, please come” said Aditi. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, Aunti, but (he paused)…..why was Apu screaming”?
Aditi replied “You know Akash, Apu, she fell down the stair case”.
“What”? he asked astonishingly
“Yes”, Aditi replied “I was in the bathe and she opened the main door. She said, she saw you from the balcony; she called you, you did not listen, she thought, she’ll go down and then shout. In doing all this, she lost control and fell down and her wrist fractured.
“Oh, my God”, Akash felt pity. “Aunty, can I please meet her?” he requested.
”Oh , sure Akash,” she said.
Near Apu’s bed he found his dear Mishra uncle, saying fairy tale to Apu. It was Cindrella.
“Hello Akash” said Mr. Mishra
“Hello uncle, Hello Apu”.
“aAA……kayy” Apu could not pronounce.
“Silly girl, my sweet silly friend, get well soon….
“Whaa……..” Apu was thrilled, with mouth wide open.
“I know you’ll be well soon, we’ll then go for evening walks, right!”
He touched her forehead with caress, and she fell asleep slowly.
“O.K uncle, I must go” he said to Mr. Mishra.
“Thank you, Thank you for coming.Come, I’ll join you, I’ll go down stairs” said Mr. Mishra.
Coming out from their house, Mr. Mishra continued, “Akash , as you see(pause) Apu is not a normal child. She’s all of 15, but she has a mind of a five year old. She is mentally handicapped. We’ve kept her in the best possible spastic society in the country, in Mumbai, but she could not stay there. She was missing us, so we decided to bring her back home. She has no friend; children of her age make fun of her. She canot go to school. No one come near to her. It’s only you, with whom she’s so close. Thank you so much, Akash”.
“It’s my pleasure uncle” Akash replied. “I’ll be very happy to be with her”.
And then on, Akash made it a point to go for an evening walk with Apu, come what may. Sometimes, even Aita joined them, but not always. Apu’s plaster was removed after 15days. Both Akash and Apu were very happy. Once, he gave her a big Cadbury Bar “It’s for you silly girl”.
One fine evening, while walking, they met Shruti again.
Shruti greeted “Hello Akash”.
Akash replied “Hello, How are you?”
Shruti began “don’t you feel weird Akash, walking with such a funny creature all along, who can neither walk properly, nor can talk, nor can eat… Yuck. The whole locality is laughing at you”.
“Shruti” Akash retorted “You know what, the best thing I like about her is that she’s not as intelligent as you are”. Shruti got a volt face. Both Apu and Akash carried on with their walk. Days passed like soft breeze, winter was ruling. His mother brought him a pure black leather jacket and a pair of sport shoes. He wore the same pair of shoes and jacket for their evening walk. Both of them were walking along the foot path. At one moment, he realized that his shoe laces are not tied properly. “Wait here, Apu le’ me tie” and he bent down. When he raised his eyes, he was terrified “Oh no, where’s Apu”? he was terrified. There she is”.
He saw Apu was running along the footpath. She has reached quite a long distance.
He shouted “ Apu, Apu, don’t run”. She heard his voice, turned back but did not wait . Akash lost her sight and she disappeared. He was terribly worried. Everything seemed dark and gloomy. Then, there was sudden load shedding. The whole area become dark and hell broke loose on him. He felt so desperate. “This jacket is really unlucky for me”,he said.
But, he still did not give up hope. He walked along and somewhere, stumbled in the dark. It was a broken brick and the foot path boulder. He felt severe pain in his wrist, but, he did not care. He must find Apu. He again shouted “Apu….where are you. This continued. Night was becoming darker. Even the street lights were off. He was confirmed that if he cannot find Apu, he’ll never return home. He decided to take a short cut through the jogger’s park nearby, to reach the next street. Since it was evening and dark, the park was empty. Suddenly, he heard “Boo…Boo…Boo….embay, embay, embay, embay”.
“Oh, my God, it was Apu” he exclaimed. At a distance, he saw two human structures, but could not see their face. It was their back side. He went close and found that Apu was sitting with a person. A middle aged man with tattered clothes, a long dirty bag ‘C’mon you, get out of there. Go, you ugly man, go” screamed Akash.
The men did not say anything but pulled out his big stick from his bag.“Get lost you kid”, the man shouted “I’ll fix you there”.
Akash was initially frightened. The whole child abuse case of Noida was flashed in his mind like a lightning. He, but, did not lose courage. He pulled out branch from a nearby plant, which was weak and brittle, but he had nothing to defend. He again shouted “You nasty man, you rascal, I’ll call the police. Get out of here”.
He again shouted “Help, help, somebody please help”. Luckily, by that time load shedding was over. All lights shone. Apu started clapping.
“Go you wicked man, you don’t know who I am”. Akash continued
“Kid, you don’t know, who I am. You don’t read newspapers” that strange ugly man retorted with wicked smile.
“I don’t care, who you are”. Akash got furious “I said leave”. Though Akash was very much frightened inside, he did not express.
“Touch this girl and I’ll break your head” he yelled.
Then the chowkidaar of the park Abdul, who was out in the nearby paanshop entered. Akash noticing him from a distance screamed “Abdul Da, help” Abdul came rushing. That ugly man was about to run. Abdul blew the whistle and four more chowkidar, who were along with Abdul, entered. They, with Abdul’s instruction, caught hold of the man tightly. One of them even slapped him. The other one recognized him. He shouted “Oh, this is Dinesh, the notorious kidnapper, the child trafficker.” Abdul looked at his face “Oh Yes,” he was overjoyed. “Get hold of him boy”. He turned to Akash “well done” Abdul congratulated with great pride.
“All because of this silly girl” Akash remarked.
The chaukidar informed the police. Apu and Akash returned back home without knowing what the next morning has in store for them.
Next morning, there was a repeated noise outside Akash’s building. Their door bell rang. His mother opened the door. It was none, but their neighbours . All carrying bouquets and presents.
“What is this for?”Akash asked astonishingly.
“You don’t know Mrs. Barua,” said Mrs. Sharma, “What your son did……he’s a real hero. You must give us a party.
“What,” unaware of everything, Ma gave a surprising expression.
“Wake up. Akash, wake up”, his neighbour shouted.
Akash woke up with a sudden jerk. His wrist was swollen. He also saw Aita along with other neighbours. She explained him everything, that they have come to congratulate him for his act of bravery to save Apu and helping the chowkidar to nab Dinesh , the most wanted criminal and whose photo was flashed in the India’s Most wanted last year.
Listening to all these, Akash became speechless. Before, he could wipe his face out of his blanket yawning, half sleep and half awake, he saw a young journalist. She was holding the mike from a leading national news channel and asked.
“Hello Akash, I’m from Power TV. This is a live show. So, you’ve become a hero. How d’ you feel”.
“Who, me? Ummm……speechless” was his first reaction.
He couldn’t reach to any other word. Immediately, his room was full with reporter and journalists.
Entered Shruti “Oh, my sweet Akash…….you’re simply great”
One reporter asked her inquisitively, “So , you know Mr. Akash Baruah?”
“We are best of friends since our childhood and………”said Shruti.
Before Shruti could complete, someone pulled the mike. It was none but Aparajita or Apu. From Shruti, the camera turned to Apu. She went near Akash’s bed and jumped over it. He gave her a hug
“Happy B’day, you silly girl”, said Akash.
Then Pa came along. A reporter, who came to know that he’s Akash’s father asked “Sir, how do you feel, being father of such a brave son, don’t you think he’s a real hero”. Pa opened his glasses and could not speak anything. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He was choked. Everyone in the society hailed Akash, and Shruti was in the last row.Akash was now in a jubilant mood. With folded hands he began.
“It has been possible only because of the love and affection of my family. I’m very fortunate to have such encouraging parents through thick and thin, such sweet neighbours as Aita and Deepak Uncle and Aunty and above all, I’m thankful to Apu .She’s my best friend.” By this time, he saw Deepak Uncle and aunty waving from a distance. ‘I’ m hero just because of Apu,” and the crowd clapped.
Thus, Help Drug Addicts….Never Ignore Them
“If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, you might want to look into drug rehab programs in Washington State. Its beautiful landscapes and accessible parks make it a great place to go through your rehab process. “