Sanjay first met me at the Tardeo RTO and directed us to Sankalp’s Mumbai Central DIC. I assumed he was part of the Sankalp staff and thanked him for his help. 20 minutes later, I saw a completely different avatar of the same man. The same man, now Sanjay ‘sir’ was leading the Group Discussion session with thirty clients in a manner which was almost obama-esque. He spoke with clarity, conviction and depth, just like a champion orator. What he was doing was motivating the group of men listening to him to kick the habit of drug usage. He spoke at length about his own history and the events leading up to this day, where he successfully managed to come clean.
Sanjay came to Mumbai at the age of 17 and took to ganja, liquor and whiteners for the first few years. He then graduated to brown sugars and a severe form of drug addiction for the next 20 years! Churchgate station was the place he called home and he did odd jobs of carrying luggage, brooming and even picking pockets to make ends meet. It was only by chance that he visited the Sankalp DIC with one of his friends. His primary motivation of visiting the centre was the food that was served there on Mondays and Wednesdays. Gradually, he was convinced into attending NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings and managed to attend approximately 75 meetings. Access to food and facilities such as a bathroom and healthcare is was what kept bringing him back to Sankalp. He finally managed to kick the habit of drug abuse at the age of 38 and was recruited by Sankalp’s DIC as a peer educator. It has been close to two years since he resumed his second innings of life and he cannot seem to thank his stars enough for this second opportunity that life has presented him with.
Sanjay’s colleague and a fellow peer educator, Danny (name changed), wasn’t as lucky as Sanjay and contracted the HIV virus before he came clean. Hailing from Assam, he came to Mumbai at the age of 18 to study, but quickly fell into bad company as is the story of so many young aspirants who move to this ‘city of dreams’. Danny started off with beedi and cigarettes and soon moved to charas, liquor and sexual activity with multiple partners for the next 5-6 years. He fell extremely ill for a long period and this is what brought him to Sankalp’s DIC. Among the various things he learnt at the DIC, what he adopted as his mantra was “Dard bina raahat nahi”. Today, Danny is employed as a peer educator with Sankalp and is giving back to the society by helping the other Dannys of the world to take the difficult but more rewarding path that he took a few years back. He feels reborn he says, and looks forward to the ‘clean birthday celebrations’ (date since he went clean) that he enjoys with his friends at Narcotics Anonymous.