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Ashok Ramakrishna: A Success Story

I am Ashok Ramakrishna, and this is the story of my life, the story of a drug user who managed to change the course of his life.

I was staying in the area around Metro cinema in Mumbai along with a friend. We were both drug users but all of a sudden I started noticing big changes in my friend. He stopped using drugs and started having a bath daily, putting on clean clothes, going for meetings etc. I had always wanted to become clean. I asked him how he had stopped using drugs. He told me that he was taking medicines from an NGO called Sankalp. Sankalp had helped him to come to this improved condition. On seeing my friends changed lifestyle, I also decided to become clean like him and so came to Sankalp.

On the first day the doctor gave me some medicine, which I had to keep under my tongue.  Initially I felt quite fine but later as the day progressed the effect of this medicine started wearing off. So, I went back to the streets and consumed one pudi of brown sugar. Still I did not feel good and so took a second dose. Now, I started feeling fine. Next day, I came to the center and again took the medicines given by the doctor. On the second day I started feeling better and did not take drugs in that evening.

After a few days of coming to the center, I was told to go and have a haircut. After having the haircut when I came back to Sankalp, the staff nurse, told me that I looked like a hero. Wow! What a heady feeling! This was the first time that someone had commented that I looked good. I felt so good that tears started flowing down my cheeks. That evening I went to the  market and bought a pair of shirts & trousers for Rs.20/-. Then I went to the meeting in the evening wearing the new clothes. Many commented that I looked a changed man after having a haircut and wearing new clothes. I felt very happy once again. That night at the stroke of twelve, I went to the Gurudwara near Ganga – Jamuna cinema and ate the khichdi offered by them to my hearts content.

I started staying in a rented place at Colaba. It is near Budhwar Park in Colaba. Here there was a queue for everything- for water, rations etc. This was a new form of life that I was experiencing and, wonder of wonders, I liked this disciplined form of life more than the life I had lead before. I was still going for rag picking but one more surprise awaited me here. I started feeling ashamed of rag picking in full glare of the public. While using I was never conscious of this fact and nothing really mattered. I knew that I had to continue rag picking as it provided me with the money to survive. Moreover, I did not have any other skills to bank upon. So, I hit upon a new idea. I started getting up at 4 in the morning and by 6 in the morning my job was over for the day. Nobody could see me at those wee hours of the morning and I continued making money by rag picking. I also continued visiting Sankalp regularly.

The next stage of my life was when I got the job of a turner/fitter at Nalanda Industries, Andheri. I started drawing the princely sum of Rs.1000/- p.m. Never before had I earned this much money honestly. I worked here for sometime and then joined PM Gymkhana at Colaba. Here I had to wash dishes.

My next job was when I joined a canteen. I like working in food related industries. To start with I received Rs.1500/-p.m. Within 6 months it was raised to Rs.1800/-. For the last one year I have been drawing more than Rs.3500/- p.m. Additionally my owner trusts me totally. He sends me to fetch huge amounts varying from Rs.25000/- to Rsf.50000/- from debtors. People come to me with their problems. I try to give them solutions to the best of my ability. Previously I had to stand in a queue to fetch water, rations etc. but now everything is done for me by others. Even my clothes are washed and kept ironed by others. I get the feeling that I have achieved something by leaving drugs. And I feel enormously happy when I think about it.

I came to Sankalp with only one hope, to use the medicine that they were giving and see whether I could get out of drugs. I saw the changes that had occurred in my friend and I wanted the same to happen to me. Now, four years later, I find that I took the right decision to come to Sankalp. I am not a drug user any more and society has accepted me, when previously I could only look forward to one response–rejection. The feeling that this generates in me is beyond words. I have tried to help many of my previous drug using friends by referring them to Sankalp and getting them jobs. But sadly, not all have been able to capitalize on the opportunity presented to them.  I realize that I am fortunate and special in God’s eyes to have made it this far.

From being a drug user to someone who helps others to rid themselves of the drug habit-my life has come a full circle and I thank Sankalp for initiating this change in me.