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Ravi’s Story: A Chance To Be Human Again!

At the Sankalp drop-in-centre at Mumbai Central, the mobile service van halts to a break and the driver, Ravi Chandrakant Patil, steps out after driving through the town from an outreach programm. Ravi regularly goes out on outreach programmes with Sankalp volunteers, where he meets street drug users and motivates them to discontinue taking drugs. As he narrates to us what he did today, he is interrupted by a mobile call from his wife, Manju. She wants to know if he has had his lunch. He smiles as he explains how concerned Manju gets if he doesn’t eat on time. Ravi is a happy man. He has a loving family and he is proud of working with Sankalp. But life had not been always so easy.

Deplorable financial conditions at home forced Ravi to leave school at the age of nine and join a watch-making factory. To add some extra income to the poverty conditions at home, he also got involved in bootlegging. Ravi turned to alcohol at a very young age. Domestic problems after marriage made him a heavy drinker and he would stay out of home for days on end. On one such occasion a friend added narcotic pills in his coffee and within days Ravi was hooked on to drugs.

Matters got worse when Manju found out about his addiction and threatened to leave him if he didn’t give up drugs. Thus began a series of lies. Ravi fooled both his wife and boss but this only pulled him deeper into the hellhole of drugs. The addiction worsened and his bloodshot eyes soon betrayed him. He even stopped bothering if others found out. Drugs were all that he could think of morning, noon and night. Drugs cost money and Ravi needed it badly. He was desperate and resorted to stealing. But the law soon caught up with him with six months of jail time. This was no deterent. The first thing that Ravi did when he came out of prison was to visit the nearest bar.

Things looked extremely bleak. He began to feel miserable that he couldn’t fulfil his genuine desire to be a good husband and father. He wanted to be there for his family but he simply couldn’t let go of drugs. Finally, he decided to ask for help and in August 2004, landed at the Sankalp drop-in-centre. After 22 days of medical treatment and a 15-day detoxification camp, Ravi stayed cleared of drugs for more than a month, the longest time in years.

On one of visits to the drop-in-centre Ravi was asked by Eldred Tellis, Director of Sankalp, about his work experience. On finding out that he worked as a driver, Tellis gave him the keys to his car and asked him to check the engine, oiling, etc. Ravi suddenly felt the urge to drive and, in spite of not having the permission, took the car for a spin. But the director was impressed and soon offered him a job as his personal driver.

But the road to rehabilitation was not that easy.

Withdrawal symptoms got Ravi hooked on to drugs once again. For the first time in his life he resorted to intravenous injecting as well. He lost almost 26 kg weight over four months. “I was so much influenced by drugs that I completely forgot everything that Sankalp had done for me. I betrayed their trust and faith in me. So in spite of realising that I needed help I couldn’t go back. I just didn’t have the courage to face the Sankalp team again.”

But an almost fatal road accident, changed his mind and will and he went back for help, once again, to the Sankalp drop-in-centre. This time he was admitted to the Nivara Night Shelter at Islampura. He was counselled and groomed and in February 2005 was given the charge of driving the Sankalp mobile van

The very fact that today he can walk with his head held up high and support his family financially and emotionally is a huge achievement for Ravi. Sankalp volunteers explained to Ravi’s family that drug addiction is a disease and it takes time for a person to overcome his disease. These counselling sessions helped him build a good rapport with his family.

“People respect me today. Sankalp has helped me to live a productive life with dignity.”

Ravi has also found friends in the form of other Sankalp volunteers who help him keep away from drugs. When he feels tempted to use drugs his friends act as a support group and provide him with strength and emotional support. But most importantly he has found the emotional will in himself. He reflects, “The temptations are still there. But so are the painful memories. When I remember, what these drugs reduced me to, I instantly stop myself.”

Today Ravi passes on the message of saying “no” to drugs to others. He has set an example to other hard-core drug users that with the right will and support, anyone can resist the temptation. With his typical infectious smile he says, “Sankalp gave me the chance to be human again!”