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New Dawn

Darkness has overshadowed all around and pervaded everywhere. Aneesh lies quietly in bed and turns around to catch a nap. Even a wink of sleep evades him. Night lengthened its shadows. His mind goes back to his first year of college. After good results in entrance exams, he started his college life in the city. First time when he went to college, large blocks of building, crowd of students, well laid gardens and hedged trees bewildered him.

Nothing limits anyone here. He looked for familiar faces among scores of students passing by. None appeared to be known to him. He marched several corridors of the college just to look around. None he found to call his own. He remained an unknown face in the crowd. Classes, lab, tutorial and internals became daily routine. Classmates were not free enough to hear others problems and issues. Talks and conversations were mostly centred on academics. A few times he observed a group of students gathered around in front of the office or academic block. On such occasions he tried his best to begin conversation. It did not last long. Some of them had to rush home as college bus would leave soon after the classes. Others were engaged in tuitions or part time courses. None had time for the other. All were racing against time. He perceived himself moving around the wheel.

Demanding schedule and daily routine appeared to be a drag. He walked on tight rope. Hopping from class to class, attending lectures, standing long to grapple in lab and then returning home tired were his daily grind. Life at home was no different. Both of his parents work. Of course, parents had always fulfilled his wants and wishes. Finding time for each other became difficult during weekdays. On weekends, parents kept themselves busy in their social commitments. Success stories of others used to be topics of discussion at dinner table. Time and again they emphasized on studies, shining in life and bringing laurels. They were confident that Aneesh would script success in his life, too. “Is it motivation or hidden desire of parents to live their dreams through me,” Aneesh wondered sometimes. In the neighbourhood, most of his childhood friends had left the town for higher studies elsewhere. No company to hang around and share with. He struggled with emptiness within and barrenness outside.

One day as Aneesh was passing through the pathway alongside the wall of the college outside, he saw one young man waving towards him. It was really surprising gesture for him. Someone for the first time around the college was beckoning him. What should he do? He does not know him. Will it be all right to join the man standing with his bevy of friends? He decided just to respond him and then move inside the college campus. Aneesh drew closer to the group. He found them little peculiar. The young man Animesh introduced himself and his friends. Some were students of the college and the rest from a nearby institution. It was really pleasant to meet new students. Aneesh believed he had found now some friends to add colour to his life. As the college bell rang, Aneesh took leave of them and hurried towards the college gate. After college hours in the evening, he found the same group loitering around. He decided to join them. Slowly they moved to a corner and Aneesh found them packing some substance into small thin papers, rolling them and smoking. One of them told Aneesh, ‘Have a puff and enjoy real fun of life’. Aneesh implored them to refrain from smoking. Animesh explained casual smoking would not matter. It is just once in a while. Another commented, “Grow up, Boy. Taste life and its adventure.” The whole group pestered him. Aneesh was perturbed that day. He looked at the group and around. The sun had already set in. Darkness covered the horizon. None would be able to see him indulging in anything bad. He was curious and finally gave in. After a few puffs, he felt totally different.

Animesh accompanied Aneesh and dropped him near the house. Aneesh was in trance and excited the whole night. He tried to glance over the notes and textbooks. But concentration eluded him. Next day, soon after the classes, Aneesh walked straight to the group. He was looking forward to fun time. Animesh asked him money for special smoke. With little hesitation, Aneesh opened the purse and gave away money. It became a daily affair for Aneesh. He tried to avoid, but soon was carried away. Consumption once a day was not enough. He needed the influence always. He started skipping classes and could not focus on studies. At home, he preferred to shut the door of his room and stay alone. He flared up whenever parents asked him about anything and their words irritated him. Eventually he stopped going to college. Pocket money was not enough to satiate his addiction. He sold his bicycle and his belongings one by one. He could not live without the drug. He did not mind stealing away a bicycle from the neighbourhood and selling it away in exchange for his daily intake of drug. Household things soon went missing. Life was not normal for Aneesh anymore. It was not in his control. Parents, teachers, neighbours and well-wishers tried their best to solve his problem. His mother had shed tears and extended loving arms to bring him back from the life of abuse. But he was indifferent. He just could not think of anything else. Retreat was near impossible.

A few months passed by. Anirban, a childhood friend of Aneesh, came to see him during winter vacation. As usual Aneesh was shut in his room. His parents were in tears as they vented out their hearts about obsessiveness and mental health of their only son. Tears melted Anirban. He could figure out that his friend had become a drug addict. It was a very difficult situation. He asked himself whether he lost his friend forever into the heinous trap of abuse. He slowly gathered courage and proceeded to meet his friend. Aneesh was drifting apart. His eyes drooped down and failed to look straight at his friend. He was feeling uncomfortable and tried to excuse himself. Anirban put his hands around Aneesh and gave a warm hug. He gently lifted his face and looked into his eyes. He assured him his love, comfort and company. Anirban slowly and steadily won back his lost friend and his confidence. Anirban planned to take the help of a professional and made all arrangements to shift him to a de-addiction centre. It was not easy to convince Aneesh to stay at the centre. Initially Aneesh thought he could manage to smuggle drugs even inside the centre. But it was not easy. People at the centre were very loving and cordial. Aneesh’s engagement was deep and absorbing. After initial hang over he started feeling better. One evening inmates of the centre gathered at the hall after the meal. Music and songs enraptured all of them. Some of the inmates were playing musical instruments, too. They continued for long soaking in music. Music slowed down. A young man stood up in midst of the assembly and proclaimed, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” He further expounded, “You are a slave to whatever controls you.” He mentioned that 3.4 million Indians are drug abuse victims and most of them are youth. The Lord Jesus loved us, called us His friends and gave His life to set us free from slavery of addiction. He was sent to proclaim freedom for prisoners and to release the oppressed.” . . . whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The man shared about his encounter with this Great and Faithful Friend and eventual transformation of his life from shackles of addiction. The words pierced into Aneesh’s heart and convicted him. For long he was yearning for freedom. He committed his life to the Living Saviour. His fetters fell off. He was suddenly flooded with relief and peace within as every burden of his heart rolled away. After a week, he was informed about his release from the centre. He was eagerly waiting for the day.

Statistics reveal that
25,426 people across India ended their lives in the last ten years due to drug and addiction related problems-an average of 2,542 suicides every year, 211 per month and 7 per day. In India 20 million children per year and nearly 55,000 a day are drawn into tobacco addiction. About 62.5 million people occasionally drink alcohol and 14 million are dependent in alcohol and need help.

Darkness is fading away. Aneesh turned towards the window. Light of the dawn gently intrudes into his room. Beyond the window he looks to a new horizon in the limitless sky. He hastened up to prepare himself for returning home. Inmates gathered around him to bid farewell. He waved at them and moved towards the gate. To his surprise, he saw Anirban walking towards him. He ran and locked him in his arms as tears rolled down his cheeks. As they went on, Aneesh narrated the memorable

night that turned him over a new leaf. He was received at home with a grand welcome celebration with his parents and well-wishers. Aneesh goes back to the college. He has startd his new academic year. To his classmates, he now declares, “I am a new creation: old things have passed away; Behold, all things have become new.” He is now more than conqueror through His Master. He resolves he will not go back to his past life and he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.
(Ref: Jn 8:36, 2 Pet. 2:19, Isa. 61:1, Jn 15:15, Jn 3:16, 2 Cor. 5:17, Rom. 8 :37, Phil. 4:13)

Dr Nanda Dulal
The author is presently working as Group Director (Administration) in a central Government Department. He and his wife Geetanjali are involved with UESI ministry right from their student days.

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