By Mayank Jain:
It is 11 AM on Tuesday morning and I walk into Vijay Simha’s house. Quick witted and outspoken, he offers his insights on multiple topics including the education system and journalism as a career. Vijay, currently a Sobriety Campaigner and a columnist at Sify.com, has been Editor-at-Large at Tehelka and many other newsrooms in his 16 year-long career as a journalist. Vijay also faced a near death experience due to his addiction to substances. His story of struggle and recovery will give you jitters.
Vijay’s history of drug abuse early on in his life is marked with struggle and pain. Now, he is a campaigner for sobriety and helps those who are struggling with addiction. Vijay recalls his own journey and shares how he used to listen to Pink Floyd and drift into the metaphorical dark side of the moon where the disconnect from the ‘boring’ life would become his only source of inspiration.
He stopped going to classes and the ‘high’ gripped him further as his indifference to the real world increased over time. “I stopped interacting with family. All my inputs in my life would come from the movies, books and drugs. Here I was learning through drugs instead of being the top civil servant which I was supposed to be,” he shares.
At the tender age of 20, he was already into rehabilitation center for the first time. He shares how he went in willingly, for the healing process to begin. He went to a mental ‘asylum’, as they called it back then, which was turned into a makeshift rehabilitation centre. Vijay shares what it meant to give up work, life and destroying it all multiple times in 18 years:
Getting into addiction is not a one-time event that occurs with a flash but a repeated exposure to the substances and peer pressure. People around push us to ‘try it out’, which invariably gets us used to the effects and then there’s no looking back. Talking about the early phases of adiction, Vijay says “Observe how you feel about it, if you don’t mind the stink or taste, you are more likely to do it again. If you feel like doing it again, there are high chances of getting used to it.”
The worrisome part about the drug industry in India is that it is segregated and spread over multiple states. Punjab is among the largest consumers of all kinds of substances and the belt of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh is known for manufacturing the same. Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki is already known as ‘India’s smack capital’.
The drug manufacturing industry is growing in the country with huge profit margins and so is the illegal trade following the climbing demand. Explaining the futility of prohibition, Vijay highlighted how industries crop up on the borders and all that the government succeeds in doing is ramp up illegal production and enable cross border trafficking. Many small households survive solely on the drug trade.
The ‘business’ which gives more than 300% of profits to the manufacturer and an escape route to the abuser is hard to stop but the government has some catching up to do. A three pronged approach, as highlighted by Vijay, towards tackling the problem should include random and mandatory tests of parliamentarians for substances before they go inside the assembly. The tests will reveal details of our own ministers who are absorbed in the trade and abuse.
The second crucial step should be to name and shame the offenders who promote drug trade. Vijay revealed how many parties manufacture their own substances and brand them before election times to gain political mileage in a state full of addicts. The approach of bringing these names into public will give the issue the importance it needs.
Out of all the debate and discourse on the drug problem, the mainstream media is still not giving the issue that attention it deserves and the society as a whole is failing at making it a national narrative. The movies on the subjects don’t see footfalls, and the directors willing to attempt such themes are discouraged from doing so.
On the World Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Vijay has a lot to share with the young people, and messages for the government. He recommends the Rashtrapati Bhawan to recognize the issue and call for a meeting to discuss the issue with multiple stakeholders.
An open approach to debate and discuss the aftermath of the policy and strategy is the need of the hour instead of rubbishing off the reports and turning a blind eye towards the gravest issue concerning our youth today.
Abuse and addiction drove Vijay to the streets of the national capital from being an eminent journalist destined to do great things. However, the strength and determination to come out of it rebuilt him and the fight continues.
Watch his video message to the youth below:
To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @mayank1029