It was a routine day for Saurabh. He had set up his tea stall on time, brought in milk and had done all his chores. He felt a certain relief today as if a huge burden had been lifted off him. Whatever mistakes he had made, this new chance at life had given him another shot at redemption.
3 years ago
Saurabh had been running for a while now from the police, his parents and even himself. He felt destroyed and the guilt was something which was eating him alive day by day. Never had he imagined that this was how he was going to turn out to be. He was a good boy, came from a respectable family even though they weren’t rich they earned every penny that they ate, had good parents, above average at school until the time he had met those two people who changed his life completely.
Raghu and Vivek were known for their mischief in the whole school, hardly studied and missed school almost every two days. On the other hand, Saurabh was the kind of student whose only focus was studies. And even though it was an all-boys government school, among all the distractions he had maintained a pretty solid record up till his 11 years in school life.
How Saurabh met Raghu and Vivek seemed like a distant memory now. He knew about the mischievous duo of the school, but he had never ever talked to either one of them. It was only when they got shuffled in the same class in class 10 is when he was introduced to them. Even though he had his reservations about them and how they behaved, he strangely had a lot of things in common with them. They might have been poles apart in how they perceived their studies to be, but with each passing day their friendship grew closer.
With time, Saurabh also changed. It did not take him much time to go down the same road. He started lacking in his studies, missed school many days in a row and spent most of the time with Raghu and Vivek. The kind of people you choose to be with reflects in your behaviour, and it was true in the case of Saurabh.
One more thing which Saurabh had become habitual of was doing drugs. Raghu and Vivek used to do drugs almost every other day. Saurabh under the influence of his friends had started doing the same. The situation had become such that he sometimes had to steal money from his parents to buy it. Most of the days Saurabh’s routine had become such where he used to leave for school but instead went with Raghu and Vivek to an isolated area, which they called their adda. Sat there throughout their school hours and did drugs, and went home at odd hours. Whenever his parents questioned him on why he was late, he gave them the explanation that he was out late studying.
It was a day just like the others when the incident had happened. He as usual had decided that he was going to be out with Raghu and Vivek that day. He had the money, which he had taken out of his father’s wallet last night. And just like that he left his house.
On reaching their adda, he found that Raghu was already there. He wondered where Vivek was and asked Raghu about his whereabouts, Raghu told him that he would come later, and that they shouldn’t wait.
Without asking any questions further, Raghu and Saurabh started with what they did almost every second day. It had only been a week since Saurabh had started doing drugs, but what Saurabh felt after doing them was indescribable. He felt like his best self when he was high, away from everything and everyone.
Something that he hadn’t expected was how these drugs would destroy his whole life. He somewhere knew that they were bad but he thought a small quantity would do no harm.
Saurabh kept waiting for Vivek but he never came. He also noticed something strange, but couldn’t really make sense of it because of his high. He saw that Raghu was lying down near the old tree, he tried to compose himself and tried to wake up Raghu, who was lying there. Saurabh started getting really scared when even after several attempts Raghu didn’t wake up. With all the little sense that his brain could gather at that time he started imaging the worst. He started panicking and tried to call Vivek who did not pick up his phone. He tried to listen to Raghu’s heartbeat and his worst nightmare became true. He couldn’t her anything, neither was he able to see him breathing. He tried to check his pulse an didn’t find it either. He did these four to five times to make sense of something which he couldn’t think could have happened.
Raghu was dead. He was actually dead. Saurabh was terrified to his core. He didn’t know what to do. He thought if he called someone, they would think that he killed him and find the drugs.
In that moment all he could think of was of running and going away. He couldn’t let his parents find out about his drug habit or that fact that his friend died while he was with him. It would just break them and he knew they would never be able to recover from it.
So, he ran, as fast as he could and didn’t turn back.
The 3 years of his life where he ran away from everything and everyone, were the hardest for him. Because of his drug usage, he suffered a lot. He craved drugs but didn’t have the money to buy even food, which drove him crazy to a great extent. He ate at Gurudwara and slept on the roads. His mental health had also taken a toll on him. He cried uncontrollably at times and had bouts of laughter. All he could ever think of was Raghu and his death and how drugs had destroyed his life. Somehow, he used to blame himself for Raghu’s death. Had he been more careful and not taken drugs, Raghu would have been alive. All he did was survive one day at a time; with all the burden he was carrying.
It wasn’t until he met Rishi that his life sort of came back to track. Rishi was a regular cook at Gurudwara who spent most of his mornings there and besides that he worked as an accountant in a shop nearby. He had become familiar of Saurabh, as he saw him there almost every day. He only tried talking to him after weeks of seeing him there. At first Saurabh was all closed up, he didn’t open up to him. Neither did he pay heed to anything he said. After seeing how consistent he was, he started talking to him but he never disclosed about what had happened with him. Rishi didn’t inquire either.
Saurabh has started to feel just a little bit fine after he and Rishi had started talking. He somehow felt that there was someone who he could talk to, someone he could call a friend. They used to talk about general things at the gurudwara, what they liked and what they disliked. Saurabh had told Rishi that he had run away from his home because of poverty, he had lied. He had to lie. He couldn’t tell anyone what had happened.
Saurabh liked their friendship, Rishi never prodded him to know more about him. He accepted him just the way he was. Rishi was an educated man, or that’s what Saurabh thought of him and he had certain kind of mystery around him which he couldn’t really understand. He had so much knowledge to give to him. Saurabh had started helping in cooking at the gurudwara for langar and that is where they spent most of their time talking.
It was a normal day like others when Rishi suggested something to Saurabh which he hadn’t thought about in a long time. He told him since he hadn’t completed his studies and left halfway in 10th grade. He must complete and at least have class 12 certificate.
Saurabh thought a lot about it, and he knew education was important for him. He had been above average in studies at his last school. But the thought of going to school again brought back some memories which he had been trying to put past him.
He had come to think of Rishi as his brother, he knew that whatever he was saying was somehow right. Even if he did decide to go to school and complete his education, would they admit a runaway, he had no certificates, where would he live, how would he survive without money? These were the thoughts running through Saurabh’s mind at that time.
When he finally made up his mind, he shared his concerns with Rishi. Rishi assured him that these things wouldn’t pose a problem if he had the will to study. He told him that he had some friends at the government school who could help with the admission process and he also offered to him his place to live for the time being.
Saurabh was more or less happy with this proposition and completely agreed to it. Within a month or so he was admitted to the government school where he went regularly and came back to his tea stall in the evening for work that he had set up near their house. He had decided to earn on his own and Rishi had helped him in setting it up, it seemed like the easiest way to him to earn with dignity and respect. He had decided that he would earn and give back to Rishi for all his help.
Two months had passed and things were going smoothly for Saurabh. He was regularly attending school and his tea stall was also going great. He had Rishi to thank for all of it. Had it not been for him, he probably would have ended his life. Rishi gave him a purpose to live and he would forever be grateful to him.
“Why did you decide to help me?” Saurabh asked Rishi one day.
Rishi had a serious look on his face.
“You remind me of my brother.”
“Remind you? where is he now? Saurabh asked
“Dead” Rishi said with his head down.
Saurabh did not know what to say.
“Raghu was his name. He used to do drugs and one day they found his body behind the school grounds. Apparently, he had overdosed. “Rishi continued after a long pause.
“Raghu….” Saurabh was not able to speak.
“Yes, his name was Raghu and he lived in the same village as yours. I came to the city 5 years ago and only went back when I heard about his death. I was devastated. I didn’t know my baby brother was doing this and so much of it that it took his life away. It became difficult for me to live, that is when I started working in the gurudwara. It gave me peace.”
Saurabh was quiet. He didn’t know what to say. The thing that he was trying to suppress for the longest time, was now once again in front of him.
“When I saw you at the gurudwara and I saw needle marks on your hands. I knew you were also a drug addict. I didn’t know your history and I didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask. And you never disclosed about it either. So, I felt like I needed to help you, and help you find your footing here. If my brother had got the help, he would have been alive….” Rishi said with a heavy heart.
“I knew Raghu.”
Rishi was wide alert now.
“We used to do drugs together behind the school grounds. The day he died; I was with him…. I tried to wake him up but he just didn’t…I didn’t know what to do, so I just ran. I knew I couldn’t face my parents. I just didn’t know what to do…….” Saurabh was finding it difficult to speak
Rishi didn’t know what to say, he was stunned.
“Don’t you think your parents would be looking for you?” Rishi spoke after a while.
“I miss them every single day. But I know they wouldn’t be able to live with the fact that I was doing drugs. It would just destroy them.”
It dawned on Rishi that his brother’s death was a result of a much larger problem of which Saurabh was also a victim. The only difference was that Saurabh came out of it, while his brother succumbed to it.
Without saying anything else, Rishi got up and hugged Saurabh. He felt like he was hugging his Raghu.
Two months later
Saurabh completed his class 12 with above average result. He applied at School of Open Learning with Rishi’s help, who had been like his guardian angel. Saurabh will never forget the incident that completely changed his life, but he tried his best to move on for it.
Rishi saw Raghu in Saurabh and even though he couldn’t save his brother. He saw Saurabh as his second chance at life.
Saurabh still missed his parents. He might visit him them one day, hoping for their forgiveness.
About the Author
Kriti Sinha is a student of Kamala Nehru College, Delhi University pursuing Psychology and Human Resource Management. She regularly posts articles about various issues on her blog, Reflections. You can find her on Instagram @reflections_1818