By K Ali
21 Sep, 2012
Lahore is full of intoxicated men. Among the poor they are known as jahaaz ("aeroplanes"), probably for their endless mental flying. I recently met a group of five "aeroplanes" near the historic Lakshmi Chowk. They were sitting beside the footpath. All around them the traffic was in a great rush but they were blissfully unaware of it. I bought some peaches guavas from a fruit stall and walked over to the group of aero planes.
Their clothes gave off a foul stench of urine
Their clothes were dirty and gave off a foul stench of urine. T hey ate the fruits harshly, without washing their hands, as if they had got the chance after many days. I told them I had come from Punjab University to write a story about young people who take drugs andlive on footpaths. After hearing me out, three of them ran away. However, two stayed behind and sat with me for half an hour. One of them was mostly quiet. He was constantly scratching his head, throwing off dandruff and dirt; there may even have been lice in his beard, because he was scratching that too. His fingernails were unusual: their edges were black with dirt. The one who was talking to me looked like he was a newcomer in this field. He said his name was Nasir. He had come from Khokhar Road near Lahore's Ravi Bund.
"Why do you do Nashaa?" I asked.
He said, "We don't do Nashaa...Nashaa is done by them who take heroine. We only puff hashish. It's all about man's bravery. After puffing hashish, if a man eats fruit, the effect is very powerful." As he said this, Nasir appeared to be in a happy mood.
"Where do you get money for hashish?" I asked.
"Thank God," said Nasir, "I earn 300 hundred per day by collecting discarded papers and empty plastic bottles from the roads and markets."
"Are you a married?" I asked.
"Yes, I am married and I have two children. My wife is Matric-pass and she is happy with me."
"Are your children going to school these days?"
"A drug addicted person is caught like a fish"
Nasir said, "In Pakistan we do not want schooling for our children because here in every department "recommendation “and money alone get things done. The education system here exploits the poor. A poor man's son can't get a job easily. Anyway, I want my children to be enlightened by Islamic education." As he said this, Nasir was making a hashish cigarette.
Now another aero plane appeared. He had a little piece of cloth in his hand; it covered a bottle of Samad Bond glue. He was inhaling it after short intervals. I asked him, "Does the smell go into your system?"
He said, "I don't know, it just soothes my drowsiness."He was half-asleep: his eyes were open for some seconds and then closed, and his lips were dry. He wanted to speak but couldn't because of his drowsiness. His name was Ashraf and his clothes were also dirty.
I said, "Do your parents know about your activities?"
Nasir said, "Yes they know but we give our earning to our parents every day. Parents are saddened by those children who do nashaa and steal things from their own homes to finance the habit. We don't do this."
Here I turned to Ashraf, the new arrival. "Where are you from?"
"Sargodha," he replied. Suddenly he added, "My wife and I take heroine with delight."
"Why do you do this?" I asked.
Ashraf said, "My father died in 1980 and after 13 years my mother departed too. When nobody is there for you, what can you do?"
I asked, "Do you get heroine easily? Where do you take it?"
He said, "It is very hard to purchase. It is rare... buss mil heejati hai." Ashraf was not willing to disclose the source.
"Do you want to rid yourself of this heroine addiction? Has the government ever tried to help you in this way?"
Ashraf said, "We want to rid ourselves of this destructive thing. But hospital management do not co-operate with us when we go there. They say get out at once, you Nashaa! We want their glucose bottles inside us. We'll feel much better. But the hospital people abuse us."
"Can you beat the habit yourself?" I asked.
"No, we can't leave it because a drug addicted person is caught like a fish. After it is trapped in a net, a fish can live only if destiny desires it. Otherwise that fish is done for. This is our life. We can try to leave the drug, but the drug won't leave us."
I now saw that Nasir, the other drug-addict, had blade injuries on his hand. "How did you get those?" I asked.
He said when the police arrested him; he had nobody among his relatives who would provide his bail. So, to get himself released, he cut himself with blades. "The police let us go when they see blood flowing from our bodies, but the scars of those injuries remain on our bodies forever."