The hilly roads of Sylhet are treacherous, especially on foggy December nights. Even the most experienced drivers utter a prayer or two before embarking on a late night journey. But for Jisan and his friends, this is a weekly joyride. Jisan was on the wheels of his father’s Honda-CRV. The car was moving at a peculiar pace. The headlights were turning on and off to the rhythm of heavy metal music and the car jerked back and forth like a drunken demon in the night. For every ten feet forward, Jisan moved the car in reverse five feet backwards. Both Jisan and his friends were wasted to the point of insanity, a mind-altering buzz brought on by a combination of Phensidyl and heroin.
They were on their way back to Dhaka after a weeklong escapade. His friend Tanim had scored a large amount of A-grade heroin from Kalyanpur, and his other friend Onirban had managed a couple of bottles of Phensidyl from Narinda. At one point, Jisan decided to break the laws of gravity and attempted a daredevil U-turn, which sent his car tumbling into the lake.
“It all happened so fast. I still can’t believe all of us are still in one piece. Before I even realized what was going on, I was neck-deep in water, trapped in the backseat. My friend Onirban had already gone under, and he wasn’t even moving. Sajal and Jisan were sitting up front, and they were the first to get out. I had to drag Onirban out of the sinking car all by myself. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere, our phones drenched and useless; car in the bottom of the lake. We weren’t even sure whether to contact a tow-truck. We were afraid if the police got involved they would figure out that we were wasted out of our minds. Besides, there was still 15grams of heroin locked in the dashboard of Jisan’s CRV. We didn’t want to take any risks.”
But the locals had informed the police anyway, who contacted Jisan’s parents. Thankfully, the boys had regained a good portion of their sobriety before the police arrived. Enough to convince the cops that it was an ordinary accident. The police let the boys off with a warning, after receiving a generous bribe from Jisan’s father to keep quiet.
As expected, the boys were pretty shaken up after the incident. Tanim and Sajal immediately vowed to quit heroin for good. While Jisan and Onirban decided to switch from foil papers to cigarettes. Which means they did not quit altogether, but merely chose a milder version of consumption, through cigarettes instead of foils. Tanim and Sajal managed to stay off drugs for a couple of weeks at a stretch, but eventually the addict’s curse reclaimed them.
What’s the addict’s curse you ask? After prolonged periods of addiction, an addict eventually loses touch with all his non-addict friends. Since all their free time is spent chasing drugs, they can only form “friendships” with other seasoned addicts. Thus when an addict decides to quit his poison of choice, he also ends up quitting his “friends”. Lack of social interaction combined with lack of drug induced euphoria is too much for any normal human being to bear. Thus, an addict has no choice but to relapse into his old ways. He is too dependent on his symbiotic relationship with other addicts, for him to return to normal life.
Before he started chasing heroin, Jisan used to be an average 17 year old whose primary interests consisted of girls, music and marijuana. After completing his O levels, Jisan moved to USA to pursue higher studies. He had somehow gotten involved with an extremist group in New Jersey, and was eventually deported to Bangladesh. After his unceremonious return to Bangladesh, Jisan became a manic depressive. He met up with Yashna, a 17 year old up and coming model; at his friend’s birthday party. After an hour of back and forth drunken flirting, she dragged Jisan to his friend’s bathroom and locked the doors. “I still remember it like it was yesterday. When a hot girl offers you pills, you just don’t say no. I was flattered that she was even talking to me in the first place and ignoring all the other guys at the party. She smoothed out a shiny foil paper she kept in her bag, and gave me my first whiff of Yaba. I was clumsy at first, a large portion of the amphetamine fumes escaped my little cylinder made out of a crisp hundred taka note. She slapped me a few times until I got it right. By the time we were chasing down our third pill, I knew I was hooked for life. I had never experienced such exhilaration, so much energy. The sudden burst of optimism that made me feel like anything was possible.”
After 48 hours, the buzz subsided and Jisan finally fell asleep. When he woke up, the sunshine burned his eyes. His lips were scorched, and his face bore obvious signs of amphetamine abuse. As the day progressed, Jisan discovered himself becoming increasingly irritable. He started smoking unusually large amounts of pot to shake off the aftermath of Yaba pills. By nightfall his irritability had transmuted into severe depression. Jisan fiddled with his phonebook and found Yashna’s number. Within a couple of hours they were back at their friend’s house, chasing pills.
The story of Jisan and Yashna may seem like an outlandish scene from a Hollywood B movie. But in reality it’s just a peep into the everyday lives of a gargantuan portion of Dhaka’s youth. From public government schools to elite English medium institutions and private universities, every student at least knows half a dozen people who are hooked on Yaba. It has come a long way from being a drug abused by only the wealthy elite. Slithering is tentacles into all classes of society, rotting it from the core; bit by bit.