BOOK EXCERPT

First read: Craving in a taxi and heading into rehab

An excerpt from a brutally honest account of what it’s like to be addicted.

I’ve thought about that first night I chased smack so often in the nine years since that it has acquired the dull tedium of watching, in slow-motion rewind, a movie you’ve already seen. Almost a part of somebody else’s life, y’know? I smoked the first line and paused. Nothing happened.

No lightning bolt struck me down, no police sirens signalled my arrest, none of my limbs flailed about in toxic convulsion. Neither Ali nor Google, for all their dark words of prophecy, mentioned this: the danger in heroin, the really scary thing, is not what she does to you but what she doesn’t.

You don’t get jittery like on coke or speed, or hungry and horny like with marijuana. Your chest heats up and you’re thinking, hey, this could be bourbon anywhere. You feel a slight itch on your scalp and you scratch it. It is pleasant. You nod into dreamy semi-sleep and that, too, is pleasant. The hours float by soft as cotton-candy. Somewhere a phone rings and it might be you have a dinner date with your girlfriend or a meeting with your boss or a medical emergency at home, but it doesn’t matter. Nothing does, really. The hours float.

My father smokes cigarettes and discusses Mumbai’s weather and traffic with the taxi driver. I pretend to be asleep because I cannot stand to look into his kind eyes. If he asks me again for the millionth time how I am I will rip his head off. So, champ, how are you? he will say and then I will be forced to reach over and kill him.

He’s been nervous ever since we flew in to the city yesterday. I can’t imagine why – he’s plenty practiced at escorting me to rehab centres.

Seven years ago in Bangalore, a year later again in Bangalore, three years after that in New Delhi, and now Mumbai. Different cities, different rehabs, different taxi drivers, but always Pa smoking in the backseat and me pretending to be asleep next to him.

It feels like forever that we’ve been on the road and now it winds through a shallow valley surrounded on three sides by mountains. To the north it is all sunbright, and the tall grasses change colour like a carpet rubbed against the grain. The southern mountains opposite are dark with the threat of storm clouds. It is a striking scene, and I shift a bit in my seat to take in the idea of all this nature just beyond the persuasive ugliness of Mumbai.

“So, champ, how are you?”

Fuck. FuuuuCK. “Fine.”

I am not. The last eighth-of-a-gram I chased in the hotel toilet is wearing off. The sickness is close and gets closer, as inevitable as time ticking. I run a finger down my forearm and raise goosebumps. That’s why they call it cold turkey, you know, because in heroin withdrawal your flesh looks like a turkey stripped bare.

It’s good party talk, a fun fact, until you’re in it and you run a finger down your forearm and then it’s not so much fun. My finger scrapes through the skin to the muscle and nerve- endings and bone beneath. It is an alien feeling. Worse than how bad the body feels is what the sickness does to the mind.

All the soft curves in the world turn to jagged edges. The grasses dancing in the sunlight conceal clumps of poison ivy and sharp stones, the fucking mountains are depressing and they bore me. The taxi driver, an amiable sort of fellow minutes ago, is now slyly shooting contemptuous and knowing glances at me in his rear-view mirror. He hates me and I hate him right back. He wants me dead. I wish he dies first.

But worse, much worse, than all of that is the need. Remember when you were young and hadn’t jerked-off in a while and your older sister’s friend came around in a short skirt and the sight of her creamy thighs made you so crazy with lust you could hump a wall? Ever woken up hungover in college and been so thirsty your insides felt shrivelled and gluey and you would kill for a drink of sweet, sweet water but you can’t have any because the mess hall is locked?

Take all the times you’ve ever craved anything – chocolate cake, sex, a pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps, a highway washroom to empty your bladder in, whatever – add them up, multiply that feeling by two hundred, and maybe you come a little nearer to understanding my need for a chemical fix.

It approximates hunger, if only because of the hole that gapes open in the middle just below where my heart used to be. I would do anything to fill that hole; cram every expired fermented thing from the kitchen into my mouth, lick the plaster off walls, stuff my nostrils with kerosene-soaked rags, swallow Lizol, sniff paint remover, eat clay, chew glass, bite chalk, bite raw red meat bite it ... bite it ... bite it ...

Grinding my teeth, I must’ve bitten into tongue or cheek because the taste of blood fills my mouth. The taxi has stopped in front of ten-foot-high iron gates painted silver. A stone wall topped with loops of barb wire runs on either side of the gates. Pa looks at me. The only condition I had had when agreeing to come to this rehab was that I shouldn’t be able to see a stitch of barb wire anywhere.

“Well, champ, here we are. Doesn’t look very promising, does it? Are you okay?”

He is worried I’ll run. I’ve run before, from other rehabs surrounded by barb wire. I’m too tired to tell him that I’m tired. Of trying to fill a bottomless hole. Of being asked why and never having an answer. I’m tired of waking up every morning and wishing I hadn’t. I’m tired of running.

The driver leans on the horn and the gates open inward as if by magic. If someone on the other side pulled them open, they are hidden in the shadows. As we drive through, I see a granite plaque embedded in the gatepost. Etched on it in unassuming letters, Our Sacred Land. I am too tired to even roll my eyes. I can not breathe.

Excerpted with permission from White Magic, Arjun Nath, HarperCollins India.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Movies can make you leap beyond what is possible

Movies have the power to inspire us like nothing else.

Why do we love watching movies? The question might be elementary, but one that generates a range of responses. If you had to visualise the world of movies on a spectrum, it would reflect vivid shades of human emotions like inspiration, thrill, fantasy, adventure, love, motivation and empathy - generating a universal appeal bigger than of any other art form.

“I distinctly remember when I first watched Mission Impossible I. The scene where Tom Cruise suspends himself from a ventilator to steal a hard drive is probably the first time I saw special effects, stunts and suspense combined so brilliantly.”  

— Shristi, 30

Beyond the vibe of a movie theatre and the smell of fresh popcorn, there is a deeply personal relationship one creates with films. And with increased access to movies on television channels like &flix, Zee Entertainment’s brand-new English movie channel, we can experience the magic of movies easily, in the comforts of our home.

The channel’s tagline ‘Leap Forth’ is a nod to the exciting and inspiring role that English cinema plays in our lives. Comparable to the pizazz of the movie premieres, the channel launched its logo and tagline through a big reveal on a billboard with Spider-Man in Mumbai, activated by 10,000 tweets from English movies buffs. Their impressive line-up of movies was also shown as part of the launch, enticing fans with new releases such as Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, The Dark Tower, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Life.

“Edgar Wright is my favourite writer and director. I got interested in film-making because of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the dead. I love his unique style of storytelling, especially in his latest movie Baby Driver.”

— Siddhant, 26

Indeed, movies can inspire us to ‘leap forth’ in our lives. They give us an out-of-this-world experience by showing us fantasy worlds full of magic and wonder, while being relatable through stories of love, kindness and courage. These movies help us escape the sameness of our everyday lives; expanding our imagination and inspiring us in different ways. The movie world is a window to a universe that is full of people’s imaginations and dreams. It’s vast, vivid and populated with space creatures, superheroes, dragons, mutants and artificial intelligence – making us root for the impossible. Speaking of which, the American science fiction blockbuster, Ghost in the Shell will be premiering on the 24th of June at 1:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M, only on &flix.

“I relate a lot to Peter Parker. I identified with his shy, dorky nature as well as his loyalty towards his friends. With great power, comes great responsibility is a killer line, one that I would remember for life. Of all the superheroes, I will always root for Spiderman”

— Apoorv, 21

There are a whole lot of movies between the ones that leave a lasting impression and ones that take us through an exhilarating two-hour-long ride. This wide range of movies is available on &flix. The channel’s extensive movie library includes over 450 great titles bringing one hit movie premiere every week. To get a taste of the exciting movies available on &flix, watch the video below:

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of &flix and not by the Scroll editorial team.