Behind this versatile man of cheerful dispensation is a personality that is shattered. Ginni (not his real name) can be called a struggler as he goes about picking up the shards of his life with a hazy focus.

He wants to lead a clean and healthy life since he cannot miss out on the good things that it has to offer. He has a lot to look forward to. This is what in the world of treatment of substance use is called ‘Recovery Capital’.

Ginni is such a versatile character that it is very difficult to profile him in a fixed pattern. For many other substance users who are now clean, the thoughts keep oscillating between the past and present .

His disturbed past is compartmentalized into several small facets and these keep coming back to convolute his thought process. That is why writing his disjointed profile is challenging in itself

Ginni loves his body. I could not believe that the photograph he showed me was him. I could not believe that the muscular bodybuilder in the picture was actually the man standing next to me, a lean but still fairly sturdy fellow.

“I nurtured my body like a child. I used to drink eight to ten litres of milk daily and had a very rich diet. This I countered with up to 2200 push ups daily. The ground where I did these bore the marks of my knuckles. I lost it all to drugs. But I am working on my body again and soon I will be as before,” he told this reporter.

This was just one aspect of Ginni’s physical fitness. It did not come as a surprise when he said that he was a Kabaddi player who used to play for Kabaddi Clubs in London. Kabaddi tournaments there are very popular among the Asians living there.

So where did his journey begin? This boy was born in 1993 in a village in Doaba region of Punjab. His father ran a tailoring shop and he also picked up the skill while growing up. He started smoking and drinking alcohol very early in his school days and was also thrown out of his school once. He managed to get basic education till higher secondary after which he pursued a course in Rajasthan on treating the legs of horses.

Apart from working on his physique, he had also become sexually active at a very early age. Along with others from his region, he too managed to enter the United Kingdom where he worked as a veterinary expert to treat horses, and began representing clubs in South Hall and Leicester in Kabaddi Leagues.

“This was the best phase of my life. But it was during this phase only that my decline began as one of the players got me to try heroin and I fell into the trap. Getting opium and cannabis was no problem there. But I took to heroin like a fish to water. But maybe because the stuff there was pure or maybe because I was playing continuously, I never experienced withdrawals even if I did not consume it for several days,” he said.

But trouble began when an African was murdered by another under the influence of substance and there was a major crackdown on users. It was in that commotion that he got deported to India.

Before his deportation, there was a tornado hitting his personal life. He was wrongly accused of having an affair with his maternal aunt’s daughter- in- law. His aunt’s family lived in London and he used to visit them once in a while. He came to know that his cousin had filed a divorce petition.

“I could not see such injustice being done to a woman in my name. Despite all opposition from my parents I went ahead and married the woman,two years after her divorce was settled. I accepted her toddler daughter as my own,” Ginni said.

His return to India in 2015 and the turmoil in his personal life soon saw him taking to drugs in a big way. “I was using opium, chitta, heroin, MDMA and other stuff. I cannot tell you how it has left an indelible mark on my body as well as my psyche. I got my finger cut into two as I tried to escape my father from catching me while having illicit sex with a gardener’s wife in the village. There was no pain even as my split finger hung and there was heavy blood loss. It was the time when I realized that heroin can kill all pain,” he recalled.

After a few months of his return to India, he again got a chance to pick up the shreds of his life. He got an offer from the Gulf where he used to go to treat the horses of ‘wealthy Sheikhs’. “Life was on the fast track once more. I had money. I was having pure drugs while frequently traveling to the region. In between I was making frequent trips to the Frontier province in Pakistan as well. I was dealing in drugs and the money used to come into my foreign accounts,” he disclosed.

But at the same time his drug consumption was ever on the rise. And as all good things came to an end, his life was heading towards the eye of another storm.

“The people in the Gulf for whom I worked stopped employing me going by my condition. My sources in Pakistan dried. My money supply had dried up. I did not sleep for several days when my partner in the Gulf refused to give me work. It was very humiliating and painful. Meanwhile I had fallen prey to ‘Kaala Piliya’ (Hepatitis C),” Ginni said.

It was his wife who came to his rescue as he went to a private rehab for treatment. She spent the money she had got in alimony from her previous marriage on his recovery. “I managed my withdrawal in terms of pain but could not sleep for 23 days at a stretch,” he recalled.

But he had a relapse very soon as his ‘using partner’ got back to him and he was using drugs again.

“With the money supply running dry, I took to crime. I did some things for which I will never be able to forgive myself. I keep questioning myself whether it was the drugs that got me to do these things under their influence or whether I was too weak a man to stand up to such inhuman behavior with me. Once a gangster asked me to bash up a woman who was the daughter of a judge. This judge had given an adverse judgement against the gang lord. For some money that would buy me drugs I hit the woman brutally when she was out for her evening walk. I still remember how I kicked her hard in the abdomen. It was only after some days that I came to know that she was in her advanced stage of pregnancy,” he said with tears in his eyes as we sat on a remote hilltop in Himachal Pradesh on a winter evening.

“I cannot complain of life being cruel to me. I have committed many sins that can never be atoned,” he said while disclosing that he had also taken to breaking bank ATMs as a part of the gang of criminals.

“Very few people know that I have also spent some time behind the bars also. But getting drugs in the jail was all the easier. We had bribed the jail staff. We just had to stand in a particular spot in the jail grounds next to a wall at a fixed time. Our source outside threw in a leather cricket ball with the contraband inside,” he said.

Soon he had started making trips to the Gulf again as the prospects of treating horses there were looking bright again. “I was carrying Addnok tablets on flights while I always got heroin at my destinations,” he said.

The dependence was getting worse. “I had gone to the state where I was injecting the vein in my neck. Prior to this I had slashed my left thigh and had inserted a cannula to a vein so that I could inject heroin into it. After this vein got blocked, I had done the same to the right thigh as well,” he said.

His wife was unhappy and very anxious at the way their life was moving. She arranged for a pick-up and Ginni was lifted from Delhi airport on his arrival from one such trip to Dubai.

“The moment I stepped out I could see five hefty fellows glaring at me. I could sense my time was up but still I tried to make a dash to freedom. But they caught me and I was beaten brutally seven times on the way to the rehab. The thrashing was so severe that I had blood coming out with stool for many days. There were days when I used to get very furious at my wife for having subjected me to this ordeal. I often promised myself that I would divorce her whenever I got out. But I reconciled to my fate slowly. I finally understood the pains that she was taking to help me recover,” he said.

He shared that his wife has been bearing the expenses of his treatment and has been sending him additional Rs 15,000 to have a rich diet and go for exercise to once again build the body that he has always craved for.

“I often joke with her that the next time we are together, we will have a session of wild sex,” he laughed one morning. But he also shared the darker side of sex and drugs. “Initially a man under the influence of drugs has a high libido. He feels very proud when his sexual partner tells him about the pains she is experiencing after a wild session. But it is the drugs that he has consumed that are responsible for her pains. It is unnatural and harmful,” he said.

He was clean for seven months when he last met me and was continuing to take treatment for Kaala Piliya. He intends to once again get the paperwork done so that he can go back to London to join his wife and daughter. Early one morning I was surprised to see him in tears at one moment and smiling the next.

“My wife calls me daily which gets annoying at times. But today it was the baby calling. I could not hold back my tears when she said,‘ Papa when do I get to see you here with me.’ She is six years old now. I long to be with the child,” he said.

In his life he has gathered several skills apart from treating the legs of horses. “I can cook. I know tailoring and I can also run a hair cutting saloon. I am confident that whatever I do I will be a success. I have cut my contacts in the past. I want to begin my life afresh,” Ginni said.

“The substance users have a criminal streak in them. They want to challenge the law at every step. I love driving an Enfield Bullet without a silencer. I never wear a helmet. Whenever I see a police barricade I just increase my speed to 100 kmph or above and it is fun seeing the cops jump out of the way to save their lives. But this is nothing in comparison to what I was doing before,” he said.

He is still lodged at the rehab centre because he doesn’t want to go home. He finds it more homely at the centre where life is far more organized and you are not looked down upon. He is one of the centre’s ‘staff’ who often goes for ‘pick ups’ or spends time monitoring the CCTV camera panel to ensure that new cases do not resort to anything extreme while in withdrawal.

“I will treat you to a pastry today. I got my first salary of Rs 4,000 from the centre today. This paltry sum is far more precious than the lakhs I was earning before,” he said, shaking me up from an evening siesta.

He wanted me to visit his centre before he goes back to the UK. He has promised me an evening by the riverside with some sumptuous fish and rice. I too am looking forward to meeting him soon.