Thirty-year-old Shyam (name changed), walks into a hospital with his inconsolable mother. He cannot understand what he is being asked. Although he is literate with a degree, nothing of what is asked can be processed by him. He has come to the hospital complaining about three addictions – tobacco, cannabis and alcohol, yet he has no idea what happens to him. Sitting there like a log of wood, Shyam smiles, if asked a question.
“Shyam is just one example. On a daily basis, we get about 10-15 patients coming in for de-addiction treatment. Out of these 10, about 20 per cent are in their teens. Like Shyam, their addiction began with whitener inhaling due to peer pressure at the age of 16.Then they started trying different types of intoxicants and can’t come out of a trance once they are in it,” said Dr Sagar Karia, psychiatrist at Sion hospital. Shyam will soon meet the Sunday Friends for help, if need be. He is not the only one doing this, a lot of people who visit the hospital visit Sunday Friends for monetary or such help.
About 35 years ago, a group of friends who generally met at an idli shop for breakfast, thought of doing something that could help the society. They started with feeding people on Sundays but have gradually grown to do so much more. Three elderly Sunday Friends sit at Sion hospital from 9:30 am to 1:30pm to provide medical assistance. “We charge say about Rs20 for de-addiction pills that cost about thrice as much outside. We want to help people. In this hospital, most patients come from a poor background so we try and provide as much subsidy as we can.”
Sunday Friends give medicines to at least 10 addicts a day. “Drugs, alcohol, charas ganja are all common addictions. The alarming fact is that these men belong to a productive age group.”
Ask them what else they do, they happily say, “We feed a lot of people on Sundays, these are generally the relatives of the people admitted at the hospital. Apart from that we teach kids who come to eat or those whom we meet in the hospitals.”
Dr Karia says de-addiction treatment for drug abuse is very important, “The need for such treatments are high. However, we don’t see a lot of subsidy happening on that front. That’s when we have to take aid from an NGO or a help group.”
Sion Hospital has a great help in the form of ‘Sunday Friends.’ Painfully shy and sincerely dedicated, Sunday Friends have been angels to many. A group that doesn’t believe in publicity or self-boasting spoke with us on one condition- “None of our pictures or names will be revealed”. They have helped many people with skin and blood donations too. Silently, they wish to serve many more to de-addict themselves and lead a happy life!”