Twenty-seven years ago, Anil and Sunanda Awachat founded Muktangan, a Pune-based drug de-addiction centre, with the hope that society would someday be drug-free.
Muktangan is now one of India’s most prominent de-addiction centres, known for its emphasis on non-medicinal treatment.
In 2010, Anil Awachat wrote Muktanganchi Gosht (The story of Muktangan) in what has become a best-selling non-fiction Marathi book. Its English translation by Mumbai-based Sumedha Raikar-Mhatre, Learning to Live Again, was released last week in the city.
“I wanted our experiences as counsellors and those of rehabilitated addicts to reach a wider audience, beyond Maharashtra,” says Awachat, 65, who also intended the book as a tribute to his wife, Sunanda, who died of cancer in 1997.
Muktangan was born in 1985 when Sunanda, a practicing psychiatrist in Pune, and Awachat, a doctor-turned-writer, saw a family friend’s teenaged son grow addicted to heroin. The couple began studying treatment practices at various rehabilitation centres around the world, and started Muktangan. Playwright PL Deshpande donated Rs1 lakh, but the Awachats struggled for 10 years before they set up a permanent campus on a leased plot in Pune and established a network of donors.
The book is the story of their struggle, and accounts of people they have helped.
Having a drug-free society remains a dream. “We are swimming against the tide,” says Awachat. “But we have to go on.”