Balbir Singh, 80, a transporter from Mulund, claims he got addicted to consuming opium in the late 1970s, to get rid of acute knee joint pain that he started experiencing while driving his truck for long hours.
“I would often pick up goods from Bangalore and drive continuously to Mumbai, so I could claim extra baksish of Rs 500 from the ‘seth’ for reaching on time. Doing that for years, I hurt my knee joints and the pain did not subside despite medication of all sorts,” said Balbir.
Finally, doctors at the JJ Hospital prescribed opium to Balbir, to help relieve the pain.
Balbir Singh. (HT photo)
“The pain stopped after taking opium,” Balbir said, adding that the substance also helped relieve other pathological problems such as indigestion.
Balbir, whose roots are in Hoshiapur, Punjab, went on to speak volumes about the good effects of opium and vouched for its ability to cure diseases, little knowing that the problems he faces in its absence are withdrawal symptoms. “It keeps my blood pressure and diabetes in check. If I don’t have it, my entire body will become numb and motionless,” he said, adding that the narcotic substance is a “medicine” for his ailments. “A few years ago, there was a short supply of opium for twothree months. Five of the users died, as they could not bear the pain and no medicine could save them,” he said.
However, his fellow transporter friends, Balka Singh, 75, from Sion Koliwada and Karnal Mangal Singh, 83, from Kalamboli, admitted that the addiction to opium was the root of all the health problems they are facing at present.
“It’s a cursed life. We took to it following the footsteps of our elders, before they became full-fledged addicts. Opium will make one its slave. We pray that no one falls prey to it,” said Karnal Singh, as Balka nodded in agreement.
Balka Singh. (HT photo)