Bitter memories: Desperate for drugs, he slashed his wrists with a pencil sharpener’s blade. He once travelled 300 kilometers to Rajasthan with his friends to do drugs.
Rescued from hell: Life after the high

Photos by Ravi Choudhary
Text by Prawesh Lama

The 14-year-old has spent half his life sniffing fluids and smoking heroin.

But I am a changed man now, he says, I deserve a chance. The 14-year-old lives in a rehabilitation centre run by the Delhi government – no place for a teenager. But he is not the only one. There are 74 others whose lives intertwine at this Old Delhi rehabilitation centre for children using drugs.

“The Times They Are a-Changin'”: The 13-year-old had never been to school. Today, he does not miss a single class at the rehab.

A 12-year-old confesses he once stole a cycle rickshaw to buy heroin. “We had planned a heroin party and needed money. We stole a cycle rickshaw from the road and sold it for ₹ 350. I am ashamed of it. It was a sin,” he says.

Innocence ruined: At 13, he fights his addiction alone. He has developed anger issues. He once burnt a friend, who was trying to calm him down, with a hot iron.
From darkness to light: The 12-year-old is afraid of the day he returns to society, but says tomorrow will be better.

Most of Delhi’s child addicts are addicted to marijuana and smack (heroin). Rajesh Kumar, director of the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), a non-profit that works towards prevention of drug abuse, says some kids start drugs as early as the age of 6 or 7. “It starts with fluid, which is cheaper. Then they graduate to marijuana and smack. There are many cases of children infected with HIV because they shared needles while injecting drugs,” says Kumar. The organisation runs a rehab centre only for children.

Making friends: Some miss their families, others miss the life they left behind.
Finding a balance: It is important to follow a routine. Activities keep the children engaged and ensure they are not tempted towards drugs.
Search for redemption: A step towards a healthier life. Mornings begin at 7. By 8, everyone assembles at the hall for an hour of yoga.
A different life, a different world: Children help prepare the food every evening. A 15-year-old even realized that he wants to be a chef someday.
Helpings hands: Once a week doctors come to give them de-addiction pills.
Writing on the wall: Outside the main gate of rehab centre in Old Delhi. It reads ‘The plight of drug addicts.'
Childhood decayed in drugs: A decayed childhood: Locked in the rehab. The boys are not allowed to step out but are allowed visits from relatives on Saturdays.
Descending into doom: He has stopped speaking. He prefers to be alone and spends his days scratching the walls of the rehab center.

At the Old Delhi centre, doctors visit once a week to give medicines, which help fight addiction. Two teachers hold classes every day for the children. The change is visible. A 13-year-old, who has never been to school, is reading a book. He prefers not to be disturbed. “Education is my only hope.”

Web Producer: Anand Katakam
Editor: Zehra Kazmi