This is the abyss: absolute, equaliser, inhumane and stigmatised. An abyss that exists in humans, in humans who are all the same, without any pathway or any hope.It’s sewn to their own bodies, visible in their eyes, they walk it, dragging it unconsciously on the pavement, lying under bridges while begging, as in a paradox, when this seems to all run away.
To get into heroin, in the world of its consumers, to immerse in that abyss of drug addiction in Pakistan, a preliminary abandonment of certainties and a prior assimilation of certain concepts is necessary, it is necessary to unveil the cataloging that marks such weakness and despair, it is necessary to be devoid of every stigma and every accusation: only after having set aside all of this, one can understand the reality of those who left for the war, but who have a conscious awareness of being defeated.
The Red Fort in the background, a muezzin who calls for prayer and his voice echos from minaret to minaret and the capital of Punjab is tinged red more and more: the red sky of Lahore, the roofs are red and even the walls of the houses, just like the earth,that is also red and the sunset that is stained by heroin. In the city’s streets drugs addicts wrapped in blankets can be observed. Some have flies that swarm around their mouths, others on their closed eyelids, under which, mendacious dreams of a cruel evasion, go by advocating a fake and instant well-being. All over Lahore you meet men, women and young people who sit with a syringe in their hand or completely lost in an opium high. They have faces that are almost mystical, faces of martyrs. Knotted hair, chewed cheeks, eyes glazed over and almost haunted. They are hermits among the masses, solitary in their existence and perpetually alone in the penalty.
The Asiatic country boasts the chilling primacy of being the first country in the world to consume heroin: 800, 000 drug addicts and 44 tons of substanceis consumed in Pakistan in one year alone. To help you understand the the tragedy that the Afghan drug produces in the neighboring country, it is necessary to go to Alì park. It is here, in the old town, in the red light district of Heera Mandi, in the shadow of the graves and the buildings of the days of the Mogul of Lahore, where you find the consuming citizens. From far away it seems like a normal park but, once you get closer and you get inside, there is the reality that manifests itself immediately. Two young guys of about twenty years old are rinsing the needle of a syringe in a bottle of water. One rolls up the sleeve of his shirt and then, with a belt tight around his arm, bulges a vein; so the other supports the needle and, with the accuracy of an alchemist, looks at the back of the syringe which, after the plunger has been pressed a little, penetrates the arm of his young friend, pierced and lost as if a Saint Sebastian of the lands of Pakistan. A strange ghostly man wanders around, with cut arms ad eyes fixated elsewhere, a little distance away there is another group of drug addicts who pass a syringe hand to hand and, more secluded, there are two very young guys, Shabbaz and Muhammad, with rags in their hands, they spread them on the grass and scatter them with shoe glue.
“Today we don’t have enough money to buy heroin. We use glue. It’s true: we are addicts, but we don’t have anything else in our lives. We are orphans and we come from the outskirts of Lahore, we don’t have friends or parents. The family is us and the others who come to this park. We are 24 and 26 years old, we started to take drugs when we were 12. We won’t stop taking them, it will end when we die.” Then, with a consciously bitter fatalism, they continue: “Our lives are nothing other than finding a dose and injecting it in our veins. At times the police end up coming, they put us in prison for a few days, they beat us, and in the end they let us go. We always come back here and continue to live this life. It is not a nice way to live, and it won’t even be a nice death when the time comes, but it is what awaits us.”
Death does not scare them and it exists as an unavoidable and imminent companion of today for the heroin addicts of Lahore. Fear doesn’t show through their stories, if anything emerges is an exasperated acceptance of the prison in which they are constrained and an inaccessible desire for freedom, but prefigured only by death. “A few of my friends are missing. You see, every time we take heroin something could happen and some guys, like us, died here, right in this park where we are talking right now. An overdose, and everything’s over.” The violence of the story is accompanied by the violence of the scene around. Where everything carries signs of heroin, of the horror that destroys the world, its logic and values, affections and religions and it is in this way that humans drag themselves as if they are dead, imploring the dose to live.
Among them there is also Safraaz, who did not however want to talk in front of the others and invited me to his house, an apartment in the center. Safraaz is devoured by drugs. His cheekbones and his bones seem to be coming out of his skin, he walks with difficulty, he is 50 years old and started using substances almost thirty years ago: “When I have money I buy heroin, if not I get anything else I can afford to keep me going. Now I live here and I take drugs. My friends and my parents give me money; I tell them I need it to eat, but I spend it on drugs. I need to do it and when I have heroin I consume 2 or 3 grams per day.” The house is dark and even the Pakistani sun rays try to stay away from his home, leaving Safraaz collapsed in the darkness that is on and all around him. He stops to talk suddenly, undoes his robe and from the tie of his trousers he takes out a foil packet. He opens it, and there it is: inside is heroin. He puts a 20 rupie coin in his nostril and then, with a gesture of prostration against an absolute deity, he bends the sniff and in juts one hit the heroin is in his brain: he lies on the floor, his eyeballs fall backwards and the only thing that can be done is to witness the moment, in the dark and in the silence of his home where everything has a taste of defeat, punishment and guilt.
There is a sense of personal embarrassment when looking out into the abyss, watching the lives of the last ones. Men like Safraaz and young guys like Shabaaz and Muhammad are boxers in ruin, who take hits without hitting back: one after the other, of their lives, of fate, of nihilism. Victims without not even the consolations of the piety of others but, instead, intimately raped by the cruel crucifixion of public contempt, of the indifferent community and moral accusation from most of them.