“Since my mother died everything has changed to the worse. If it wasn't for my two small children, I would have
committed suicide a long time ago. This damn medicine…”, told me Fakir, crying about his loss and life, sitting
lonely in his small room of the family’s house. The plastic tube which entangled his arm tight, making the
injecting easier for him, seemed like an allegory for his life, a life in stagnation, being stuck – Phas Gaya.
Fakir, now 29 years old, went to a few rehabs from 2002 onwards, back then for being addicted to smoking
heroin and still with the support of his mother trying to change her youngest son's life to better. She died 6 years
ago and left a vacuum in Fakir's life, only worsened by family disputes regarding the inheritance and his
continuing heroin addiction. Later on, as the heroin became more expensive and the quality worsened, he got
introduced to something new: pharmaceuticals.
India, also known as the pharmacy of the Third World, is one of the biggest producers of generic drugs
worldwide. The vast variety of up to standard and most importantly affordable pharmaceuticals gives millions of
people the chance to treat their illnesses. But the lack of trade monitoring, the cover-up through corruption and
the ignorance and greed of the pharmacists have also gotten these medicines, meant to heal, to help people,
into the wrong hands.
Since more than two years now Fakir buys his prescription-only drugs from the pharmacy around the corner as
easily as they were cough syrup. Multiple times a day he injects a mix of a strong synthetic opioid plus an
antihistamine that alongside a syringe and two needles is sold for 40 Indian Rupees (about 0.75 USD). These
days his two small children seem to be just enough to keep him somehow living, dreaming and loving. Only they
somehow save him from a life that many other addicts endure and worse.
Yet also this last glimpse of hope is under constant threat. Deceived by false friends and neglected by his father,
brothers and sisters Fakir is mostly on his own with his problems, not to mention the physical consequences. The
little money that his roadside food stall, offering fried pork, generates is just enough to keep his family running.
Fakir tries hard but his addiction has long ago tightened its grip around his body and his mind. I would like to tell
something different but what the future holds for Fakir I don’t know. I hope he is going to try whatever he can
to make life for his children and eventually for himself better.
Since almost two years I document the reasons and consequences of pharmaceutical abuse in India, with a
special focus on an area in the outskirts of New Delhi. This new kind of drug abuse is related to the constantly
increasing production of generic drugs in India - like an iceberg floating in a hot ocean, not meant for each other
yet if brought together, so dangerous. Underestimated and widely underreported, it deserves attention on a
level far beyond of what has been told so far.
What I experienced during my time was more heart-breaking than anything that I had seen or even imagined
before and left me with a lot of unanswered questions. These questions and the people concerned are the
reason why I couldn’t and still can’t stop visiting the area on a regular basis. As a photographer and a human
being I owe this duty to the people who allowed me entering their world, sharing their small and big worries in
life. I have to tell this story of pharmaceutical abuse and its victims, of lives being stuck – Phas Gaya.