Talanoa: A silent killer

Youths pledge to be drug-free. Picture: SUPPLIED

Bula readers, last week was the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and seeing that headline hit a chord within me that took me back to my childhood days.

As an adolescent I studied in London before returning to my beloved Fiji and have so many fond memories and strong friendships with an array of people across a wide spectrum of society from the rich of the richest to the needy and down trodden.

This cross section of communities that I was fortunate enough to interact with laid a strong foundation for me to respect people of all colours, creed as well as religious beliefs and to understand that rich or poor, black or white everybody should be valued.

Growing up I befriended a wonderful individual named Robert, he was quiet and unassuming, but a very easy person to get along with. We used to hang out in school and walk home together doing the usual things young boys get up to, playing soccer, throwing around a rugby ball and having big dreams.

Looking back, those adolescent days were fun loving and care free, with not a worry in the world as our complete universe consisted of sport, movies and food, also maybe the odd infatuation with one of the girls in our school.

There were about eight of us in a group of friends who formed a great friendship and up until this day I am in touch with each and every one of them except for Robert.

Looking back, there were no signs that Robert would be interested in any form of drugs as he came from a well to do family. His parents were kind and considerate people, his only sibling an older sister was a companionate soul and loyal to him through thick and thin, which once again proves drugs have no barriers or borders and can engulf anyone, anytime and any place.

At around 15 years old Robert started drifting a little from our core group, but that was expected as everyone was entitled to a little space to grow and mature. By the time he was 17 I noticed he was smoking and having less to do with our group of friends and there was a new hesitancy in him joining our friendship group and more of a tendency to want to do his own thing.

Being quiet by nature, I was fine with this as our bond as friends was strong and I would pop over to his home quite regularly. He was the same lovely guy I had always known, but his changing moods and slight paranoia was a little concerning, but after a few heart to heart chats he was fine.

Over the next few years Robert would still come over and hang out with us and for the life of me I couldn’t see any signs of him being much different to the wonderful enduring person he had been throughout our school days.

Maybe I was just naive or not looking for any signs of a close friend in our group drifting off and being more aloof and detached. Maybe I failed as a friend and was too concerned in my own life and enjoying my young adult years to see any signs of him suffering in silence.

Looking back, I know for a fact it was not a very cool thing for young men to share their feelings or express their failings with others and maybe that is where I failed to connect with Robert.

Regardless of this I did fail and never saw the signs of a dear friend slipping into a world of drugs and misery so quickly and so rapidly.

In an instant it was all over, my dear friend Robert under the influence of drugs ended his life, and I didn’t even see it coming.

Rest in peace Robert, I still think I failed you, my childhood friend, mentor and beautiful soul.

  • Ajay Bhai Amrit is a freelance writer. The views expressed in this article are his and does not necessarily reflect the views shared by this newspaper.


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