Philip, a civil police man, Ganesh, excise department officer and Mahesh, a KSEB employee have united for a cause.

Khakhi power Meet the three Kerala govt employees talking about de-addictionAll photographs sourced from Mahesh
news Human Interest Friday, August 04, 2017 - 11:17

Philip, a native of Malappuram, had gone through difficult years overcoming alcohol addiction.

Mahesh, has witnessed the downfall of addiction through the lives of his parents.

And for Ganesh, it is purely an extension of his own work and a cause he identifies with. 

Three men, all clad in Khaki uniforms, working in three different government offices in Kerala, have come together on a single platform, to spread the word against addiction.

Philip Mambad, a civil policeman, Ganesh, an officer at the excise department and Mahesh Chithravarnam, an employee at Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), live in Malappuram district.

While Philip is the orator who addresses the audience, Ganesh recites poetry and Mahesh sits on the stage, conveying his message through his paint brush and canvas. 

How do they do what they do?

The three men met each other purely by coincidence.

It was after a painful process, that Philip was able to overcome his alcohol addiction.   

"I first tried smoking and drinking when I was a teenager, it was fashionable. Everybody smoked and everybody drank and so did I. However, there came a point when I have myself heard parents of my friends advice them not to befriend me, for I was an addict. I didn't believe this. Years later, I got married, I had children. But my drinking habit stayed on and there came a time when I used to even drink while I was on duty. I didn't like to call myself that, but I soon realized I had become an addict. My behavior changed...towards my family, towards the people who came to meet me at work. I grew angry and restless and cared for nobody's words," Philip explains.

For Philip, it was not an easy decision to go for de-addiction.

"My wife and other family members used to ask me to quit. My parents in fact, didn't stand me during my struggle. At one point, my wife refused to eat if I didn't quit drinking and it went on for a week, at the end of which, she had to be hospitalized. I decided then, that I did not need alcohol in my life anymore. That was not an end, but a start," says Philip. 

This is a story he has reiterated many times, even at the venues he goes to. Philip believes that coming from a police officer, students would be more receptive and would follow his words.

"In my talk, I also stress on the importance of family members, one's parents. Alcohol or drug addiction is a disease like any other. Do you make fun of someone who has cancer? Don't you support their struggle to get back to life? Similarly, addiction is also a condition and the person who is an addict should get all the empathy and support he/she can get," says Philip.

For 35-year-old Mahesh, a staff at Nilambur 66 KV sub-station, it was his own personal experience that drove him to commit his time for the cause. As a child, Mahesh had been a victim of his father's alcoholism.

"I remember the difficulties we went through because of my father's alcoholism. As a child, the image of him coming home drunk and behaving rudely to us has remained with me all along. Alcohol became by enemy even when I was a child," says Mahesh. 

From a very young age, Mahesh used to paint. When he was 18, he made use of his paintings to convey the message of anti-addiction. As a student, painting on chart papers that cost less than Rs 5 was the only option before him to spread the message on addiction.

In government service for the more than two decades, 45-year-old Ganesh served as a civil policeman for the first decade of his career. Later, he switched to the excise department. 

"Some six years ago, I had gone to a school in Tirur, where an awareness class on de-addiction was to take place. However, due to some emergency, my senior wasn't able to make it. The children had already assembled at the hall and we had to address them. And so I conducted the class," says Ganesh. 

To his surprise, Ganesh found that his words found acceptance among the students. Ganesh had recited a poem he had written himself. 

"I used to write poetry and at the class, I happened to recite one of my poems that is related to addiction. It was a poem based on real life crimes, where the accused committed the crime under the influence of alcohol or drug. It was called "Laharikku parayan ullathu" (What addiction wants to say)," says Ganesh. 

Since then, Ganesh has conducted many classes across the state, sometimes even at bus stands. 

The Coming Together 

While Philip and Mahesh were doing their individual bit in spreading awareness, they met at a seminar in 2009. Mahesh joined Philip and they began to conduct classes together.

When Philip speaks, Mahesh would paint on his canvas to spread the message. The duo has conducted at least 1000 classes by now, Mahesh says.

It was fairly recently, that Ganesh joined the team.

"One-and-a-half-years ago, I went to Malappuram to attend a seminar and I saw Mahesh and Philip conducting class there. I had reached a little early that day and sat for their class. Since my own topic of discussion was also anti-addiction, I went on to the stage along with them. That's when it dawned on us, that we could actually be a team," Ganesh says.

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