Breaking Bad in Bangladesh

Breaking Bad in Bangladesh
by Shafiq for AlaloDulal

‘Breaking Bad’ is an American Cable-TV series that is currently in its last season and has become a cultural phenomenon in the US and Europe. Breaking bad is a unanimous darling of the most discerning critics and the most discriminating TV audience segments. It is now hailed as one of the greatest TV dramas of all time, joining the pantheon in company of series like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’.

The basic story of Breaking Bad is, Walt White is a High School Chemistry teacher who became diagnosed with lung cancer. With no insurance cover and little money in the bank Walt faced the prospect of dying without getting treatment and leaving his family penniless. With the aid of an ex-student, Walter used his genius and knowledge to make high quality Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth) drug and sell it to drug cartels. Gradually Walther used his cunning to become a feared drug lord in the underworld himself. The phrase ‘break bad’ is an American Southwest slang meaning to turn against one’s previously law-abiding lifestyle for a life of criminal activity.

A breaking bad incident in Dhaka is now causing much more stir in Bangladesh than Walter White is making in America. An teenage school girl (her age is part of the legal dispute) Oishee, allegedly “broke bad” with the worst crime imaginable. She was allegedly involved in brutal killing of her father and mother by multiple stabbings. And she was allegedly a Meth addict. Bangladeshis in and out of the country are abuzz, how could this happen? Lot of theories is being tossed about.

I am not going to contribute to the growing list of deep psychoanalytic and socio-economic theory behind Oishee’s alleged crime. I am just going to propose that a lot of the symptoms of Oishee’s state of mind that are being published in the media and Oishee’s alleged final action, can be traced directly to the very drug itself, Yaaba or Methamphetamine. Social or moral decay may supply contextual causes for this tragedy but I believe Meth use is directly the proximate cause. Methamphetamine is regarded the most dangerous and socially destructive illegal psychoactive substance in the developed world.

I also don’t want to go through extensive knowledge about chemistry, history, affects etc. of Methamphetamine. A 10 minute search and reading in the web will provide lot of information. What I want here is to highlight the psychological effects of Meth addiction.

Meth is known in USA, Canada as ‘Poor Man’s Cocaine’ because its mind-altering effects are similar to cocaine but it is much cheaper than coke powder. Methamphetamine is highly addictive and the drug gives the hyperactivity effects of Cocaine along with the delusional effects of LSD. Methamphetamine can keep users pumped up and ‘high’ from 6 to 12 hours. Meth abuse is mostly common in poor hinterlands of USA, it’s not a big city drug. There is a social stigma attached to Meth use so its use is not common in middle and upper class.

All drugs alter the brain irrevocably but the long and short term effects of Meth use is almost uniquely mind and character altering. Methamphetamine users show multiple behavior changes. These individuals are frequently violent, bizarre acting, excessively anxious, confused and unable to sleep. Psychotic features are very common as an effect of this drug as well. These individuals can show paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, homicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts, and out of control rages. These behavioral changes can persist for years after drug use is discontinued. An acute methamphetamine psychosis has been described in the medical literature. This is characterized by extreme paranoia, well-formed delusions, hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli, panic, extreme fearfulness, and a high potential for violence. (1)

Methamphetamine use is uniquely correlated with violent and psychotic behavior. Just read the excerpts of the following news item and see whether the excerpts sounds eerily familiar.

“When a 23-year-old Fresno woman fatally shot her two toddlers and a cousin, critically wounded her husband and then turned the gun on herself last Sunday, investigators immediately suspected methamphetamine abuse in what otherwise was inexplicable carnage. It turned out the mother had videotaped herself smoking meth hours before the shooting.” (2) “A Bakersfield mother was sentenced Tuesday for stabbing her newborn while in a meth rage. An Oklahoma woman drowned her baby in a washing machine in November. A New Mexico woman claiming to be God stabbed her son with a screwdriver last month, saying, “God wants him dead.”

A doctor who is a veteran of treating drug abusers said that, “Once people who are on meth become psychotic, they are very dangerous. They’re completely bonkers; they’re nuts. We’re talking about very extreme alterations of normal brain function. Once someone becomes triggered to violence, there aren’t any limits or boundaries.” (2) The stimulant effect of meth is up to 50 times longer than cocaine. Users can keep awake for days while using Meth. This prolonged period of heightened wakefulness impairs cognitive function and contributes to extreme paranoia. A doctor says that Meth users think like, “Your children and your spouse become your worst enemy, and you truly believe they are after you,”. (2)

There is a very good National Geographic documentary on effects of Meth on users called ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Drug’.

Meth use has been conclusively proven to be a hugely contributing factor to violent crime and murder. A study relationship between methamphetamine use and homicide found that, “even while adjusting for sociologic covariates and other indicators of drug use, the odds of being involved in a homicide are nearly 9 times greater for an individual recently (within the month) using methamphetamine.” (3)

Reading all the signs, symptoms and examples of Meth fueled violence in the web, its hard to dispel the feeling that however Oishee did such evil acts, she was not in a normal state of mind when she did them. This may or may not be a mitigating circumstance. But before going into deep social and moral explanations, we should look into the thing, the substance, that was perhaps was in complete control of her life for the last few months.

Here are some reactions to the case.

Afsan Chowdhury 

“What however is an apt indicator of our state of life is the way the police are behaving with Oishee, which is in clear violation of every rule and laws covering children. No matter what her crime, she is a child under law and must be treated according to the Children’s Act. Does that allow remand and being held without recourse to legal and social support? The abusive language used to describe her (by Monirul Islam, the joint commissioner of police who is also the official spokesperson of the case) — “next to Iblish” — is a reminder of the very negative forces that motivate so many of our behaviours. The kind of calls made for her blood shows that when we have declared someone as an enemy, we don’t care about their rights and this is not just about a 16-year-old but anyone else. Today, Oishee stands as the identified ‘iblish’ and so people are baying for her blood forgetting no matter what she has to be treated as a child.”

Oishee: The innocent killer?

Partha Sarker: আমি কিন্তু মেয়েটার সুইসাইডাল নোটটা বারবার পড়লাম। একজন সংবেদনশীল মানুষের কষ্ট পাওয়াটা খুব সহজ, সাপোর্ট না থাকলে সেই কষ্ট হয়ে উঠতে পারে ভয়ঙ্কর – সেই কষ্টের কারণ আমাদের কাছে যতই ঠুনকো হোক না কেনো। কথা ছিলো, সমাজ এই সংবেদনশীল মানুষের কষ্টগুলো একটা সৃজনশীল কাজের দিকে নিয়ে যাবে। মেয়েটা কিন্তু খুব ভালো লিখে। হতে কি পারতো না, একুশে বইমেলায় মেয়েটার লেখা নিয়ে একটা বই বের হলো, বাবা তার বইটা হাতে নিয়ে অফিসে গেলেন, সংকোচে সহকর্মীদের দেখিয়ে বলবেন – ‘জানেন, আমাদের ঐশীর না এই বইটা বের হয়েছে। ওর জন্য দোয়া করবেন ‘. হতে কি পারতো না, ঐশী আমাদের জাতীয় গণিত অলিম্পিয়াড দলের সদস্য, বিতর্ক দলের তুখোর বিতার্কিক, জাতীয় মহিলা ক্রিকেট দলের প্রতিশ্রুতিশীল অধিনায়ক? কোনো এক সন্ধ্যায় ওদের এপার্টমেন্ট থেকে কি ভেসে আসতে পারতো ঐশীর সুরেলা গলা – ‘গোধূলীগগনে মেঘে ঢেকেছিল তারা, আমার যা কথা ছিল হয়ে গেল সারা …’ প্রতিবেশীরা এসে বলতো – ‘আপা, আপনার মেয়েটা এতো ভালো গায়’. মা আনন্দে শাড়ীর আঁচলে চোখ মুছতেন। নাহ, কিছুই হয় নি. একদিকে একদল মানুষ ধর্মের অপব্যাখ্যা দিয়ে এদের নিয়ে যাচ্ছে আত্মঘাতী পথে, অন্যদিকে ইয়াবা, নাইট-ক্লাব, শেকড়হীন উদ্দাম-উশৃঙ্খল জীবন। কেউ বুঝে ওঠার আগেই মাঝখানের সুস্থ্য পথটা যে কোথায় হারিয়ে যাচ্ছে?

Akm Wahiduzzaman: কোন কিছুতেই মন বসাতে পারছি না। একটা কিশোরীকে উইচ হান্টিং এজের বর্বরদের মত সবাই পুড়িয়ে মারতে চাইছে। কী আজব! কেউ জানতে চাইছে না, সে কী ভাবে ঐ পর্যায়ে পৌছলো? যে গর্ভে ঐশীদের জন্ম সে গর্ভ আজো সুফলা।



  1. Interesting angle. Appreciate the last comments too.

    I just read (on Prothom Alo, I think) that apparently the new law / Child Policy that extends age-limit of minors from 16 to 18 years – hadn’t come into effect when she was arrested. So she’s likely to be treated as an adult in legal proceedings. Can anyone debunk / confirm this? Is she or isn’t she a child in the eyes of the Law?

      1. A deeply disturbing case. The system is baying for blood. Our inhumanity as displayed this year and earlier has now come to fully roost. A people without soul now only understand blood and “khoon er bodla khoon.”

  2. Oishee…From a detective story point of view, who are the other suspects?
    1. Chachara? For property?
    2. Some secret conspiratorial…dark quadrant?
    Administering pills in coffee is pretty cold-blooded– all this planning does not fit into a sudden outburst of meth-induced rage, justifying 11 stabs and 2. But, who knows…Anyway, it is in any case, high time we discussed glue, gul, meth, heroine and yaba…

  3. It’s not actually pure Meth in Yaba, It’s mixed with caffeine and methamphetamine which makes it easier to consume and severely more accidictive than pure meth.

    The way Yaba has crept into Bangladesh, I’ve personally seen “breaking bad” of several nice kids who went from class-toppers to smoking up Yaba in school bathrooms and public parks. It’s not possible to cut off supply but It is possible to take up prevention programs in school but I highly doubt that is happening anytime soon.

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