His is a classic case of the adage ‘behind every culprit, there is victim crying for help’. Unfortunately, many of them do not get that help and end up becoming hardened criminals. And those who get the right help shine as a role model. Dara Singh belongs to the second category.
A drug addict who was sentenced to 12 years in jail for drug pedaling today shines as a role model for his village, running a free school for its children. Dara Singh got that chance to turn a new leaf thanks to the Art of Living program he attended while in prison. Son of a farmer, Dara got into addiction when he was staying in rented accommodation far away from his village to attend school. Some peers from his village who were also staying in the area forced him into addiction. And that was the starting point of a vicious cycle that almost ruined his life.
“In the beginning, they provide me the drugs (Smack) free of cost, but once I got addicted, they started telling me that I need to pay for it as these drugs are costly. Neither could I manage such money, nor could not leave the addiction. So I got involved in pedaling of drugs,” he recounts.
Then he paid the price. He discontinued his studies and started pedaling drugs in a big way. In 2001, he was arrested by Rajasthan Police with 750 grams of Smack while smuggling it into Bihar from Rajasthan. He was convicted and imprisoned.
“I did not want to commit any crime but addiction is a dangerous thing. When I felt the need for intoxication, I was prepared to do anything. I had to steal and I was ready to even kill just to get the money to buy drugs,” he explains.
In the world of crime he lived a life full of fear. “I could neither eat well nor could rest. Yet in that dreadful fear, the plan to commit crimes would continue in my mind,” he recalls. The same pattern continued inside the jail too. “I had decided how to live my life. I had decided to lead a life of a criminal. I was plotting how I will take revenge on those who sent me to jail,” he confesses.
All that changed one day when he did the Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique taught in the Art of Living Course inside the jail. “From the first time I did the Sudarshan Kriya, my thought process changed and I became more and more positive. I experienced that all the criminal thoughts were disappearing from my mind, and began to strongly dislike the criminal world,” he recollects.
Giving an insight into life inside the jail, he says, “Yoga, meditation and Sudarshan Kriya is very important because prisoners are full of fear and revengeful. That’s why they commit more crime. Such techniques give one the courage and confidence to keep away from criminal activities and lead a good life in the society.”
“If I would not have done the Art of Living Course, I would have been involved in theft, murder, drugs, kidnapping and other criminal acts after being released from jail. It was only the Art of Living Course which brought me back to the mainstream. The inclination to do something positive for society and the strength to implement the good ideas for society is because of my practices of the Art of Living techniques.
That transformation made a big difference to his life outside the jail. “When I came out of jail after seven and half years, no one wanted to talk to me. But I would still go to the village and talk about tremendous reform I experienced in jail because of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the rehabilitation program I did. People were frightened of me due to my past life, but the transformation in changed the people’s perception about me. I left the company of substance abusers. I made a decision to stop talking to them and joined the company of other people. The Art of Living circles provided a good company and they started believing in me. They were able to remove the stigma,” he narrates.
At his reintegration, the Art of Living provided the needed support. He was given to run a free school for the poor village children under the aegis of the Art of Living. This project has not only helped improve his reputation, but also raise his self-esteem. “I run the free school with 230 children from poor families, mostly children of daily wagers. Most are first generation school goers. The school bears all the expenditure of children including a meal uniforms, school bag and books, shoes, socks, etc. Around 150 children are provided free transportation also,” he explains with pride.
Belying his checkered past, he now talks philosophically. “Life is short and there is lots of service to do.”