Getting high after a low

- November 12, 2022
| By : Mohd Shehwaaz Khan |

Kaushal Pal was a drug addict who would snatch money and valuables to pay for his needs before finding solace and rehabilitation in dancing 

STREET TO STAGE: Kaushal Pal poses for a picture after a performance

When Kaushal Pal was 16 years old, he would wait for the first week of the month when salaries would be disbursed and people would have cash at their disposal. It was the time when he could finally have some money in his pocket. He would wait by the roadside with his friends, looking for passersby with cash, and snatch it from their hands. Within time, he started to snatch other expensive items as well, such as mobile phones and motor bikes.

“That was the peak moment of my addiction. I did not steal all these things to provide for my family. It was for ganja, charas, afeem.. you name it, and I have done that all. These things were expensive – at least for me – and snatching was the only possible solution due to lack of money”, says the 23-year old matter-of-factly.

Pal started smoking at the age of 13 when he was in seventh standard. It started as a belief that smoking cigarettes will somehow make him look cool among his friends.

“I come from a place where children tend to start using all kinds of substances very early. So, if I smoked cigarettes and pretended to look confident and careless, I was perceived as a cool guy,” he explains.

However, soft drugs were not the only thing Pal admired. Another passion grew within him: Dance.

“It was dance that helped me overcome my addiction. I don’t think I would be alive if it was not for dancing. It became the reason I looked forward to living this life. Whatever addiction I had, dance took it away”, he says.

Pal had tried ‘brown sugar’ with his ‘rich friends’ when he was 17. He calls it a blessing that he did not get addicted to it because of lack of money.

“Whatever that I made out of snatching, it was enough to pay for the cheaper drugs. So even if I wanted to consume hard drugs, I did not have money. And thank God I didn’t!”, he exclaims.

Born in Dwarka Mod in 1999, he is the only son among his parents’ three children. His father works as a welder and mother as a housewife. Pal says that he could not get proper education in a private school because his father was always struggling financially. “Sometimes, he would get money in two to three months. How could he pay for tuition fees when there was not a penny to buy food for his kids?”, he asks.

But he was bright in studies. He was the only one among his friends to clear the class 10 board exams, which, in a way, changed his life. He adds that a change in his friends’ circle also played an important role in helping him realise his passion for dancing. “The new friends I got after I passed class 10 were all studious with a purpose in life. This was important for me. Call it luck or coincidence, many of them were really interested in dancing and this is where I realised that my passion lies somewhere beyond studies and the things I was used to”, he says.

He would get tempted to perform in movie promotions that his friends participated in. The performance on big stages seemed like a dream he wanted to achieve. He was drawn in further when he saw the applause his friends would receive in big hotels and expensive restaurants. Soon, he decided to channelise his energy into something fruitful, as drug addiction took a backseat.

“They used to perform in all those big stages and 5-star hotels that I never imagined I could even enter. Some of them even performed with Bollywood stars. Imagine I could possibly achieve all this with dance! It seemed like a way to get out of the hell I was living in!”, he says.

In 2017, he joined Dance Out Of Poverty, an initiative by Sinhayana Foundation that teaches underprivileged children to dance and make a living out of it. The organisation helped him realise his dream and bring him out of addiction. “When I joined the organisation, I did not have enough money to take a rickshaw to the classes. I would walk for 3-4 km everyday just to attend classes”, he says.

The organisation gave him a chance to perform on various stages, mentor junior dancers, and present himself in public spaces. Pal adds that within a year, he was already meeting professionals in the industry and helping other underprivileged children realise their dreams.

“I never imagined I could be helped. I don’t even know when my passion for dancing became the priority. I even forgot I was a drug addict. It took time to stop, but it ended all at once – as if it was a precondition for me to take up dancing”, he says excitedly.

Pal, as part of the initiative, recognised slum areas in Delhi to teach the children the art of dancing.

“I know personally that children in slums tend to take substances to escape poverty or any other kind of childhood trauma. I can see in their eyes and their overall behaviour that they are going through the same situation I was once in. Now, when I can finally help them, it feels so satisfying!”, he says.

DARE TO DANCE: Kaushal Pal teaches dance to slum children

Pal teaches dance at a school and earns his living out of it. He provides for his family and wishes to work as a choreographer in Bollywood.

Asked how his parents see his journey from addiction to professional dancing, he says, “They don’t know I was ever a drug addict. All they know is that the money I give them is earned from dancing – something they never thought I would be able to do.”


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