April 14, 2022 11:06 pm

‘We’re Suffering’: How Online Gambling Is Ruining Families In Kashmir

“After his marriage, Imran’s wife Saira told her sister-in-law that he had lost Rs. 10 lakh in his addiction to online gambling and his urge to earn money quickly.”

By Tabia Masoodi, Al Misda Masoom

IT was for the fourth time Sara placed the tea cup in front of her son Imran in an irritated tone and with a clear warning: “Finish it before it gets cold!”

But despite this ‘storm in a teacup’, her son remained engrossed in his phone for “earning fast money online in order to provide a good living for his family and himself”.

Imran started investing in online trading and gambling in 2018. It went well for the first few times. He thought he had figured it all out.

“It felt a little odd the way he was continuously on his phone in the beginning,” Sara says.

“And then he started borrowing money from friends and family.”

The mother was getting anxious as there was a complete shift in Imran’s behaviour. From waking up late to running late to the office to roaming around lost in his phone, was all-new for everyone.

“It was a shock for all of us to see a hard-working and well-established person like him doing such activities,” says Dua, Imran’s sister.

Imran used to work in a well-known foreign MNC—where he had earned a good fortune.

After spending some years abroad, he had returned home with a plan to start his own business. Everything which Imran had planned went accordingly and in no time he started his own restaurant.

In the initial years of his business, he earned more than he could imagine, brought properties and luxurious cars. But soon it all turned to dust.

Imran started to sell these properties and took a loan of lakhs of rupees stating that he needs the money for his marriage.

“He didn’t even use a penny on his marriage from the money he borrowed because all the wedding expenditures were taken by his father,” recalls Sara.

“But now, after almost two years of his marriage, I still wonder what he did with that money.”

Apart from his parents, the rest of the family knew about his online gambling and trading but they didn’t realise the severity of his addiction. They were in the illusion that it was just something that interested him for a little while.

But after his marriage, Imran’s wife Saira told her sister-in-law that he had lost Rs. 10 lakh in his addiction to online gambling and his urge to earn money quickly.

“He became a compulsive liar and used to say such things that I couldn’t understand whether to laugh or be worried,” says Saira.

“He once said that he does not play these games in a conscious state.”

Imran’s addiction eventually led to a dispute in the family as well as with his friends because he couldn’t pay them back the money he had borrowed from them.

And to sort out the matters he ended up taking more money from one person to pay another and it continued.

Wasim Kakroo, a Srinagar-based clinical psychologist, opines that online gambling becomes an obsessional process and one has difficulty in handling emotions related to the act.

“There’s a proper diagnosis of the problem and it’s called pathological gambling,” Kakroo says. “It’s a compulsive act.”

The mental health expert further elaborates that under the whim of one’s emotions, one keeps on searching for short term gains at the loss of money, respect and even relationships.

This is exactly how Ayaz was dragged into the dragnet of the online gambling.

Soon after his graduation, Ayaz got a job and was earning quite well. He wanted to add to his earnings and found out about online trading and gambling. He thought this is an easy way to earn money quickly. And with this intention, he started investing money online.

“I had never seen him this much involved in his phone, as he’s now,” says Musa, Ayaz’s best friend.

After losing Rs. 25,000 just in a few months, Ajaz borrowed money from his friends and ended up losing that too. “He borrowed a good amount of money from me and never returned it,” Musa says.

In order to recover the lost money, argues Wasim Kakroo, one ends up playing more and losing more money, which in turn invokes more negative emotions such as guilt, resentment and anger.

Ahmad is a real-life example of such a mentality.

Ahmad started to gamble online on different platforms two years ago. In his defence, he says, he used to pass his time by gambling online during Covid lockdown.

“I used to gamble small amounts of money, so if I would lose, it wouldn’t make a big deal,” says Ahmad.

But little did he know that in the long run, he would be losing money in thousands.

However, despite losing money in online gambling, he wants to invest more in order to “recover” his lost money.

“Sometimes a person gets enraged, his ego gets hurt and that’s how he loses his money,” he justifies his gambling habits.

And since he won a few games initially and earned some money, he still believes that he stands a chance to win. “One does win but with time one loses as well and that is how apps make money,” he offers his gambling ‘insights’.

“I’ll definitely continue to play with the hope that in the near future I’ll get a great amount of money from gambling.”

Even though it’s hard to get rid of addiction, some people are able to do it on their own. Zulfikar’s story stands true to this statement.

Out of curiosity, he started to gamble online to know how such things work. And for over a year, Zulfikar would play religiously — winning and losing simultaneously.

But eventually, he realized that it’s not right to get indulged in such things.

“It can lead to addiction which will lead you to lose all your money and I don’t want to waste my hard-earned money on just a probability of getting more,” he says.

But sadly, not many people can withdraw from this addiction on their own.

“Society needs to understand that addiction has deep psychological reasons behind it,” psychologist Kakroo says.

“People who get involved in such acts have lost control over their emotions and for that to recover medical attention is a must.”

Meanwhile, Imran is yet to repay the money and repair his relationships.

His mother Sara keeps warning him, but Imran is still chasing the online treasure hunt and in the process losing more valuable things.

He even lost his business due to his unwillingness to pay attention to it. His health also deteriorated. He started to develop cardiac issues and anxieties owing to his addiction.

“I don’t see a way to come out of this mess,” Sara laments. “It’s not just him who is suffering. We all are!”

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