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Oswald Pereira - Mangalorean who Gifted New Life to Thousands
By Florine Roche

August 22, 2012

Daijiworld Media Network

For all those who watched the 9th episode of 'Satyamev Jayate' on Alcohol Abuse telecast on July 1, must have been touched by the poignant story of top journalist Vijay Simha’s battle with the bottle. Vijay shared with the public his addiction to alcohol and drugs and the downward trajectory his life had taken during this period. As per his own admission from being a top journalist he had become a destitute, was disowned by family, ridiculed by friends and acquaintances and was virtually living on the pavements of Delhi. At the end of his herculean efforts of narrating his life story which was an altruistic act, Vijay thanked Oswald Pereira for the help and support given to him in fighting his way back to recovery from addiction.

Many of us may not be aware of the fact that this Oswald Pereira (Ossie, as he popularly known to all those who know him) is a Mangalorean, hailing from Bajpe, who had his high school education at St Aloysius School in Mangalore before leaving for Mumbai at the age of 15 in search of better prospects. In this city of dreams he saw his life taking a topsy-turvy turn and by 20, before he could realize he had become a chronic alcoholic. Much later at the age of 47, after losing everything that people value much in life - job, family, friends, home, respect and everything else, he made up his mind to mend his ways. While 32 years of his life were spent as an alcoholic, he has spent the last 33 years of his life as a recovered alcoholic devoting his time and energy to counsel and rehabilitate alcoholics and drug addicts. Journalist Vijay Simha whom Oswald guided to the road of recovery, calls him as “the founding father of drug and alcohol-related rehabilitation work in India”, for his pioneering work in the field of rehabilitation.


Passion for Work

Now even at the ripe age of 80, Ossie shows no signs of slackening the pace of his relentless service to help alcoholics and druggists to emend their way of life. Now based in Delhi, he conducts counseling sessions thrice a week for recovering addicts at Rama Rehabilitation Centre run by Sanjay Mathur a recovering alcoholic and addict, who was treated at Kripa. It is said that Oswald’s ennobling service has enspirited thousands of lives so far.

Ossie, has seen the best and worst of life. Though he wants to forget the past memories, the harsh realities of not being a responsible husband and father still haunts him. Ever since turning sober his sole priority has been to help others like him to turn a new lease of life. He does not hanker after publicity and prefers to keep a low profile. Yet, there is a feeling of resignation which comes out when he says “I had a bitter parting with Kripa Foundation of which I was the co-founder. They have hijacked something that I started”. The sentence reveals more than what it merely conveys - agony and hurt he has endured in all these years.

Ossie whose roots are traced to the Pereira Kamath family of Bajpe had come to Mumbai along with his brother soon after SSLC. He got a job Rs. 40/- in a musical store to begin with. Later he began working as Telegraphist in Overseas Communication Services where he became a union leader. By 20 he had turned into an alcoholic and this alcoholic binge continued till he was 47. Recalling his spell with alcohol he says “unfortunately we (brothers) were introduced to alcohol at a young age by my uncles who were also alcoholics. There was a family tradition of binging on alcohol during celebrations and feasts which later on became an addiction”. It is four years since he visited Mangalore, where he has some friends and relatives, and says he says has no plans to do so in the near future.

He married Florie, a Mangalorean girl settled in Mumbai and they had 3 sons. As his drinking lifestyle continued unabated it eventually resulted in him losing everything he had – his job, his friends and his family. In 1978 not being able to cope with his continued drinking, his wife was left with no alternative but to leave him and take on the responsibility of bringing up her three young children, all alone.


AA to the Rescue

Ossie spent the next 12 odd months a destitute - living with his last few friends who would take him in, roaming the streets and sleeping at railway stations, doing just enough to get his continued supply of alcohol. He was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) about 2 months into this period, but the initial introduction did not work as despite everything that had happened to him, he had still not hit “rock bottom” and did not think he needed AA to help him. It would take him another 10 months on the streets, living and working in “joints” before something jolted him to realize his rock bottom. It was the sight of an unclaimed body of an alcoholic, lying for 15 hours near the joint he worked at, which altered the course of the rest of his life. The fear of death akin to the one he witnessed made him realize that he had to do something with his life.

He went back to seek the help of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and that proved to be the turning point of his life. “I had lost my job, my wife and children and I wanted money for my daily drinks. I was literally on the streets of Mumbai begging for money for my drinks. The sight of the unclaimed body opened my eyes and I thought I had to do something about myself”, says Ossie recalling his decision to go back to AA.

Once on the road to recovery, the fellowship of AA became the buoy that kept him afloat. He attended meetings regularly and began counseling other alcoholics to change their lives. One of these alcoholics had a Cold Storage business and Ossie got a job working there. He continued spreading the message of AA and two years later on the 15th of August 1981, he co-founded Kripa Foundation, one of the first live-in rehabilitation centres in the country. He rendered the next 22 years of his life, relentlessly in the service to help alcoholics, addicts and their families change their lives. During this time Kripa grew and spread out across the country. Due to growing differences in philosophies with his co-founder, he left Kripa to co-found Astha Foundation and worked there for 3 years. He experienced similar differences working at Astha too, as to put in his own words “I was fed up with the dirty games they played. There were differences of opinion and I did not like their style of functioning”. But the ardor for work continues, age notwithstanding, as if like repentance for all those years he had lost during the prime of his youth to addiction. It is a recovered addict that gives him utmost satisfaction.


Helping Hand to Addicts

Journalist Vijay Simha gives the entire credit of his recovery and sobriety to Ossie for helping him overcome his addiction problem. Talking to Daijiworld about the role Ossie played in his recovery he says “when I reached rock bottom because of addiction to drugs and alcohol, there wasn't a single person in the world I was willing to heed. But when Ossie started talking about the signs and symptoms of addiction in the rehab class, it was like a slap on my face. Many slaps, actually. I was shocked. From that moment, I moved from denial to acceptance. Ossie was the father figure I missed in life. I used to spend hours seeking clarity on sundry issues from him. I realized that my addiction had nothing to do with the substance. It was alcohol, marijuana, opium, hash and smack. From Ossie, I understood that the problem, and the solution, lay within me. I haven't looked back since”.

There cannot be a greater tribute than this to Ossie, to see addicts pick up the threads of their lives and keep moving. As for his own life Ossie has reconciled with his family and is now living in Delhi with his youngest son. His two older sons are working in the Gulf. His wife Florie died five years ago.

None of the children bear any rancor for the past events but are happy that the life of the family taken a turn for the better over the years. As his son says my “father was a typical victims of alcohol, who lost everything in his life to his addiction. He has made every effort to make amends for his mistakes ever since, through his service to the society and we are really proud of that”.

What Vijay Simha says sums up the person that Ossie has become: I have met perhaps thousands of people in the course of my professional and personal interactions. I am able to say with certainty that Ossie is the greatest human being I have met. It was like he handed me the keys to life”.

There must be thousands more who must be sharing these feelings of Vijay Simha, all those whose lives Ossie has been able to touch in the last 33 years of his sober life.

 

 

READ 'EXCLUSIVE ARCHIVES'
Comments on this article
Mukeshbhai, Billimora GujratSaturday, October 14, 2017
I want help for my brother. They both are alcoholic. They are in worse situations. But as a family member we tried everything but nothing had been worked. Can u please guide us .
Comment on this message     

k.k.dubey, faizabad ( u.p.)Wednesday, August 13, 2014
sir
my elder brother is very much indulge in taking alcohol....plz sir i want him to away from it. my contact number is 09415343874....

plz sir i cant understand where i go for him....
Comment on this message     

KAMAL, GURGAONMonday, August 11, 2014
I want help for our brother in law who is suffering from the alcohol addiction. He is a govt. employee, doing nothing from last 6 months and have made his family and his own life miserable. Please send the contact details of Mr. Oswald Pereira for his consultation and rehab center contact where he provides consultation in Delhi.

Please do something for us.
Comment on this message     

Pranav, MumbaiWednesday, December 19, 2012
Thanks for sharing the article about Ossie, my mentor and friend. I am one of the recovery stories inspired by Ossie his precise identification of my problem has helped me be alcohol free for more than 26 years, and only he and his right hand man Rameshbhai who I wronged once it has to be duly noted that besides Ossie No one else could have helped me. He changed my life and me and my family will always be indebted to him for bringing changes not only in our lives but many others whom he guided and cared for.Cannot thank you enough Ossie! I Salute You and May the Lord always look over you and Yours
Comment on this message     

PARMVEER SINGH, WINDSOR,CANADAFriday, October 26, 2012
Thanks for sharing the article about Ossie, my mentor and guide. I am one of the recovery stories inspired by Ossie. He changed my life and me and my family will always be indebted to him for bringing changes not only in our lives but many others whom he guided and cared for....Cannot thank you enough Ossie SIr! Salutations
Comment on this message     

mukesh rana, delhiSunday, September 09, 2012
sir, i used to drink more than 1 \ 2 bottle every day please help me and my family pls give your contact number and financially my family not strong to admit me any center pls help sir....
Comment on this message     

Niyati Singh, RewaFriday, September 07, 2012
I really liked the article. How can I contact to Mr. Pereira or his NGO.
I'll be thank full if anyone can tell me.
Comment on this message     

Ajay, DedunhraFriday, August 24, 2012
hanks Flo, i could not see that episode of Satyamev.........so i did not know That Vijay apeared on Satyamev......i Know Vijay very well for more than 20 years and also know that he was adict and destroyed his carrier and faimily, i know more things about him, we were in touch for some period,during parliament coverage. Thanks Flo, u r writing very good. Conratulations. Regards. Ajay
Comment on this message     

Ronnie, Mangalore/MumbaiWednesday, August 22, 2012
Your selfless service has set a precedent to all and sundry. Now it is for us to take this cause forward.
Three cheers to Respected Oswald Pereira. We wish him all the best and also pray God grant him enough energy to continue doing what he is doing now.
Comment on this message     

shiva, kota/dubaiWednesday, August 22, 2012
Oswald Periera,you are really a great man. God bless you and your family.

I think 3 passangers of Air India Express who are arrested for unruly behaviour after influence of alcohol , should be sent to Ossie after serving punishment
Comment on this message     

Roshan Braganza, 30 mudi / Udyavar / BombayWednesday, August 22, 2012
@oswald periera , u r true inspiration . Drinking is not bad , when its taken in moderation ( it has lot of advatages , often better than non drinker ). Bells ring , when someone makes the mess of it , thus becoming chronic . Family , wives , children ?, never mind , nothing comes free. When shit hits the fan everybody run . Good that u enjoyed ur life , but carefully pulled urself right on track later . Nothin s too late . I hope u continue to work and change others lives. Cheers!.
Comment on this message     

Juliet Mascarenhas, Bejai/MangaloreWednesday, August 22, 2012
"Thanks and Praise to you O lord"
Those days it was traditional in every Mangalorean christian family to bring alcohol during celebrations and feasts.Those who consumed this beyond limit and made this habitual lost their track and found defficult to trace back the track.The Bajpe Pereira family has produced a number of Nuns and preists.May be their prayers have brought back turning point in the life of MR. Ossie Pereira.
Comment on this message     

Manoj Menezes, Shirva/Abu DhabiWednesday, August 22, 2012
Great inspirational Story. Thank you daijiworld for publishing article on Ossie Pereira. Really an eye opening article.
Comment on this message     

Fredrick Correa, Pernal/MumbaiWednesday, August 22, 2012
Thank you Daijiworld for the great piece of information on Ossie Pereira. Thank you Ossie Sir for your great work. May God abundantly Bless you and give you many years of good health and wisdom.
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