Hours before he was to be hanged till death, he was sipping tea. And then he started singing from the 1960’s movie Badal, “Apne liye jiye to kya jiye, tu ji ae dil zamane ke liye.” A few officials of Tihar jail, tasked with carrying out the hanging, sang along.
He then demanded another cup of tea. The man, who served tea in the prison, had left and Afzal Guru, convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack, went to the gallows without his last wish fulfilled – a cup of tea.
Triggered? Proceed with caution but if you are in to it I have got a pretty good book recommendation for you .
Authors – Sunil Gupta and Sunetra Choudhury
Genre – Non fiction /memoir
Publisher – Roli Books
Pages – 178
Tihar is a maximum security prison, currently housing over 10K inmates,also it is the largest complex of prisons in South Asia. Styled as correctional facility it is famous for the rehabilitation of the inmates as on completing their sentence the prisoners can appear for the placements as well as higher studies as much as it is famous for its ‘famous inmates’ including Kanhaiya Kumar, Lalu Yadav,chhota Rajan, Charles Shobraj and the author was it’s jailer for 35 years and so ofcourse he’s got stories to tell and this got me very intrigued from the introduction only.
Many of the Convicts discussed in the book are people and cases we have followed via news outlets but once a convict is sent to jail, nobody think much about the case, because most of the people don’t know what goes behind the bar.
The jail food,the beatings the subhuman living conditions are a few things that I have seen in movies and pop culture, and once in a while we get the news that a mobile phone or a television is found from an inmates belonging but rather than that jail is not a place alot of people know about and I don’t think alot of people would like to know to be honest.
The book starts up with a map to explain the layout of the prison and a hierarchy chart. The story opens up in 1981, when a young man (our author) resigns from his railway job and reports to his new job at Tihar.As it all unfolds the book does a good job at humanizing the inmates and also the jail staff. Sunil also addressed the personal problems he faced because of being in such an unconventional job,& the impact this unusual job had on Sunil and his the family, as he lived with his wife and kids in the Jail complex.
Also the book has some funny moments that sound straight out of a movie screen like how once an inmate dosed off a officer while giving massages and walked off straight from the gate in his uniform to the infamous jail break by Charles Shobraj to bizzare incidents like the once in 1980s, over a hundred, walked out of the prison with the visitors, without being stopped at the gates because they had managed to copy on their own the seals that are marked on visitors’ hands ( saay whaat)
The book also has a lot of things that could be controversial like the accounts of corruption by officers and the power of money even behind bars. What I really liked here is the authors honesty, and the ability of the narration to humanize the inmates and the jail staff. They have also penned down accounts of the eight death sentences which were executed in his watch in Tihar Jail (I said proceed with caution in the beginning) including that of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat.
This book would have been a bummer if he’d say it’s all good and disciplined, but they don’t, infact they accepts how difficult it is to change things, the omnipresent corruption in the hierarchy of inmates, jail staffs and police and how do the rich and powerful manage to get a decent life even behind bars.
Also it gave a different spin to many headlines as they turn in to real life work place situations for the staff at Tihar like when Anna Hazare was arrested from Ram-Leela Maidan.
Also I learnt a bunch of things like there is a free jail system,in which you can go out of jail for the day and comeback in the evening,manu Sharma (Jessica Lal case) use it to run his business and once a big business man converted his cell into his office.Also there strories of Charles Shobraj and Ranga-Billa who have kind of acquired a status of Urban’s legends
So if you have made it up till here on my blog post and you want to know more about Tihar,go ahead you’ll definitely like the book, it’s much better written than this article I promise.