Author: Dr. Vartika Nanda
Publisher: Tinka Tinka Foundation
Language: Hindi and English
Price: Rs 500 / Rs 550
Available: Both English and Hindi titles are available on Amazon
Prison Reforms, Poetry and Reformation: How Tinka Tinka Is Transforming Lives
Tinka Tinka Dasna begins with a quote by the Beatles, “When the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me.” This book embodies this very light, a ray that pierces the darkness in an otherwise desolate landscape. The book is a poignant portrait of life inside prisons. It delivers a first hand account of not just jails and their inmates but also the loss of love and hope in their lives. Through poignant prose interspersed with poetry, Dr. Vartika Nanda paints a vivid picture of how imprisonment is not just confinement of the body but also of the mind and spirit.
“There is a railway crossing. The railway track runs across. Those who travel by train must surely have seen it but how could they possibly know what lies beyond. What world exists, whose world is it? A few feet ahead there is an enormous, towering gate, with a logo printed above it and the word Dasna written beside it. Four police personnel in their khaki uniforms and red turbans man the gate. Just one look suffices to convince anyone that this huge and sturdy gate, defines the border between the two realities of mind and perception. One has seen such gates only in photographs and films. The light of the world outside fails to pierce through the gate, the moment stops in the milieu inside. I wish to build a bridge which would connect the two vastly contrasting realities in spite of the obvious constraints. This is my resolve.”
Through poetic paragraphs like the one above, prison reformer and founder of Tinka Tinka, Dr. Vartika Nanda draws attention to the social isolation and lack of development of the inmates and the callous attitude of the outside world towards those behind bars. She initiates a call for action to help in emotional and mental stability of those imprisoned. Through a detailed description of Dasna Jail, Ghaziabad; she creates an image of inmates and imprisonment far removed from the popular perceptions usually propagated in media. She shows how dreary the life of children can be behind bars, devoid of the simple pleasures and joys that are otherwise the hallmarks of childhood. They are forced to live the life of criminals, through no fault of their own. Her work attempts to humanise the prisoners, whose existence society often overlooks.
“Even for those who leave the confines of the jail, it is impossible for them to erase the dates, those months and years in confinement where they lived in a vacuum. Wherever and whenever it is possible, they try to tell a different story. Many of them talk of having travelled either within the country or even abroad depending on their financial status. They prefer not to tell the tale of their stay in jail. It is not easy to find one’s calling again. To be alive and lose your existence and then to have to again discover your old being cannot possibly be easy.”
Dr. Nanda draws a vivid picture of how prison life alters a man, so much so that even when released, he/she is never the same again. Her account creates a deep empathy in the mind of the reader, making them realise the true value of their freedom.
“The children here have been forced to develop an understanding about some issues of life well beyond their age yet regarding a few issues, they never seem to develop an understanding at all. They have absolutely no comprehension about maps of the world or even of our country for that matter. For them an atlas is a figment of imagination as is a fairy. For them life is enclosed in four walls, it is the extent of their world. The four walls of the jail are all that they can see outside their cell window. They have no idea that the earth revolves around its axis, that times change and life goes on.”
Through heart rending paragraphs like the one above, Dr. Nanda sheds light on the lost childhood of children raised behind bars. She draws our attention to the paucity of love and joy in their lives. She adopts a compassionate and humane approach in speaking of the prisoners and their stories, in a world intent on stripping them of their innate humanity.
It dates back fourteen years, when Vijay Baba was first brought to jail. His early days were spent in anguish and deep despondency. In some time he learnt that he had been sentenced to life imprisonment which meant spending at least the next fourteen years in jail. After much cogitating, he found the source from which he would draw the strength to live his life in jail. That was Yoga. This was the first seed that he was to sow in jail.
Dr. Nanda makes a commendable effort to highlight the unique abilities of the prisoners and how these skills can play a vital role in their redemption and reformation. She makes a strong case for how no is beyond saving and how every individual can contribute something to society.
In the section, five lives in Dasna, she gives detailed accounts of five detainees, exploring their stories and struggles. Included are certain notorious figures like Dr. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, under trial for the murder of their daughter Aarushi and Surender Koli, convicted for the infamous Nithari killings. Enclosed with their accounts is never before seen poetry, reflecting the myriad emotions of life behind prison walls. At times sorrowful, on occasion happy or hopeful, the poetry serves as a reminder of the indomitable human spirit that strives for freedom even under duress.
“Sentenced for the murder of his five children: A case of Ravinder Kumar Poverty, scarcity, deprivation, unemployment and then murders Ravinder Kumar tells the story of his life through the poignant words of his poem,gam ka safar jari hai, gam ko andhere se dar lagta hai. Desolation continues on its path, desolation is scared of the dark). He is accused of having killed his own five children in 2009. It is alleged that he also tried to kill his wife and then himself in an attempt to escape the clutches of poverty and depression. His wife survived and he had failed to kill himself. But those five lives were gone forever, never to come back. He did not get a chance to perform the last rites of his children. When the last rites were being carried out back at his village in Bihar, he was already in jail. He is resolute about being innocent and has no idea who killed his children. In 2013, he was pronounced guilty and sentenced to death. In 2014, the High Court overturned the judgment and his sentence was reduced to 14 years in jail. This, no doubt has given him tremendous relief but the painful memories refuse to fade away.”
Also documented are the backgrounds and special skills of several inmates and how they can contribute to the creation of a better society. She also elaborates on several efforts to improve their lives, many of which have had a significant impact in making their lives better. Many endeavours like the Tinka Tinka anthem, awards, art, music, poetry and prose have played a vital role in reminding us and the prisoners of their innate humanity, which is oft neglected by an indifferent society.
“Music behind bars”
The main choir comprises of 9 inmates. Most of them have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. All of them have the beat and the rhythm of music flowing through their veins. A harmonium, a tabla, a dholak and a manjeera, confederate with them. The members of this choir have a fixed routine. Each morning as soon as they meet, there ensues between them a discussion and analysis of their respective cases. Though they know very well that the circumstances in which they find themselves have not changed overnight. They still live in hope for that lucky break with each break of the dawn, which they believe will come sooner than later. Whenever new prisoners join their group, their first introduction is unfailingly the same. When, where and how did it happen? Which case? Under which section of the IPC is it? They have no formal understanding of musical notes nor have they studied the concepts of journalism, yet they use the fundamental principles of journalism When, Where, Who, What and How, day in and day out. Something that they never indulge in is vilifying, unnecessary advice, or being judgmental towards each other. Once this discussion is over, the music begins. The lyrics and beat change with the mood of the moment. Between the stillness and the sorrowful silence of the jail, this choir tries to compose a melody.”
By means of this book, Dr. Vartika Nanda elucidates a telling tale of a very neglected portion of our society and how their lives can be enriched and their contribution to society maximised. She also highlights the commendable efforts of several officials whose proactive participation has made prison life much more bearable for the inmates. The book ultimately serves as a call for action and a reminder to society of a forgotten strata. Through a humane and compassionate approach, the book shows another side oft ignored in media. Dr. Nanda paints a vivid picture of prisons as places where the shackles of caste, colour, religion et all fall away and unique bonds are formed. The book serves as a fitting testament to the indomitable fortitude of the human spirit and the fact that no matter how dark the night, dawn always follows.
Review By – Simran Rawat
Courtesy – Youth Ki Awaaz