When Ram Parmar was convicted in connection with a murder case, he had two major worries. One, that it was the end of his ambition to become a painter, and two, that he would be put to hard labour — breaking rocks, as convicts do in Hindi movies.
Two years later, Parmar, now 21, is a much relieved and creatively satisfied inmate of Tihar Jail. A trainee painter under the jail’s Art Therapy programme, he learns painting eight hours a day, six days a week.
Parmar is one of the nine jail inmates enrolled in the programme.
Tihar Jail Director General BK Gupta said the programme was meant to “keep the adolescent inmates away from hardened criminals, to infuse creative energy in them and impart skills that might serve them in future.”
The nine trainees — all aged 18-21 — were selected on the basis of their talent and inclination to sketch and paint. Inside the jail, they practise their lessons sitting on a
50’x100’ concrete platform enclosed by grilles.
Chaitali De, their teacher, said though they are deficient in painting techniques, including ideation, “they are good at sketching and flat image painting.”
Tihar inmate and rape convict Prakash Singh, who is one of the trainees, seemed clueless about two-dimensional images but his sketches of pastoral life wowed even De.
Flip through the works of these inmates and you will find themes that indicate their troubled past — their haunting memories and a sense of loss: scenes of broken families with one of the parents missing, stirring faces (mostly female) that the inmates politely refuse to identify, and profiles of Hindu gods and Christ impaled on a bloodied cross.
“We don’t want to live in the past, but here, that is all we have,” said Singh.
The jail administration and the Ramchander Nath Foundation (a non-government organisation) will organise an exhibition of the inmates’ paintings along with those of accomplished painters in August, said Anubhav Nath of the Foundation.