Hotelier Sanjeev Nanda, convicted in the BMW hit-and-run case of 1999, recently got temporary bail from Tihar jail to visit his critically ill grandfather, former Naval chief S M Nanda.
He sees his imprisonment as “an opportunity to understand the pain of others and to help them in some small way.” Nanda is a computer instructor in Tihar. He says, “Tihar has a system of using inmates to help in jail administration and in prisoner welfare. Being one of the more educated convicts, I have helped set up a computer class where I teach inmates every morning. At the end of a three-month programme, we hope to make the inmates comfortable with basic computing skills.”
Nanda who turns 31 next week, adds, “I also spend evenings in the legal aid cell, where a lawyer comes daily to help prisoners who don’t have any legal representation. A typical round of work there includes drafting of bail applications, appeals and production warrants. I am trying to use legal paperwork as a curriculum in the computer class.. so that a bit of law can be learnt in the process.”
Ask him whether he ever thinks of marriage some day and he replies, “I spent my 21st birthday in Tihar. Next week, I will spend my 31st birthday, yet again in Tihar. Marriage doesn’t even cross my mind..When my future is so uncertain, how can I contemplate such a commitment?”
Time to introspect
In Tihar, Sanjeev is one of 1,800 prisoners. Some of them are “very violent”, all sharing “a common thread of pain, suffering and helplessness.”
The day starts at 5.30 am with a head count. There is an afternoon lock-down from 11.30 am to 3 pm and then evenings end at 7 pm with another lock-down and head-count. “The few hours of freedom one gets inside is spent over meals and short walks with other inmates, ” Nanda states.
He has done his share of introspection in Tihar, and points out, “Often in the beginning, there is anger and resentment.. but with time one comes to terms with reality and starts looking for positives. The initial question ‘Why am I here?’ is replaced by ‘Now that I am here, how can my presence here contribute to others?’”
Three weeks of bail meant time spent with his family, reminding him of lost personal freedom and liberty. “I often see airplanes flying over Tihar and think of freedom.. Also I have come to know that it is only your family which sticks by through thick and thin. Cherish this bond always.”