He has been in Tihar Jail before. But if Manu Sharma swaggered into a cell of his own seven years ago, on Monday night he walked in gingerly and took his place in the prison’s reception ward. The wintry night was spent on the cold prison floor, with three blankets, bedsheets and friend Amarjeet Singh Gill for company.
Gone was the television set that beamed the world into his exclusive cell for the three years — May 1999 to January 2002 — he spent at the prison; gone was the shield that came with power. The man convicted of murdering Jessica Lall at Tamarind Court in April 1999 was on Monday just another convict in Tihar.
Manu was brought to the jail at 8 pm after the court pronounced its verdict at 2.20 in the afternoon. He was kept in the reception ward for the night and then transferred to Jail no 2 at 9 in the morning. Friend and fellow convict Vikas Yadav was in Jail no 4.
Manu, who is yet to be sentenced for his crime, woke up at 5.30 in the morning and prayed with other inmates at 6.30 a.m., jail officials said. Afternoon brought a few guests and lunch from home. "A few Sikh men had come to see him and brought home-cooked food," the Tihar Jail spokesperson said. Dinner, however, will be the usual fare-- roti, dal and fried vegetables--- served by the prison mess.
And what of the future? Once the sentence is announced on Wednesday, Sharma will have to enlist for work at one of the 11 factory units in the prison. A softer option is to work as a sewadar (helper) in the library. “A sewadar has to work for four hours but factory timings are from 8 am to 4 00 pm," said a senior Tihar Jail official. From a life in the fast lane to the shrunken space of a prison, justice, finally, has caught up with Manu Sharma.