For scores of the city's jailed inmates, the story of one man's experiments with truth is the beginning of a tryst with rehabilitation.
Beginning Gandhi Jayanti last Sunday, inmates across various jails in Maharashtra started appearing for the annual "Peace Exam", based on Gandhi's autobiography. The exam is conducted by the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal.
Around 100 inmates from the Thane jail appeared for the exam when it was first introduced in 2004. Now in its seventh year, the programme reaches out to 1,081 inmates across 14 jails in Maharashtra.
"It's not just about writing an exam," said TK Somaiya, programme coordinator, of the Mandal. "It's about trying to rehabilitate the inmates overall. Gandhi believed in the idea of a change of heart." The exam tests the examinee's knowledge of Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography and comprises 80 one-mark objective questions. On an average, about 70% clear the test, said Somaiya. The organisation then asks inmates for their feedback after reading the autobiography and writing the paper.
"Being truthful pays," wrote Anitha Choudhari, in a feedback sheet after reading the book. Choudhari, an inmate in barrack six, is lodged at the Byculla Jail. "Speaking the truth and being non-violent and not angry," she added in response to the question on what she had learnt while preparing for the exam.