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Eat jail food to avoid being jailed!

Some 20 people knock on the gates of the Tihar Jail seeking rotis and dal. No, they aren't poor but...

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 10:42 IST

Some 15 to 20 people knock on the gates of the Tihar Central Jail in New Delhi every month seeking rotis and dal. No, they are not poor, but those who believe that eating jail food ensures they will never get jailed.

Bizarre? May be, but the superstition is not going away.

The food prepared in the high-security but crowded prison, located in west Delhi, and given to the thousands of its inmates is very basic - rotis, lentils and, during festivals, an occasional sweet.

So who are the people who come seeking this food?

"They are mainly businessmen and traders," a jail official said. "They may have been told by their astrologers that there is a possibility of their getting jailed unless they seek out and eat the jail food.

"So we have people approaching us, either on their own or through their contacts, wanting a bit of jail food. It is embarrassing but we mostly accept their requests. We do have surplus food on occasions.

"Mostly the guards give them a roti or two and some dal. And the people are more than happy!"

Another official added: "We have come across so many who want dal and rotis at any cost."

There is yet another superstition related to the Tihar Jail and that is about the wooden plank from where convicts are hanged.

Pieces of wood from the plank are believed to possess the power to fight evil spirits.

"People say if you tie a piece around your neck, you can beat black magic," the official said.

Kamrun Nisha, 55, who has been selling snacks at the jail complex for 37 years, says this is more than a belief - she claims to have benefited from it.

"My daughter's three newborn babies died and I was depressed about it. One day a fakir came to my shop and advised me to get a small piece of wood from the plank and tie it around the baby's neck when he or she is born.

"After great difficulty I got a piece of wood. When my daughter gave birth to her fourth baby, I tied it around her neck. The girl not only survived but went on to have two brothers as well," said Nisha.

Not everyone believes in these superstitions.

"I have heard these stories but I doubt if they are true," said Shah Nawaz Khan, a 32-year-old who has been visiting the prison for the last three years.

Pankaj, 19, whose mother is a prisoner at the jail, said: "I have never heard of these things nor do I believe in them."