Tinka Tinka Dasna begins with a quote by the Beatles, “When the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me.”
This book embodies this very light, a ray that pierces the darkness in an otherwise desolate landscape. The book is a poignant portrait of life inside prisons. It delivers a first-hand account of not just jails and their inmates, but also the loss of love and hope in their lives. Through poignant prose interspersed with poetry, Vartika Nanda paints a vivid picture of how imprisonment is not just confinement of the body but also of the mind and spirit.
“There is a railway crossing. The railway track runs across. Those who travel by train must surely have seen it but how could they possibly know what lies beyond. What world exists, whose world is it? A few feet ahead there is an enormous, towering gate, with a logo printed above it and the word Dasna written beside it. Four police personnel in their khaki uniforms and red turbans man the gate. Just one look suffices to convince anyone that this huge and sturdy gate, defines the border between the two realities of mind and perception. One has seen such gates only in photographs and films. The light of the world outside fails to pierce through the gate; the moment stops in the milieu inside. I wish to build a bridge which would connect the two vastly contrasting realities in spite of the obvious constraints. This is my resolve.”
Through poetic paragraphs like the one above, she draws attention to the social isolation and lack of development of the inmates and the callous attitude of the outside world towards those behind bars. She initiates a call for action to help in the emotional and mental stability of those imprisoned. Through a detailed description of Dasna Jail, Ghaziabad; she creates an image of inmates and imprisonment far removed from the popular perceptions usually propagated in media. She shows how dreary the life of children can be behind bars, devoid of the simple pleasures and joys that are otherwise the hallmarks of childhood. They are forced to live the life of criminals, through no fault of their own. Her work attempts to humanise the prisoners, whose existence society often overlooks.
“A poetic remembrance by the mother, Nupur Talwar
Aarushi, the first ray of dawn
You entered our lives like a melodious song
A magical moment awaited so long
We bowed to the lord daily
For sending us this divine little fairy
Doe-eyed and beautiful
Radiant and sparkling
You brought into our lives
Boundless happiness and joy
Illuminating our lives with your warm glow
Alas, suddenly one day you were no more
You were not even fourteen years old
The cruel hands of fate snatched you away
Plunging our lives into dark despair
Now the light in our life burns no more
As you rest in gods abode
But your sweet memories remain bright in our lives
As we cherish your dreams day and night
Darling Aarushi… we pray for your peace in heaven
And thank the lord almighty for having sent down to us
…his most special angel.”
In the section, ‘five lives in Dasna’, she gives detailed accounts of five detainees, exploring their stories and struggles, including certain notorious figures like Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, under trial for the murder of their daughter Aarushi, and Surender Koli, convicted for the infamous Nithari killings. Enclosed with their accounts is never before seen poetry, reflecting the myriad emotions of life behind prison walls. At times sorrowful, on occasion happy or hopeful, the poetry serves as a reminder of the indomitable human spirit that strives for freedom even under duress.
Sentenced For The Murder Of His Five Children: A Case Of Ravinder Kumar
Poverty, scarcity, deprivation, unemployment and then murders Ravinder Kumar tells the story of his life through the poignant words of his poem, gam ka safar jari hai, gam ko andhere se dar lagta hai. (Desolation continues on its path, desolation is scared of the dark). He is accused of having killed his five children in 2009. It is alleged that he also tried to kill his wife and then himself in an attempt to escape the clutches of poverty and depression. His wife survived and he had failed to kill himself. But those five lives were gone forever, never to come back. He did not get a chance to perform the last rites of his children. When the last rites were being carried out back at his village in Bihar, he was already in jail. He is resolute about being innocent and has no idea who killed his children. In 2013, he was pronounced guilty and sentenced to death. In 2014, the High Court overturned the judgment, and his sentence was reduced to 14 years in jail. This, no doubt has given him tremendous relief, but the painful memories refuse to fade away.
Also documented are the backgrounds and special skills of several inmates and how they can contribute to the creation of a better society. She also elaborates on several efforts to improve their lives, many of which have had a significant impact in making their lives better. Many endeavours like the Tinka Tinka anthem, awards, art, music, poetry and prose have played a vital role in reminding us and the prisoners of their innate humanity, which is oft neglected by an indifferent society.
Music Behind Bars
The main choir comprises nine inmates. Most of them have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. All of them have the beat and the rhythm of music flowing through their veins. A harmonium, a tabla, a dholak and a manjeera, confederate with them. The members of this choir have a fixed routine. Each morning as soon as they meet, there ensues between them a discussion and analysis of their respective cases. Though they know very well that the circumstances in which they find themselves have not changed overnight. They still live in hope for that lucky break with each break of the dawn, which they believe will come sooner than later.
Whenever new prisoners join their group, their first introduction is unfailingly the same. When, where and how did it happen? Which case? Under which section of the IPC is it? They have no formal understanding of musical notes nor have they studied the concepts of journalism, yet they use the fundamental principles of journalism, When, Where, Who, What and How, day in and day out. Something that they never indulge in is vilifying, unnecessary advice, or being judgmental towards each other. Once this discussion is over, the music begins. The lyrics and beat change with the mood of the moment. Between the stillness and the sorrowful silence of the jail, this choir tries to compose a melody.
By means of this book, Ms Nanda elucidates the tale of a very neglected portion of our society and how their lives can be enriched and their contribution to society maximised. She also highlights the commendable efforts of several officials whose proactive participation has made prison life much more bearable for the inmates. The book ultimately serves as a call for action and a reminder to society of forgotten strata. Through a humane and compassionate approach, the book shows another side oft-ignored in media. Nanda paints a vivid picture of prisons as places where the shackles of caste, colour, religion et all fall away, and unique bonds are formed. The book serves as a fitting testament to the indomitable fortitude of the human spirit and the fact that no matter how dark the night, dawn always follows.
Dreams inside Prisons: Tinka Tinka India Awards Announced
Exclusive awards for inmates & prison administrators
·12 inmates and 9 prison administrators chosen for awards this year
·Awards dedicated to reformation and creativity within jails.
·The theme for paintings this year was Dreams inside Jails
·Prison Reformer Vartika Nanda is the founder of Tinka Tinka aimed at connecting prisons across India.
·Awards were released byDr. A P Maheshwari(IPS) DG, BPR&D, Ministry of Home Affairs,Shri. Bhupinder Singh (IPS), DG Prisons, Rajasthan, and Vartika Nanda, Founder, Tinka Tinka Foundation.The awards were released at Central Prison, Jaipur
·Three categories–Painting, Special Talent and Awards for Jail Administrators
33-year-old, Raja Ram lodged in Bhatinda Central Jail, Punjab, has been awarded the first prize in theTinka Tinka India AwardsPainting’ category
for the year 2018. Raja has been working towards making paintings on the Punjabi culture with an objective to save the Punjabi heritage. He has been chosen for his painting- The dreaming kids”depicting two children, one poor and the other rich, dreaming for a better life. The poor is dreaming of food and the rich is holding a laptop. This picture highlights the limitations experienced by children living with either of their parents in prisons.Indian prisons have more than 1800 children living in such circumstances.
Shobha Ram, 36, lodged in Central Jail, Bilaspur, Chattisgarhhas won the second prize for his sketch titled “Ai Dhairya kee Kashti har Toofan se Nikaal”. Lodged in the prison for the last 8 years,Shobha Ramwas a farmer before landing in prison.
Sudeb Manmohan Pal, 36, a convict inNasik Central Jail,Maharashtra has been chosen for his painting titled “Nothing Lasts”.The painting shows a melting candle and a house, reflecting the inmate’s desire to return to the free world.With a degree in commerce, fine arts, fashion photography and engineering, he has brought colors inside the prison.
This year five inmates have been chosen for the consolation prize.
28-year old Aakash Suresh, a convict inBhopal Central Jail has been chosen for his image depicting change. With a pigeonat the centre representing peace, his pencil sketch has impressiveshades of positivity and creativity. The image shows glimpses of various schemes launched by the government including Swachcha Bharat and also the support provided by NGOs.
Manish Babubhai Parmar, 41, Ahmedabad Central Jailhas been chosen for his painting showing a man helping a woman come outside the prison and start a new life.
Pancham Rathore, lodged in Central Jail, Bilaspuris honoured for his painting depicting an inmate on the passage of time with a deep remorse. The inmate is dreaming to come out and contribute to the society.
Ramesh Patel, 22, lodged in Central Jail, Bilaspur has shown the desire of being accepted in the society after imprisonment. He has carefully shown the desire of being embraced by society. He is on life imprisonment.
Mrityunjay Das, lodged in Mumbai Central Prisonhas made an image of a girl with beautiful eyes.She is holding a rod representing her desire to see the outside world.
The theme for the painting section this year was dreams inside prison.
Four inmates have been chosen for the awards under the category of Special Mention.
46-year oldChintan Vidhyasagar Upadhyay, lodged in Thane Central Jail, Maharashtra, has been chosen for his contribution towards teaching the conceptualization of artwork to inmates. Chintan was a visual artist before imprisonment. Initially he went into deep depression but later on, he picked up painting. He created almost 20 paintings inside jail, one of which was purchased by the noted film producer Kiran Rao for a price of 4.5 Lakhs. Upadhyay also initiated a workshop in Thane Central Jail along with Dabur Pathway Trust for 15 days. He taught painting techniques to 20 inmates. He also trained some inmates in Warli painting.
Ravi Shankar,42 Central Jail, Bilaspur,is a life convict and has already spent more than 12 years in prison. He has completely transformed himself into a spiritual person helping other inmates to come out of their criminal past and contribute to the society. He has emerged as a healer and spiritual leader in the prison. He is also a painter. His recent pencil-sketch with a handcuff and a key in the hand depicting light and hope coming from outside. This portrays an image of reformation in prison.
In the special mention category, Vasudev, 36, inmate lodged in Model Jail, Chandigarh, has been nominated for his extremely dedicated work in the jail kitchen. He is a great help to the prison administration. The jail officials strongly feel that his presence has brought huge difference in the prison kitchenand his contribution to aanganwadi is also immense.
Amritan Mondal, 39, Kolkata, West Bengal, is a skill development trainer. He has been nominated for the special mention category for his work in the crafting of artisanal products from jute inside the prison and for inspiring everyone to become a social entrepreneur. He is a life convict.
9 administrators have been chosen for the Tinka Tinka India Award for Administrators this year.Three lady officers have bagged this award. 57- year–old Basheera Begum, Superintendent, Special Prison for Women, Chanchalguda, Hyderabad, Telangana State, has been chosen for playing a vital role in running a women petrol bunk with released women inmates of Telangana Central Prison. She has received three gold medals for her many meritoriousservices as a prison officer. She took special initiative for getting admissions for the children of the inmates in the schools of Hyderabad. She has specially worked towards promoting education for the children of the inmates. Rani Rajaram Bhonsle, 36, Superintendent,Nagpur Central Prison, Maharashtrahas been selected for her initiative in organizing telemedicine facility for ailing prisoners and training sessions on making sanitary napkins for the women inmates.Monika Agrawal, Superintendent, Mahila Jail, Jaipur for her special contribution in creating a friendly and creative environment inside prison. She has given a blend of both tradition and culture in the prison and has encouraged them to create things out of scrap.
Shashikant Mishra, 52, Superintendent, District Jail, Agra, has been chosen for his contribution in engaging many NGOs for bringing reformation inside jails and also working towards the rehabilitation of inmates. He has taken special care for providing education to the children of inmates.
Avtar Kishan Saini, 53, Assistant Superintendent, Hoshiarpur Central Jail, Punjab, has been chosen for his special contribution in helping inmates in the cases related to human rights. He has been providing legal help to the inmates.
Manas Ram Thakur, 49, Honarary Head Warder, Modern Central Jail, Kanda,Himachal Pradesh,has been selected for his exceptional work in the Khadi and Tailoring Unit of the prison. He has shown extraordinary managerial skills and acumen in production and marketing of Khadi products. Presently, 21 inmates are working in Khadi Unit and 22 in the tailoring Unit.
45 year old Shailendra Namdev from Central Jail, Madhya Pradesh has been chosen for his meritorious work in encouraging the inmates towards art. With a Ph.D in fine arts, he leads the group of inmates and helps in building career in painting.
Pradeep Raghunandan is being given the award in the social sector for his reformative campaigns inEtah Jail, Uttar Pradesh. He has also contributed towards the education of inmates and their childrenand providing books to jail library.
Sanjay Yadav- Superintendent, Central Jail, Jaipur, for his contribution in helping inmates synergizing their artistic skills and helping them towards gaining financial independence.
This year the awards were released by Shri. Bhupinder Singh (IPS), DG Prisons, Rajasthan, Shri A P Maheshwari, DG, BPR&D, Ministry of Home Affairs and Vartika Nanda, Founder, Tinka Tinka Foundation.The awards were released at Central Prison, Jaipur
The mementoes for this year are made by Radha Mohan Kumavat and Noor Mohammad lodged inJaipur Central Jail, Rajasthan. 35 year oldRadha Mohan Kumavatwas awarded the Tinka Tinka India Award in 2015. Before landing to prison, Radha Mohan Kumavat was a teacher. With a MA and B.Ed degree, he is an avid reader. Noor Mohammad, 46, is an artist with extraordinary skill to work with silk thread. He is lodged in the prison for the last 5 years.The backdrops this year were designed by Dev Kishan, another inmate in Jaipur Central Jail. He was also givenTinka Tinka India Award in 2015.
Awardees are given a certificate, a memento made by inmates and a copy of Tinka Tinka Madhya Pradesh. Vartika Nanda is credited to have started Tinka Tinka, a unique movement for bringing in creativity and change in prisons. She has curated the concept of awards for inmates for the first time in India. Two awards, exclusively for inmates - Tinka Tinka India AwardsandTinka Tinka Bandini Awards- were instituted to encourage inmates to engage in art work, literature and research on human rights issues. These awards are released on the Human Rights Day and Women’s Day, respectively, every year. Her latest work on prisons is Tinka Tinka Madhya Pradeshis another milestone in which 19 souls from jails have come together to create rainbow inside jails. These include 4 children too, of which 3 were born in prison. The aim behind these awards is to connect the prisons of India and also encourage the artistic and creative side of inmates as well as the prison administrators.
Who is Dr. Vartika Nanda: Dr. Vartika Nanda is a prison reformer. She is the first Indian to initiate a continuous movement on prisons under the banner Tinka Tinka. The then President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, conferred the Stree Shakti Puraskar on her in 2014. Stree Shakti Puraskar is the highest civilian honour for women in India. Her name has also been included in the Limca Book of Records twice for her unique work on prison reforms. Currently, she teaches in the Department of Journalism, Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, India.
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