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He grew up in jail to free his mother

A glimpse into the life of an undertrial in India

Gulf News

This is a real life story that should shake the conscience of every sensitive person and set any sensible person thinking. It is about an unusual sacrifice made by a son to free his mother from prison.

And finally, it leaves the message that there is no bigger curse than being poor.

Nineteen years ago, a poor young woman found herself implicated in a police case on a charge that apparently did not stand judicial scrutiny. But she was taken into custody and lodged as an undertrial in a jail in Kanpur, an industrial metropolis in northern India.

The woman was pregnant, but her husband could not afford to engage a lawyer to defend her. He was not aware of the free legal aid facility provided by the state. Nobody had told them either.

In any case, both he and his wife were too timid and so demoralised by the arrest that they could not have thought of availing free legal aid. Seemingly, while the police pursued the case mechanically, the couple decided that whatever was happening was their destiny.

The poor man visited the jail only twice or thrice to meet his wife. Finally, he gave up on finding the procedure too cumbersome. Nobody helped him or gave him or his spouse any advice in the matter.

As time lapsed, the distance grew between the poor husband and wife. In plain words, they got separated without asking for it. As the trial began, the police would take the pregnant woman to court.

One day, the woman gave birth to a son in the jail itself. Even as she nursed him, she was regularly taken by the police and produced in court. The case went on for three years.

The story took a strange turn when apparently she was found innocent. And she was told that she could walk out of the jail if somebody stood surety for her or if she filed a personal bond for which she needed a sum as little as just Rs5,000 (Dh285).

No choice

But where from would the poor woman arrange the amount? It was a futile idea she said to herself and gave it up. In the meantime she had developed a liking for the life in jail and like always decided that it was her destiny.

While carrying out the jobs assigned to her she was studiously raising her son — her only hope. The little boy was growing up slowly — from a toddler into a young kid. Years passed by. The boy did not know what the world outside the prison looked like.

One day, he was grown up enough to realise that both he and his mother were there for the wrong reason. He told his mother that enough was enough and it was time for them to move out. But that, again, required a sum of Rs5,000. There was no escape from this legal requirement.

Their world being confined to the four walls of the Kanpur prison, the boy had to explore and exploit every possible means within the jail to earn and save for the release of his mother. He worked hard and did odd jobs to save every penny. The mother also worked extra time to supplement her son’s efforts.

The boy had now grown up into a 19-year-old man. Rupee by rupee he managed to collect Rs5,000. Finally, he told the jail authorities that he was now in a position to deposit the required money to secure his mother’s release on bail. An obliging administration helped in seeing the mother and son duo out of the prison.

Nineteen years was too long a period for the poor woman to go through the sufferings that she did not deserve. Her agony would have prolonged but for her son whom she carried in her womb while entering the prison, gave birth and nurtured him for 19 years in the jail.

All because she was too poor to arrange a small amount of Rs5,000!

Once out, the mother and son found themselves on the threshold of a new world — a harsh world where they would have to wage another struggle for survival.

The battle continues.

Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.