New Delhi, 17 April 2015, 11:00 AM: We reported at the Delhi Prison Headquarters and were straightaway driven to the adjoining Tihar Jail the biggest prison complex inAsia.
We were first taken to Jail no. 6 which is a prison meant exclusively for women inmates and under-trials. At the entrance, we were frisked and our wallets and mobiles were deposited.
Being a law-abiding citizen all through my life, I never ever imagined that I would land in a prison some day. It felt a bit awkward stooping and getting in through the small gate that I had only seen in movies.
Within a few minutes, we were before the superintendent and warden of the jail. We were taken to a hall where around 200 lady prisoners were present. They belonged to all ages young, middle-aged and old.
Looking at their plight, I felt deep empathy for them and found it difficult to control my tears. But they were full of life and hope. There were no signs of despair in their eyes; at least they pretended to be normal.
At this point, I must disclose the purpose of our visit and also tell you who all were with me or, rather, with whom I was there.
We were here for a noble purpose to add a dash of cheer and happiness in the routine life of the prisoners and bring some smile on their faces.
I was in the august company of Dr Madan Kataria and Madhuri Kataria, the founders of Laughter Yoga, along with Dr Santosh Sahi who has done commendable service at the prison, and some members of the Delhi Laughter Club and my colleagues from theLaughterYogaUniversity,Bangalore.
Within minutes, there were echoes of hoho hahaha and very good. very good, yay! reverberating within the walls of the prison. We could sense a silent gratitude in the eyes of the inmates for bringing a shower of relief and some respite from the frightening monotony of the closed walls.
Bidding good-bye to them with a heavy heart, we moved to the adjacent prison meant for the adolescents. The boys there were all between 18 and 21 years of age.
A first glance at them and I observed an eerie look in their eyes. I felt sad for them. They should be studying somewhere but suddenly find that their future is quite hazy and uncertain.
This age group, especially with a closed mindset, is sometimes a hard nut to crack.
Dr Madan Kataria started with clapping and breathing exercises. Soon, they were laughing like all other kids the child-like playfulness had re-appeared and they were laughing whole heartedly.
I guided them to hearty laughter, age laughter and lion laughter. The response was immense. Vinayaka thrilled them with his banana trick.
Ohh, the prison was brimming with energy and joy. The eerie look in the eyes of the boys had vanished and they appeared like little kids.
I could hardly hold my tears!
P.S. I must express my deep gratitude, on behalf of the entire laughter yoga team that visited the prison, to the wonderful staff at the prison who served us tea, pakoras and good lunch with so much care and concern, and to the senior officers of the jail who made our visit free of any hassles and duly released us in the evening without bail.
~ Jagat Singh Bisht