I was not certain how my mom would react, No, not one from my family has stepped in to a prison, and I know it well it’s not a thing to boast for being the first. As I sat in the Inspector General’s office, it was dot silent that I could hear my heart beat, a bit faster than the usual pace. I was informed I need to log in and surrender all the electronics and mobile phone at the prison gate locker before I step in, I felt I need to speak to my mom before that, but also had a hesitation for how she’d react, she would have no clue how I happened to land up in a prison and that too when I'm thousands of miles away from her.
The prison walls were built with black basalt rocks and that hints that the prison should be at least 200 years old. The 18th century Nine foot pendulum in a mammoth Dark Oak case with its antique copper hands, placed at the open end of the prison lounge donged 12, it never looked like 12 noon when I gazed through the window that’s barricaded with huge iron bars that are literally indestructible, It was pouring down heavy and the clouds were dauntingly dark with monstrous thuds of the thunders. The entire set up of the room was very Irish, the Inspector General’s armed chair was meticulously crafted out of African teak. The room had a huge portrait of the former Prison Warden who was killed by the prisoners during an internal mutiny between two parties, he was known for saving half a dozen prison officers as he gave up his life, a note underneath the portrait praised him for that. As my thoughts wandered around, I was called by an old man and was informed I would need to step in, in to the prison gate in next 10 minutes. It alarmed deep within me, I was uncertain about when I would get to breathe the free air again once I step in, In a spur of a moment I took my mobile out and rang my mother…It’s not the usual time I call her, after a few rings she picked up and I heard that caring voice, “Hello” she said…
“Mom, I'm in Ireland, & I'm in Crumlin road Gaol (Jail)….” I uttered with a speculation of what she’d reply…
“Nice, that’s a great place to be, I’ve read about that in a novel and it has been closed officially in 1960’s and made in to a tourist spot right, hope you’re enjoying Belfast..Do take some pics and send it across in watsapp” she replied, & I was awestruck with my mom’s international exposure ;-) I thought of giving her a thrill ride and she made me feel blunt. I replied “Sure mom, I’ll do” and as I disconnected the call, My friends who were in the café at the prison lounge returned and we gathered for the prison tour.
We had a old gentleman who should be in mid 70’s as the prison tour guide who's loaded with laughing gas which he never forgets to pump out often. One another soul that reminded me that age is just a number.
You can stay young at heart if you wish to, yes, if YOU wish to.
He gave a brief history of the gaol (or Jail), and we were walked through the chambers, the warden rooms, the security patrol towers, the medical centre and the only open space, the vast ground that was bound by a 15 feet black basalt rock wall with barbed fence above that, the wall was intimidating and gave no hope to surpass, not for the bravest too. My mind was playing back and relating it to Shawshank redemption (A movie to watch, if you haven’t), no easy deal it is….It was just a tour till then…He mixed with a lot of humour as we passed these place and there came the twist.
“The Gallow” – It never had a neuron attached to my brain till that very moment. It meant nothing to me till then. We were walked in to a chamber where the life sentenced prisoners were kept separated, along with two guards who stay with them round the clock, so the room had a decent enough space for 3 to strive living. It was dark except for the boring halogen light that passes through the bar gate, no exhaust window, no sun light and doses of depression.
Just imagine, staying for months together in a single room, where you do not get to meet people other than the two designated guards who stay with you, whether you like it or not. You don’t get to see the outer world, your food served in place. Could the world get more smaller for a person, I could feel myself trembling as I envisaged the life there. I know it had been only the people who deserved, may be, only the atrocious landed up there, but still that hurts deep to live than to die to be in such an environment. Just think what if an innocent is judged guilt, how would it feel…After spending months there, the prisoner on the final day, the Judgement day is moved to the very next room through a door that is riddled in his very room where he spent so much time, he would have never knew his death doors were so close to him. That door lands him in to the Gallow Chamber, he is not given enough time to take things in, he is blindfolded, his hands tied, and in a moment he has a rope around his neck positioned right between his jawbone and throat to ensure the pain lasts minimal time and then the THUD, the lever released, the person is hanged to death, his soul leaves his body and that’s the end.
As the old man narrated, we had 15 odd people in the group with nationals from US, Europe & Africa. Culture, Race, education, maturity, the bullish looking and puny looking, and all possible differences were there, but one thing in common, tears brimming every eye. It was indeed an intense emotion, and we walk down the chamber, a narrow tunnel that leads to the exit door, I hardly found people talking to each other. Everybody was occupied in their own thought and so was I.
I was entangled in a different thought thou, The person punished faces the isolation for months, and pain of death for minutes, I would call that much better. Yes much better compared to the life of the guards who stay with him, take care of him, spend time with him, dine with him and at times, play cards and laugh with him… How would it be to watch a person who was there with you, whom you guarded for months, who almost became a friend in spite of his cruel acts of the past, whose softer side you know, and finally you watch him die, and then comes the next and the next…Don’t you think this is worse than execution as such? It is…no matter how cold hearted the guard may be..!
So, now, close your eyes and think about your biggest problem or your biggest worry, and tell me if we are anyway close to this, definitely not, we have a life, we have a “Tomorrow” that’s full of possibilities, we have family n friends though at times it might have its own imperfections, which is way better than not having one. I don’t intent to say be happy about your problem, I intend to say be happy in spite of having a problem…
Life is short, do not wear your problems on your sleeves.
Happiness is a way of life and not a destination.
Keep smiling & Stay Loving!!