A reformed convict’s poems give birth to play

Shimla, May 30 (IANS) Put behind bars for nine years for rape, Sudhir Sharma underwent the agony of prison life – an emotional journey that found vent in 153 poems. Written on bits of paper and handed over to an NGO each time, the reformed convict’s poems will now be staged as a play in Shimla.

The play, ‘Toote Armano Ki Aawaz’, will be staged by eight local artists June 4 with the active participation of the Himachal Pradesh government, the Delhi-based NGO Delhi Kala Karam and the National School of Drama.

‘A collection of 153 poems which Sudhir penned during his condemnation has been put into dramatic form and will be staged at Gaiety Theatre June 4,’ Saroj Vasishth, Delhi Kala Karam general secretary, told IANS.

She said the play would try to portray the mental frame of a prisoner during his sentence and his transformation if corrective measures are adopted by the prison authorities.

Sharma, 29, was convicted in 2000 for raping a woman. He received a nine-year prison sentence and was discharged from Kanda prison, on the outskirts of Shimla town, in February 2009.

He has got married now and does farming in his ancestral village near Solan town.

Sharma said: ‘My initial years in jail were quite worrisome. But when I started penning poems, I learnt how to live in a different way. Now, I am trying to reorient other prisoners so that they come out of prison as better people.’

While in prison, the Class 12 dropout also maintained a daily personal diary.

‘I have also jotted down the hidden details of prison life…the way the jail staff violates quarantine procedures and promotes drugs and triggers circumstances that convert an ordinary prisoner into a hardcore one,’ said Sharma.

Vasishth, 77, popularly known as ‘mom’ among the prisoners, said: ‘He used to give us a few stanzas of poem penned on a piece of paper when we visited the jail during reformatory programmes being run by our NGO for prisoners.’

‘In fact, when we met him during his initial years of the sentence, he was under frustration and deep mental disorder. We motivated him and transformed his restlessness into black and white,’ she said.

Vasishth, who is also a former All India Radio (AIR) broadcaster, said Sharma’s poems were compiled into a Hindi book titled ‘Toote Armano Ki Aawaz’ – the same as the play.

‘The 66-page book will also be released on June 4 when the play is staged. Several copies of the book have been procured by the NGO and will be distributed in other prisons across the country to motivate other inmates,’ she said.

Vasishth was associated with reforms at Tihar Jail in Delhi for a long time and later shifted to Shimla to continue her prisoner reform programmes in the hill state.

By staging plays and other correctional programmes, her NGO re-integrates non-violent offenders into society.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])