We discussed in detail with Subodh, who had agreed to conduct workshop for the inmates at Thane Central Jail. He was equally exited like me. We discussed on- “How many people will go there? How interestingly will we conduct workshop? What time we will go? How will we go?” Jail superintendant had warned us that big gathering should be avoided. I was also in favor of the same. Finally we decided that Subodh, me, Vidha and her friend Ali Akbar Mehta, who was also the then student of JJ School of Art, Mumbai and a very good aspiring artist, will go together. Ali has a very strong background of art from his family. His grandfather Tyab Mehta, is a world class renowned artist. Subodh suggested that we all will travel by his car along with materials.
And on scheduled Saturday, We all three, Me, Vidha and Ali met at a decided place, where Subodh joined us. He has a luxury car. I was still going with my Maruti Zen only. We kept all drawing material in the dickey. Subodh took front seat. His driver was a young guy and very good in driving. He helped us a lot during the workshop also. It was looking that Subodh has trained him as his assistant. Without asking anything, he understands the instruction of Subodh and do the work efficiently.
We all three took back seat. Soon Ali slept. We were also taking our nap in between. We had started quite earlier to avoid traffic. Luckily we did not get any traffic that day. With the result, we reached much earlier than the schedule.
We all were thinking- “What to do?” Finally we decided; let us search some moderated place for breakfast. Within no time, we got that. Everyone was told to take heavy snacks. We cannot expect any hospitality from jail. We had bought some water bottle to take inside for our drinking purpose.
After breakfast and tea, we were near to schedule. We enter in the premise. As usual, we were stopped- “Thamba Madam! Kuthe janar?” (Madam, please stop. Where you would like to go?”)
I narrated- “We have come from AVITOKO. Today, we have our art workshop for the inmates. These are my group members and these are the materials for conducting workshop.”
They saw us and our bundles. One senior official nodded his head and we moved ahead. Again, the big lawn area was there- with green trees, flower plants, police vans, and above our tricolor national flag. Huge gate was before us. We were moving towards the gate and in the middle, again we were stopped, “Ho Madam, Kuthe jaycha?”
Again same answer was repeated. It was a little irritating. But we understand that they are doing their duty. We don’t have any right to interrupt. And our irritation has no meaning for security.
We got green signal from here and once again we started moving towards the gate. I was ahead. I stood in front of the gate. Security from inside opened the whole of the gate and asked me the purpose of my visit. I once again, narrated the same, but included that I have been called be Dhamne Saheb.
By listing the name of his superntendant, he became a little polite and said, “OK. You stand over there. We are informing Saheb.” I moved towards a corner and stood. My group members were also moved to that place. They were looking the surrounding and at me. I said them what the orderly had told to me. Several kinds of people were going in and coming out from the gate. They were contract labor, prisoners, policemen and jail officials.
Almost after five minutes, again the whole of the gate got opened for me. My name was called. One person told me, “Madam, they are calling you.”
I moved towards the gate. One official from inside had confirmed my name. Then he permitted me to come inside. I entered along with my group people. He asked, “So many people?”
I said, “Yes. We have our program today no.”
All entered inside. No, it was not the inside area. Again there was another huge gate inside. In between, there was a cabin for the jailer, a place for depositing the belongings of new inmates, a place for frisking of new entrants and deep inside, the huge and grand cabin of Superintendant and other small cabins for his other officers. We were told to deposit our money and mobiles. I said, “We want to meet Dhamne Saheb first.”
“For that also, you have to deposit your mobiles here.”
We have no options but to deposit. It was our first group visit. Before that, I had taken an art and theatre workshop for women inmates, which I had narrated earlier. This was a big event for us. We all were curious.
We went inside. Mr. Rajendra Dhamen was sitting in his chair. His uniform was supporting his rough and tough personality. His cap was hanged on a hanger. A mirror was there in his back side corner.
He wished us and offered the seat. Water was served. I introduced everyone. He welcomed everyone with a grand yet a little mischievous smile. He asked me, “How many inmates you want for the workshop?”
I said, “As discussed earlier, 25-30 people would be enough. We have come along with the preparation for that population only. Getting more people would be difficult to handle”
“How you will teach them?”
“Its experiential. We exactly, can’t explain, but Mr. Subodh will be the right person to elaborate.” I smiled and indicated my finger towards Subodh.
Subodh, in his soft but firm voice explained – “We will do some exercise first to re-orient the participants. Then we will guide them to paint. At present, I don’t know, what they will paint, because everything will depend on their imagination.”
“You please come and see.” I said humbly.
Mr. Dhamne smiled, “Yes, definetly.”