Guest Column – Prisoners’ Poems, Tihar Jail & DLF Promenade Mall
Poetry with plants.
[By Soumya Mukerji; photos by Tihar Jail]
Today (5 June) is World Environment Day. About 20,000 living-breathing saplings in recycled glass planters wait to be adopted, for free, at the DLF Promenade Mall in Vasant Kunj on June 5 and 6. And each comes attached with poetry.
So where had they come from, you would ask. Apart from major volunteer involvement across the capital, these came from behind the bars. Many of these saplings were planted by the prisoners of Tihar Jail, Asia’s largest prison, to drive home the message that if a bit of Delhi’s poisonous air can be made cleaner by those in captivity, then none of its free citizens can complain about being too caught up to do the same.
The campaign, called ‘Let’s Regain Delhi’s Fresh Air’, and conducted by the Hindbhartiyam Foundation in association with Kavi – The Poetry-Art Project*, invited a whole bunch of jail inmates to do what they had never done: use a recycled bottle planter, pat a plant firm into it and settle the soil, water it and nurture it till it would be ready to go out into the free world. Each inmate gave a name to his plant – most chose the name of their children – and also wrote a little poetic note to signify how his plant was symbolic of taking on a new responsibility – to help Delhi shed ‘the world’s most polluted city’ tag. These notes, mostly in Hindi and some in broken English–along with the saplings–wait to play tools of motivation for other jail inmates.
But, as they say, no matter what your prison, the best of creativity – and correction – is born in confinement. Get a plant, and get back Delhi to breathe.
*Disclosure: The author’s family is connected to Kavi – The Poetry-Art Project.
A poem for my pot