My Days in Tihar Ashram

BP

The day at the courtroom was tiring and it became more so on account of the long drive in a police van from Tis Hazari Courts to Tihar Jail in Delhi. But the very novelty of the experience of being sent to prison for my participation in what I believed, and continue to believe, was a whistleblowing operation to expose a corruption scandal in Parliament, made my mind alert to every sight and sound that greeted me as I entered the jail. It was nearing 9 p.m. The jail superintendent, M K Dwivedi, was still in his office. A young and sensitive officer, with whom I would soon develop very cordial relations in the course of my 52-day stay in Tihar, he welcomed me with a hot and refreshing cup of ayurvedic tea, and some words meant to comfort. "Jail, after all, is jail," he said. "But having been a student of philosophy and Sanskrit, I can tell you that a man like you will find this a very good learning experience in life. It will give you solitude, which is otherwise very hard to find. Solitude is necessary to search for answers to the deepest questions of life. After all, all religions were born out of the womb of solitude when their founders wrestled with their own minds and souls."

Dwivedi was right. What made my days in Tihar most rewarding was that they taught me the value of solitude and silence. Solitude, the state of being mostly in one's own company, is a unique opportunity to begin a conversation with oneself, something that we rarely engage in when we drown ourselves in the hustle and bustle of normal life. It brings silence—not external silence but internal silence of the mind that opens the doors of dialogue with one's Maker. Few persons have described the power of the sound of silence better than Mahatma Gandhi, who spent nearly seven years of his life in jail. "The art of life," he insisted, "cannot be practised without experiencing the beneficial effects of silence." The radio he preferred to listen to, even when he was not in jail, was the "Divine Radio" because "(it) is always singing if we could only make ourselves ready to listen to it, but is impossible to listen to without silence."

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