By: Fr. Alex Fernandes sdb
KAPADVANJ-GUJARAT, JUNE 29, 2013: This was my second visit to Rajkot jail. The Prison Ministry of India (PMI) organizes a drawing competition every year on a different subject/topic for all prisoners of India at a national level. The Rajkot prison secured the first place by way of highest participants - eighty in all.
The PMI organized a programme in Rajkot jail on the June 20, 2013 to give away the certificates. The Rajkot Jail Superintendent, Mr. Arul Kumar Vyas made all the necessary arrangements. The chief guest for the day was Mr. Chowdhary - Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) and the other guest of honour were Sr. Fulmani LD. the Gujarat State Coordinator for PMI and Fr. Alex Fernandes sdb.
The programme began with lighting of the lamp, followed by welcome of the chief guest with a garland and presenting him with a copy of the Bhagvad Gita. The other guests too were welcomed in the same way.
Then came the giving away of the certificates. During this distribution one could see the eagerness, enthusiasm and joy in every prisoner who came up to receive the certificate. To my great astonishment I saw a man just rolling on the ground and coming toward the stage; when he had reached the stage two other men lifted him and kept him on the stage. The man again started rolling and thus approached the table to receive his certificate. Supporting himself with one hand on the ground he stretched out the other hand to receive the certificate, his face filled with joy and a broad smile. Honestly for a moment I was just paralysed with awe and wonder. I even stopped clapping.
Giving away certificate was done by the chief guest as well as guests of honour.
A special certificate was presented to the Jail Superintendent, Mr. Arul Kumar Vyas by the DCP for his guidance and encouragement given to the prisoners to participate in the Drawing Competition. This was followed by words of thanks and appreciation by Mr. Chodhary DCP. After that Sr. Fulmani gave a message to prisoners and later she was interviewed by the Press.
Then there was a light entertainment programme. Fr. Alex took over with a "Hindustani Clap" Followed by a housie game with attractive prizes that really took all of them by surprise and certainly there was lots of fun and laughter. This was followed by the presentation of a set of forty-five small story books by Sr. Fulmani for the Jail Library.
Finally, the Jail Superintendent Mr. Arul Kumar Vyas congratulated the prisoners for their whole hearted cooperation and thanked PMI for this great venture. He also recognized and appreciated the healthy support given by PMI. Again Fr. Alex brought the programme to close with a "Rain Clap."
After the programme the Jail Superintendent brought us back to his office namely, Sr.Fulmani and Fr. Alex. We then freely chatted with the Jail Superintendent when Mr. Tamilmani Swamynath a prisoner who lends his services in Jail Superintendent's office served us water and tea.
As we were talking to the Jail Superintendent Mr. Tamilmani came and handed over a pile of his certificates, well laminated to Fr. Alex and Sr. Fulmani to see. Certainly this was something out of the way and our astonishment grew. We went through all his seven certificates and passed them on to the Jail Superintendent. Mr. Tamilmani was standing by the side. We could see on his face simplicity, joy and happiness.
Later the Jail Superintendent praised Mr. Tamilmani saying "This man is always ever ready to do any work. I can just leave this office in his hands. He is the most trustworthy person around here."
Well, all said and done, it was time for us to leave and as we were about to leave the gate, suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder; it was Mr. Tamilmani who put his hand on my right shoulder and his right hand straight on the cross on my shirt and whispered to me, "Father, next time bring one like this for me."
Friends, in many ways this visit to the prison has made a deep impact and left lasting impressions on me.
I'm reminded of St. John Bosco, the Father and Founder of our Congregation. He always possessed a big heart for prisoners. His visit to the prison was unique in many ways. Placing his full trust in them he was always ready to take up any risk for the love of prisoners.