I was assigned to cell number 312 at RT Block and given the roll number 011303006 since 12th September 2001 for committing a crime of running away from home on my mum’s birthday (10th September). The prison cell is shared by another guy named Cindy … oops Sin Dee. He committed a crime of … I don’t know… I don’t dare to ask him… but related to murder I guess. The rooms are arranged in a parallel order, separated by a common corridor (Imagine a prison, Alcatraz for example). The corridors are dark. After we enter our rooms, the guard will latch the door and lock it from outside. As it is with any other prison, there are rowdy and uncivilized inmates. Every now and then and on festive occasions loud explosions can be heard from within their cells. How they manage to smuggle in gun-powder to make firecrackers is a mystery to me.
The first few days after arriving, we were required to register ourselves with the Chief Warden and the Superintendent of Police. If we were to leave this place we were required to get an exit permit and report to the police when we got back. Every morning there were guards knocking at my door and shouting “time to wake up”! They unlocked the door, opened it and made sure you were out of your room, if not they would threaten you with their batons. I had to dress quickly and hurry out of the room. We are provided with barely edible food, but, we must pay for it. On the way to the canteen, there will be guards, all of them armed with a whistle and a baton. The electricity is cut periodically to save power for other areas, areas which are more important than a prison. As usage of many electronic equipments are banned, bribes are to be given to the guards to keep their mouths shut in case of a spot check.
In the canteen, we have to queue up to take the food tray (looks more like a dog food tray but stainless steel about 25 cm diameter). the cups are also made of stainless steel. When there is a fight for food everybody will be beaten up by the guards. The canteen warden will scoop the food for us one by one. (Everyday curry and only one meal has chicken). After we sit at our table, the canteen wardens will throw the cups at you and we have to collect the water ourselves. Everyone has to eat fast, else the guards will start scolding and beating. “Don’t waste Food” is the motto. With the low protein diet that we are provided for our malnourished bodies, how can we escape “Pig Bel” (if infected) when we are freed?
We start classes (Moral Class) at 8 am every morning. We have to enter the class by 7:55 or before the sirens sound. The siren is the same as those used at army camps or factories. When the class starts no one is allowed to visit the washroom or do anything other than pay attention to the rehabilitation classes. We have to sit at these classes for 8 hours every day, they give a break for two hours, which sometimes last for less than an hour. Everyone falls asleep in class, but we have to stay awake at the end of each hour, they call out our numbers. If we miss shouting out when they call, we might have to prolong our prison stay by 6 months to a year. We need to average atleast 75% shoutouts during the year to avoid a prolonged sentence. After 1700 hrs we are sent back to our cells. So now you can imagine the life we have here.
Every midnight the land which lies 200metres above sea level is plunged into darkness. The main switch for the entire town is turned off. Anyone found outside their cells will have to meet the chief warden and await their fate.
The only special part of this prison is that we are not looked down upon in the society when we are freed. We are in fact revered across the lands. All right, I think I’ve talked enough about my daily routine. It is not easy to be a prisoner. So don’t commit crimes. Be happy to be good, strive to be better and never do bad. To all readers, don’t worry… it was not as bad as written here. It is just me imagining Manipal hostel life from a different perspective. It does feel like a rehabilitation center, but I never felt like it. I was freed from this place, but I never feel away from it even after so many years.
Signing off – Roll number: 011303006
About the Author: The author wishes to be known by the number 011303006. Born and bought up in Malaysia, he is an alumnus of one of the medical colleges at Manipal. He assures us that things were not as bad in the Manipal Hostels as he mentions in the account above.