Nehru - Toward Freedom (1936).pdf

From sunset to sunrise more or less we were locked up

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From sunset to sunrise (more or less) we were locked up in our cells, and the long winter evenings were not very easy to pass. I grew tired of reading or writing hour after hour, and would start walking up and down that little cell four or five short steps forward and then back again. I remembered the bears at the zoo tramping up and down their cages. Sometimes when I felt particularly bored I took to my favorite remedy, the shirshdsana standing on the head! The early part of the night was fairly quiet, and city sounds used to float in the noise of the trams, a gramaphone, or someone singing in the distance. It was pleasant to hear this faint and distant music. But there was not much peace at night, for the guards on duty tramped up and down, and every hour there was some kind of an inspection. Some officer came round with a lantern to make sure that none of us had escaped. At 3 A.M. every day, or rather night, there was a tremendous din, and a mighty sound of scraping and scrubbing. The kitchens had begun functioning. There were vast numbers of warders and guards and officers and clerks in the Alipore Jail, as also in the Presidency. Both these prisons housed a population about equal to that of Naini Prison 2200 to 2300 but the staff in each must have been more than double that of Naini. There were many European warders and retired Indian army officers. It was evident that the British Empire functioned more inten sively and more expensively in Calcutta than in the United Provinces. A sign and a perpetual reminder of the might of the Empire was the cry that prisoners had to shout out when high officials approached them. "Sarftar salaam" was the cry, lengthened out, and it was accom panied by certain physical movements of the body. The voices of the prisoners shouting out this cry came to me many times a day over my yard wall, and especially when the superintendent passed by daily. I could just see over my seven-foot wall the top of the huge State umbrella under which the superintendent marched. Was this extraordinary crysar{ar salaam and the movements that went with it relics of old times, I wondered; or were they the invention 305
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of some inspired English official? I do not know, but I imagine that it was an English invention. It has a typical Anglo-Indian sound about it. Fortunately this cry does not prevail in the United Provinces jails or probably in any other province besides Bengal and Assam. The way this enforced salutation to the might of the sar\ar is shouted out seemed to me very degrading. The brief winter was soon over, and spring raced by, and summer began. It grew hotter day by day. I had never been fond of the Cal cutta climate, and even a few days of it had made me stale and flat. In prison conditions were naturally far worse, and I did not prosper as the days went by.
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