Nine By Twelve

hands of a prisoner on prison bars


“Bloody Moron! This place is not for you to day-dream. Keep your ass moving.”

The cold harsh voice of Nitya Babu arises his senses again. For a slight second, Nakul had moved into a world of expectation which has in turn forced him to forget about moving forward in the queue. Several other guys are throwing the nastiest of the slang towards him when he realized he has slowed down the entire process by moving into his own world of thoughts. Nakul has been waiting for this day for long. 16 years behind the bars and then comes the moment of expectation from Manas Sir. Mr. Manas Shukla – the Jailer serving for a time more than he has entered into this harsh world of survival. Only the previous night, during the daily headcount, Manas Sir was there to visit them when he heard him whispering to that fat and ugly attendant about something, which reached his ears.

“News came. Sentences gonna be reduced, some are gonna walk free on Monday!

“Any count Sir?” The fatty asked the Jailer.

“Not specific but maybe in or around 120 something! Orders from the Director General it seems.”

Prisoners ears! The one thing which Nakul has earned living these horrific days in Tihar. A major car accident gained attention when a 19 year old orphan named Nakul Sapui drove the truck straight into the bodies of a lady and her 6 year old son. The lady turned out to be the Minister’s wife and Nakul’s life turned out to be the headline on the following day’s news.
“Hit and Run shatters City’ – It read. The brakes didn’t work that day. Neither his destiny. Time was too short to move them to hospital and save. Common case of a spot death and the convict sentenced for life-long imprisonment. Since then, Nakul had made up his mind. He doesn’t have a family and fortunately or unfortunately no family leads to no dependencies. But these kind of sudden news rise hopes among convicts like them. He isn’t an exception.

“What’s special on Monday?” He asked Ratan, his 7 year long inmate.

“Indendence Day dude. Some bull-shit rituals and ceremonies and announcements.” Ratan seemed least interested.

Independence Day has always been respite for them. And just like that, just a day before they are here in the compound standing in a long queue. But today is not Independence Day. Tomorrow is 15th. Then why the rush today? News have come that the Director General of Prison has arrived today to make some announcement about reduction and release of convicts upon certain terms and conditions, those which are still unknown to Nakul. A few minutes more and then maybe, his curiosity will find an answer.



“There is a special announcement today for you people here. There has been a decision taken from government to reduce the sentence of a number of convicts who have showed improved behavior over the past few years and were sentenced for life-time imprisonments. After that we will call out the list of names who will be set free on this independence day 2 days later. I hope this brings justice and order among you all”

A loud cheer and roar spreads through all of them as the Director General of Prison Mr Shyamakanth Rathore gives a pause to his prudent speech.

“I will call out the names of the convicts who will have reduced sentence first and then we will move on to the freed convicts.”

“You are the guy caught for that truck accident case in 1997 right?” Nakul’s attention turns to the person sitting beside him who asks him a question.

The guy looks aged and ragged giving a clear implication of his long stay here. Normal people at his age don’t look so crooked. He is wearing a hijab on his head and kohl in his eyes. Much older than Nakul, this guy seems a bit awkward.

“Yeah! But how do you…?”

“Karim Chacha knows everything Beta! 43 years in prison. Not a big deal for me.” The guy interrupts Nakul. “So you expecting release?” Karim follows up.

“Yeah not sure. But maybe! What about you?”

Zaroor Beta! For the past 16 occasions when this decision was being taken, i have been here everytime. On this very spot. Expecting my name being called out. But these people are not happy with my conduct it seems.” Karim smiles.

“What were you accused of?” Nakul is curious.

“Forgery and drug dealing” Karim has a wry smile on his face. “But i tried improving you know. For my family i tried improving here..”

“Ghulam Yadav – Inmate Number 1132 – Sentence Reduced”. His statement gets interrupted by the sudden continuation of the general’s announcement again.

“Michael D’Souza – Inmate Number 54 – Sentence Reduced.”

Nakul’s nerves start freezing as the officer keep calling out the names. A sense of hope! A sense of expectation, as the names are being called out. He looks at Karim Chacha. Same look of desire, same feel of anxiety.

“Now we will call out the names who are going to be set free this Independence day on Monday” The General continued. For him, those letters on the list are just numbers. For convicts like them, those are entrance to lives.

“Nikumva Sarthi – Released on terms of behaviour and conduct” Loud applauds spread out again among the prisoners. Nakul knows Nikumva. He is a good guy.

“You know son. This time I need to be released. Its a must!” Karim Chacha has a urgency in his eyes which Nakul can not ignore.

“My daughter, Ramiza. She is too weak to control the family.” Karim continues. “Her son, young Raqib. He wants to see me everyday. My wife Nigam is living on her last days hoping that i will return. I want to be freed son. I am too tired to wait. Too tired…” Tears roll down his eyes as Karim slows down his voice

So much attachment. So many dependencies on this guy. A sudden thought strikes Nakul’s mind.

“Where is your home Chacha?” Nakul asks.

“4/5, Jamia Nagar Lane. Delhi! Its near the Masjid. Everybody knows me there.” Karim replies smiling.

“So we are down to the last name in the list. I hope whatever be the result, you guys will maintain your behavior and conduct such that a proper justice gets maintained and a new ray of hope rises among you all.”

An awkward silence makes its presence as the General says his last statement., somewhat due to the curiosity and thrill to know the last name and somewhat due to the realization that after this begins a long wait of another independence day, when convicts will be freed again. Nakul turns his head down. Independence! A strong word.

“Nakul Sapui – Inmate Number 1101 – Freed!” General’s voice reached his ears. He jumped off his place with the utter shock of uncertainty. A sudden, instant disbelief and thought passes through his mind ‘I am free! I don’t need to be in chains anymore. No walls can bind me now.’ A sense of relief flows down his nerves as he slowly cools down his excitement inside.

Jeete raho Beta! Allah ki lakh lakh shukar hain…” Karim Chacha is still there. For a slight moment of excitement, Nakul forgot about the presence of this man. Slowly and steadily the old man rises up and starts walking.

“You will be freed Chacha! Maybe the next time.” Nakul tries to console him.

The old man do not turn back. His lazy and tired body keeps moving away from Nakul.



The vibrant rays of the shining sun caress his face through the small hole of the 9 by 12 cell . His half closed eyes still could not bear the intensity. He wakes up hastily and looks beyond bars. Somewhere round the corner the distant music of Bande Mataram is ringing in his ears. 15th August, 2016 – Independence day. He looks at the watch. Its half past 7. Time for him to be free.
Nakul Sapui had never expected this kind of day in his life. But yet it came. Against his expectation, agreeing to his will.

Nakul had packed all his belongings in the small bag which had brought on the first day. It was handed over to him previous night only. His inmate, Ratan is still sleeping.

Noise of unlocking the keys turns his attention towards the bars again. It’s time.

“You are lucky Nakul! Not many people see this day. Come on now. Let’s move. ”
The guard expresses his surprise. He has seen Nakul down the years.

Nakul looks at Ratan for the last time and slowly and steadily walks out of the bars.

“This way” The guard guides him.

Nakul starts walking. Each and every step of which is like an act of moving towards his freedom. Time is like stopped somewhere. Somewhere down the middle of his way, he finds a gathering. A big gathering, rather a crowd.

“What’s that? What happened there?” He asks the guard.

“Cell number 156. Suicide Case!” The guard replied, as if it was a normal thing. Suicides have been happening for a long time here.

“Holy Shit! What’s his name?” Nakul asks again.

“Karim Azad. 74 years of age. Hanged himself. Poor guy.”

For a second, Nakul feels immobile. His hands get loosened. His bag feel heavy a lot more than it is. His heart seem to have stopped. The guard notices it.

“You know that guy?” He asks.

Nakul don’t feel the need to answer him. As quickly as possible, he rushes towards the cell. With a strong attempt, he manages to get past the crowd to get near the entrance of the cell. Peeping through a number of standing officers and guards, the stiff statue of Karim Chacha pierced his views. Wrapped in a white sheet, there he is sleeping like he has never slept before. His Hijab is still prevalent though the kohl has dried out. And as Nakul’s eyes move a bit away, he could see three passport sized photos placed on the table at the corner. A picture of an old lady, a young girl and small baby. His family, his reasons for wanting to improve, wanting to be free.

“You have to go Nakul. It’s time.” The guard has followed him till here.

A small drop of tear rolls down his eyes. Nakul turns away and starts moving towards the exit. As he steps out of the main gate, the guard gives him a hug.

“You are a free man buddy. You were always a good person. You deserved it!” The guard throws his heartiest compliments.

Does he really deserve it, this freedom of his? What’s independence to a guy like him who has no one to see after he is free? And the person who kept on waiting and waiting until his hopes gave up – What about him? What about his freedom, freedom from that 9 by 12 sized cell? What about the persons depending on him, could they ever be independent?
Karim Chacha! Why you did this? Why Why Why?

The music of Bande Mataram becomes louder as he moves closer to a local club presiding just outside the jail premises. The tri-coloured flag is hoisted to a much desired height. The breeze has enabled it to show its prowess.
Independence – A strong word.

Nakul starts heading towards his destination. He has an address to go – 4/5, Jamia Nagar Lane, Delhi. People are waiting for someone. Someone whom they could depend upon.













To be Or Not to be


His arms are helplessly trying to grab me around the shoulders but somehow my soul has given up to accept the warmth of him.

“Don’t leave! I beg you..” He looks at me sensing a feel of failure.

I sit down. Inevitably he is expecting an answer amidst the awkward silence. A few days before, this silence was the most beautiful part of our story. But with the change of wheels my heart has stopped singing songs. Fairy tales have turned to strict rules of reality. He needs answers. But i don’t feel of presenting them.

“I don’t feel for you any more Rony. Try to understand the fact.” I try to create an argument. Like always i did for the past 5 years.

“So you don’t love me anymore?”

And bang on! The guy has hit my heart on the right spot. LOVE – a destructive word you could say when it comes to these terms of the fading stage of a relationship. Specially when He who claims to love me does not care to show the remnants of his concern towards me. But then I accepted him for his goods knowing the bad about him. Then do i really have the rights to throw him the negation? Or more than that, will my heart suffice the needs of fulfillment which i require right now?
Still, i have to tell him right? Because he needs to hear it. His heart needs to feel the absence of my presence someday.

“No i don’t”

His eyes are staring at me. A valiant effort to win my heart has gone in vain and he who could not accept defeat anytime in his life was on the verge of his biggest loss. Silently he turns his head down in dismay. I stand up slowly again with my tired feet struggling to come here to him in the first place.

“I have to go. Stay well.”

“Good to know you care.” The slightest whisper reached my ears as i was preparing to turn and leave the spot.

“I do. I hope you did the same.”

I never had an intention to hurt him in the first place. Neither did i wanted to display an array of excuses to run from this unpleasant situation. But I have to win. And as hard i can, i tried to break this man down. I start walking away from him and probably walking away from my biggest weakness but then somehow I suspend my act. There comes a subtle expectancy of him calling me back for the last time. But he isn’t. I turn back and the last look of him isn’t the one which i was expecting. Just a few feet away from me, the sight of his face strike my sight. Drops of tears are tearing his face apart. His chubby cheeks are slowly getting flooded with the sudden aggression of my statement.

Few years before we made a promise. Quite unaware of the unforeseen situation, we at a slightly young age and slightly less maturity we promised to keep our words.

“What if I leave you someday? Will you cry for me?” I had asked him with the purest innocence.

“Never!” He had a stern look.

“You won’t get the feeling of seeing me for the last time? You won’t cry?” I was quite surprised by his reply.

“No i won’t. Never. I promise. Men don’t cry.” He gave his light heart-winning smile.

I was struck by his strength then. Not the physical one which every man shows. But the strength of the inner person inside him who was strict in his words, his personality showering wonder all over me.

“And i won’t leave you. Ever! I promise.” I made my statement.

We both didn’t keep our promise. A few steps from him, here i am standing. Just a few steps more and I could be away from his life forever. But the strength of the tears is binding me back.
Slowly and steadily i started walking back to him. Another adjustment maybe, another chance to pull things back!

So Who won this time? His tears, my forgiveness or the Promise?


The Origami


“Hey wait! What’s that?”

Amongst the several other viewers in the museum I was not expecting her to suddenly react to a simple piece of art placed cautiously on the extreme corner of the museum. Not that she didn’t react like this before but I was not prepared. She was pointing to an origami, a sheet of paper turned into a blue colored butterfly and marking its significance with an strikingly exceptional presence.

“That’s an origami! You haven’t seen one before?” I asked her. Nafisa – the girl of my life set to marry me in a few months seemed to be well affected by the beautiful art

“No…i thought it to be an original! As if a butterfly was sitting in the middle of a fucking museum! Can’t we meet the artist?” She turned towards me with a distinctive look, one which i have never been able to turn down.

She seemed excited and in spite of several arguments, she won and dragged me towards that item number 279 just to seek the name of the artist. As we moved closer, we invented the details attached there. The piece of art looked much more prominent and more beautiful at a zooming distance. The butterfly had an astounding touch of attraction which made me stand there and admire the work of the artist. I now understood the cause of my fiancee being mistaken by the realistic appearance of the butterfly from a fare distance. With slight white circles spread among its wings, the blue piece of paper also possessed a strange contentment, an ability to make you stick around it. As i was busy analyzing the piece of art, my partner was trying to identify the information attached with it.

“Chocho!” She whispered into my years.

Completely unaware of the term, i looked into her eyes with a series of interrogative. She understood my confusion and started laughing. And before i could make out the reason for her laugh(whether due to the awkward pronunciation of the term or my bewildered looks), i noticed the huge white board placed underneath the glass box where the origami was kept.

CHOCHO – Common symbol in Japanese culture to represent young girls” it read. I continued reading with interest.

Just as the caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis to become the butterfly, a young girl transforms into a beautiful lady and become more confident and beautiful as they mature.

“You agree?” I was interrupted again by her. She asked looking into my eyes.

“Yeah somewhat. All women are beautiful. Some outside, some inside!” I smiled.

“Keep your crap with you! I don’t believe this bullshit. However the last part is quite something to praise.” She again turned to the board. I focused my attention again towards the last part which was claimed to be interesting from her.

Two butterflies flying together are also seen as a symbol for a happy marriage, as one butterfly represents the husband and the other represents the wife.” I looked at her. She was smiling. Maybe the word ‘marriage’ has aroused her intentions and unfulfilled dream. I kept looking at her when she made another of her quotes ‘Where’s the other one then? There should be two by my calculations! The artist missed one right?”

And just as i was starting to begin my part of explanation behind this, another voice emerged from behind out of a total silence and reached our senses.

“I didn’t miss it. I waited for a girl like you to complete my pair of Chocho.” Both of us turned around to see a young guy standing behind us, tall-dark-handsome by the very meaning of the adjectives. Somewhere inside my heart, i felt this guy, the artist knew my fiancee and as i looked at her only things i saw were two glaring eyes fixed at a point staring towards the guy. The eyes had a strange mixture of curiosity and hatred, i could feel it.

“I knew we had to meet!” The guy made his second comment which made me sure of the fact that these two persons had a past. And as i was going to comment my quote, my fiancee snatched it and made a precedence with her’s , “Excuse me please! I have to go…” And she quite surprisingly rushed towards the exit leaving back a look towards me signifying i need to follow her. I guessed the situation, I knew the reason. I wanted to ask the guy his name, I wanted to know the past! But somehow i controlled my urge and followed her instead.

Things left unsaid and unanswered that day as i didn’t raise the topic again.

1 year later

It is our first anniversary. Me and Nafisa. And it is time for me to present her my first gift. With shaking hands, i hand over the small square box to her. She gives her evergreen smile and hugs me. As she starts untying the knots of the small box, I keep looking at her face. I want to capture her expressions because i want to know the answers to the questions left unanswered that day.

As the lid of the box is opened, i notice a gasp in her face. Surely she has been struck with astonishment and wasn’t expecting this from her newly wedded husband. And slowly and steadily i can view the genuine and sincere smile spreading over her face all around, a feel of satisfaction

“Chocho!” For the second time, i heard that term from the same person. But this time it has a sense of completeness, something more to it.

“And its a pair” She completes her sentence with the beautiful smile on her face, the smile which made me fell for her in the first place. The box is filled with two beautiful blue coloured butterflies facing each other in quest of happiness.

“Yes, the male and the female, signifying a happy marriage” I want to make her happy. The same reason for which i never asked her that day about her past, the same reason for which i trusted her and decided to live life along, the same reason for which i had walked miles away from the city to collect a pair of ‘Chocho’ just to see to the look of satisfaction on my princess’ face. The look and the smile for which a man can do anything for her girl.

“Happy anniversary Dhruv! And thank you”. She then leans forward and kisses me, the act for which i was totally unprepared. I enjoy it though🙂


The Last Note

Dear Sir ,
I am an Engineer.
This is my last note, the last one before my black ball point pen draws an end to my 4 year journey by a simple full stop. Because when the last MCQ would fill an empty white space with an answer and that too from the slightest whisper of a friend sitting in the far corner, my long journey would have been ended. I know, I would not get a suppli. As the last night study would save me this time too just as it had for the last 4 years.
This is my last note, the last note before I will carefully take out a piece of paper from my hip pocket which would give me 15 fortunate marks. This is the last note before I would excuse myself last time maybe for 5 minutes just to visit the washroom, maybe to find the help of a friend with whom I have fixed an appointment with. Or specifically, this would be the last time I would get out and look for the most studious girl (It has to be the female gender) of our group just to check out if she had opted for (B) in question number 5.
This is my last note, the last one before I would stand underneath the bar post in the lush green ground outside. This is the last note before I would ever taste a joint moving in counter or feel the anxiety of holding a cigarette in shaky fingers for the first time. Never would I get the chance to show the King of Spade and win the hand to win a bet among my dear friends
This is my last note because never ever I would get the opportunity to kneel down before the Girl I loved and propose her near the wooden table in front of the dirty blackboard and behind the second door of room number 105 with a red rose in my hand and faster heart beats. Neither would I get the opportunity to reunite my folks and bunk a class just to watch a movie.
4 years were never enough Sir.
I may have been just one more usual candidate of yours but you were life for me.
From ,
One of Your disobedient and unfaithful students🙂