As a part of my summer internship, I happened to visit the central jail in Rajasthan. A gothic arched shaped building with high masonry walls, adorned with barbed wires and a big brother sitting in the watchtower always keeping an eye on every action of the inmates. Entering through the portcullis-like door, I was then stripped of my entire belongings one by one: the pen, the wristwatch, mobile phone and everything else. After being stamped as a visitor, the guard escorted me through a series of gates, leading into a dour labyrinth o f bricks and bars.
As I stepped into the gaol, I realized that the place was full of paradox. The sky was blue and open yet it felt claustrophobic, the birds were set free but humans were confined, it was like you are free yet fettered. You forfeit your freedom the moment you step in and the huge door closes behind.
As I was walking down the sidewalk, I wondered what is the difference between the humans who are incarcerated often branded as “lawbreakers” and the humans who are just visiting the place known as ‘law-abiders’. I wondered who is a criminal? The simple answer was the one who commits a crime or a wrong. But wait whether all the wrongs are crimes? So narrowing down the sphere of the wrong only those acts are a crime which is forbidden by the old dusty textbooks of law. So if you are on the wrong side of a bad law, you are a criminal. And as I cudgelled my brain I realized that even I am a criminal, in fact, I contend that we all. My criminal mind flashed all those instances when ‘being in a rush’ I disregarded rules and laws or how many times I have taken something that is not mine. How many times I have sneakily took the money out of my mother’s purse or downloaded videos from torrent and being a “serial- plagiarizer” at copying the thesis for the project work. And how many times we all have violated the law of minimum drinking age or used someone else’s WIFI. Most of us struggle to see the criminal in many of our mini crimes. But these so-called minor crimes are committed so regularly that they have almost become legal, which seems to be the reason so many people aren’t fazed when they do break the law.
There is only one thing which separates us from those whom we brand as offenders, criminals, crooks, felons, convicts, lawbreakers, outlaws and delinquents or to use more specific epithets, such as thief is that luck was on our side when we just got away by the hands of justice while others have paid the price.
As for looking down on others who break rules, we are very idiosyncratic. We will adhere to certain rules ourselves and castigate others for not doing so, but have no qualms about breaking other rules.
So that day I realized that all criminals have blank records until they are caught.
So what all offences are there on your chalkboard? Share with us in the comment section below.