Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review: In Custody Women in Tihar


A book similar in theme to Mafia Queens of Mumbai, that I recently read would be In Custody: Women in Tihar.  The book is about the women inmates of Tihar Jail, Delhi. Tihar is one of the largest prisons in South East Asia. The prison has been in the news for all the reforms that have taken place under Kiran Bedi’s stint as Director General of Prisons.

The text in the book is accompanied by candid photographs of the inmates. It shows how these women, despite the wretchedness of their existence, manage to effectively spend their time in the prison. Lots of vocational courses such as weaving, stitching, agarbatti making, crèche management and beauty treatment are offered to the inmates so that they are prepared to live an independent, crime free life once they are out of the prison. Stories of friendship, peaceful co-existence despite different backgrounds that these women come from, make the book a very heartwarming read.

The children here are brought up in a crèche inside the prison till they turn five after which they are sent to hostels. These crèches are run by Kiran Bedi’s NGO Navjyoti in the afternoons and in the mornings by other NGOs. Again the pictures that accompany the text will tug everyone’s heartstrings.

Though this does not take away the pain and desolation of a life in confinement that these women lead still the reforms that have been brought in make their lives a lot more worthwhile than what they were living. The book holds a mirror to the lives of these women without offering an opinion on how things have changed for them, yet, it makes for an immensely positive read.

It was a good and insightful read.

The women behind this book:

Text by: Amba Batra Bakshi.
She was born in New Delhi in 1980 and did her schooling from Modern School and The Lawrence School, Sanawar.

She graduated in Journalism from Lady Shriram College, and went on to do her Masters at City University, UK and, in 2007 pursued Advance Non-Fiction writing at Harvard. She has been a news reporter since 2000 and has worked with the Indian Express, The Asian Age and The Guardian.In 2004, she recieved an award from the Press Institute of India for a series of stories on the lack of night sheltersin the winter, for homeless women in capital. She currently lives in New Delhi with her husband and eight-month-old son.

Photographs by: Renuka Puri

She was born in 1969 in a remote village in Himachal Pradesh. After studying in the village school, she completed high school from Haryana and then joined the Arts College, Chandigarh to pursue Graphic Design. She worked in an ad agency before taking to photography, a better medium, she feels, for expressing herself and a more satisfying career. After freelancing for a few magazines and the U.P Tourism department, she joined The Indian Express in 1997. Having captured a number of interesting subjects from fashion shows to political developments, she was choosen by Fuzi films, in 2005, as one of the super six women photographers, and her work was displayed around the country.


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