Lessons from prison

Some people will be pleased to know that my obsession with air crash investigations has taken a dive in recent months. Therefore, I have been trying to find a new obsession and unsurprisingly, I have not been successful so far. Even so, I came across a show on Netflix called Inside the world’s toughest prisons. The episodes are pretty much the same –  the host/presenter goes to a prison to live and experience life as a prisoner for a week or so. As the title suggest, they go to the toughest prisons so they end up rubbing shoulders with convicted criminals, murderers and other serious offenders. To top it off, the host is also given the same treatment as a prisoner.

One of the first things one notices when watching such a show is that prison is not a place to run to. Conditions are harsh and the treatment prisoners get is inhumane in a lot of instances.

The other thing that one easily notices is how nicer people look when they put on a smile. There is just something that happens when someone smiles. In addition to making the person smiling feel good and improving their mood, smiles also warm the hearts of those who see it. Be it in a child, an old man or a criminal missing a tooth or two, smiles seem to bring out the best in people and when we see that, we cannot help it but feel happy ourselves.  If you know someone who always appears to have a blank face, try telling a joke. If and when they smile, your world will be turned upside down. So instead of spreading Corona, spread smiles.

One question that was asked to the prisoners in each of the episodes I have seen so far is what they miss most outside prison. More often than not, the answers are always Family, Friends and Food. There are other things like freedom, privacy, nature and even colour and air. However, the 3 Fs hold the top spots in many lists. I guess we can all concur with them after having experienced lockdowns due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, to be behind bars for a decade and have your freedom stripped away from you is simply imaginable to most of us. The absence of Family, Friends and Food cannot be felt more intensively than behind bars.

Perhaps this tells us something about what matters most to us as human beings. In all the episodes I have watched so far, I have not heard any inmate refer to their job or career as the thing they miss the most. Remember, prison is not just full of hard-core criminals, there are also people who worked in finance, education, health and other “respectable” sectors. For these too, all they want is to be able to see their children and spouses, to have a drink with their pals, to eat their favourite food and travel the world. Although the pandemic has highlighted this to even us who are outside prison, most of our lives continue to revolve around temporal things for most of us. Granted that these things are important, may we never forget what really matters in life. Maybe, just maybe, what matters most are relationships and food to aid us through building these relationships. May we never take these for granted.

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