THE OTHER SIDE OF CRIME- 6
Every coin has got two sides.
The stories the convicted female prisoners told about the reasons and causes for committing the crimes, their experiences in prison, the lessons learnt, their hopes and expectations- form the crux of these articles.
I am sharing the stories they told me in first person. It is just their version of the crime, their side of the story. May be they are true, may be false. I leave it to the readers to decide.
Her possessiveness made my life obscure
I have not killed anyone. Nor have I caused any harm for anyone in my life so far. Still, I am undergoing life imprisonment as a murder convict in the jail since the last eight years.
I was a good and disciplined student, yet had to stop studies due to poverty at home. I got trained in an agency as a home nurse at a young age. After working at several places, through the same agency, I started working at an apartment in the city to take care of rich old woman who was staying alone. All her kids were settled abroad. My agent told me that her legs sustained injuries in an accident and I was needed to cater to her health. Since that place was quite far off from my house, I opted to stay at that apartment for six months to save the time and expenses of daily commutation. I was warned that this lady was short tempered and may throw tantrums for flimsy reasons. But I needed the salary which was almost double to what I was getting till then, so I accepted the offer.
That old lady did not have any noticeable health conditions and had no problems walking. A cook in the kitchen and driver to take her to places in her car were already employed with her when I joined. My work comprised of giving her oil massages to the body and head before bath, giving her timely medicines, applying liniment and balm on her knees and back, accompanying her to shopping trips and holding her arms whenever she commands. Another chore was reading loudly the Bible at dusk after lighting candles, which I happily complied. She told me that I have a good voice and diction. Though she lost her temper frequently with the driver and the cook, she was always kind and nice to me.
Within three months of my going there, the cook was dismissed after a big fight. The cooking and cleaning work of the apartment also fell on my shoulders in addition to nursing the lady which I took over without grumbling. Once in a few months, the children of the lady would visit her from abroad. They all liked me and gifted me with cloths and even money before leaving. Though my initial contract was to work with her for six months till she recovered from the accident injuries, I stayed on with her for almost a year. The only problem was she wanted me around her all the time and refused my umpteen requests to go home to visit my mother and siblings. However, I went home in between twice, once when a boy and his people came to see me with a wedding proposal and the other time when my mother got ill. Those times, when I go back to the apartment, the old lady would be angry with me for hours, would complain about everything loudly and even shout at me for no reason at all.
“I was so sick that I couldn’t get up from the bed and there was no one to help me. I spend such a lot of money to you; still you are of no use!”
“I did not eat or sleep for the last three days you were not here. Why didn’t you cook three day’s food and keep it in fridge for me? How could you starve an old lady like this?”
“A horrible woman sent by the agency came to clean the place after you left. She messed up everything and could not even read the Bible! Have you no thought for this poor sick woman? How could you abandon me?” She would yell.
I could sing well. She used to make me sing religious songs frequently. Some nights, my songs lulled her to sleep. She was missing that and my company. I would tolerate her temper and keep quiet and in a few days, she would be back to her normal loving self. The next time when another marriage proposal came, she did not allow me to go home. Seeing me moody, she consoled me. “I will find a good boy for you. One who knows driving. Then both of you can stay with me here. He will drive my car and you will be here always with me.” I came to realise that she was getting overly dependent on me. Her possessiveness and selfishness worried me at times, but I convinced myself that it was because she was old and feeling lonely. I learned to ignore her doldrums and continued to be nice to her.
One day, my mother fell seriously ill and had to be admitted in the hospital. I got a phone call from home saying that she wanted to see me. When I asked for permission from the lady, she said in a casual way, “Oh, there is no need to go. Send some money to her by money order. She will be alright.”
“No, madam, I should go. It is not money that she wants, it is me. She’s at the hospital. I am her only daughter; she needs me by my side.” I insisted. But she remained firm and did not let me go. She ignored my pleas and tears. The next day my brother called me again saying that my mother needed a surgery and I should go ASAP. Fearing that the house lady will not allow me if I asked her, I packed up my bag and tried to leave quietly without telling her while she was taking an afternoon siesta. As I reached the front door, she came behind my back, pulled me harshly by the hand and threw away the bag from my shoulder. Shocked, I turned to see the lady snarling like a wounded tiger.
“Oh ho, so you are leaving here in secret like a thief, eh? Without telling me? With whom are you going to elope? I will not allow you to go from here. Do you hear?” She looked like a demon then. I started to cry. “Please madam, my mother is very sick. I have to go. Let me go.” I went to get my bag which she kicked away from me.
“She need not see you. Your liar of a mother is pretending sickness to take you away from me, I know. It’s a drama. She is a jealous woman. I will not let you leave me; it’s me who is really sick and ailing. You can’t go.” She refused to listen to me and started shoving me around as if possessed. I got angry and afraid at her shocking behaviour. Her attitude made me decide the matter too.
“You can’t stop me, I am going. You can shout all you want, but my mother needs you and I want to go.” I shouted back at her and pushing her away, I got hold of my bag. As I turned, she hugged me from behind.
“No, no. If you go now, you won’t come back, I know. You have to be here, with me. I will not allow…”
I pushed her away from me with all my strength. I saw her falling down, but without wasting any time, I ran out of the apartment, tears streaming down my eyes. Without waiting for the lift, I ran down the stairs and out through the gate of the building. Then I started to breathe normally. I will never come back to this place, I vowed. Let her find another home nurse to possess to shower her selfish and insane love!
When I reached home after a long travel by bus, I stood frozen in shock. The housed was full of khaki clad cops. They were there to arrest me. For murdering the old lady! At the police station, a distraught and devastated I came to know that according to them I had apparently murdered the lady to steal her gold ornaments! ‘My God, how did that woman die? Poor thing!’ was the first thought that crossed my mind. Though I was confused and scared, I was hopeful that it was all a big mistake. I did not kill her. Neither have I taken her ornaments. They will find the truth later, they will let me go, I kept telling myself.
Within days, all my hopes got shattered. The police case was that a neighbour in that flat went inside seeing the open door and saw the old lady lying dead in a pool of blood. Since that lady always wore a lot of gold jewellery and at that time, her body was bare of ornaments, they expressed the doubt that it could be a murder for gain. The watchman of the flat had informed police that he saw me run out of the flat in a hurry. The driver also gave a statement to the police which was quite against me. But how did she die?
When I pushed her away, she fell back and hit her head against the sharp edge of the teapoy. Her head cracked and she started to bleed. She must have lost consciousness too. She died of severe blood loss. I tried to explain that I pushed her only to get away from her clutches and not intending to hurt her, but who would listen to me? Police could not find any ornaments from me. When her children came from abroad, they found all her jewels intact at her shelf. So theft was deleted from the charges and I was charged with just murder. The prosecution could not prove my motive during the trial, but neither the Judge nor the defense advocate seemed to care. I got convicted for life imprisonment.
My mother died due to cardiac arrest at the hospital. I did not give any appeal to reduce my sentence. I was not aware that there was a provision to appeal, no one told me and now I can’t, the time has lapsed. I do all the jobs entrusted on me at this jail sincerely. My brothers take me out on parole. During those days I spend the earnings I get from prison for charity. Why? Because I still feel a slight twinge of guilt that the old lady lost her life because of my push, though innocent it was.
People here love me. They love my singing too. On all the nights, when the cell lights are switched off, my lilting voice echo through these sordid and murky corridors. Songs of angst and pathos!