The Indian Quarterly
A Day in Jail Image Credit: The Indian Quarterly
A Day in Jail Image Credit: The Indian Quarterly

A Day In Jail

Encountering talent, hard work and hope in an unlikely setting

Anjolie Ela Menon

In August this year, I was invited to be chief guest at the closing of an art event, Kala Abhiyan, at an unusual venue: Delhi’s Tihar Jail. A 10-day-long art workshop had been held in collaboration with the Lalit Kala Akademi and the results were being exhibited at a cultural festival. CS Krishna Setty, the new chairman of the Akademi, is giving enthusiastic support to these ongoing projects, and several visiting artists are giving of their expertise and time. The sculpture studio has impressive work on display, both realistic and abstract. Abundant quantities of clay and armatures are supplied by the jail and it is evident that the students are encouraged to express themselves freely.

A visit to the jail is instructive. It is situated in salubrious surroundings, the 400-acre campus brimming with old trees, manicured hedgerows and palm-flanked avenues. A dedicated director general, Sudhir Yadav, presides over the whole complex with the gentle air of an affectionate schoolmaster, while running a tight ship with no lapses in security.

We were escorted to the newly constructed Tihar Art School, which incorporates classrooms and a museum. The Lalit Kala Akademi had partnered to make both the workshops and the museum a success. The museum section would be the envy of many a commercial gallery with its white walls, track lighting and gleaming wooden floors. In the well-appointed galleries, canvas prints of master paintings from Lalit Kala’s collection han


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