My Childhood in a Prison Cell


My Childhood in a Prison Cell

Illustration: Akshita Monga


n a bright Monday morning, I meet the chirpy Karishma, soon after she just steps out of jail, eager to begin her 200-metre trek to school in Bahraich’s Kotwali area. As we walk, she intermittently reads out the hoardings lining the road, full of questions for Asha, the constable in charge of taking her to school every day. Karishma is a regular, chatty six-year-old and nothing about her mannerisms indicate that she’s been brought up in a prison.

Karishma lives with her mother, Anita, and 70 other women inmates, under trial for everything from theft to murder, in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich District Jail. Anita comes from the tiny Rukum village in Nepal’s Musikot district and she was arrested four years ago on a Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances charge. Bahraich lies along the porous Indo-Nepal border and is a notorious drug-running centre. Charas and heroin are smuggled into Bahraich over the border, usually by poor rural women with no real prospects, and from this dusty north-western UP town, the contraband makes its way to bigger cities like Lucknow and Patna.