Prison holds the key to freedom.
Freedom is...what? A well-cooked meal that you don’t have to cook yourself. And soap.
Soap, yes, soap costs money you know. Which they don’t always give you.
You’ll learn to steal, though. Don’t worry. Steal both, soap and money.
Money can be made right here.
Here! The coins pile up, see? Came from stuff I sold.
Sold cut-up bits of soap and bought a smoke.
Smoke a beedi, here... You’ll learn to make do.

Do not worry.
Worry kills.

Kills you more than they kill you at home.

Home, basti, city, work...
Work, work, work, work!
Work in the kitchen. Work at work. Work at night.
Night’s dark work... and here we are. Because once we were worked to death.
Death’s coming, this way or that.
That was all the choice you had - you, at his hands or...
Or he, at yours. Matter of time.

Time kills too you know. So do we.
We killed. I did. And so did you.
You did, didn’t you? Just like time kills. Or work. Or men.

Men! The things they make us do!
Do you really want to go back?
Back to cleaning, cooking, pretending it’s home?
Home, to that basti? All those cow-brain people?
People are horrible, you know. They won’t let you be.

Be smart, like me. Sell half your soap.
Soap buys beedis. Ganja sometimes.

Sometimes, out in the yard, the sun slides down mellow,
mellow yellow sunshine down the front of your throat. Think!
Think of not cooking three meals a day.
Days and days gliding by, light and slippery.
Slippery as oiled hair or soap.

Soap, yes. That’s all you will need at first.
First time here? I know, you don’t see it like this.
This is all you need, though. Trust me.
Trust me. I’ve been here a lifetime,

Artwork by Rucha Dhayarkar

Published with permission from Annie Zaidi.

This selection is curated by Rohini Kejriwal. She also curates The Alipore Post, a daily newsletter stemming from a love of​ art, poetry, music, and all things beautiful.