Thursday, November 17, 2016

Behind Prison Walls, A Soaring Imagination


Lissy Sasi, who is serving a 25-year jail term, at Kannur Women’s Prison, is on a month’s parole, which will end on November 19. She talks about her upcoming book of short stories and poems

Photos: Lissy Sasi at Marine Drive, Kochi. Pic by K. Shijith; Lissy with Subin Mananthavady

By Shevlin Sebastian

On October 19, when Lissy Sasi, 43, stepped outside the gate of the Women's Prison, at Kannur, on a one-month parole, she felt strange. “For six years whenever I stepped out, I was accompanied by two police escorts,” she says. “Now there was nobody.”

But her younger sister, Sherly, nephew, Dinu, and her sister Rani's husband, Joseph, were there to welcome her. Lissy’s family felt worried that if people recognised her, when she travelled on a bus they would physically attack her or make cruel comments. (Lissy is serving a 25 year jail term for transporting drugs).

So they hired an Omni Maruti car. Before they set out, to Wayanad, they brought chicken biriyani as well as oranges and grapes from the prison outlet. “They were scared to take me inside a restaurant,” says Lissy. “So we ate the food along the way.”

Lissy was granted parole because her 84-year-old mother, Rosakutty, is unwell. “She is asthmatic and has high blood pressure,” says Lissy. “There is nobody to look after her. My brother and sister live elsewhere. Recently, my mother almost died because of breathing difficulties, but I could not help, because I was in jail.”

In fact, what helped her get parole is her increasingly high profile in the media. She has written a book, which consists of eight short stories and fifteen poems. The book also includes a biography written by former journalist Subin Mananthavady, who is now the managing director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Kokkopelli Public Relations.

The book, titled ‘Kuttavaliyil Ninnu Ezhuthukariyileykku’ (From Convict to Writer), by Poorna Publications, will be released soon. “I am a huge fan of Mohanlal, so Subin is trying to get the superstar to release it,” says Lissy.

When Subin was a journalist, he did a magazine series on the changing face of Kerala prisons. That was when he met Lissy.

She told me that she had a desire to be a writer,” says Subin. “In fact, she had written a few poems.” And when Subin read one of them, he was impressed. “She had a nice style,” he says, of the author who had studied only upto Class 10. Thereafter, he got her white sheets of paper and pens and asked her to write.

Lissy went at it in right earnest. She would write in the evenings and in the mornings, when she had to keep an eye on the cows. “The jail superintendent, Sakuntala P, and welfare officer Sobhana K.N., encouraged me a lot,” says Lissy, while on a recent visit to Kochi.

For the prisoner, there is a clear motive behind the writing. “Since I have a negative image in society, I want to change this through my writing,” she says.

And while doing this, Lissy is also waging a battle in the Kerala High Court, to reduce the prison term. “It is too harsh,” she says. “Others who have done similar offences have got between five to ten-year terms.”

Meanwhile, Lissy is trying to enjoy her last few days of freedom, before she re-enters prison on November 19. But what proved to be a moment of joy was the reaction of her neighbours when she arrived. “They came swarming towards me, with smiles on their faces,” she says. 
“A few cried and asked how I ended up in such a mess.”

Indeed, Lissy has had some bad experiences, including the death of her husband, at age 36, due to alcoholism. “I have faced many difficulties in life,” she says. “But I will fight on.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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