It was around 7 in the morning. The barracks were open and the inmates had all got on with their chores. The morning tea, too, had been served. Yunus saw that Mohammed was still sleeping. Never in the past eight years had he slept this long. Mohammed would always go to be bed early and be among the first to rise. Yunus was getting worried, wondering if his companion was ill. He went and sat next to Mohammed’s feet and checked his forehead for a fever. His temperature was normal. He thought of waking Mohammed, but, after thinking for a second, he gently put his hand on his shoulder and shook him, calling, “Mohammed… Mohammed.”

When he didn’t wake up, Yunus became afraid. He shook harder this time and called out louder, “Mohammed!”

The noise drew everyone’s attention in the barracks. The next moment, Mohammed opened his eyes, only to see everyone looking at the two of them. As he sat up, he still felt the sleep in his eyes, and the sunlight shining into through the door troubled him a bit. He tried to act sleepy and, looking at Mohammed, asked, “What is it?” as Yunus sighed in relief.

Yunus answered him: “How much more do you want to sleep? Don’t you want to wake up?”

Mohammed looked around him, and then looked outside towards the door, trying to tell the time.

Yunus stood and told him, “It’s 7am, Major. Wake up. The tea has come. I’ll bring some for you. Meanwhile, go wash your face and come.”

Mohammed wondered how he’d managed to sleep that much. He hadn’t been able to get much since he’d been brought there, but maybe that night he’d gotten enough. That day, his mind was more at peace than ever before, and he felt quite good, too. Ever since being brought to the jail, he had given up on anything good happening to him. But that day, he had a feeling that it was a start of something good.

The very next moment, that thought was replaced by one that questioned how anything good could happen inside the jail. Several such thoughts would come and go. Mohammed’s mind seemed to run faster than a computer. He had all these thoughts while still seated in bed.

Yusuf walked in with the tea and was surprised to see Mohammed still where he had left him. Placing the glass next to him, he said, “At least get up now.”

Mohammed, breaking out of his train of thought, stood up with toothbrush in hand and moved towards the bathroom. Shortly, he was back and, taking his glass of tea, he walked outside while taking sips. He saw on the cement platform built below a tree in the middle of the compound. Many inmates passing by saluted him, Mohammed acknowledging them with a raised hand. He was still thinking to himself. He sat there for a while, then hurried back to the barracks for a bath, which he finished quickly and then sat waiting for someone.

His companions watched this odd behaviour questioningly. Then they remembered his thoughts from the previous night.

The person Mohammed was waiting for had arrived. It was a warden from the jailer’s office. He informed the barracks warden about jailer Pandya asking for Mohammed. He was expecting this and went towards the office with the warden. Mohammed and his companions would never venture out of the barracks without a warden or guard. This wasn’t the first time Mohammed had gone out—but it felt like he was visiting the place for the first time, the jail he had lived in for the last eight years.

As he walked towards the jailer’s office, he passed a shrine of Hanuman built by someone inmate. A couple of inmates were conducting a pooja there. Mohammed looked at them and gave a smile. The two inmates looked at him in surprise, one whispering to the other. This was not new, as every time Mohammed or any of his companions ventured out, the other inmates would look at them that way. The Hindus lodged in the jail never spoke with Mohammed and Co. And when they did, Yusuf would joke that Allah had been merciful that day.

They reached the open-air theatre right in the centre of the jail after passing Kachi Kedi. Some inmates were playing volleyball in the ground next to them. Mohammed walked down the pucca road, passing by the women’s barracks and Tilak Kholi, and reached the main entrance to the jail. On the other side of the large door were the offices of the jail authorities. The warden with Mohammed told the State Reserve Police (SRP) jawan posted there that they were on their way to the jailer’s office, pointing to the inmate. The jawan looked at him questioningly.

Mohammed had left for the jailer’s office without saying a word to his companions. They, too, were wondering why he had been called there, but Mohammed had been in such enthusiasm to leave.

Mohammed and the warden entered the office of Kaushik Pandya.

“It’s better late than never. A good start in life can be made anytime,” the jailer said.

Mohammed raised his right arm to salute him. “Sir, with your help, everything will be very good.”

Pandya, with all the authority he could muster, said, “It is our duty to make good human beings out of you and put you on the right path.”

Mohammed wore an expression of gratitude, but inside he was seething.

To be continued…

This is the seventh part of the serialized novel 'Deewal' based on the Sabarmati jailbreak attempt, written by Prashant Dayal, the editor of

The story so far: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 Read Next: Part 8