How Pratap looks to re­deem him­self in life af­ter prison

Fiji Sun - - Nation -

When the vi­o­lence at home be­came too much, Ash­win Pratap sought an es­cape through the com­pany of friends, drug use and re­bel­lion.

It wasn’t long be­fore that es­cape set him on a trail of self de­struc­tion. While it did noth­ing to quell the hol­low­ness within, it fu­elled his de­sire to blend into his new ‘family’ now com­pris­ing peers boast­ing records of ju­ve­nile mis­deeds. And the eas­i­est way to blend in was to go against the grain. “I at­tended Dilkusha Boys School and Le­lean Me­mo­rial School. As a young­ster, I grew up with a lot of vi­o­lence hap­pen­ing around me, mostly the re­sult of my dad beat­ing my mother. There was too much pres­sure at home, too much vi­o­lence and it got to me,” he said. “I was 14 when on one oc­ca­sion my dad was beat­ing my mum, I de­cided to in­ter­vene. I grabbed a cane knife and con­fronted my dad as he dragged my mum down the stairs by her hair. I told him to let go of her and he re­tal­i­ated by kick­ing me. I took the han­dle of the knife and hit my dad with it. He even­tu­ally let go of my mum and turned on me with a wooden plank. I was beaten up quite badly that day.”

Pratap re­calls how his life took an ag­gres­sive turn af­ter the in­ci­dent.

“From that point I got into vi­o­lence and drugs. I stopped play­ing soc­cer and in­stead be­gan to do kick­box­ing, I be­came more ag­gres­sive. I went to study in New Zealand and there I was bul­lied a lot. I al­ways fought back,” he re­called.

While fight­ing off a group of bul­lies at one stage, Pratap says he was un­aware the boys were mem­bers of an or­gan­ised crime syn­di­cate. He went on to join the gang and life took a fur­ther turn for the worst.

“My def­i­ni­tion of life then re­volved around ex­cite­ment, dan­ger and risks. With­out risk, my life was bor­ing, it just wasn’t nor­mal for me.”

Pratap served brief prison sen­tences in New Zealand but it was a failed re­la­tion­ship that sent him pack­ing back home. He re­turned home to find his el­derly par­ents liv­ing alone and with­out sup­port.

Find­ing my­self

“My first three years back I was kept busy look­ing af­ter my dad who was di­a­betic. “He went into coma and re­quired full time care­giv­ing so I had to leave my job and look af­ter him. That’s when I be­gan cul­ti­vat­ing mar­i­juana,” he said. Pratap was caught and forced to sur­ren­der when his dad was taken into Po­lice cus­tody be­cause mar­i­juana plants were found grow­ing on his prop­erty. “My fa­ther told me ‘I’m about to die, it’s only a mat­ter of months so just tell the po­lice I’m the one cul­ti­vat­ing the drugs and it’s mine’. He was ready to take the blame but I couldn’t let that hap­pen. I’d rather go to prison then blame my dad,” he said. Three months be­fore he was found guilty of cul­ti­vat­ing il­licit drugs and sen­tenced, Pratap’s dad passed away. “Be­fore he died my dad told me: you’re the son who got the mean­est hid­ings from me but to­wards the end of my life, you’re the one who came back to take care of me.

“The truth is it’s a duty ev­ery son and daugh­ter should per­form – it’s not a great thing, you shouldn’t feel proud of it, it’s your duty to take care of your par­ents.” Pratap was sen­tenced to 26 months im­pris­on­ment but only served about 18 months of that term be­cause of good be­hav­iour. “Dur­ing my time in­side, I learnt a lot of things.

“Re­li­gious nov­els are good for in­mates and should be dis­trib­uted more of­ten. I’ve learnt that when peo­ple don’t have any­thing to do, they’ll au­to­mat­i­cally turn to mis­chief. If they have some­thing to keep their minds oc­cu­pied, even in prison you can get into mis­chief (smok­ing suki etc), but once you have some­thing to keep your­self oc­cu­pied, you won’t go there.” He was re­leased for com­mu­nity ser­vice last May and as­signed to work with the Dilkusha or­phan­age. “Work­ing with the or­phans has changed me a lot. No child should be born into a life of suf­fer­ing. I never used to carry kids around but that has changed and I am grate­ful that af­ter serv­ing my com­mu­nity ser­vice, the dea­coness of the home of­fered me full time em­ploy­ment as a gar­dener and I agreed.”

Pratap, now 34, also fo­cuses his time on a poul­try farm that he started with fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from the Fiji Corrections Ser­vice.

“I’ve had to re­build my poul­try farm be­cause of the two cy­clones that oc­curred ear­lier this year and I’ve man­aged to do that with­out ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from any­where. I hope to start earn­ing in­come from the poul­try farm by De­cem­ber. It’s bet­ter to ven­ture into this than deal­ing with drugs, you won’t be para­noid about the po­lice com­ing and search­ing your prop­erty, you’ll have a good night’s sleep. Stress makes you old,” he said.

“I’ve changed and it’s all about im­prove­ment. “My age made me re­think my di­rec­tion in life. I would urge young peo­ple to never give up. If you have some­thing you re­ally want to do, do it. If you fail, do it again. “Noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble. Time is money, if you waste time, you’re wast­ing money so don’t waste time.”

With a bet­ter fu­ture al­ready tak­ing shape, Pratap says find­ing a wife will com­plete his new life.

Source: Fiji Corrections Ser­vices

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