MIDWAY: An hour with J J

Prem Thapa

With wide forehead, short hair, ruddy complexion and fondness to share his experience, James Jiler’s appearance exuded an air of confidence. The unbuttoned shirt gave me the impression that he was one of the busy men, ready to conquer the world. And I seriously thought so when he began folding up his sleeves as though he were abo-ut to colonise us. He was there to give us a lesson in creative writing. We, however, wanted him to share his experience.

I can’t precisely say where he began from, but I’m sure that he started from the point — why he was in Nepal. Having told us the motive of his visit, he took us to his nomenclature. That was a fascinating story — how his family name had been spoilt by the American immigration officer whilst his parents were entering the US after leaving Russia.

He didn’t know for sure what his real family name was, but he is certain that the present family name does not bear any real meaning. His mum called him Jimmy. But he hated it; he liked to be called J J, since most of his friends called him so. Though he found his name odd, he thinks there is a link between his name and his life.

When he writes his surname it comes with “jailer” that has very close relation with his present job in the Re-Correction House in Riket Island. His job as a Re-Correction Officer gave him the cha nce to know the inmates and their plights. He said he is compiling the inmates’ stories into a book.

He had dealt with different types of inmates like vandals, murderers, rapists and what not. There was nothing to indicate that he couldn’t have accomplished his assigned job. Rightly, he has re-corrected many of the inmates and has them employed as his gardening assistants. He was telling us how an inmate could be diverted from the criminal world to the creative world through sympathy and help, not by torture and negligence.

A nice piece of example for Nepalis, particularly the teachers and cops who believe in resorting to corporal punishment. Jiler’s story made me realise that there’s a way to re-correct people without violence. It is a pity that the authorities and our political leaders are yet to realise the path to peace.

The other day I saw a student and a teacher roughing up each other. It was a ridiculous scene, like many a bull fighting without a good reason to go mad about. And the teacher reminded me of the song by Pink Floyd — “Hey Teachers! You are just another brick on the wall! “The fellow student reminded me of the inmates from Riket Island in need of a re-correction officer.