My name is Hope, the name my parents gave me. It is the name of a deadly disease; the disease of expectations. My parents – like most others – expected a lot and so to cure their disease they sentenced me to 10 years of jail. I cannot remember my crime but surely I must have done something terrible to receive this punishment. Could it have been suggested to them by some mullah? Everyone knows they have cures to every disorder. Who knows? Anyway, I was sent off to a nearby jail which they called a school.
The head jailer was known as principal sahab. I never got to know his real name. He was very strict, well-dressed and well-qualified. From someone I heard that he had done a private BA over distance education from Allama Iqbal Open University. There were 30 constables working under his command, but they weren’t as highly educated as he was. I was impressed by their commitment towards him. And, of course, they were very obedient. In the beginning they were kind to me and would release me at 2:00 o’clock before locking me up again at 7:00 o’clock next morning. After all, they were human and they have a heart. They would pity us but had to do their jobs as constables by giving us so-called homework.
It was, of course, a private jail. Our parents would pay the jail authorities every month to keep us away from home. How the head jailer behaved depended a lot on that payment. If the payment from our parents got a little late, he would become very angry, even violent. Like me, other criminals could not remember their crime, but still suffered. Of course, they called us students, not convicts. A constable told me that there used to be government jails in earlier times, but they were a little cooler than this one. Now, he said, there are only private jails. I would fantasise about tales from those jails. What were they like? The constable told me that he learned music in one of those jails and also played cricket and football. What is music, I asked him? He told me that it is the food of the soul. What’s that, I asked? As he started to explain, the constable with a long beard and white cap yelled at him and rebuked him. Later he was called to the jailer office and I never saw that constable again. I have also heard that there were speech and essays competition in those government jails. Also, they had playing grounds. How good those jails were, I thought. What criminal would hate that kind of jail? But we would only imagine them and what went on there.
The schedule of the jail was same for the first eight years of my sentence, but this suddenly changed in the 9th year. Now they would release us at 5:00 pm in the evening. They called it afternoon classes and they charged our parents extra for that. The last two years of our sentences were by far the tough years. In the tenth year they stopped releasing us and kept us at nights as well, shifting us in the evenings to another cell called the hostel. Again, they charged extra for that. Somehow the years passed and we finally completed our 10 year term. The sentence ended but the chain of misery continued as I was sent off to a training center called a college. We would spend the next two years there and trained for a marathon, a very prestigious one. The winners would step into the business of health and sell drugs for the pharmaceutical industry. The world would call them doctors. They could take their commission from the companies and become wealthy. They would also treat people but always so as to oblige and enrich the pharmaceutical companies. In time, they would rise to the ranks of the richest, the most successful.
I trained very hard and ran the marathon. Who would not want such laurels? But then I discovered the others could run faster and was heartbroken when I lost. I was very disappointed and depressed. Looking at my condition, my parents sent me to a rehabilitation center called a university.
Here I was introduced to the world of crime. It was filled with gangs and gang wars. The leader of each gang had a prefix of Professor Doctor, i.e. Prof. Dr. XYZ. Gangs there consisted of few or more fraudsters known as scholars. They did not fight with guns or swords but with a weapon known as a “research article” or a “publication in a reputed journal”. What research they did was probably only on the ways to cheat and get away with their cheating. They are white collar criminals. They all have a PhD degree and should be called the thugs of philosophy. I blended well with them and joined a gang. After some years I too got a PHD degree. Now I have my own gang. The hard work during my jail sentence paid off. Today there is a prefix of Prof. Dr. (Prof. Dr. Hope) before my name. Now I am one of the country’s leading thugs of philosophy.