In his voice you can hear the numbness of resignation, about what has come and what waits for him. He is speaking about his book, one that was released in his hometown last week. It’s called Thakkija, Ente Jail Jeevitham. That translates to Thakkija, My life in jail. The last part is in Malayalam while the first word is in a language called Dhivehi, that’s spoken in Maldives, where Jayachandran spent eight years as a teacher, and the last eight-and-a-half months in jail.
His story had made headlines back in December 2014 along with pictures of a tired, bearded man hugging his wife and daughter. It was an emotional Jayachandran we saw then, who had just learnt of his brother’s death, six months too late. The jail had kept him out of touch with everything back home, except for the two calls he made to his wife Jyothi every month.
Jayachandran could now speak of all that without breaking down, he has painfully picked up those memories and put it in a book. “The book was my attempt to remember all those months in jail. It is not my story alone, it is the story of many prisoners’ pain, it is about my family, friends, love,” he says.
But when you turn the pages of his book, you find in there, everyday details you otherwise forget about - the expression of a face, the breakfasts he had, the benches he sat on. You realise sadly that this man with the sudden shock of losing his freedom, sat in the corners he was made to sit and without knowing it, recorded every detail he saw. It had all started, he writes in the third chapter, on April 3, 2014.
The rules in the schools of Maldives are different. There, the students hold the high ground. They can’t be beaten, nor scolded. Jayachandran had lived by the rules of that last school he taught — Faafu Atoll School — for four years. That April day, however, when a 5th grader ran around the class making noise and ignoring his pleas to stop, Jayachandran gave him a small pat and led him to his seat. That little act had changed his life.
The next day, the parents gave a complaint against him, that he ‘touched the kid’s trousers’. It became a question of child abuse and the day after, Jayachandran was arrested by the police. Then began the eight months from one jail to another, even as the parents and the school had dropped charges.
Those days, he had nothing to write a journal on. But once, a policeman had forgotten his pen and one of the prisoners got it. For paper, he had the little chits that came with his medicines. “I wouldn’t write much, just the two or three lines I should tell my wife in the bi-monthly call home.”
He still has them, those crumbled little notes. But that pen had run out of ink. “Then, some of the prisoners would have me write letters in English to the judge for a trial. I would finish it fast and make personal notes before the police came.” Every individual, every criminal, has some kind of goodness, Jayachandran says what Annie Frank once said. “There are people who ignore me, scold me. But they all come back to me. That’s the thing about friendship. It comes back to you like a ball bounces on the wall and falls into your hands.”
He has no grudges, but perhaps some of it comes in his writing. This isn’t his first book. There’s an incomplete one called Kadal Neeru, on the life and culture of Maldives. He had written seven chapters, but by then the arrest was made. Thakkija came out through a new venture called Violet Books by Jayachandran and friends. “It’s my friends who encouraged me to write, to collect the scattered notes.”
Now he teaches English - the same subject he had taught in Maldives — at a college in Thiroor, three days a week. But to write, he always goes back to Malayalam. “I dream, love, and speak to people in Malayalam. It is the nicest language for me.”