CHRISTMAS IN PRISON
Prisoners are not supposed to celebrate anything. Celebration is anathema in a situation which does not augur anything celebratory in the first place. And why be happy in a condition that smacks of pain and loneliness. It is like laughing during a wake.
The influx of visitors in the prison camp merely indicates the forlorn condition of families where their loved ones are incarcerated. It is not enough to celebrate anything at all; it is merely some kind of ritual to be with a loved one. It is also not a matter of partaking anything special like food but appreciating an occasion where the family rejoins each other in a manner fitting that of a reunion. There is sympathetic problems confronting the daily grind of hardships and difficulties.
Christmas in prison is a period for reckoning what is left of luck. It is having a few minutes ogling at one another. After all, crime was committed because of love of one’s family, however misplaced or mislaid it may be. There were repentance everywhere, lamentation in some corners but there were no regrets.
Almost half of those who came to see the prisoners are their friends. They who were lucky not to have been implicated by twist of fate. They are there to commiserate, to empathize and share whatever pain of segregation imprisonment brings to their comrade. They are there to bring stability in a condition which is replete with instability. Prison administration could only watch and supervise. There must be peace in a situation which is almost ungovernable. But there is perfect order, total peace, and sublime amity. Everyone has sworn to be responsible to keep everything in proper perspective despite deficiencies in the prison community.
Christmas in a total institution like prison is observed along marginal lines. There are those hoping that authorities would grant amnesty or clemency for those who have served time. Most of those in sick bed, the infirmed and in their twilight years pray that the miracle of receiving their release papers would become a reality during the yuletide season. Politics, the traditional kind, dictate that clemency should be granted as spiritual and social indulgence to some sectors. Hope remains alive in prison during the season. Prayers abound and so are miracles. Prison is always replete with supernatural intervention. There are acquittals, there are retrials, there are startling revelations on truth. But of course these remain hidden and strictly personal.
If at all there are celebrations that coincide with Christmas, it is more in observing life. Most of those serving time and about to complete midway have so much to celebrate. They should have perished during arrest. They should have been neutralized after arraignment. They should have been rubbed out after conviction and as if to stretch further their luck, they should have been putrefied during their entry into the prison camp. And here are the prisoners, some serving for more than fifteen years, still clinging on the belief that fate would be kinder to them. They have stopped counting minutes, hours and days. They have ignored the calendar already. The have forgotten what sunrise or the setting sun is since in prison, the sun is only appreciated at noon. Days are like nights. There are no difference, everything is familiar. Everything is repetition. Everything is monotonous.
Christmas in prison is like an ordinary day save for a few melodic hymns indicating the season. No other occasions would predicate its observance through songs except the yuletide. If only because of the musical signs, there is nothing significant to reckon.
Christmas is only for freemen.