A true story about three and a half years in an Indian prison by Mark O’Brien, aka Swami Alok Preetam; reviewed by Carolyn Boniface.
This book is a rich, fascinating, multi-textured, rollercoaster adventure filled with the unexpected.
Mark takes you on his personal and enjoyable anecdotal journey through the beautiful landscapes of India. But soon the story changes to anyone’s worst nightmare as Mark takes us into the harrowing world few travelers would ever experience, or imagine the horror of being thrown into an Indian prison.
This is a story of how a seemingly innocuous bad decision turned into a harsh, life shattering, eye-opening ordeal that took a man to the edge of himself. The reader is introduced to a behind-the-walls reality of what life is like, not only in an Indian prison but also in the Indian legal system that is fraught with corruption, human abuse, cruelty and paradox, where the cultural value system collides with Western sensibilities. The unfoldment is filled with the outrageous and shocking, the ludicrous, intrigue, suspense, complete exasperation and humour.
Mark writes in a journaling style that keeps the reader in close proximity to his day-to-day moods and feelings. One becomes absorbed in an intense vicarious experiencing of the day-to-day navigation of prison life and its challenges, frustrations, hopes and agonies. The story is also filled with a broad spectrum of rich character descriptions of unusual fellow inmates and their tragic individual stories. And how the worst offenders are frequently not the men incarcerated but the greedy devious guards who man the prison, abusing and torturing according to their disposition on a given day. One learns how money and ‘baksheesh’ offers privileges to those who can afford it and is demanded and expected at every turn. And how for those who cannot afford it, prison life becomes one of lack and despair, and a dependency on the rarest prison gem of all, the virtue of selfless goodwill.
Mark’s story is a tale of creative survival and endurance. But also one that inspires as he demonstrates how the pressure of such duress pushes the psyche into inner landscapes, uncovering and discovering new resources and learning, offering blessings amongst the rubble. It invokes a compassion for the plight many ‘good’ men get caught in – a web of incompetence and injustice, all in the name of justice, in a culture that has very little self awareness of the meaning of either, where money and influence rule. It also illuminates how the power of love, care and attention from those outside the prison can make the unbearable bearable and uplift a broken spirit. It is a lesson that all of us can take on board to perhaps drop blind judgements about those who find themselves in an incarcerated situation and be aware how even a small gesture can be a bridge of sanity to someone who is endeavoring to climb out of the abyss.
‘Busted in India’ is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat read. It will take you through a plethora of emotions and show you something you have probably never seen or heard before. It is a unique human story that contains the eyebrow-raising, take-a-deep-breath wow factor.
One comes away from the book with a sense of relief, concern and dread… for those still living in India’s prisons.
Related excerpt Arrival in gaol
For the digital version of the book, send AU$20 by PayPal to alok at byronpublications.com and then send an email to the same address – alok at byronpublications.com – letting Alok know who it is that paid.
Carolyn Boniface is a long-time meditator and also a Rolfing and Biodynamic Craniosacral practitioner in the Byron Bay area, NSW, Australia.