- Alokananda Roy has been using arts as a tool to create hope for prisoners
- Nigel Akkara, once a dreaded convict is now an established film actor and a businessman with the help of Ms. Alokananda Roy
- She has also set up a school within the compound of the Correction Home
You might have heard that famous tale of reformation – the one in which a dreaded dacoit Ratnakar changed into Saint Valmiki-the man who later went on to pen the great epic, ‘Ramayana!’
Well, that was a single case of such transformation. Now meet Ms. Aloknanda Roy, the woman who is credited with transforming many Ratnakars into Valmikis.
She has a number of achievements in her kitty. Roy is a classical dancer, a dance educationist, a choreographer and a social worker. In addition she has also been conferred with a number of awards-Sanskrit Parishad Award, a gold medal from Shri Shikshayatan College. She was also Miss India’s first runner up in 1969 and is trained in classical ballet Russian style from Calcutta School of Music as well.
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A person with these many honorary awards can only be imagined sipping tea in a posh garden but instead she works with convicts to reform men and women who are serving their term in prison for committing heinous crimes. In a Presidency Correctional Home in Kolkata, far from the comfortable life she could have opted for, Roy has been using arts as a tool to paint hope for prisoners who are thoroughly demotivated and are oblivious to the the outside world.
Dance, music and drama have been her weapons since years to prove to the world that even the ones confined have a real chance at leading a better life by shedding the cloak of their past. Don’t mistake this as yet another dream that’s far fetched to achieve, she has done it before and she’s set to do it again.
Narender Singh and his troupe of other inmates last year took the whole stage by storm with their heartfelt performance. A performance so intense that it called for a standing ovation from the audience, which consisted of policemen!
Nigel Akkara, once a dreaded convict is now an established film actor and a businessman with the help of Ms. Alokananda Roy. She has a whole cast made of convicts and she expects each of them to follow the same suit.
“Sure they have committed crimes that need to be punished, but if they wish to change, they should be given a fair opportunity,” urges the passionate teacher, who is in her sixties.”
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According to an article in thebetterindia.com, it all started back in 2007 when Roy first stepped inside a Correction home in Alipur jail where she was invited as a chief guest to celebrate women’s day. She noticed a lot of inmates walking aimlessly like ghosts of a shadow, existing but not living. She realized that they had nothing to wake up to, no aims, no goals, nothing. And that’s when she decided that she’ll bring a change.
“That visit liberated my mind. I was expecting dark, unlit corridors leading to strong metal doors. Instead, as I entered, I saw a nice open space, with some greenery. After the day’s programme, some women inmates asked me if I could teach them dance and I decided to take it on,” she recalls.
Consequently about a year ago Roy established a school in the vicinity of the Correction Home. This school named ‘Heartprint’ is an institution for the little ones, who belong to the ones living in confinement.
This is a first such facility in India, where the little ones of female inmates are given a chance to discover the other side of the world. It’s a complete school with everything any other school in the city has to offer; a desk, books, toys and now even a television set.
“For the many who have been born in the jail, this is the only ‘home’ and ‘world’ they have known. Till we set up Heartprint they didn’t even know what a school is. It’s no fault of theirs that they are in jail. They are there because their mothers cannot make it out to the outside world,” shares Roy.
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Building a better and brighter world for people who turned the life of others into ashes along with making a difference-that is Ms. Alokananda Roy for you.
-Prepared by Karishma Vanjani, an intern with NewsGram. Twitter @BladesnBoots