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we're empowered

So here's the jail story that I've been meaning to tell.

The clock in the room where I do essay tutoring hadn't been changed for daylight savings time. It hadn't been changed the previous week, either. J--, one of the women I was working with, made a remark about things never getting done there, but R--, the other woman said, "Oh, but Ms. H-- changed the clock in the kitchen. I guess it's just that no one's gotten around to changing it in this room."

All three of us looked at the clock. It was a typical classroom clock, big and plain.

"Sometimes they have a knob in the center that you can turn to move the hands, but I don't see one on this clock," I said. It was smooth plastic on the outside.

We looked at it a minute more.

I'm pretty passive. Normally I'd just let it tell the wrong time. But R-- had said that someone changed the clock in the kitchen. So I reached up and tried to lift the clock off the wall. It came right off--it was so light! In the back was a little box for a battery, and a knob for changing the time.

"I can't do this without my glasses," I said. I passed the clock to J--. She turned the knob, and I put it back up on the wall.

"We did it!" I said. I felt really exhilarated. "We're empowered," said R--, smiling.

And even though it's a really small thing, it really *did* feel empowering. At least, it did for me, and I think maybe it did for them, too. We made a difference in our environment. It was a tiny difference, but it was a difference all the same.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 29th, 2015 08:42 am (UTC)
It is incredible how empowered little actions can make us feel, but they truly do. I often get the same feeling when I finally accomplish some (usually small) thing I've been putting off.
Mar. 29th, 2015 02:26 pm (UTC)
I wonder if it's more empowering-feeling precisely because it *is* small... I mean, thinking about it, big things don't get accomplished in one swoop; they're a series of smaller actions over time that make for one big thing at the end. With something small like this, you do the whole thing all at once, and you see the fruits of your labor instantly: correct time!
Mar. 29th, 2015 02:32 pm (UTC)
*nods* I was thinking something along the same lines.
Mar. 29th, 2015 11:45 am (UTC)
That's a great story! Cheers for you all. :)
Mar. 29th, 2015 02:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I hope it gave them some of the same satisfaction it gave me.
Mar. 29th, 2015 01:18 pm (UTC)
That is pretty cool!
Mar. 29th, 2015 02:40 pm (UTC)
I hadn't expected the clock to come off the wall so easily!
Mar. 29th, 2015 01:34 pm (UTC)
Where so much is controlled as monitored, yes, this tiny restoration is empowerment. In the real sense. Usually it means "You have nothing and we're leaving you alone and expecting results!"
Mar. 29th, 2015 02:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this was a moment of empowerment we created instead of having it thrust on us. And it was something genuinely helpful for anyone else who uses that room. (That room is also used for childrearing classes, judging from the books stored there, and the posters.)
Mar. 29th, 2015 04:45 pm (UTC)
That's a wonderful story.
Mar. 29th, 2015 08:32 pm (UTC)
It made me feel so happy!
Mar. 29th, 2015 06:04 pm (UTC)
I lost your site. It's been six months I guess I have no urge to work with computers. We did have a clock in our room they called it. Sajwa Jail for men in Imphal is modelled on WWII POW camps, pretty much. And there was a clock in our room sector seven room one. Someone asked me the time once. They would lock us in just before sunset. And unlock the room door just after sunrise. Unless someone died or the room commander called the guards. A man died in Sector 7 Room 2 in my last week. He was younger than me at a guess and a lot fitter. He used to spend a lot of time by the water tank. And when he died they agreed to have a fast "just for looking" so that meant we didn't eat together second feeding time one would be around 9.30AM and one would be around 3.30PM give or take. So the day he died because his son was also in prison with us and they didn't give him permission to go to the funeral there was a fast just for looking and that meant we kept the overboiled rice and the slop buckets of dal soup I guess you'd call it. And we ate together after lock in. Lock in would start with prayer time a couple of minutes of silence and then prisoners could raise complaints suggestions comments a bit like chapter of faults or the Room Commander could raise points. When we were locked in the place was the most human. The kindest most gentle decent and generous group of men I have ever stayed with, and they used to fart a lot, a hell of a lot, all night long, never made the place any warmer. I managed to get the priest to pass on some rupees to some of those left behind and he has promised to deliver some sports equipment. I've gotten back a lot of my weight in the few weeks out of prison. Founded my Good Dacoit Society and maybe next month some time work up to getting permission for prison visits here. Oh they said he died of a stroke in case you were wondering. But who knows it's Manipur prison and he wasn't important. Catcha later. Thanks for the letters and cards very few write.
Mar. 29th, 2015 08:08 pm (UTC)
Wow, poor guy... And those conditions sound really, really rough. I'm glad you were able to get some money to them.

How did you communicate? Did folks speak English, or did you learn some Meiteilon, or do you know some Hindi, or--?

Mar. 30th, 2015 02:43 am (UTC)
We'd sing songs play chess ludo. And I'd swear a lot especially at the guards once I'd figured out they had been ordered to leave me alone. Otherwise verbal communication is exrtremely overrated especially in cultures like Manipur where snitching is the norm. So no I didn't talk to anyone not really not for 77 days. Just getting ready for the return. Only way to help her it would seem is to get them to break the law arrest me and then start another inquiry. It would be nice if that could happen more quickly but given that's really the only thing I can do for her that might help and we are in the end game. Alea est iacta as Julius Caesar once put it which translates to Papa wants a new pair of shoes which translates to many different things depending on the person.
Mar. 29th, 2015 06:22 pm (UTC)
Those tiny differences often add up to big differences. You're awesome!
Mar. 29th, 2015 08:31 pm (UTC)
Things do add up! And thanks for saying that (but really I'm very ordinary.)
Mar. 29th, 2015 08:33 pm (UTC)
Ordinary people can do very extraordinary things and affect others in the most marvelous of ways. :)
Mar. 29th, 2015 08:37 pm (UTC)
That, I definitely agree with :-)
Mar. 29th, 2015 07:52 pm (UTC)
That's a great story. In a jail, I'd be worried that there would be some Rule about not touching things like that.
Mar. 29th, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I had to be the one to actually lift it off the wall, because if they had done it, it might have been termed mischief or vandalism. So in that sense, there were definitely still strictures....
Mar. 30th, 2015 12:59 am (UTC)
Every little success helps.
Mar. 31st, 2015 06:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I agree.
Mar. 30th, 2015 05:58 pm (UTC)
I've read quite a bit of research on exactly that effect - how a sense of control, even over something relatively arbitrary, increases people's sense of self-worth and (in extreme cases) their general health and lifespan. It's one of the (many) frustrations I have with the American prison system - it's so often centered around taking people's power away from them, rather than teaching them to use it in a constructive way. (And we wonder why the recidivism rate is so high?) Hurrah for you and those women!
Mar. 31st, 2015 06:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the cheers!
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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