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A Convict's Conviction

Saturday October 16 2004 08:14 IST

By Karmayogi

Conviction in the context of a convict is punishment or jail sentence. Conviction in the sense of mental belief does not arise with a convict. If it does, it is a conviction that one can survive by crime better than through a profession in the society. William Faulkner has seen that a convict can have a conscience.

He too can believe in values and live by them, as few others can ever contemplate to order their lives. Convicts are often taken out to do outdoor work. They work while in chains. The Mississippi River was in floods in 1927. The officials brought out a batch of convicts to protect the population from the swelling floodwaters by stacking sandbags on the banks.

We call the river or the sea 'mother'. They called the river 'Old Man'. News came that people were stranded on the trees, on housetops, etc. The convicts were relieved of their chains and sent on rescue operations. It was an ideal occasion for the convicts to take to flight. Our hero was one of the two men so sent.

A woman was in a tree and a man was on the roof of a cotton house. Of the two convicts sent on the mission, one did not know how to swim. He suggested that they run away. Our hero declined and declared, ‘‘I have been given this boat. I have to rescue that woman on the tree and the man on the roof. It is my mission and I shall accomplish it. Out of a 20-year sentence, I have served 11 years. Let me go back and complete the nine remaining years. I am not going to run away.''

The other convict fell into the raging waters very soon and was lost. The hero found the tree and rescued the woman in the branches. She was a pregnant lady. Before they could find the cotton house, she delivered her baby in the boat. Starving for three days and with no sleep, they were rowing along the vast river.

A large boat with a hundred passengers was sighted. The owner offered to take both of them on board but did not want to tow the convict's boat. The convict would not accept their help if his boat could not be towed also, as it was his mission to return it.

On board the large boat, neither the convict nor the woman could ask for food, though they had not eaten for three days. Someone sympathized with them and brought them food. On reaching a town, the convict did a few days of work and earned enough to buy some food. That was the food he was comfortable to eat, as he had earned it. It was a magnificent emotion of self-respect that goes to build INDIVIDUALITY in man.

That nation which has such individuals will be prosperous. It was the self-esteem of a convict. Upper middle class people with high education can congratulate themselves if they have that sense of independence. The Spirit in man emerging out of his physicality - the body - expresses as that individuality. For the Spirit to emerge in life, one should enjoy that self-respect and such an individuality.

Every nation that is rich and advanced or every individual who has made it will have behind him a spiritual idea or value. His success issues out of what is spiritual behind his work.
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