I wish there was pickle.

The rice is bland, the curry that was plopped on it seems as though it was held under a tap, the clump of vegetable placed on the side of the plate, tasteless.

Last night I again dreamt of dipping my finger into a generous helping of lemon pickle, the salty, spicy, mouth-watery kind someone used to make long ago, and licking it, and squirming with pleasure at the sting that set my tongue aflame. The dream returns every other night.

The day they made sambar, the fragrance flowed to me across chasms of hunger pangs. But the moment they plopped it on my rice, I knew, it was as dead as every curry they plop on it day after day, year after year.

The sweets they serve on special days I no longer wish to taste, and never was there a special day when they served pickle.

The gardens are dull and colourless, a few stumps grown here and there by people who had no love for them, ploughed up by those whose hearts were not in it. Weeds would never overgrow this lifeless garden, nor would roses. Leaves would show a sick green, never the fresh lively colour they display elsewhere. The plants would wither without blossoming, stunted in their growth by unfriendly hands that knew no gentleness.  The planting, the ploughing, the watering, were part of the exercise, the punishment.

Fresh air never found the door to this place, nor did it seek it. Forever, if I am let out, my body would carry the damp prison smell. Even the wind that blows on my trips to the court are contaminated by the walls of the room and the windows of the police van.

They, as always, push my case and me aside with a wave of the hand. Another hearing, another day. They argue with each other on my life and death, I need not talk unless spoken to. They debate on whether I am this or I am that. My felony I can hardly recall. Maybe there was one, maybe there were many. I shake my head. I lost interest in the farce long ago. When I look out the window, I see that the shrubs there don’t flower either.

There never was a line between sanity and insanity. The sane ones said there was. The insane ones never cared.

When I asked for pickle one day, I was told, “You’re sentenced to death. What use do you have of pickle? Pray for clemency, instead.”

Another day, another year, they told me I am serving a life sentence.

The craving for pickle makes my stomach turn. My tastebuds are dead through lack of exercise.

By the end of the sentence, a spot of pickle on my tongue would be a shot of cyanide.
A word I utter would burst my throat.
A puff of fresh air would slash my skin.
A touch of a loving hand would break my heart.

Within these gray walls, life and death are mere sentences, short, straightforward, without the beauty of metaphors, without a sparkle of colour…