Monday, June 15, 2009

A Letter from Alcatraz…..

Imagine yourself cold and shivering on a damp and thickly fogged-in morning. Heavy steel shackles squeeze your wrists and ankles, and the constricting metal seems to amplify the cold. Your movements are constrained, which makes it difficult to maintain your balance as you embark on the island ferry. You catch a brief glimpse of what will soon be your new home across the foggy bay…

No I am not a former inmate of Alcatraz Island …the famous prison off the San Francisco Bay often known as “The Rock” but only a visitor who visited the island almost forty years after the dreaded prison was officially closed down and converted into a museum.

Each year millions of people visit this island to take in its unique history. The cell house, now empty of the dangerous criminals who were once housed there, still carries remnants of the dark events to which these walls bore witness.

“While I am still breathing”….. was the opening line of the guided audio tour that we took… As soon you enter the main prison building a feeling of somberness prevails. Though no prisoners live there now but still it seemed that we were retracing their footsteps. But what the prisoners went through in that place is only for us to imagine.

Every where around the island bits and pieces of the gruesome history of the island lay scattered and the stories make rounds about the famous inmates of the island who were one of the most incorrigible criminals of America…

In the dining hall stands the board on which the menu for the last day of the prison remains unscathed..i don’t remember what the menu was but it was not something what we would fancy. In the kitchen the knives were mounted on cases so that if one is stolen the cook can raise an alarm…in spite of all this quite a few of them were indeed stolen and later used in attempts to escape from the island but most of them in vain…..

The recreation center of the prisoners is something worth mentioning. It is rather a bare ground with a gallery on one side and a wall on the other side with a gusty wind blowing all year round. It is so windy over there that I could hardly stand at one place but the prisoners used to sit there for hours together because it was their heaven, it was the only place where they could have a piece of the life they missed..the sun ..the rain.. the winds..the clouds..and most importantly a birds eye view of the San Francisco city through a tiny hole on the door…….

As the tour went on it took us to what they call “The Hole”….it is nothing but a pitch dark cell which was used to keep the prisoners in isolation..not a ray of light, not a sound ..nothing…it seemed almost it lacked anything and every thing fit for human habitation….the only thing human ..”While I am still breathing..."

I always wanted to visit Alcatraz Island but I never knew the experience will be so heart wrenching. Dreaded, grim and mysterious are the words which can even come close to describe the island. A sneak peek into the island’s past and I knew why at the entrance it was written “Break rules and you go to prison, break prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.”

My journey to Alcatraz ended as I boarded the ferry to come back to San Francisco rather to come back to civilization far from the icy coldness of the place.. far from the rigid silence of the prison walls which could say so much”if only walls could talk..."


Mari said...

i loved
kisses mari

Mou said...

wonderfully described ! touched the heart !