Kids Corner


Inside Manu's Prison




I had heard of hell

It is a Christian thing

Born of their tripartite view

‘Heaven, earth and Manu's prison'

My spirit only slumbers in my slavery

I grind their grain

I feed the Mughal's army

What they have done to my children

To my neighbours' children

All our children ...

Must not be spoken,

I have not the tears to carry off the sorrow

The oceans are by virtue of my tears

They spill on to the land, into my work

The granaries are moulding from the weeping

The army poisoned by their evil seeping

Into their precious food supply


There are many forms of slavery

And many arcs of freedom

I am consigned to grinding grain

Consigned to chains upon my liberty

Consigned to the painfulness of memory

The visceral agony of knowing

What they have done to the children

I am enslaved

But they are poisoned by their evil

Prisoners to their own depravity

They are consigned to wretched

To live and die as beasts of cruelty


I am enslaved to grinding grain

I will either die, or live again

But I am free

I have the comfort of the Guru

And know that God alone can liberate humanity


March 28, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: M. Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 28, 2010, 5:06 PM.

A very touching piece. I never knew Mir Manu's prison even existed before this poem. Thank you for sharing, Ms. Gibson.

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), March 28, 2010, 8:16 PM.

Bless you, Michele, for the profound lines. A poem with a poem could only do some measure of justice. Here is one I read as a kid and recall: "Stone walls do not a prison make/ Nor iron bars a cage;/ Minds innocent and quiet take/ That for a hermitage/ If I have freedom in my love/ And in my soul am free/ Angels alone that soar above/ Enjoy such liberty" [Richard Lovelace, 1618-1657]. Our own history is replete with examples. Take Bhai Randhir Singh's 'Jail Chithiaan' where he has chronicled the many long years spent in British dungeons. One example shall suffice: This was in Nagpur Jail in the year 1922, when a visiting Christian Missionary who had just come from England was told about Bhai Randhir Singh who was being kept in a dark, unventilated solitary confinement for nearly 8 months. "Do you stay alone in this cell?" asked the missionary. "No never, I am never alone even for a a single day". On hearing this answer, the Jail Superintendent interjected that he was telling a lie. He is always alone and there is no room for another one anyway. The Missionary was confused and wondered who was telling the truth. Bhai Sahib insisted he was telling the truth. "We Sikhs of the Guru never tell a lie". Now, how this enigma was to be solved? Bhai Sahib ji's radiant countenance and beaming radiance puzzled the 'padre sahib'. "Tell me who lives with you". At this, Bhai Sahib ji burst into Guru's song: "Guru meray sang sada hai nalay" - 'My Guru is always with me!' and mesmerised all of them. The Missionary decided that he had to spend a night in the cell to gain first-hand experience. But the jail officials wouldn't allow that and relented to let him spend an hour or so. Bhai Sahib ji at that point said: " Why do you worry? Padre Sahib will not be able to stay in the cell even 10 minutes." Just as he was entering the cell, Bhai Sahib whispered that there was a chain dangling that was connected to a bell to let you out. In less than 10 minutes, the bell began to ring like a fire alarm and the padre asked to be let out saying, "I feel suffocated and will die". On coming out, he said, "Please bring that Guru Nanak's Sikh and let me speak to him." The Missionary placed his hands on Bhai Sahib's shoulders and said that your Master Guru Nanak is indeed ever with you, but my Master Lord Jesus does not abide with me as your Guru Nanak does," and asked him to sing that shabad again. My apologies for this longish response to dear Michele and hope Manu's jail pales in front of this.

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