Friday, September 20, 2013

Jailed in Bombay 1972 - A True Story

BEFORE I WENT TO SLEEP EACH NIGHT I had a little ritual: I put aside a portion of my food in the furthest corner of my jail cell so a certain rat would eat it and not bother me in my sleep. The first night I had woken up to the horror of this gigantic rodent nibbling in my hair. In spite of my blood-curdling scream, no one came to my aid; I had to fend for myself now. Not easy, considering my sheltered former life. Terrified of the rat, I had no choice now but to make it my friend, or at least an indifferent acquaintance.

I sat down on the cement floor on my pathetic little mat (which offered no comfort, for it was infested with fleas) and began to sob.  "Why is this happening to me?" I wailed. I had been in India less than a month and now I was in jail. But of course, I knew precisely why, and told myself it was because I did that "stupid dope run to Sweden." 

I was thinking about that trip. It had been successful and a lot of fun, and I had returned to Bombay with my mission accomplished.  No, the dope run was not exactly the problem. I was pretty sure that a local character nicknamed Junkie James had betrayed me. I realised now that it was pretty dumb to have told him about my travel plans to Sweden; he surely figured out what I was up to. And he could have passed on that information for money. But what could I do? I needed his help then, as I was new in Bombay and didn't know my way around or even how to find the things I needed for the trip.

Junkie James had the distinction of being Bombay's oldest hippie resident. He'd been there since 1969 and even spoke fluent Hindi as well as some of the local dialect, Marathi.  And he knew where to get anything. It was too late now to lament that I hadn't given him a proper bribe.

I was quickly learning about how things worked in India, including its known but unseen system of bribery. Maybe this was my wake-up call. But what good would it do me now, sitting in a jail cell not knowing when or even if I would get out?  Eighteen years old, naive, a first time traveller  I had barely arrived in India and now found myself locked in Arthur Road Prison. "Talk about bad luck!" I thought glumly. Watching an enormous insect scurrying across the floor with a faint glimmer of sun streaming through the barred opening high up on the wall, I remember how freaked out my mom was when I told her I was going to India. "Ann, please don't go" she had begged me. "I just know you'll get mixed up with the wrong kind of people, drug smugglers and people like that and you'll probably end up in jail."  How did my frantic mom so accurately predict this?  Was she psychic?

Feeling lonely and forlorn, all I could think about was my parents and my family and how much I missed everyone back home. After bragging to everyone about my upcoming travel adventures, now I was just a scared little girl sitting in a jail cell in Bombay.  I felt like such a fool. I knew my folks would be devastated if they knew, and I wanted to protect them from finding out. At least for now. But how could I be sure they wouldn't find out?

A Canadian diplomat, Mr. Patterson, had come out to see me after some friends told him I was in prison. I specifically asked Mr. Patterson not to contact my parents, but he had insisted that it was the best thing to do - in fact the only thing he could do for me. I pleaded with him again not to contact them, at least for now. Could I trust him? He seemed a nice enough guy and genuinely concerned.

I had also asked Mr. Patterson, for some decent food and English reading material and he had arranged that. So now instead of watery thin slop for breakfast, every day I got a boiled egg, warm milk, some course bread and a banana. That was pretty good. By virtue of being a foreigner I even got cigarettes, which came in handy for trading. Mr. Patterson had come through for me on that and so I felt I had to trust him. I continued writing cheery postcards of lies to my folks.  I told them I was happy and loving India, and described places I'd never visited, getting my information form a fancy Indian magazine, the Weekly Post and other glossy English language magazines that I now had.  I had to put up a good facade and hope that my parents would believe it at least until I could get out of this situation. But I had no clue as to how I could get out.


To find out how I got out of jail and for more adventures of a teenage drug smuggler please read:

Memoirs of a Hippie Girl in India available at  www.annbecoy.com click on the link to Amazon.

2 comments:

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  2. enjoyed your song and the video
    wow Sarada/Ann you were a stuning looking young woman
    those background images are a riot!
    i am just an old hippie girl too
    May we Stay Forever Young with in our old age.
    As seniors,we end up a bit smarter .
    sincerely,myna lee

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