“As I climbed the ascent ten years ago from Port Blair to the Silver Jail, I had never imagined that time would come when I was to descend from that place and go back to India. But now I had climbed down and was stepping into the steamer that was to take me back to India.”
As the thoughts were passing in my mind, the steamer ‘Maharaja’ had arrived. She was bound for Calcutta. We went up and I felt a strange sensation coming over me, I was to lose the little freedom I was beginning to enjoy in the Silver jail, and, when in India, I may be put under severe custody as if I was to run my whole sentence once again beginning from it first day. As I stepped into the steamer, I was taken to the cage for prisoners on the ground floor. It was in the same cage
that I was locked on my first voyage to the Andamans. A shiver passed over my entire body as I remembered it. And my elder brother was to be with me now, a thin, emaciated scare-crow of a man hiccoughing without rest or relief. We were both put in together.
Put in the cage of maniacs
The cage in which we were locked up was packed full of lunatics. The insane in the Andamans were all being despatched to India by the same steamer. And in their company we were bound for voyage to India and in the same cage with them!
The lunatics were pouring forth foul abuses on one another and were crying aloud in turns. Some were holding their throats in the grip of their hands as if to throttle themselves. The man put in charge of these madmen was one of themselves, who had recovered from that ailment. He used to hammer them all one by one. There was not even moving space for us two in this medley.
And my brother was burning with fever and so emaciated in body, and he was herded among this pack. What the madmen saw and spoke they believed for the time being as gospel truth. Some imagined that the mice were running all over their body and mounting up their chests. Some believed that all the people around were shouting out abuse towards them, and they would wake up at night, sit on the neighbour't chest, each one of them, and were about to belabor them with fisticuffs. Others were rolling pell-mell in their own vomits and urine. And we were planted ourselves in their midst!
Who are mad, whom can you call mad?
For a moment I could not help asking myself the question, who is really mad and who is not. How do we know that what our senses apprehend is really the truth? Perhaps, what the senses of these madmen perceive may be the reality! On the side of the same as on the side of the insane, the senses alone constitute the witness. And some one sense alone is to determine that the other sense reports correctly. If the senses of us all were like the senses of these lunatics, we should have felt like them the mice running over our bodies. Why then should we take it that we are right? Perhaps, they may be right and we, seated in the midst of their vomitting and discharges, are deluded that we are in that foul and dirty place! For aught we know, we are mad and they are in their senses!”
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