"Once you cut hope, life is easy, you survive so beautifully. In jail, there is nothing but hope. But when I decided ki mujhe koi hope nahin chahiye, the journey in jail became easy and passed quickly.”
So said Sanjay Dutt at a recent event in India, where he spent an hour (during a 15-minute slot) talking about his time in jail. Dutt served a 42 months sentence for possessing weapons supplied by gangsters behind the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. He was released in late February this year.
Dutt recalled the moment 23 years ago when he first learned about the charges agianst them, “I was shooting in Mauritius when my sister called and said that I was being charged for keeping rifles, and I said, 'Oh really?'” Dutt rushed back to India immediately. “When I reached Bombay airport... I was coming down from the slide, and I saw 50,000 policemen pointing their guns at me, as if I was Osama Bin Laden."
"...when MN Singh (the then Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), Mumbai) came and said that I was being booked in the Mumbai blast case, I broke down. I was like, 'How can you expect me to blast my own city? Go against my country?' He said, 'I am sorry, but I have to arrest you'," Dutt recounted.
A combination of spiritual and physical pursuits kept him occupied in jail.
"Maine jail mein Ramayan, Bhagwad Gita, Shiv Puran, Ganesh Puran, Bible, Quran Sharif aur Guru Granth Sahib padhi. I can sit and talk to any maulana or any priest and make sense. I had a small temple, samne bathroom tha tab bhi mandir tha. God is in your heart," shared Dutt.
He added that he was 110kgs when he went to jail, so decided to shed the extra weight: “I started running in the yard, lifting huge buckets of water. I used to hit nails (sic) in the wall till my knuckles hurt and wrists swelled. But still, I used to do it every day, because I wanted to break through the pain."
But his kids never knew that their father was in prison. "I used to speak to them twice a month. I told tell them that I was shooting in the mountains and didn't have proper connection. That's what they know even today."
Dutt also spoke at length about his drug addiction: “Substance abuse is something that you do if you want to do it. Once you get into it, it's very difficult to leave. It is the worst thing in the world. My journey with substance abuse has been about 12 years. There are no drugs in the world that I have not done. When my father took me to America (for rehab), they gave me a list (of drugs) and I ticked every drug on it, because I had taken all of them. The doctor told my dad, 'What kind of food do you eat in India? Going by the drugs he did, he should be dead by now!'"
“I didn't leave drugs because of my family. I left because I wanted to be out of it. I didn't want that life. When you start the rehabilitation process, one part is physical - your body breaks down and you feel cold,” he added.
Continuing about rehab, Sanjay Dutt gave a message to the youth, “But the most difficult part comes later, when your mind says, 'Ab toh tu theek ho gaya hai, ek baar maar lete hain'. That's when you have to use willpower. I want to tell youngsters, live your life, love your work, love your family, it is better than cocaine."