Offbeat (29): Is Waiting To Die Worth It?

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By John B. Monteiro
Bellevision Media Network

“There is no satisfaction in hanging a man who does not object to it.” –George Bernard Shaw.
“Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen.” – Lord Halifax.


26 Febraury 2013: With the hanging of Kesab last year and Afzal Guru this year, and the President turning down the mercy petitions of four associates of bandit Veerappa more recently, the focus is now on those lodged  in the death row, awaiting execution by hanging. It is interesting to speculate on the mental and emotional turmoil of those awaiting the hanger’s noose, tempered by hope of being let off the gallows under the mercy petition route or legislation abolishing death penalty. It is in this context the question arises whether it is worth it to await hanging or be done with it once and for all.


The hanging of Kaseb and guru were highly politicized, with political parties trying to score brownie points over the delayed executions. But, even in the absence of politics, waiting in the death row can be a great physical, mental and emotional distress as reflected in the anguish of Wilbert Rideau. Here is his first person account released by IPS and excerpted.

Nothing in your previous life prepares you for living on death row. You’re like head of cabbage on a garden row: planted, forced to lead a static existence, every day exactly the last and the next. Unlike the cabbage, though, your life is without purpose. You are a cipher merely holding a place, awaiting your turn in the execution chamber. Until that day comes, perpetual misery is your condition in life, and your reward for surviving today is that you get to suffer tomorrow as well.

On April 11, 1962, I was cuffed, chained and transported to Louisiana’s death row. There were 12 other men living in the 15 available cells. Roaches scattered as I entered Cell 9. It was about the size of the bathroom in a typical middle-class American home: six feet wide and eight feet deep.

There was a face bowl, above which was a sheet of polished steel affixed to the wall to serve as a mirror to shave by; a commode, but no lid to shut off the sight or smell of it; and a steel bunk bolted to the wall on which lay a cotton batting mattress made by the inmates at the prison factory, too thin to relieve the metal’s hardness. A bare light bulb at the end of a cord hung from the hook inside my cell, which I could turn on to scrutinize my food for foreign matter, like insects.

Restlessness went with living in such a small space. There was room enough only for push-ups, sit-ups and squats, insufficient to exercise all the body’s muscles. We were allowed out of our cells and into the hallway one at a time for only 15 minutes twice a week to shower. We spent years like this, always indoors, with no sunshine.

We were a motley lot with little in common save that each had committed a crime. We were lumped together against our will, and life devoid of the normal pleasantries that prop us up in the outside world was disorienting.

Most people seldom think about social interactions that fill our every day lives. Cut off from them, and often abandoned by friends and family, men can become unmoored. That is what happens on death row. You lose the sense of yourself as part of a larger whole, a context in which your being has meaning and makes sense. On death row, where there is no meaning, your mind tries to create meaning out of nothing, and this can lead you to confuse fantasy with reality. Besides fighting to stay sane, every day you must justify your existence to yourself, justify why you continue to live when you’re merely waiting to die, when the whole world wants you dead.

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Chew on this!!


John B. Monteiro, journalist and author, is Editor of his website, (Interactive Cerebral Challenger) – with provision for instant response. Try responding!



Corruption – India’s Painful Crawl to Lokpal

By John B. Monteiro



About the Book

Corruption – India’s Painful Crawl to Lokpal takes on the subject of corruption in India. It was the first book to comprehensively advocate the institution of the ombudsman to tackle it. This is a revised and updated version of the author’s first book, which was published in 1966.


Author John B. Monteiro surveys the causes, anatomy and dimensions of corruption, while detailing the existing machinery for the ventilation of grievances and the control of maladministration and corruption.


This updated edition tracks India’s long, painful and elusive attempt to adapt the institution of the ombudsman for India, under the title “Lokpal,” and details how the political class sabotaged the Bill from being enacted.


It includes research on institutions in America, Britain, France, and the then Soviet Union that have been used to control maladministration and corruption, examining their suitability for use in India. It also surveys the ombudsman institution working in the Scandinavian countries and in New Zealand, which he advocates for adaptation in India.


About the Author

Born in 1938, John B. Monteiro was raised and educated in Mangalore, a coastal city in Karnataka, India. He earned a master’s in economics, political science and public administration from Bombay University. After a stint as lecturer at St. Aloysius College, Mangalore, from where he had graduated, he went to Bombay (now Mumbai) and got into journalism and, later, corporate communications. He now lives in Mangalore, continuing to write for print and electronic media, and his website,



Soft Cover - 6x9 - 390 pages - $21.50

ISBN: 978-1-62212-199-1
ISBN / SKU: 1-62212-199-6


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Wholesalers please e-mail








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Comments on this Article
Veena Deepak, Udupi Wed, February-27-2013, 7:08
Will this guy talk about mental turmoil of a terrorist in jail if same terrorist will blast his home and kills his family members..he need to ask it for himself..India s unity, integrity and security is concerned no one should be spared who backs or talks in favor of terrorist in the name of freedom of speech and expression ..every Indian atleast journalist/Reporters should know the fact that Afzal ,with his excellent education, intellectual attributes and high level of motivation,knew he was upto and he was provided with every opportunity to defend himself before the law for the long our country should strictly handle those people backs/favours in the name of freedom of speech.Hanging of Afzal Guru.... without any publicity is a good job done by the concerned authorities. It is a tragedy that the innocent young people can so easily be lured into becoming religious fanatics on the unknown promise of heavenly pleasures. HOPE OTHER YOUNGSTERS UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD RATHER THAN KEEPING RELIGION ABOVE THE HUMANITY¦
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