ON his last day behind bars, Daswa Nand Sharma wasn’t sure he wanted to leave what had been his home for over eight years.
The strong bonds forged with newfound brothers on the inside made it difficult to leave but the harsh reality was the 30-year-old had nowhere to go.
Sharma struggled to readjust to a life outside prison walls and tried to come to terms with his family’s rejection.
“I lived with an uncle for a while after being released but that didn’t turn out so well,” he said. “I found myself spending a few nights at a police station, there was nowhere else to go. I called the former OC Nasinu (officer-in-charge of the Nasinu Corrections Centre) and told him what happened.”
Fortunately for Sharma, Apete Tavo welcomed him into his abode which is the place he calls home today.
A fit of rage more than eight years ago sparked Sharma’s attack on a tenant following a dispute over rent. That incident resulted in Sharma being charged with, tried for and convicted of attempted murder. He was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment but this was reduced, mainly because of his good behaviour.
“I regret what I did that day. I cannot turn back time but through the programs, support and encouragement during my term behind bars, I have been reformed. It was also in prison that I came to know God and was baptised. “I have learnt that true change can only be successful when we take a spiritual approach,” he said.
“I hope to approach that person (victim) one day and ask for forgiveness.”
Under a job placement program, Sharma was released early in November 2015 and was offered employment with Starest Furniture and Joinery Ltd in Nasinu.
“I spent more than eight years in prison. I have gone through many rehabilitation programs — programs that bring about spiritual change, that help us deal with drugs and alcohol abuse and anger management.”
Sharma says he has also forgiven his family for rejecting him.
“We shouldn’t lose hope. We make a mistake and we learn from it. The future is ahead of us, we need to look ahead,” he said.
It has been six months now since Sharma moved into Mr Tavo’s home. Sharma said readjusting between the two worlds was not easy.
“Readjusting between prison life and life outside isn’t easy. When we were inside, our meals, bedtime and wake-up time were disciplined and strict. When we’re released, we have to adjust to the way society lives and that’s also hard and takes some getting used to,” he said.
“But we have to change. We have to try. I have learnt that anger lasts for a second or minute, we need to think twice before acting. We have to change ourselves and the best way to make that happen is through a spiritual awakening.”
Sharma has been working under the supervision of Mohammed Zanif, the foreman of the fitting section at Starest Furniture and Joinery Ltd.
“He is a fast learner, punctual, obedient and overall, a hard worker. Sharma deserves a second chance like everyone else who is imprisoned for their mistakes. They are very capable of resettling into life but it is up to us, society, to give them that chance.”
* This article was published in The Fiji Times on April 27, 2016.