Making the Second Chance Count

Posted on: Tuesday, February 2, 2016


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How often do we come across stories of people who got a second chance from life and they made it count? This is a story of Mr Nagaraj Gangolli - who was determined to make a difference in the lives of people who are serving a sentence in the prison.

“The police are constantly at your heels! You need to run fast to get away! Work on your breath. Increase your speed.”

Hardly the words of a law abiding citizen, but Mr Nagaraj Gangolli was not just a person who never broke the law, he wanted to reform those who did. It’s just that he was an outstanding individual with an unconventional approach.

For months he had been trying to convince the Bangalore police to provide him with a list of thieves and rowdy sheeters so he could convince them to drop their nefarious activities and turn to legitimate means of livelihood. After six months of constant weekly visits to the Police Commissioner’s office, DCP Mr Alok Kumar supported Nagaraj in his endeavour.

One day, at the crack of dawn, his policemen rounded up 38 miscreants from all over the city and assembled them at Jayanagar 4th Block where Nagaraj was awaiting them.

Faced with surly, hostile faces, Nagaraj knew he had only a few moments to break the ice and win them over. Thinking quickly and out of the box, he put himself in their shoes and said what they wanted to hear. “I will show you how to breathe properly and make your feet fly!”
He then proceeded to teach them a breathing technique which immediately calmed them down and also intrigued them. With just a few breaths, Nagaraj had crossed a milestone. He pressed on, teaching his motley audience one Pranayam (breathing technique) after another. By the time he had finished teaching the Sudarshan Kriya, all 38 criminals noticed a change in themselves. They were also touched by Nagaraj’s genuine concern, simplicity and humour.

They were won over and they never looked back.

From crime and punishment to decent living; rehabilitation in full swing.

In an effort to restore some faith in the fairness of the judicial system, Nagaraj promised the criminals that if anyone was accused of committing a crime he had not, Nagaraj would secure their release from prison. His first call to action came at midnight. One of the thieves contacted him from the Hanumanthnagar police station, saying they were wrongly accused of burglary. Nagaraj immediately hopped on to his trusty scooter in the dark and sped to his rescue.

For Nagaraj it was not just a matter of keeping criminals out of jail. He wanted to help each one stand on his own feet and earn a decent living. He did whatever he could (and still does), from providing emotional and moral support, to helping secure loans and jobs.

Nagaraj’s efforts resulted in one participant securing the job of a driver. He is driving a Mercedes Benz for Rs 16,000 a month. Another, Praveen (family name?) from Mandya drives the implementation of technical plans for the Vedavathi River Rejuvenation Project. A man who once had a ‘shoot at sight’ order issued against him by the Government of Karnataka, now liaises with the same Government on this project, manages the on-ground team and has conducted The Art of Living programmes for the police as well.

Nagaraj has also taught the Kriya to 54 inmates on death row at the Belgaum prison, thus imbuing them with a certain sense of acceptance and strength to face impending death. He has conducted several Youth Leadership Training Programmes in Bangalore jails and is justifiably proud of the fact that many of these young inmates have become pivotal volunteers in various social projects conducted by The Art of Living in rural areas.
Not stopping there, Nagaraj has also taught the Sudarshan Kriya to more than 1100 BTMC bus and auto drivers. More than 2,800 policemen have benefitted from the program as well.

Inspired by the results of his work, several IAS and IPS officers participated in the Art of Living Happiness Program too. The Prison Smart Programme addresses the root cause of crime.

The programme consists of a series of advanced breathing techniques specifically designed to create dynamic cleansing effects on the body and mind. Participants learn how to use their own breath to eradicate the accumulated effects of stress from their systems. Results are experienced from the very first session, participants sleep better, think more clearly, and begin to take responsibility for their actions. They learn self-control and make positive changes in their behaviour. Course participants have also reported increased resilience to daily stress in the most demanding situations, decreased interpersonal conflict, decreased indulgence in destructive behaviour and freedom from the traumatic scars of the past.

Prison Program is offered to inmates, ex-inmates, half-way houses, juvenile delinquents and inmates on parole or probation.

Behind every culprit is a victim crying for help.

The incisive perception underlying Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s words are a source of constant inspiration to Nagaraj. This, together with his passion for solving problems at the very root, is what drives him from one challenging cause to another. Instead of punishing criminals and then offering reformative programmes, he believes it is best to prevent them from committing crimes. He has given up a flourishing business and turned his attention towards the progress of marginalised communities. As a 15 year old boy he had broken an age old taboo and befriended an untouchable Koraga. At the time, his family soundly disapproved of his action. The reproach never bothered him and his attitude towards those who needed a helping hand never changed. Today, the same kind of action repeated on a much larger scale has made him a local hero. Revered as much in several villages, slums and prisons across Karnataka as he is by his family.

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