Furniture part of bride's wedding trousseau handcrafted behind bars in TN

Madurai Central Prison Superintendent M Satheeshkumar said the marriage set would cost more if it is purchased outside.
Impressed by the work of the inmates, the family decided to buy furniture for a wedding.
Impressed by the work of the inmates, the family decided to buy furniture for a wedding.(Photo | Express)

MADURAI: The walls of the Madurai Central Prison may have confined them physically, but there is no confining the artistry skills and craftsmanship of the inmates here. The prison’s bazaar, where the inmates operate a restaurant, also serves as an outlet for them to display and sell a variety of handmade products, including snacks, clothing items and even furniture.

It was during a visit to this restaurant when a family, impressed by the work of the inmates, decided to buy furniture for a wedding.

S Senthil Nathan (48), a native of Thanjavur was in Madurai in the last week of May, along with his family members, to buy furniture for his niece’s wedding when they chanced upon the freedom bazaar, a store run by the inmates of Madurai Central Prison.

“We found that the bazaar was selling furniture on an order basis. Impressed with the products, we decided to order a marriage set, consisting of a wooden wardrobe, a cot, a three-seater sofa, three teapoys, a dining table set, a dressing table and a wooden reclining chair. The authorities told us that the products were made by the inmates. We did not attach any stigma, and we wanted to be a part of the changes in the prisoners’ lives. As the products we purchased were for an auspicious event, and knowing that a portion of the proceeds will go to the inmates’ families, we only saw it as a good sign,” Senthil said.

Madurai Central Prison Superintendent M Satheeshkumar said the marriage set would cost more if it is purchased outside. “More than 10 inmates worked on the set in less than 10 days as the marriage date was nearing. There was no compromise on the quality as the prisons department did not want the project to be profit-oriented, but rather service-oriented, and help change society’s stigma towards the prisoners,” he said.

“The products were made according to the buyer’s choice of design,” Satheeshkumar said, adding that while the bazaar has been making furniture for a few months, this was the first order for a wedding and a large one at that.

Sources said the products were made using teak wood and cost nearly Rs 2.35 lakh, while the same would cost between Rs 5-6 lakh when purchased outside.

Director General of Prisons and Correctional Services Maheshwar Dayal and DIG Prisons (Madurai range) D Pazhani were supportive, which is why the Madurai prison was able to carry out such an initiative, sources added.

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