Ranchi, March 31: Jail stints can sure do strange things to people.
Former chief minister Madhu Koda, never really known either as a bibliophile or a geek, is now addicted to reading and is computer savvy to boot. And the transformation has taken place within the walls of the Birsa Munda Central Jail where he is lodged on corruption charges since November 30.
Koda has recently completed reading the Mahabharata, which he got hold of from the jail library. And when he is not reading, he can be seen fiddling with a computer which was made available to him a month ago. His tutor, a fellow prisoner, has already taught him the basics of programming.
“He has read the Mahabharata and many other books. He is also undergoing computer training from another prisoner, a person of South Indian origin who hails from Jamshedpur,” said a jail official, requesting anonymity.
Not to be outdone, Koda’s former cabinet colleagues and fellow jail mates — Anosh Ekka, Harinarayan Rai and Kamlesh Singh — also appear to have embarked on the path of self-improvement.
Probably the most religious of the lot, Kamlesh Singh performed puja inside his ward on all the nine days of Chaitra Navratra that culminated with Ramnavami.
“On those nine days he turned vegetarian and stayed on a strict fruit diet. He used to spend at least two to three hours doing puja everyday,” said the jail official, adding that otherwise the former minister’s love for non-vegetarian delicacies, specially bagheri (a small bird) was well-known. His supporters from Palamau often got him his favourite dishes.
Rai and Ekka, old friends both, spent the better part of the day playing carrom on the common verandah outside their ward till Rai landed up at RIMS with a spinal problem last week and Ekka followed with dangerously high triglyceride.
Ekka is also known for his love of food, specially non-vegetarian items, panir pakoras and dry fruits.
Incidentally Ekka and Rai, MLAs from Kolebira and Jarmundi respectively, reportedly still nurture dreams of becoming ministers again after being released from jail, whenever that may be.
Koda represents Singhbhum in the Lok Sabha though Kamlesh suffered a humiliating defeat in Hussainabad in the 2009 Assembly polls.
Koda was sent to jail on November 30 while Kamlesh was arrested on December 1 in a disproportionate assets case. Ekka and Rai have been behind the bars since October 2009 on charges of owning assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.