As India’s capital baked under a heat wave this month, banker Gaurav Gupta sat down for lunch at a new air-conditioned restaurant, and was greeted by a smiling waiter who offered him chilled water and took his order — a traditional “thali” meal of flatbread, lentils, vegetables, rice and pickle.
Nothing unusual, except that the employee, like most of his co-workers, is a convicted murderer serving time in South Asia’s largest prison complex.
“Tihar Food Court” on Jail Road in west Delhi is part of a wide range of reform and rehabilitation initiatives undertaken at the Tihar prison. It opened in the first week of July on an “experimental basis” while waiting for formal clearances, and is located half a kilometre from the prisoners’ dormitories.
With a spacious interior lined with gleaming wooden tables and walls adorned with paintings by prisoners, the 50-seat restaurant is coming in for praise from customers, especially for being clean and for the polite behaviour of its employees, who were trained by the Delhi Institute of Hotel Management, an autonomous body under the state government.