Author: Shashi Warrier
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0140287167
Written with rare power and unflinching directness, this is a compelling, often unsettling account of a life of great psychological and moral complexity.
They say that the hangman's job is an art. Positioning the knot under the prisoner's ear is the most important part of the job: get it exactly right and there's not a quiver from the rope except for that little jerk at the drop, when his neck breaks. A few millimeters off, and the man's neck doesn't break: he dies of strangulation, slowly, painfully.
In 1941, Janardhanan Pillai became the 'Aratchar', the Hangman, for the king of Travancore. Over the next three decades he was on call by the Prison authorities in Travancore and Tamil Nadu, charged with putting condemned men to death, swiftly and cleanly. Each time he returned from the gallows, he told himself that it would the last time. But he went back, a hundred and seventeen times. He did what he was ordered to do and shut out difficult memories, till an encounter with a writer almost a quarter century after his last hanging forced him to confront his past.
A spare, dark work that draws from Pillai's diaries and the author's interviews with him, Hangman's journal takes us into the mind of a man struggling to come to terms with his Dharma, his conscience, and his shame. There are clinical details of the rituals connected with hanging over half a century ago, and startling insights into the nature of crime and the concept of retribution.