'Measuring out the rope, testing it, tying the knots--I have learnt to do these things well, because I concentrate on doing them well. I concentrate on them as best as I can, because if I don't my mind will finds its ways to the man about to die, and then I will have no peace.' For over three decades, Janardhan Pillai was the arathar, the hangman, on call by the prison authorities in the kingdom of Travancore and, after Independence, the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. After the courts had passed the sentence, it was left to him to put the condemned man to death, expertly, swiftly. Each time he returned from the gallows, he told himself that it would be the last time. But he went back, a hundred and seventeen times. Based on Pillai's life, Hangman's Journal draws from his diaries and the author's interviews with him. A work of rare power written in the first person, it 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.A spare, dark work, Hangman's Journal is an absorbing, often unsettling account of a life of great psychological and moral complexity.
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