Holiday in hell

Holiday in hell

shocking tales  A still from ‘Jailed Abroad’ on National Geographic.

Visa, passport, flight ticket, money, luggage, camera... and you are sorted for the much awaited holiday. But on arrival at your destination, what if there are two packets of cocaine found in your bag at the security check? A holiday in paradise turns into a nightmare.

Using dramatic reconstructions and a compelling first person narrative, ‘Jailed Abroad’ tells true stories that would be any traveller’s worst nightmare — from travellers who through naivety or plain bad luck have fallen foul of a local legal system and found themselves behind bars, to adventurers who have strayed too far from the beaten track and found themselves hostage to guerrilla forces. These are stories of people who went in search of adventure, a new life or the break of a lifetime but all ended up in situations beyond their control. Presenting season two.

The new season reveals stories spanning across India, Iraq, Philippine, Venezuela and Mexico. They are, undoubtedly, a lot more gripping than their first season, leaving the viewer wondering whether it will end well or not. Season one witnessed a huge success in India as it was the first time Indian television viewers were given a taste of the brutality of being jailed abroad. So when season two was being designed for Indian television, it was decided that the series would bring forth bigger plots, unimaginable twists and in a few cases, not-so-pleasant endings. The producers have managed to not only convince the ‘victims’ to speak about their horrific experiences; seems like they were asked not to leave out even the tiniest bit of detail.

The season begins with the story of a heartbroken Londoner, Claire Mathews, who decides to travel to Goa. She soon finds herself hard up for cash as her party lifestyle in the coastal town spirals out of control. She begins by mailing small amounts of hashish to London to make a quick buck. The courier company, on suspicion, hands over a parcel to the police who then intimate the Indian government. She is immediately arrested and ends up spending several years in one of Asia’s largest prisons, awaiting trial. Her trial gets further extended to another five years, leaving Claire devastated.

Viewers are taken through a first person narrative by the convicted through the one hour of the show. Each episode shifts between the original interview and reconstructed footage of their journey. The convict speaks into the camera, in a tight shot, bringing to screen every emotion that plays on their face. The interviewer isn’t seen or heard. As the story progresses, and the narrative trails off into a scene, it is re-enacted by actors who resemble the convict. All episodes focus on the events that lead up to the arrest or time of captivity.

What keeps the viewer hooked on to ‘Jailed Abroad’, is the fact that the show  imaginatively captures the gruesome experiences, giving it a sensitive touch by involving the original victims without taking sides. In a few episodes, they are shown sitting with handcuffs on, revealing only at the end that they are still in jail. More often than not, the storyteller is released from prison and has returned home. These convicts often break down as the episode progresses. If you’re lucky, you may catch an episode where the narrator revisits the country of the incident. The identity of the victim is never hidden or changed.

What to look out for

An episode that should not go missed in season two is ‘Conned In Quito’. In 2003, Zoe McGarry’s life changes forever after a chance encounter with a man called Tony. She meets him in Nigeria while visiting the country with her Nigerian husband Olu and they soon became close friends. But within months, his personality starts to change. He is no longer the happy, warm person they once knew. And then one day, he disappears without warning. A few months later, he calls Zoe from Ecuador begging her to help renew his visa so he that can return to the UK. Eventually, Tony persuades Zoe to visit him to help with his paperwork. But once there, it is revealed that Tony is involved in illegal activity.

Once, after a visit to the local tourist market where Zoe buys souvenirs, Tony gives her a rucksack to carry them home in. When Zoe decides to return to London a few days later, she doesn’t make it on the plane. Police arrest her for carrying 2.6 kilograms of cocaine in the lining of the rucksack that Tony had given her. She is locked up, and despite protesting and screaming “I’m innocent,” she is sentenced to a 16-year jail term in a Quito prison. After serving four years, she is released on parole and finally returns home to Ireland. Tony was never caught or brought to trial.

This episode gets my vote because it has certainly taken a step forward from the last season. An unsuspecting young woman who falls prey to the fringes of a drug racket but fights with determination to get over the odds.

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