Prisoner’s Dilemma | Sachin Sharma


Prisoner’s Dilemma

Sachin Sharma

The Death and Public Speaking Award


Sonu walked on the stage as if he was walking the last mile. He reached for the mic and spoke nervously but the words never left his mouth. He tried adjusting the mic and checked if it was working by slapping it. A shriek squeal deafened the audience. “Hello!”, he was sudden and loud. The audience and judges had made up their minds for this performance.

“I am Sonu, serving a sentence for killing my father. They gave me a 20 year in this prison.”

The state prison was holding a talent hunt to select 5 performers who would then tour various jails showcasing their talents, inspiring others to follow the passion while serving their sentences. It was going to be a big audition for Sonu, not because he was a great comedian but because this tour was the only thing that could come in between him and his death.

Sonu shared his cell with Ram, a psychopath who had killed 6 people. Ram believed in numerology and considered 7 as his lucky number and regretted that he could not make his 7th kill. 

This morning, Sonu and Ram had an argument about if dogs should be allowed in planes. Ram opined that they deserve to travel with their owners and Sonu made fun of this sentiment, “By this logic any pet should be allowed…how about a snake?” Sonu thought he was being funny and wise. Ram had got a reason for his seventh kill. He got up from his seat and tried to strangle Sonu. But Sonu was saved. Ram had announced, “Sooner or later…” 

Sonu was scared and was avoiding going to the cell. Walking and thinking how he could escape this situation, he observed this event and registered himself as a stand up comic. He believed this jury was god-sent and gave it all he had,

“The last time I spoke to a crowd like this was at my dad’s funeral. He died on his 60th birthday. Heart attack! He was diabetic and could not resist the cake.”

The silence was nerve-racking but he wasn’t going to give up, “The police interrogated us for checking if we deliberately sugared up the cake for the insurance money. And my mother was kind of saddened by this. Why didn’t we think of this all these years, she said.”

A heckler commented, “You shoulda killed her instead…” and everyone laughed. Sonu was numb for a moment. It was crazy how a slightly misplaced laughter could break a stand up comic.

“My mom hated my dad because he was cunning and used to beat her…at Uno.”

His jokes were failing one after the other.

“I was a comedian and now I am a prisoner. Guess what, the difference between being a comedian and a prisoner is you don’t have bother about your meals if you’re a prisoner. I am a comedian, I don’t why I was thrown in jail I was just trying to “gag” my father.”

Finally someone from the audience chuckled and clapped. It was Ram.


They displayed a list of finalists on a board. Sonu, held his breath and checked the list. It was there. He could not believe his eyes. He was going to leap out of this death well. 

Suddenly the blood rushed down his face as the fifth name in the list gleamed before him – Ram Kumar. 

Sooner or later…” the words echoed in his head.