He hosted Indian televisions first and most popular crime investigation show "Indias Most Wanted". Suhaib Ilyasi had it all. Then one night he lost it all. His wife died of multiple stab wounds. Ilyasi was accused of murdering her and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In a startling turnaround, the Delhi High Court earlier this week declared Ilyasi not guilty.
Understandably Ilyasi is pinching himself in disbelief.
"I have been saying for 18 years that I am innocent. Now the honourable court has also said it. There is no compensation for the time, energy, self-esteem and self-confidence, not to mention my career, I've lost in these 18 years. I am only grateful to God and the judiciary for finally believing in my innocence," says a discernibly shaken Ilyasi.
"It's yet to sink in that I'm a free man now, that Tihar Jail is no longer home, that I am in my real home with my daughter Aaliya, talking to you. I used to dream about this freedom in jail. I feel this is a dream," Ilyasi's voice quivers with emotion.
What has his life been like during these 18 years?
"In one word? Hell. Only the thought that I would one day be reunited with my daughter kept me going. And of course I gained a lot of strength in jail from reading the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. I have studied and understood the teachings of these two scriptures thoroughly. And now I want to make the Upanishads and the Gita as accessible to the average citizen of this country as they've become to me."
Working on reader-friendly translations of the Upanishads and the Gita is one of the projects Ilyasi will now take up. The other is the revival of his show.
Sighs Ilyasi: "I am aware that many crime investigative shows have come up in the past years. But I need to revive my show. Earlier it was not possible because from being the man who cracked criminal cases from across the country, I became a crime accused. I want to restart my show 'India's Most Wanted' to tell the stories of the inmates that I met at Tihar.
Some of them have killed multiple times. But their eyes tell a different story. I want to go deep into the motivations of crime. The law only sees things in black and white. There are so many grey areas in an act of crime. I want to revive my show to tell the untold stories of those charged with murder."
Ilyasi admits the world has changed during the 18 years he fought to prove his innocence. "I cannot get back the time I lost. But I want to utilize every moment I am left with on this earth to do the work that I left incomplete when fate snatched away my freedom. Today I am free not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually, thanks to the judiciary."