2

Of Misogynists and Lawyers

For starters, I presume that you all have your sun glasses on while reading this? You see, I am bathing in the reflected glory of reading in a back dated issue of a National Daily, that an old college girl pal of mine, now in the Foreign Service of our country, is swanning around the CPSA ( Chauvinist Paradise of Saudi Ahbria), rubbing shoulders with the rich & powerful, without even the semblance of a top-to-toe burqa! Said classmate has been officially chaperoning the nation’s leading political leader’s wife, who has also, reports this Daily, been accorded a similar rare privilege. In CPSA country, with their ultra repressive regulations for women, these ladies may as well be running around like two Empresses with New Clothes! This, while the economically erudite politician husband was squeaking his way through innumerable, groveling public speeches, shuffling around, wooden faced & sotto voiced, gracing every planned social engagement, in his bid to woo for his Homeland, monetary largesse and benefits from the oil rich CPSA. This rare no burqa ‘honour, ‘ wasn’t even accorded to Laura Bush or Hillary Clinton in earlier times, I continued to read in the National Daily. Hmmm! Now, that set me wondering whether the citizens of our country should be cock-a-hoop about this last mentioned observation! Do you think that the CPSA powers-that-be are implying that while the two white American women might get inappropriately treated on account of their beauty & sexuality, our own dusky skinned female citizens wouldn’t appeal to the oily (pun intended) Sheikhs? I think that that our Fourth Estate should take up this comment and start a Diplomatic Discussion, at the very least, on Twitter!

Talking about certain foreign States and their condescending views about the frailities of the female sex, let us not fool ourselves. Men in certain pockets of our own ancient civilization are not very far behind in supporting the views of the CPSA. A few years ago, I needed to visit my country seat, as I fondly refer to my home town in the hills. I was accompanied by my son, and we had certain matters to discuss with our Advocates regarding a forthcoming court matter, of which I was to be (not self appointed) the Main Protagonist. Son and I walked into our lawyer’s office. He waved us in to the inner chamber of his office, since he was in discussions with another chicken-to-pluck, in the outer chambers. In the Sanctum Sanctorum, sat our noble & respected, Lawyer Senior. Most good Brahmin Hindus worth their salt, especially venerate their fathers. Lawyer Sr.(LS) was busy punching the hell out of a trusty old typewriter. A desk top computer, largely ignored, adorned the table, placed amidst scattered heavy legal tomes. I think it might have actually been doubling up as a paper weight, so little used did it look. In sign language, LS indicated that we should seat ourselves. Thereafter, Muhammed Ali continued his punches & jabs as if we didn’t exist. In the meanwhile our Lawyer Jr., Mr.Eyes Closed, having finished with his meeting, indicated that we should repair to the outer chamber which we did. Did I forget to mention that son of LS, Mr.Eyes Closed (EC), got that handy name because of the manner in which he conducted his conversations with me? Well then, EC sat opposite us, looking expectantly at Son to launch into the reasons for the visit. I, meanwhile, lowered my bulk gingerly, into one of the few old cane chairs opposite him, doubting the said chair’s ability to bear my weight! Son sat next to me, and began his politely worded, previously rehearsed, discussions with EC. And EC very politely answered ALL son’s questions! The very same questions which I had asked him a week previously, to which he declined enlightenment! Instead, EC, frothing down the phone lines, had curtly informed me then, that if I wished for further explanations and answers from him, why then, I could choose to Take My Case Elsewhere! Howzzat? To add insult to injury…when Son tried telling EC that I was understandably nervous about the forthcoming Court Hearing, where I was being thrown to the Opposition’s legal Roman Lions’ den, as in the district’s Civil Court , he all but guffawed (with eyes closed) and asked Son, “Why should your mother be nervous? Tell her that she has to just truthfully answer any questions put to her in the Court. She has given only true facts, so she has nothing to fear.” You might have noticed, in all EC’s conversations, I was referred to in the Third Person–as if I were an insignificant part of the decrepit seating in the room. Why, not even present there! EC’s Phantom Client. To give Son his due, he did try to, a bit feebly, as I protested later to him, draw EC’s hallowed attention to my presence, in order for EC to converse directly with me. But EC would have none of it, he was made of sterner, pure Dravidian Brahmin genes. His eyes remained firmly closed, probably wishing this mere female away from his presence. Anyway, we had been earlier advised, that LS & EC were canny lawyers, and knew their iddlis, and we should stick with them, allowing them their foibles, as long as they were committed. So we left, having done just that, remaining their clients. I tell you, folks, EC was like a purring feline with Son, again naturally, as he was the male of the species. Females be damned!

The mystery was later revealed to us, just as I was beginning to wonder, that with EC’s strong apathy to me, where our case would stand. An acquaintance of our’s told us that LS, EC & Sons had a reputation of being known MCPs & misogynists, for reasons best known to themselves. They were unable to deal directly with women, all women, not just this Phantom Client. In Small Towns, in true orthodox tradition, women are worthy only to cook, feed, and housekeep for their menfolk. Not to unusually, think for themselves, leave alone stand up in witness boxes to be cross-examined! If only I had known earlier how dismayed our Advocate’s were to see a mere female representing the case they were handling at court. And that their spotless and well publicized reputation might well be hanging by a thread, resigned to losing their carefully built up image. I might have switched to another member of the Legal Fraternity. Alas! Anyway, I stuck it out, so did they, and we came up trumps. We triumphed. Was it their brains or my feminine chutzpah, I leave that to you to decide……..

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10

Exodus

The parents had temporarily migrated to the cooler climes of their country seat. We had made our home together in the city. So, I was on my own till their return, at the end of their mandatory two months.

My father, now a nonagenarian, and a retired Indian Army officer, who had seen action in World War II, was naturally of the Old School, and spent his time between his coffee plantation in a neighbouring coffee growing district and our home in the city. For his two month sojourn, my father packed more files & documents, usually in triplicate, than the Honorable Central or State Government Ministers & their entourage’s combined laptop memories!

The day of my parents’departure was a sight to behold. My father, always carried two large, unwieldy soft-top suitcases, each securely fastened with a railway travel type chain, complete with 9 lever [original] Godrej Navtal lock. Also,approximately, four to five briefcases, of assorted vintage, with different life expectencies. These briefcases usually being freebies presented by various companies, to his employed grandchildren, and hastily gifted by them to him, bore descriptive advertisement taglines. These were happily accepted, and used by their grand father. He,who saw no reason to cringe or quail, his advertising of consumer durables of a varied range. The offenders often bore the logos, among other FMCG products, of the market leader in pain balms, the printer-of-computer-printers–recently introduced into the country, the numero uno of Time sharing Holiday Resorts at which the who’s-who of India, vied to sun tan, and a milk flavouring product, which, if you believed what the cricketer of a bygone era toothily announced on television, was the established nonpareil of malted beverages. The balance files that couldn’t be fitted into said briefcases, were tied up with tape, not red, and stacked next to aforementioned luggage. My father also had his trusty portable Swiss typewriter (circa 1963), a set of golf clubs (circa 2009), contained in the largest golf bag that Tiger Woods advised. Secreted under the car floor mat was this trusty, rusty khukri-dagger-for self-protection, maybe for hand-to-hand commando style combat? If this khukri even nicked the intended victim, it would surely entail that he would die a prolonged and mighty painful death, from blood poisoning. Dad’s contingency funds, those were the days before ATMs & Cards littered our present day landscapes & highways, for this 5 hour road trip, were carried in innumerable, preferably small denomination, currency notes. This bulky leather bag, was firmly tucked under his shoulder, from the moment he boarded his car in the city up to when he disembarked at his country home in the hills. The sum total of his wife’s luggage? The ubiquitous ‘VIP’ suitcase, cabin baggage sized .

The following was my father’s PBL (‘Procedure of Boarding & Loading’) his car, for the non-stop ride, from his house in our city to the cooler climes of his country house. First, all his luggage had to be piled in a heap around his feet on the front verandah of our house. He started by ticking off the pieces of packed luggage earlier listed by him, as the driver loaded it. If any forgotten personal effect had to be added to his suitcase, then he would take out a humongous bunch of keys from the safety of his pocket, said keys being safely attached by a strong buckle to his belt. He would thereafter search through all the key numbers, till he found the one that unlocked! I never had the heart to tell him that anybody could just knock him over with a finger, and grab the keys from him, if they so desired. Personally, if I were the intended thief, I would merely carry off his suitcase! Neither could I tell him, in all likelihood, that nobody would be stealing anything of his on a non-stop car ride either! My mother, and her suitcase? Well, with much grumbling about her luggage, he would be be kind enough to allow her a tiny bit of space in a corner of the backseat! On reaching journey’s end, the same procedure for unloading and baggage claim would be followed!
That tale does not qualify for another narration.

18

Madame Siddons

I have been driving since I was in diapers, well, almost. After sixty, one lives in a happy haze of long ago memories. That day, I had taken a bit of time off, and much against my policy, borrowed my son’s brand new car, to nip across to look up my grand daughters who lived close by. I am a self admitted fast, and also by self admission, competent driver. But seeing that I was using a borrowed car, Michelle Schumaker was being extra cautious, and toodling along at a sober, grandmotherly pace towards my daughter’s house.

As if in slow motion a scene from an action movie unraveled before my eyes. Hurtling towards me was a white taxi cab. A second cab, overtaking the first, seemed to be drag racing with it. And horror of horrors, from out of nowhere, or so it later seemed to me, I saw a motorbike overtaking both cars, completely in the wrong lane, and riding at break neck speed straight at me. By this time, I had slowed to a crawl, pulled over and stopped, nearly climbing the pavement in the process. Once I saw the bike rider applying his brakes, I waited for the inevitable. The bike’s wheels ‘locked’, sped into a side skid, the passenger catapulted through the air, the rider clung on to his bike, till he flung himself off at the last moment, only when realizing that he, along with his bike, were heading straight under my stationary car. This they both did, with gut wrenching sound effects from my hapless car..

 Before you could say, “What the *^>@!,” out of the roads and footpaths, crawled the ghoulish Accident Scene Rubber Neckers. Each had his own learned opinion to deliver. Thick & fast flew varied views, delivered in Hinglish, Tamil, Telegu, and Dakkhani -that marvelous patois of Nawabi Urdu, colloquial Hindustani with subtle undertones of Kannada. Mobile phones appeared as if by magic. Camps were formed. One Camp, championing the cause of all down trodden two wheeler riders. The other, espousing the pitfalls of being a lady driver, and of a Four Wheeler, no less. “Don’t worry, Saar, She will admit her fault, couldn’t she have “yepplied breaks’(sic)?”

 I was in total shock, but managed to open the door of my car. My first priority was to check if I had to go the hospital with an injured patient, or locate the closest mortuary, before surrendering myself to the Police. My son’s, till not-so-long-ago new car, I noticed was looking decidedly pigeon-toed, her bonnet had a lovely dimple which would have made the Shehzada of India weep, while her right headlight was merrily twinkling glass confetti all over the headlight assembly. The plebian two wheeler rider lying motionless under my car, for most of that time, was thankfully, not dead. He was just recovering his breath under the bonnet, sniffing the innards of the under chassis, the oil sump & the front shock absorbers of my car, all for free. He had actually been struggling to extricate his motorbike from under the car. Adrenalin kicked in, my foggy brain cleared, if I did not act fast, I knew that the scraggly gathering of ‘my’ Camp supporters too would swell into an irrationally irate mob. My Madame Siddons (that yester year Diva of the London Stage) act kicked in, and I gave the performance of my life. I began shuddering silently into a tissue, soon this turned to sobs, after which I informed all who were within earshot, that it seemed as if I was having palpitations and about to swoon. Their expressions grew anxious, many of the Rubber Neckers slunk away, lest they be called as witness to a fatal traffic accident. A few of the doughtier die-hards hung back.  Feebly, I made a few short calls, to rustle up the Cavalry. These arrived, the first contingent, my son & his friends, the next the local traffic police.

In next to no time, all was well with my world. The car needed towing away, the bike impounded, and the errant motorbike rider hauled by my knights in shining white armour, to cool his heels temporarily behind bars. It was with a sense of vindication that a fine was slapped against the rider. My prowess behind the wheel, restored to its earlier levels, and my driving skills much appreciated by my Camp Followers with, “Medam, inspite of being so yelderly, you have yemazing control over your vehicle!” A turn around, high praise indeed!

My ruffled feathers restored to order, my dignity intact, I simpered in matronly modesty. I was just getting set to sign autographs, when my son yanked me back rudely to reality with a, “Come on Ma, let’s hit the road!” Resignedly I gave the police my best regal wave, and Madame Siddons went home to regale the family about her mishap.