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Lawyers and Footwear January 5, 2012

Posted by Gomathi Reddy in Culture, Desi Indian, News and Current Affairs.
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Last week, and the week before that I visited the District Magistrate’s court in all earnest, dressed up, enthusiastic and wanting to be there on time, as if it is the best picnic spot for all beleaguered ex-corporate executives –  I was actually there to file my petition for protection under Domestic Violence Act.  I was advised by my officer to be there by 9:00am.  I was there on the dot…only to stare at an empty building. After years of working in IT and tabling conference calls, I’ve never managed to unlearn this habit of keeping my time.

That morning, I find that court is “courted” by a few mongrels (the real ones, not the figurative ones!) yawning and stretching themselves for an active day.  Of course they gave their curious glances at me, as I looked completely lost on what I was doing there.  I was desperately hoping that someone I know will land up there and tell me I am in perfect human company.  Nothing of that sort happened.  I pulled out my mobile to call all the numbers in the group – those that were supposed to fetch my protection officer, my lawyer and I tried anyone else who can assure me that I am actually at the right place.  None of them felt I was worth their call.  And then silence descended, as I walked along the un-swept corridors of the building.  Fortunately for me, I had something to read and so I sat down as a I found a neat place on the stairs to the second floor of that desolate building.

And finally in a few quarter minutes, the building was beginning to buzz with activity.  The mongrels were gone, as if they had better work to do than to give me company.  Then the lords of the building arrived – I mean the Lawyers and the associated staff of the respected court.  I saw all kinds of lawyers there.  They all wear a strange-looking heavily pleated black garment, which must be any ordinary tailor’s nightmare (much like the graduation day garment that I rented out for an evening, years back), underneath which they have their usual white shirt and pants, and a black coat.  The women lawyers wear a Saree or a Salwar, plus that full-sleeved black garment.

The male lawyer’s black suit/blazer somehow reminds me of these Hindu wedding receptions, when the groom for no apparent reason feels complete and handsome only with a black western suit that his father-in-law got him as part of the bridal dowry.  Times are changing though – grooms are now switching over to gray or whites western suits, while a few hang out on their perfect day with a Achkan, Sherwani, Kurta Pyjama or a Jodhpuri suit – All alien to a tropical Tamil Nadu!  Anyway not to digress from the topic of the day, I got to see a variety of lawyers and their colorful footwear!

There was this short diminutive one walking up and down so full of energy.  He had a few folded papers in wraps and had thick glasses through which he was peering for someone. He was in his sandals.

Then there was this religious kind who had a colourful forehead – he had a dot of red kumkum, then another minsicule of a green dot, some gray ash or vibbhuthi, and then a yellow sandalwood strip underneath all these, and I thought he forgot to get the blessings of Hanumanji, which would’ve been symbolized by a saffron dot!  He had “propah” shoes.

Then there was this excited young lawyer who was all so cheerful, greeting his clients at the entrance, like they were all gathering there to head to the latest movie in one of those multiplexes. He looked more like a tourist guide with a pair of Hawaii chappals to complete this image for me.

Then there were this pot-bellied club – Yes, pot-bellied lawyers, pot-bellied cops, pot-bellied clerks, pot-bellied businessmen, sliding through the corridors, making small conversations, as some of them looked like brothers-in-bellies.

Strangely all the criminals who were lead there looked “fit” for their jobs.  They were all trim, fit, mean-looking, ready to run and extremely agile!

Then there were serious looking lawyers who were all buttoned up and extremely formal.  But they didn’t cut through my caricaturing lens and neither did any of the women lawyers.

Made me wonder if lawyers should dress up for professional success.  Do Indian lawyers, at all levels believe that their dress code counts in making an impression?  I wouldn’t know and this question is appropriate only for a professional, practicing lawyer.

And then came the respected Magistrate. He was right there on time. Impeccably dressed.  Thoroughly professional and wore an impartial look on his face that did not reveal anything – not even the impartiality. And he was wearing a gleaming pair of formal slip-on shoes.

I realized that dress code in the judiciary is not just a status symbol or a remnant of the British hegemony, but one that instills discipline and the confidence to fight for justice….and to deliver justice.

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