It’s my last day at court or so I am made to believe. The deed is done and I have willingly put the albatross around my neck. I doubt there is any turning back and so, for now I have decided to enjoy this last hour in this courtroom.
The family court is located at a very interesting place. Next to Urvashi theatre, you take a left to the court. Only you realise that you have to go through a road that almost doesnt exist and is the gujjari market of Bangalore. As you drive through, you wonder if you will find parts of your vehicle once you come back to the parking. I was clearly being silly; unlike my fear, most of the parts of my car, atleast the visible ones were there when i came back to it, every afternoon and evening.
There are multiple courtrooms, quite identical in setting. The room is large enough when empty. A large U-shaped table for those in black sits in the centre and watching the lawyers play musical chairs is quite entertaining. There are a few chairs for the other unfortunate few who are there. Except the unfortunate are not few. Some days, no most days, the room has to hold over a hundred…I wish I had attempted counting, if only I was in better frame of mind. But despite the four fans and eight lights the space looks every inch the dreadhole you may have imagined it to be. I guess the lack of oxygen adds some effect.
Suddenly I wish I knew more about these people. You see it’s been almost a year and by now most faces are familiar. We even smile at each other. There is the tall big man looming large in the room…I can’t figure how many cases he handles. Every few minutes his booming voice breaks the eerieness of court as he calls out – petitioner; respondent to a case number. His roles change often; just as most lawyers.
In case you are not familiar with courtroom jargon there is the petitioner, the one who files a case and the respondent, clearly, the one who responds. Other words which become a part of your life are waqalat short for waqalat nama and some not so complicated ones like evidence, pass over, kept…these are just references to what stage your case is or what the judge would like to do with the case. Did you know about cases where a spouse can demand to have their other half back…the restitution cases? Well apart from custody and divorce issues, now and then these come up too at the family court.
Coming back to the people in black, they come in all sizes and shapes. There are the nervous ones; who meekly push their way to reach closer to the judge to get themselves heard. There are some who own the place. They know how to get themselves heard but most responses are usually new dates. The Judge seems friendly and kind but she commands an air of respect. One look and you know there is something you must fix. Some phones have been confiscated as I watched. Most lawyers are quick to issue a warning about turning phones to silent as their clients walk in.
Scenes of agitation are far and few. Today two lawyers start a shouting match. My lawyers have done it for me too. They never last. The judge sorts it out. Sometimes with a warning, sometimes with unexpected bouts of humour. Today it is humour…something about the room losing oxygen to their arguments…laughter breaks the air for a short bit. But the heaviness makes it way back quite soon. There is another clueless person, a man who has been questioned about the status to which he responds that he is here for a divorce. He doesn’t realise that so are all the others filling the space, we assume. Sometimes the joke isn’t very funny. Women are not expected to speak up or show disagreement no matter how justified; And when they do, sexist jokes like ‘no wonder’ are sure to come up and surprisingly everyone laughs.
My file has not been transferred from mediation centre to the court. There has been a delay. Another half an hour I hope.
I have been called in…phones are a strict no. So is crossing your leg as you sit, folding your arms and having conversations. You learn these rules in time l, only I hope you never need to.
When I step out of this place today I hope its good riddance. That I may never have to deal with another of those black coats. They have been good to me. They have dealt with me being difficult, restless, agitated and have seen me breakdown.
But I still wish no one their company.
It’s time to go and hopefully never come back.