An excerpt from my day

As I stepped into the crowded corridor, I sensed an acrid stench engulf me. I quickened my pace and tried to ignore those pushing me to get past. I climbed three flights of an extremely narrow staircase to enter a sea of people in black. On second thoughts, not all were dressed in black. I could see spots of colors every now and then. I walked to the panel where a list of names was pinned to a board, ran my finger down the list, and stopped at number 23.

A man wearing white trousers and gray sleeveless pullover called out a name. I checked the list again. He had called out for number 15. I had time. Seated in the last row of a tiny courtroom, I looked around. This was nothing like what I had seen in movies. The judge looked calm, which surprised me. A man standing to her right called out names and people, in groups of two or three, hurried towards the judge's desk. The judge did not spend more than five minutes on any case. There was a strange disinterest in the environment. People who made the colored spots in the ocean of black were somber. The blacks did not seem to care or may be it was just my overactive imagination.

The white-trousered man stood up again, raised his voice and called out “Roopa Mehta versus Shyamlal Mehta.”* An old couple walked towards the judge's desk accompanied by their black guy. The woman wrapped in a beige shawl tugged at the man's arm. The man followed his wife's gaze, which was fixed on a woman in early thirties, walking beside another woman in black.

The woman in black immediately took control and started off by explaining to the judge that her client Roopa, a widow with two kids, was an eyewitness of her husband's murder. She, along with her two sons, was now living with her parents. The woman in black then pointed at the old couple and said “They are her husband's parents and want her children's custody.” At this, the judge gave a confused look and said “Explain!”

This time the black guy took over. “The parents and the wife of the dead know that the son was murdered by his cousin, who sought his property. They are collectively fighting the case of murder. However, at present, the parents want that their only son's wife and kids should come and live with them.”

“How can I live with them?” piped Roopa pointing at the old man. “His brother's son killed my husband.” She continued talking about property, money, and her children's custody, and stopped only when the judge rebuked, “You shut up! Let your advocate talk.”

The woman in beige shawl looked at Roopa and said, “All our property is yours. Come, live with us.” This was as fruitful as talking to a rock.

Five minutes were over. The judge looked at the old man and said “Why should I not give the mother custody of her children? Is she unfit in any respect?”

“No, My Lord”, said their black guy, “They are not asking for custody! They want their only son's children and wife to live with them or at least meet them once in a while.”

The judge shook her head, “Write an application and present it on April, 6th.”

Roopa and her black woman walked out of the room. The old couple followed. I wiped a solitary tear from my cheek as I saw the crumbled old couple walk out.

*Names are fictitious.

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