When I sat in the judge’s seat, it was the question I asked myself: was I going to habitually favour the pot-bellied tycoon or the pauper?
Since then, I had thought often about the relationship between clothes and justice. One thing had become clear to me in the last four years. Those who were denied justice cared less about their appearance. Their clothes were likely to be soiled and their faces, sweaty.
Not so for the one who has snatched someone else’s money or happiness. He dresses well. He likes to adorn himself. Clothes are a sleight of hand – a handy trick to conceal the inner self and draw the eye to your outer self.
Kaakkasseri Khayaluddin Thangal had a good eye for clothes. A Fabindia linen silk Nehru jacket. Orange silk kurta. Sean Connery’s body. Kamal Haasan’s eyes.
An unusual degree of self-confidence.
The fragrance had become much sharper and its source had now become apparent. Our eyes met. I could see that his eyes were unusually brilliant. I looked again. They seemed to be gleaming, like two diamonds. They lit up his long eyelashes hypnotically. I tried to look away. I failed. His eyes became prisms. They turned the twilight into countless rainbows. My head hurt.
Somehow, I managed to blink and look away. Instead of looking at him, I looked at his expensive lawyer. His face was obscured by the duelling rainbows. I shifted my gaze to the defendant’s lawyer. His entire head was a rainbow.
I tried to read the document in my hands.
Rainbows were scattered on the dark-green woollen tablecloth, like Advaith’s multi-reference objects. I opened and closed my eyes. I shook my head. No improvement. Rainbows everywhere. The typist, the clerk, the typewriter, the calling bell and the peon were all rainbows. I looked behind me. Even Gandhiji in the portrait on the wall behind me had rainbows in place of his spectacle frames.
Those seven colours attacked my eyes like an army of seven thousand. My blood pressure soared. My skull cracked, brain exploded and eyes popped out of their sockets. The walls of the courtroom crumbled and I levitated. The table draped with the dark-green tablecloth on which was displayed the nameplate of
“Bhavana Sachidanandan Additional District Judge,” a paperweight that said “Work Is Worship” above neatly stacked files, a pen holder with Advaith’s face printed on it, that familiar table and the chair, they both flew up to the sky. Someone placed a korandi palaka, an old-fashioned wooden seat, on the table and draped it with a zari-embroidered neriyathu. Yogishwaran Ammavan stood on the korandi palaka. I could see his feet clearly. They were worn out from walking.
His soles were cracked and stamped with the maps of all the continents. On either side were the feet of the two girls. Their feet did not touch the korandi palaka.
Their feet were not dirty. Those feet had walked on air. Two pairs of feet like freshly bloomed Edward roses, like newborn twins. I wanted to touch them. I stretched out my arms.
When my eyes opened, I was in hospital. Light dawned gradually and my memory seemed reluctant to return. It took a couple of minutes for the system to boot and then every connection came alive with a scream. I panicked: “My child”, “his school”, “PTA”, “progress report”. I was stricken with anxiety that Advaith was still waiting for me in school. A child with ADHD. A child who, sometimes, no one else could manage. I shook like a leaf. As soon as I caught sight of my bag on the table, I picked it up and ran out.
The tube in the cannula dragged and the IV drip stand toppled over. The cannula popped out of my arm, spraying blood. My steno Roshi and office assistant Selina ran towards me. Nurses raced up, straightened the stand and stuck a Band-aid on my arm. Selina held me close. I forgot that I was a district judge, leant my head on her shoulder and sobbed for Advaith. “My baby, my baby.”
“Don’t worry, madam. Roshi picked up your son and dropped him home.” Selina wiped my eyes with her dupatta.
“Is Manju at home? Or has she left?”
“Manju isn’t going home today. Everything is fine at home.”
“I’ve inconvenienced all of you, haven’t I?”
“What inconvenience? As long as you’re okay, madam.”
“I don’t know what happened. It was very sudden. I felt like I had floated up to the sky.”
“All we saw was you slumping forward on the table.”
“Has it been long since you brought me here?”
“Two and a half hours, that’s all.”
“And I was unconscious the whole time?”
“The case was announced exactly at 4 pm. Madam, you slumped forward less than two seconds later. We reached the hospital in ten minutes. When we saw the doctor, it was exactly 4.15.”
I sat at the head of the bed, leaning on my elbow.
That’s when Dr Smitha Rani walked in.
“All well, madam?” she asked.
“I think so.” I tried to smile.
“You don’t just think so. Everything is okay. Everything is normal.”
“Then what happened to me?”
“When you came in, your BP was very low. Tomorrow and the day after are both holidays, right? Rest well. Watch a comedy or listen to music and de-stress.”
“When can I go home?”
“As soon as possible. We don’t want any healthy people here.”
Everyone laughed. But I couldn’t laugh. Something was lodged in my eye. A shard of that rainbow.
Everywhere I looked, I saw its muted colours. That unworldly violet especially.
Excerpted with permission from Qabar, KR Meera, translated from the Malayalam by Nisha Susan, Eka.