It was afternoon when Gourango was sitting at his desk and Indumati summoned him to attend a “conference” – a fancy term lawyers use to describe a meeting. As he entered the room to find himself the empty “junior’s chair” which was strategically placed closest to the senior’s table, he saw Ali Khan sitting there, he recognised him from the corridors of the Supreme Court.

Sitting next to him was his client, who looked like a Muslim cleric. He was wearing a white Bengali kurta. Indumati always had a formidable form for such conferences. Unlike other seniors who would joke, banter, lighten the mood and even praise the briefing lawyer in front of the client, Indumati had no time for such business techniques.

The briefing lawyer is indispensable for a senior advocate. They are the ones who bring cases to a senior, as a senior is not supposed to interact directly with litigants. So, most seniors go out of their way to keep this bunch in good humour. From lavishing praise on them in front of their clients to giving an incentive payout – all are tried and tested methods.

Indumati was different. A lawyer would bring his case and client to her at his peril. Indumati did not suffer fools and she loved her money too much to be giving out incentives.

By now Gourango had attended enough conferences to know how savage she could get if the briefing lawyer was not up to speed with his brief. The thought that no lawyer would want to bring their client before Indumati to be given a dressing down of their life in front of the client , and that still many dared to do so, always filled Gourango with awe for this lady.

Indumati introduced Gourango as her junior who would be assisting her on this case. “Yes, begin,” she said. Within the first five minutes, Gourango knew that Ali Khan had no clue about the case and he was all over the place. From the beatific smile that his client had while this tragedy was unfolding, Gourango concluded that the poor fellow was not too conversant in English either and so he had no idea how his incoherent and bungling lawyer was making a complete hash of his case.

Gourango did not have to observe Indumati’s body language to figure out how irritated Ali Khan had managed to make her. Indumati was not subtle, and the first clue was her voice becoming shriller and the tone higher. By the time she would start running a hand through her hair, it was dangerous territory. When she would start pulling her hair into a state of unruliness, it meant that the situation was beyond repair.

Ali Khan left no stone unturned in taking Indu to the hair-pulling stage in record time. Some stammered when nervous, some sweated, others trembled, Ali Khan smiled.

With every passing minute of that doomed conference he was unable to explain even the basics of the case or answer Indumati’s queries, which were asked in an increasingly shrill voice. Ali Khan just smiled
away. Gourango did not have to second-guess how that would have irritated the heck out of Indumati, he just knew.

And then it happened.

Just as the situation was reaching a fission point and Indumati’s patience was about to detonate into smithereens, the client spoke up for the first time, “Mummy, help karna.”

Indumati looked directly at this grown-up, this bearded fellow and said, “Kya bola?”

Gourango knew Indumati had not aged a single day since he had joined her Chamber two years ago. He knew that the mullah was in grave danger. Evidently, he was oblivious to it all.

He repeated, “Mummy, you must help me, I have got you homemade honey.”

“I am not your mummy, okay,” said Gourango’s senior, and with that she burst out laughing and the tension melted away.

She then looked at Gourango and without a care about how Ali Khan or his client would react said, “He is completely clueless. Go through this brief and make a note for me.” With that, the conference ended. Ali Khan mumbled something incoherent and retreated into silence.

How Gourango Lost His O

Excerpted with permission from How Gourango Lost His O, Sanjoy Ghose, Eastern Book Company.