Break open all the shackles....be free...be seamless...be one with the One...be Boundaryless..!!

You are me....I am You....We are the Universe...We are the trees, the insects, the animals.....We are Our Enemies...We are Our Hatred....We are the Love...Love thyself....You will love the Universe....Hate yourself....and you will discern that you are the most hated..!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Living in an Age of Insecurity

This, is the age of insecurity.
The politicians are insecure about their parties losing the elections.
A student is insecure about his marks in exams.
A mother/father is insecure about her/his child's safety.
A nation is insecure about the culture it is losing.
A lover is insecure about losing his/her partner.
A human being is insecure about being judged by people.
Well, the "Securities market" too, ironically, is insecure about the ebbs and tides of the market rates!

And we - the lesser mortals, selfish, grumpy creatures, are trying to pull our strings together in this Age of mounting insecurity. Here is a poem which I would like to dedicate to all those insecure beings in us - may we be insecure enough to be insecure!

I look up at the sky,
Sun's shining with all its might,
Vultures taking a raucous flight,
The earth beneath dried and parched,
Yes, I am a farmer, serving you food at your table.

Swollen eyes, sleepless nights,
Tears trickling down my ruddy cheeks,
Yes, I love her, and she ditched me,
What on earth am I doing on this earth?

Women being raped, Men being jabbed,
Dreary city roads flinging blood all the way,
My daughter's not home, my son's out of town,
How am I supposed to stay calm?

Got an English education,
Graduation from an elite institution,
No job at hand, going on errands from pillar to post,
Will I ever get that job I desire the most?

Shares and bonds and debentures bought,
All my money went to naught,
Whither shall I go, who shall I call on?
All my wealth is long forgone!

Hear, hear, Mother Earth speak,
Heaving breathless sighs of disbelief,
Insecure about her future, not knowing what to do,
'Will I live or die' - is her insecure coo!

May we get a life,
May we stop imagining strife,
May we see only what we need,
May we stop feeding our greed!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Encounter at the Family Court

At last, I am living my dream of interning at the Trial Court at my home place, Dharwad. Otherwise, every vacations would see me off to Bangalore for an "elite" internship. A trial court internship comes at a discount of being "unglamorous", as judged by my peers at the law school. But, I thought I would give it a try, since I had not enough time to be at Bangalore for upward to 3 weeks, and guess what, I do not regret my decision a bit.

Securing an internship under a trial court lawyer in a place like Dharwad is a cake-walk. No e-mails, no CVs, no elaborate and bombastic covering letters, and above all, no head-scratching and waiting for that coveted Reply from the firm. You just approach the advocate personally, speak for a few minutes to him/her as to what an internship constitutes etc, etc (since many of the trial court advocates are not well-versed with the idea of internship), and about your interest to learn the praxis of Law, and there you go - your internship is confirmed. 

The process is even more simpler if you know the advocate personally.

I thus started my internship mid-Jan under an advocate familiar to me, it has been just 4 days, and let me confess, I am loving it awfully. Yes, the court complexes do not glisten in the lustrous sheen of glass walls. Yes, there are no glamorous, professional-looking people in suits walking around, no women with stilettoes stuttering around - the smooth and shiny floor reflecting their eclat.

All I get to see everyday is a rusty old building, alongside an equally dusty highway. Surprisingly, there is a temple and also a mosque inside the Court campus! I get to see a lot of advocates who come in diverse shapes, sizes, constitution and quality. But, one thing ties all of them together - that's the string of simplicity.

There is not a modicum of snobbishness in their disposition towards others, and more importantly, also towards themselves. Some indeed are rude, and rustic, but they are equally naive and oblivious of the various avatars which the Law is showing itself up in, off late. All they know of, is the simple black coat (some coats are also literally found to have turned brown, or ruddy - especially markedly at the shoulders - as if sustaining the deprecation of the Sun at their naivety), and the bundle of case dockets which are yellow and crinkly due to excessive handling and prolonged hearings.

The Bar comprises predominantly of male members, clearly evident by their sheer numbers, and I find them staring at me as if I am an alien walking along the court halls and corridors. "Who is she and what on earth can she even be supposedly doing at THIS place?" - is what their eyes seem to be asking of me. But, together with these queer characteristics of the trial court, there are a lot of things which I would not find at any other place.

Among the members of the Bar, there indeed are some gems, in the minority though - as is the case with all the gems. I would like to share one specific experience which I encountered with an advocate today. He's a gem or a stone? - You decide!

The advocate I am interning under deals with a lot of domestic violence and divorce cases. Hence I get to visit the Family Court almost every day. The first day I witnessed the trial of a DV case in the Civil Court, I was left wondering why they are not held in camera. Just like a continuing corollary to that question I raised to myself that day, today I had an interesting encounter at the Family Court.

As I sat on the bench at the always-crowded Family Court, trying to concentrate on the cross-examination of the witness, I sensed a senior-looking advocate, who was limping, approaching me. We shared a glance with each other, and I ignored him, placing him as just another one of those "starers". He soon proved me wrong.

He came to me and asked - "Do you have a case going on here?". I figured out that he wanted to know why I was there, just like innumerable other advocates who had demanded from me the reason I was there, who I was, where I studied, in which year I studied, etc, etc.

I answered, "No, I am student."

"Oh, a law student? Why are you sitting in this Court?" - was his straight forward question.

The string of conversation which we shared after this was perplexing, if not intimidating.

I said, "Court Observation". - No more, no less.

"That I know maa...but why THIS Court? Can't you go to some other Court?" - was his reply!

For this, I said, "I am interning under so-and-so, and she has her case here", and answering thus, I looked at the Junior Advocate of my Boss (my colleague, de facto).

For this he said,"Yes, but you are 'not supposed to' watch these proceedings. Can't you go to some other Court Hall? Find some other Court, don't sit here!", retorted he!

I did not want to relent. I replied, "But Sir, this isn't an in camera proceeding, right?"

Pat came his reply, "Yes, please don't take me wrong, but you shouldn't watch these proceedings".

His junior echoed, "No no, Sir meant, you are still young, these matters contain a lot of fights, family quarrels, husband-wife problems, etc. They may have adverse affects on your psyche, you still have a long way to go in your life, so, avoid coming to this court, also avoid reading the files of the matters in this Court, you refer to the case files for study purposes - it's fine, but we advocates use 'such kind of language' in describing divorce cases - I'm telling you frankly, so please don't come here!"

I couldn't help but just smile at them and say 'Okay'!

The advocate also spoke about the 'matter' to my de facto colleague and even my Boss!

But, thankfully, they did not mince matters and found no problem in me watching those "disturbing" proceedings!
Now, if only I could spare some of my time in justifying and/or reasoning my presence in the family court to the esteemed advocate, I would first of all want to thank him for having been so considerate/parental, if that were to be his real intention (thankful because such incidents define the essence of small town India! - with all their non-liberalism and parochialism intact).

Secondly, it is with gratitude that I would like to tell him that, we as law students, are taught to "think like lawyers", which means "we are not allowed to mix our emotions/personal ideologies with the legal concepts or reasoning". As a law student, and a wannabe lawyer, I just am not allowed to cry for the divorcees, the rape victims, the widows, the poor, the landless laborers, or the other destitutes. All I am expected to do is to help them and that is it. No more, no less. Reason, and not emotions guide us in our work.

I bet that this fact is known by him far better than what I know of it! But still, the amount of rationality and logic with which I was guaging each and every court scene suddenly vanished as soon as that junior advocate gave that unforgettable reasoning of his! It is unforgettable for two reasons - first, it was unexpected, secondly, I found it really illogical, out-of-place, silly, and so very laughable!

So, this encounter, will indeed remain etched in those unforgettable sands of my life time! I don't know whether it's good or bad, but it is definitely queer and memorable!

P.S.: This blog has also been published at Legally India.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A "Literacy Program" on Girl Students' Exploitation and Protection

I recently had an opportunity to be a part of a "literacy program", as it was called, on girl students' exploitation and protection. It was organized by the Dharwad District Legal Services Authority, in association with the Children's Academy, the Women and Child Development Department, the Police Department, the District Children's Protection Unit, the Dharwad Bar Association, the Education Department, the Broadcasting Department and the Family Planning Association of India, Dharwad branch.

Yes, so much for the sheer amount of stakes involved in the literacy program. 

In the wake of the recent media obsession with the reportage of rape cases from every nook and corner of our villages, towns and blocks, this program was a given. There were Police Commissioners, the Women and Child Development Officers, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, the District Commissioner, renowned child psychologists, school teachers and advocates chairing the program. The Meeting Hall was filled to the brim, with school students. Well, nothing unusual with this? Take this - all the students were girls.

The one very important thing which struck to me was this very fact that only girls from different local schools were a part of the program, apart from the teachers escorting them. Why did the district administration feel it relevant only to involve girls in this literacy program? Wasn't it equally, or for that matter, more important, to involve boys in the program?

The girls, all somewhat shaken, and distrustful of the authorities on the dais, were visibly not ready to put in their trust on the police and the judiciary. Girls as young as 10 and 11 years old, boldly demanded a "promise" from the police chief - a promise of better protection, a promise that they won't be raped or kidnapped, a promise to protect them, as they readily - willy-nilly - accepted their lesser status in the society.

Their innocent voice quivered as they spoke of the Delhi incident, and as they asked as to why the police officials there "did not take any action against the culprits", and "why no one helped the girl". To many of the questions asked by the girls, the authorities had no answers. They were fundamental. They struck at the roots. Questions which we, the so called adults refuse to ask ourselves, were asked by the students to the authorities, in the open hall, without fear of reprimand or retribution.

What I observed from the whole event was, the program further reinforced the victimisation position of girls. The program sent out an implicit message that girls are supposed to take care of themselves, it is the girls who are supposed to take precautions. Everyone, including the Police Commissioner and leading advocates, "advised" the girls to "head straight back to home after school" and "not to stay away from home till late in the nights", for the reasons of "safety". For this, one girl asked about the idea of equality - why is her brother allowed to stay away from home late in the nights but not her, isn't this a mockery of equality? 

Though answers did come from the stage that "if you are confident of protecting yourself, you can as well stay away in the late nights also", they seemed somewhat lame and misfounded. Does this mean that the police has no role to play at all in ensuring the safety of the women folk? What meaning will remain of our governance system and democracy then? The questions were left unanswered.

As far as the boys are concerned, the program would have done justice to itself if, predominantly, boys were the target audience, because it is the boys who grow up to be chauvinistic men, and who reinforce misogyny and its resultant violence against women. Given this fundamental flaw in the approach towards addressing the issue, what valid purpose did the program serve? 

It only hush-hushed into the hearts of the innocent girls that they are not equal. Though their text books very ostensibly speak the otherwise, they are just not equal to men, and they just cannot be so, for ages to come. That they "need" protection from the police officials; they should be "provided" with state help; they are always at the receiving end of the violence. And, above all, they are the lesser halves of this male dominated society.

The program was albeit very successful in reinforcing the servility of women towards the men!

Hats Off, to the District Administration!

P.S.: This blog has also been published at Legally India.