Vantage point

Wednesday, July 23, 2003


I walked out of the courtroom with my client. There was no real case against Hari. My services were hardly required, at least during the trial. However I could not help wondering if I was indirectly responsible for what happened. Hari might have done it even without my help, but there was no doubting the fact that I had played a part in it.

Hari was in the same school as me. He was never good at studies, but did dabble in some local club football. My parents always considered him a bad influence, but I had enough sense to not get too friendly with him. However he thought highly of me. When I got admission into the best law college around, he landed up at my house with a big box of sweets.

I never exactly knew what Hari actually did for a living. He had started a hardware store but I never saw many customers there. There were murmurs that Hari was involved with the underworld and was actually into extortions, but I never paid much attention. After school, I didn�t keep any contact with him. He would drop in occasionally though. He was not good at studies but was extremely intelligent. His grasp about most topics, from sports to politics to classical music was amazing. I enjoyed our conversations.

What kept coming back to me was the conversation we had in June. It was raining cats and dogs, and my bike had died on me. As I kept trying to cajole it back to life with my kicks, Hari�s Maruti pulled over. I got into the car and we started talking. Just as he was about to tell me something about the last movie he saw, a bike came and almost banged into his car. It was the biker�s fault really, he was coming from the opposite direction on a one way street.

Hari and I spat a few expletives in his general direction as he sped away.

�Nobody follows rules nowadays. Such people should be punished.�, I said, letting out the usual traffic rant.

�The police can�t be everywhere, yaar� Hari said. �And anyway, this street used to be a two way street, so many people still go by the wrong side.�

�Yes, but it is wrong. I feel like donning the vigilante mantle and doing something about these wrong siders.�

�What will you do? Sue them?� said Hari laughing �Most of these guys, you will never see in your life.�

�There is one way�, I said �by which I could punish them. I would get an old four-wheeler and whenever I saw anyone coming from the wrong side, I would ram into them. Legally they are wrong and I would not have to do anything. That would teach such people.�

�Spoken like a true lawyer.�, Hari said. �But wouldn�t you be arrested?�
�No, as long as it was accidental, it was his fault.� I explained.

Hari fell silent. A few minutes later, we reached my home.

The next I heard from him was 5 months later. He called me up.

�I want you to represent me.�, he said.

�Sure, what is the case?� I asked.

�I was involved in an accident. My truck banged into this guy�s car and he died on the spot. However he was driving on the wrong side��..�

I represented Hari and he won. It was a simple case. The guy who was killed was a famous jeweller. There had been murmurs about jewellers being targeted for extortion in recent months. It all seemed too convenient.

�Thanks yaar� Hari said to me �I knew the court would see it was his negligence and disregard for traffic rules that caused the accident. I was driving the truck so fast only because it was a deserted one way street, and it was night. You know, that jeweller�s servants told me he took that street everyday and�..�

�When did the servants tell you this, Hari? You have been told not to contact anyone from the victim�s side after the accident.�

�Err, no, I mean they didn�t exactly tell me, but��I heard that from somewhere��

His voice trailed off. We reached the parking lot and got into his car. There was silence until we reached my home. After I got out of the car and took my bag, I opened my mouth to ask him something to put my doubts to rest. But he spoke first.

�Ask no questions and you will hear no lies.�

Hari drove off. The next day I got a cheque from Hari that was worth more than my total earnings from the last year.