Monday, February 27, 2006

Of courts and justice...

Judgments were delivered in the past few days in two sensational criminal cases – the Jessica Lall murder case and the Best Bakery case. An analysis of the judgments and the background of the cases, throws up some interesting facts.

Jessica Lall, a former model, who worked as a bartender in a Delhi bar, was shot dead at point blank range one night in April 1999. The reason – she refused to serve drinks after the bar had closed. The incident occurred in front of some of the biggest names among Delhi’s elite, most of whom were Jessica’s friends!! The prime accused was Manu Sharma, son of a former Haryana Minister and the co-accused included a son of a former Uttar Pradesh MP and a father of a current Indian cricketer. There were several eye witnesses and as such, it was an open and shut murder case, which every prosecutor dreams of. Naturally, everyone expected the accused to be convicted.

However, as the investigation progressed witnesses retracted their statements and turned hostile. And the police too seemed to be hand in glove with the accused. Obviously, being the son of a VIP does have its advantages. Finally, almost 7 years after the murder, an Additional Sessions Court in Delhi acquitted Manu Sharma and 8 other co-accused on the ground that key witnesses had not identified the accused. Jessica’s “friends” who were the witnesses, are back, partying as usual. And life goes on…..

The moral of the story seems to be – if you are an Important Person, you can commit a crime and try to get away with it and if you are Very Important, you are sure to get away with it. And the common man continues in his futile quest for justice………

The second case is the Best Bakery case, relating to the mob attack on Best Bakery in Vadodara in the year 2002. The case was tried in a Fast track court and the investigation was carried out by an inspector of police, who himself was accused of abetting violence against Muslims. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) carried out a thorough investigation in the matter and recommended that the matter be investigated by CBI. When the trial took place, several witnesses who had given incriminating evidence before the NHRC retracted their statements while testifying before the Court. Zahira Sheikh, the “star” witness turned ‘hostile’. It is most likely that the witnesses were intimidated, explaining the reason for retracting their statements. The court acquitted all the accused.

After the matter reached the Supreme Court, the case was directed to be re-tried in Maharashtra. Finally, the Sessions Court in Mumbai convicted 9 of the 17 accused in the case and sentenced them to life imprisonment. More importantly, Zahira Sheikh, her mother, two brothers and a sister have been issued notices to show cause as to why they should not be prosecuted for giving false evidence. This judgment restores the faith of the people in the judiciary atleast a little bit. This, despite the fact that officialdom had done its utmost to scuttle justice.

These are just two cases which have caught the attention of the people. There are thousands of cases like these which go unnoticed and where, ultimately “might” proves to be “right”!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Vaastu Expert!

It seems like this is the age of Vaastu Shastra or rather the self styled Vaastu experts!! Homes are being redesigned and sometimes, even demolished and rebuilt, to get the “vaastu vibes” right! In the ultimate analysis, it appears that it’s the Vaastu experts whose kitty is brimming. A recent experience at the office only went to strengthen this proposition.

We were bursting at the seams at the 250 sq. ft. cubbyhole called office with vakils, books, papers and clients vying for space. And one fine day, the boss decided that it’s time to move to a new place. A new place was identified in due course and after a visit to the premises, it was unanimously approved by all and sundry. My mind’s eye conjured up visions of plush cubicles, conference rooms and what not!

And then, enter R, the Vaastu Expert! The entire office layout was converted into a vaastu diagram and after much shaking of the head, R pronounced his verdict! Grave forecasts were made if we were to proceed with our plans, without first satisfying the Vaastu Purusha (he’s the Vaastu God, if you don’t know)!! After enough fear had been instilled in my boss’ mind about the negative vastu in the building, R proceeded to “design” the office! What turned out wasn’t anywhere near what I had conceived in my mind as an office. There were no cubicles but just tables and chairs which weren’t really perfectly positioned. The birth stars of each of us in the office were also taken and accordingly our seating positions determined. Pyramids, umbrellas, mirrors (of all shapes and sizes) were strategically positioned on the walls to please the Vaastu Purusha!!

After the initial shock and having resigned myself to fate, I had presumed that it couldn’t get any worse. R, however, seemed to have other plans. Until then I had always thought that vaastu shastra merely concerned itself with the building construction and the positioning of various things in a building. But it appears that the Vaastu Purusha is colour conscious too! The colour scheme which R now proceeded to outline for the office left us all in a state of daze. Each room was given a specific colour, which by itself isn’t extraordinary. But dark yellow and pink aren’t exactly colours which one associates with an office. Of course, there was blue and white too! R gave special attention to the boss’ room initially and arrived at a colour scheme where three different shades of blue would rise up from the floor to the ceiling. A mere mention of this scheme brought hiccups to the boss and R reluctantly condescended and gave an alternate scheme – a single shade of blue dotted with little green flowers!

Having poked fun at my boss about the colour of his room, I realized that I wasn’t faring any better. The room in which I was to sit was allotted the colour yellow. While there are different shades of yellow, some of which I don’t find any fault with, R chose the darkest shade available. If you are familiar with the colour of autos in Madras, you would know what my room colour is! The boss’ wife took some mercy on me and ordered a couple of coats of white over the yellow, which tempered the effect a little, but only just. Now, anything and everything in my room looks yellow to me. The full import of the expression, “to look at things with a jaundiced eye” has only dawned upon me now!!

Having settled down in the new office, we now console ourselves by referring to each room as the “blue room”, “yellow room”, “pink room” and the like, a privilege, which I believe only the White House enjoys. The last word on the subject was, however, had by a colleague of mine when he said that we should rechristen our firm as “Rainbow Associates”!!

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Vakil, his toothache and a dentist!!

A toothache is something which every one of us endures at some point in our lives. None of us, I’m sure, would call it a “pleasant” experience though. I had the pleasure (or pain!) of going through one such experience recently which was predictably followed by a visit to the dentist. At the end of it, I didn’t know what I hated most – the toothache or the dentist!!

It was a bright and sunny day, as usual, in Madras. But, alas, it wasn’t with a sunny disposition that I woke up that morning. My first exercise of stretching myself in bed didn’t really happen as I was jolted out of bed with excruciating pain in my upper jaw. A bit of probing with the tongue identified the culprit. As I gingerly placed a finger on the rogue tooth, I howled once again in pain, which almost brought the roof down and also brought my parents to the scene. After careful inspection they decided that a generous dose of clove oil would solve the trouble and accordingly set about with the “treatment”. Don’t know how many of you have had the good fortune of being doused with clove oil in the mouth, but I can assure you that it isn’t fun!!

After the home remedy proved futile, I took matters in my own hands and called up my dentist who, pretending to be very busy, gave me his last appointment at 9 pm albeit very grudgingly. I do not know if you have experienced it, but when one is in pain and is waiting to see a doctor, the hands of the clock seem to move a lot slower than they normally do. After passing the whole day with a grim face and mumbling through most of the phone calls, I reached the dentist’s clinic at half past eight in the fond hope that he would call me soon, seeing the plight that I was in. Alas, that was not to be. The previous patient, a 9 year old kid, was screaming his lungs off, while the dentist was extracting one of his teeth.

And finally, when I was called in, it was well past nine and I was almost ready to give up. I do not hold anything personally against dentists but they do seem to have this annoying habit of tapping the rogue tooth with their tools leaving us writhing in pain. They don’t seem to trust our word and just look at the tooth we point at. My dentist also proceeded on expected lines and tapped on the tooth resulting in my letting out a piercing wail. At that point in time, I could sympathise with the little kid who had sat in that chair before me. After seeing me howl and some x-rays later, the dentist rubbed his hands gleefully and gave his verdict that the tooth has to undergo root canal treatment. The gleam in his eyes showed that he was already making the calculations on his fees, shamelessly.

A root canal treatment, I can tell you, is nothing less than an endurance test!! The only things which remain etched in memory about the whole procedure is the dentist advancing menacingly with a tooth file and asking me to open my mouth wider and wider until even an elephant could have gone inside. My emotions at that point of time were the same as those of guinea pigs being subjected to a trial! After three weekly sessions in which the dentist wrestled with the tooth, it was finally rebuilt and a week later a crown was fixed over it to complete the story.

At the end of it all, one would have expected me to be relieved (despite ending up poorer by Rs.4000) but the only sensation I felt was exhaustion. After all, it’s not often that I part with such a princely sum and also suffer in the bargain. The smiling face of the dentist as I left the clinic reminded me of the old adage, “every dog has its day”!

The last thing about the whole episode that remains in memory is the dentist asking me to “bite” after fixing the crown, just to check if it was fixed properly. At that moment, I was actually ready to bite him!!