5 JanuaryPosted: March 3, 2011
Mr. Batliwala is standing near the elevators with a young lawyer and a very, very glamorous woman in a sky-blue chiffon sari. All the eyes in the lobby are glued to her. It is as if a film star has come to Court. We do get those too, every once in a while. And of course, they attract as much attention as this woman is. Life otherwise at the Family Court is so dreary.
Mr. Batliwala beckons to me in a patronizing way, to come over and meet the important people he is with.
Mr. Batliwala with a flourish of his hand, says: “Appi, this is Ms. Pallo. I believe you are fighting against her, on behalf of her husband. This is my nephew, Rusty. He is fighting for Ms. Pallo.”
Pallo does not smile. My smile, which is already rather weak to begin with, faded completely. Her eyes are an unfathomable blank. Rusty and Mr. Batliwala are jabbering on about something. I should be paying attention to them, if for nothing else but to check the skills of the lawyer standing against me, but I cannot hear them. It is as if looking at Pallo has struck me deaf.
I feel a hand on my elbow. I turn and looked at High BP. My heart leaps. Then I see the harsh look on his face. He is not looking at me, but at Pallo. With a great effort, he smiles politely. It is not even a smile, just a contortion of the lips. We turn away. I can feel Pallo, Mr. Batliwala and Rusty’s eyes on our back.
We spend the morning waiting outside the chambers where our case is to come up. High BP is silent. Across the tense, harrowed faces of other litigants, we can see Pallo, sitting close to the door. She does not look around at all. She is silent too, like High BP and me, though Rusty seems to have enough to talk about.
Our hearing gets pushed to after lunch. High BP declines to share the food in my lunch box, and sips the grey, oily liquid that goes for coffee in the Court Canteen.
After lunch, we cannot see Pallo anywhere. When our number does get called out in the late afternoon, just before the Court will close for the day, Pallo is still absent. Rusty pleads that she has been taken violently ill, and submits a written letter on her behalf. We get another date for our next hearing. After almost 2 months.
Me: “These are common tactics. To keep delaying the case, so that you get fed up, and settle outside. She IS keen for an out-of-court settlement. Why?”
High BP shrugs: “Maybe she thinks she will get more money out of me that way?”
Me: “But isn’t she rich enough?”
High BP: “I don’t know. I don’t know why she is so bent on making my life miserable. If it’s some complicated conspiracy against our family. Or what? I’ve been trying to rack my brains about whether I have hurt her in any real or imagined way; in all the years our families have known each other. But I don’t even remember meeting her except for family occasions before we got engaged. I don’t ever remember talking to her alone before we got engaged. So I really don’t know why she should have gone through this elaborate charade with me. Why me?”
Me: “Do you think her family is using her for some reason?”
High BP shakes his head: “I’ve been thinking about that, too. But it doesn’t make sense. They were the ones who were keen on a business partnership with us. Our association has benefited them more than it has us. I don’t see why they should want to jeopardize that. They are too shrewd for that. No, this seems to be Pallo’s personal problem. I don’t think her family is too happy about it.”
Me: “Have they been in touch with you? Or your family?”
High BP: “No. That’s another strange thing. They haven’t even apologized. I guess they want to save face by putting all the blame on me. It’s convenient for them to remain silent.”
Later, tucked up in bed, Etcetra already asleep, I play that scene when I had first entered court in the morning, again in my mind. And again. Pallo’s cold grim face. High BP’s ugly grimace. And the chaos of my own reactions – my awkwardness at seeing Pallo, the delicate question of my heart leaping at the sight of High BP.
I don’t think much of my heart leaping. I have decided to accept the fact that High BP is a handsome, charming man and bound to make the hearts of women leap when they see him. It doesn’t mean anything beyond that.