That was the first thing I read on a little piece of paper handed to me by a lawyer.
The State vs. Big Eyed Fish. (Yes, of course my real name.) I was thrilled.
This court was different than I had imagined. It was more of a cluster of large, standalone sheds in a small field. Outside, people in black coats sat behind desks arranged on the pavement. Around each desk they had put benches and chairs, creating an office with invisible walls. Transparency.
I entered the office of my lawyer (chosen on the basis of most lawyer-ish look), filled a form, etcetera and waited while he went into the court complex.
I was expecting him to return with my license, when he appeared instead with that piece of paper, and asked me to come with him.
“Kuch nahi hoga, judge kuch sawaal poochega. Aap chup rehna, main sambhaal lunga.”
So I stood outside shed no. 2 in a queue. There seemed to be many auto drivers openly cursing someone (presumably the judge), a 20-something girl with her parents who was almost in tears, and a gang of Jaat Boyz, if you know what I mean.
It took me a minute to realize someone was calling out the license plate number of my dabba. I went in.
It was just like a courtroom inside. Just like you would imagine it anyway, from your recollection of Damini and A Few Good Men. Only much more chaotic and dilapidated.
A few rows of benches, a couple of witness boxes, and a long desk on a platform 5-feet high, behind which sat an angry-looking, 30-something, bespectacled man. Judge saab.
He stared at me coldly, quietly, for a few seconds.
Bloody hell. It’s 1998 all over again. Is he going to call my parents now?
The lawyer had started talking, but he shot him a look of such contempt that he shut up. He then asked me, with a fake almost-smile: “What do you do?”
I could have said I’m an engineer. That I worked in the internet industry. Hell, even ‘software’ would have worked. But no, I had to say, “Err… I work in an advertising agency”.
His eyes lit up and I knew I was in trouble. In an overly dramatic tone, he said:
“Accha. Toh kiski advertising ho rahi thi bhai? Kingfisher ki? Ya Bacardi ki?”
Fuck me, I’ve got a sarcastic sonovabitch judge? Really?
“Huh? … Err. Nahi.”
“Saturday off hota hai advertising agency mein?”
What the … “Ji haan.”
“Toh aisa karo, Friday shaam ko chale jao. Sunday ko aa jana dinner karke. 2 raat bita lo, Monday ko fir office chale jaana. Kyun?”
I swear to god, I thought about it seriously for a second. He was actually selling it like a 2-nights, 3-days weekend getaway package and I was intrigued.
I think a hint of a smile might just have betrayed me, because he suddenly lost his humour. He lectured me for a long time like an angry but patient headmaster, and I nodded and tried my best to recreate the old aapne-meri-aankhen-khol-di look I had perfected in college.
He said he’ll think about what to do with me, and asked me to wait in the corner.
I stood there for over an hour, thinking about prison (and this blog post).
While I was standing there, head down and hands behind my back, I saw a tall guy walk in wearing a corduroy blazer and red Converse shoes. You could tell he was an asshole.
The judge was visible delighted to know he had his own PR agency. (Told you.)
“Arre wah. Aaj toh sab media wale aaye hue hain bhai hamare yahan.”
He made him stand next to me. Two minutes later, the idiot turns to me and asks, ‘So what did you do?’.
Shut the fuck up, Donny!
I looked away. He went on fidgeting and looking impatient for half an hour, and I was convinced he was going to land us both in Tihar.
The judge noticed him and for the first time, he smiled a real, half-amused smile.
“Aaiye aap media wale idhar aaiye.”
He stared at us for a few seconds. And then, “Aapki shakal dobara dikhayi na de mujhe. Theek hai?”
I nodded, picked up my license and stepped out. I was so happy I could’ve cried.
I lit up a cigarette and walked into (out-to?) my lawyer’s office.
“Aapne toh kaha tha kuch nahi hoga. Yeh kya bakwas thi?”
“Arre kahan kuch hua? Yeh toh logon ko kum se kum 4 ghante khada rakhta hai. Bhen ka **** hai sala.”
While I was driving to office later, I realized why it was perfect. I would have paid the fine. Even the bribe. And I knew he was never really going to send me to jail, so I could have listened to his lecture too.
But I don’t want to stand in the corner of a shed for hours, embarrassed and humiliated like a schoolboy about to cry in front of hardened criminals, ever again.
So, now I make it a point to make sure that, whatever happens, I never drink and drive.
At least not on Friday nights.