The Obiter Truth: About a matter

The Obiter Truth is a catalogue of everyday experiences in the life of a young lawyer hoping to find humour in the bizarre and sense in the chaos.
Manini Brar
Manini Brar

You must ask. No, I insist, you must. What was I doing for the past two years? Don’t say it took me that long to write this piece.

The absolute truth, dear reader, is that it did. I sort of got caught up with this matter that took a lot of time. I wanted to write about it, but the thing never reached a conclusion. I am beginning to see that it never will.  

What matter? You ask?

A matter… the matter… how do I explain? It is difficult to describe what happens to the heart when it leaps out of the body and lands in a cot, kicking and screaming. The first client I tried to tell about it seemed confused. He yelped congratulations before dropping his voice to a whisper: when you say you need time, what exactly do you mean? Will you be totally off, or can you attend that hearing next month? Only if you can, of course…If only I could, I tried to explain, but my life has slipped out of my hands like a good retainer that slips on to the lap of an erstwhile junior. It is a winning loss that is hard to complain about. I want to promise I’ll read the brief only I am having trouble reading billboards between the sleepless nights and never-ending days, wild hunger pangs and no food breaks. At this point, the client cut me short with a look that said his might well be the next retainer slipping out of my hands. A misunderstood matter.

I can’t tell you what I made of the file, because I didn’t make much of it. All I know is that when Wee Willie Winkie came to town in his night gown, he discovered there was no urgency in the plaint. The prayer clause at page 5 sought no order of injunction so a short adjournment wouldn’t wake the sleeping children from their beds. This ending greatly distressed the listener, who wailed profusely on my shoulder until 5:00 AM the next morning. Six hours later, his lordship seemed to share his disappointment. COVID has long gone, he grumbled, why are you still appearing via VC? I am on leave, your lordship, I said sheepishly, and there is no urgency in the plaint. At this point, the plaintiff’s counsel leapt to his feet with an animation I’d never seen in him before. Congratulations congratulations, he danced about a bit before bringing his fist down on the table with a thud, but my lord, the matter is most urgent. Three months is just too long! His lordship agreed: take one month if you must. But, but, I protested, the opposing counsel knows I won’t be ready by then! It sounded childish. Like Wee Willie Winkie, his lordship peered at me with a key-hole vision. Aren’t you concerned for your matter?

And so, I found myself in court a month later. Shifting uneasily in a suit two sizes too small, wondering if there was still time to bolt back to the car and drive home. There had been no time to prepare. Maybe I’d lost my touch? I am in Europe for two months, I heard a counsel with pepper hair say in the item before mine. The heavens are not going to fall if we have it after the vacations, lordship! They’ve not even requested an injunction, you see? His lordship could see. Alright then, three months. It is no matter.

But it is! It is! I jumped up. The matter is… it is… Maternity, of course! A most important matter. The heavens have fallen if his summer vacation is more important than my maternity leave! I want six months, I want them all, and I want them totally off!

I didn’t say any of that, of course. Only waddled up to the lectern, fumbled through the case and bolted back to my car.

It turned out I didn’t need six months. I needed twenty-four. And then some, going by the struggle it has been to find time to pen down this piece. Is this my long-winded way of telling you that this column will be shorter, less frequent now on? It is possible. But mostly, it is my short-handed way of telling you that I’ve adulted, dear reader.  And I wish it upon us all. 

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