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An estimated 2-minute read

Law School Academy University 3 - the snail in the bottle

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the appellant by her condescendence averred that…”

“What the hell is ‘condescendence’”, I wailed.

“What the hell is averred”, Indrani wailed.


Three terrified girls were sitting in a room reading their first ever case at law school.  One paragraph down, we starting feeling quite stupid. After 15 minutes of drama about how we should have gone to art school, drama school or medical school, we turned to Google, learned what condescendence (a statement of facts presented by the plaintiff in a cause) and averred (State or assert to be the case) meant, and moved on to read the rest of the case. It was about some woman who found a gross snail in her ginger beer.


The reading took ages. There was much Googling in the middle, breaks for tea and Maggi, and even one long detour-discussion where we wondered how tort law would apply to the mess which was given to serving food with dead insects and sometimes even reptiles and amphibians in it.  There were discoveries like this and this. We were a little nervous but fairly pleased with ourselves by the time we got to class.


Roll numbers were called out. ‘Yes Ma’am’ piped each person in turn. ‘So………’, said Behnji, ‘Bhot are the phacts in Doe-naa-ghew bher-sus Steeee-ben-son’. Behnji had earned her name. She was like a sari wrapped barrel, sailing calmly across the room. Sindoor and bindis on her head and bangles on her wrists, she had the air of someone who makes excellent pakoras and will compete for hours with you about whose offspring is at a better university ‘baahar’.


Padmapriya the Vampire Queen’s hand was in the air at ‘Bhot…’. She was one of those creatures whose hand is perpetually in the air while she is in the classroom. And her behind was perpetually in the teacher’s office, faithfully supporting its owner as she liberally buttered the teachers. In her peculiarly Chennai English she said breathlessly, “They pow-red Beer fram a bottle, Ma’am. And thennnn Ma’am, a sneyil fell out”.


Behnji wrinkled her nose a little. “Eet was Ginger Beeeeer”, she said. “But bhot kind of bottle”, she asked.

“Glass bottle!”, said Padmapriya with an air of triumph. Behnji shook her head dismissively and looked expectantly at the rest of us. The Vampire Queen looked deflated.

Medha spoke up in a clear voice. “An opaque bottle”, she said. Behnji beamed at her. The Vampire Queen shot her a very poisonous look.

“An opaque bottle!”, said Behnji. “And bhot ees the significance of an ophey-k bottle here?”, she asked.


And the rest of the class proceeded much in this manner. Behnji shot questions at us. Sometimes, we were wrong, but we checked the case and stumbled our way into her approving smiles again. She was a phenomenon, this round woman who you would call Aunty in a second. She showed us that just reading a case was not the same as really reading a case. In one hour she changed the way we saw“Doe-naa-ghew bher-sus Steeee-ben-son”.


Law School Illusion: Women who speak heavily accented English and look like the pakora-making aunty next door cannot be good lawyers Shattered.

Lessons learned: Never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a lawyer by her appearance or accent. Never read a case just once.


[All characters, institutions and events in this story are fictional. Any resemblance to real persons, institutions or events is purely co-incidental]


Read Chap. 1

Read Chap. 2

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