By Protik Prokash Banerji (Protik Da)
I have learnt from each junior with whom I have shared work-space. Whether it be a case, or chambers or six or seven or twelve years of our lives, or perhaps even a day – each of them has taught me something.
I remember Tirthankar Das who taught me that the extension of limitation under Section 18 of the Limitation Act, 1963 happens only when the acknowledgment is made within the period of limitation and not if it is made after the limitation has expired; then there was Saumyen Datta – my second chamber junior – who taught me all about lapse of the acquisition proceedings due to delay in making the award. I made a name for myself in land acquisition based on that.
I have learnt about adversity and friendship, about quarrels and fun, about body-massage when your joints are aching and about survival when all seemed lost from Suman Sengupta who was good enough to share his life with me for 12 years, the longest that any junior has been able to tolerate me. He is still there – though he has scaled such heights of importance that I am quite dwarfed.
Then there was and is Farooque Ali, Md. Danish Taslim and Imran Tarafdar and Md. Imran Khan – from whom I have learnt patience and who made my transition from elder brother to father effortless.
Subhankar Nag taught me that it is possible to do well without having to work the whole night and ruin my health though I regret that I have not been able to implement the lessons.
Krishnendu Bhadra taught me that a junior can have simple and all-pervading faith in the Senior’s ability to get him out of any scrap that he gets into.
There have been more than 100 juniors who attended my chambers regularly. I have worked with hundreds more in the different litigation that I was briefed in.
Now, in alcohol-soft middle age, though imbibing is a thing of the distant past, ruined liver and wasted throat my constant companions, I have finally found the one thing that unites all chamber juniors and distinguishes them from the others:- they have become part of my life, just as I had darkened every waking hour of theirs.
Not a day goes by without my thinking about how one of them was there when suddenly one summer day in 2006 I found that I had completed all my pending work and that I had neither solicitors nor clients and very little money in the bank.
He went back to Krishnagar, his native place and brought back a bagful of briefs – proposed second-appeals and revisions, with advance payment. “Keep the money” he said “and do the cases when you can”. He would bring birds for my daughter, then a toddler and was her best friend. In many of my most important cases, he was a leitmotif without being a lead actor.
Then there was another, who was young enough to be my son, and who had always tried to fend for himself and never took money from his parents after passing his school-leaving examinations. On my birthday he wanted to give me something but being a freshly minted lawyer, was financially challenged.
He spent the whole night downloading a blue-ray print of Avataar and he got me the folder in a 16 GB pen drive. I returned the pen-drive but the film is one of my most treasured possessions.
I do not seem to retain the affection of my chamber juniors – particularly those whom I have loved most.
Perhaps this is because I am essentially bad and harmful – but I would like to think it is because I treat them with unceasing harshness to their face, and drive them like animals.
I do this because I found to my own cost that the world of trial-litigation is a litany of unending competition and fierce rites of passage which occur every day. When they leave chambers, I know that they are prepared for anything that life may throw at them.
Long after they leave chambers, usually acrimoniously or without even a by-your-leave, if I am lucky enough to avoid a brutal confrontation, they call me up; in one case, four years after he had left my chambers, a very close junior called me and said “Now I understand why you made me work till 4 in the morning. Then I used to shout at you, saying ‘you are getting paid for it, not I, then why should I work so late?’
Now, when solicitors send a thick sheaf of papers at 11 in the night and want a plaint and petition ready by morning, I understand why you did so.”
That junior now sits with me in my High Court chambers, though he does not attend chambers anymore. He is independent but not apart.
That is how I think of each of my juniors and even my interns. We may not be together, but we are not apart.
“Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man
Be not too hard when he is sold or bought
For he must manage as best he can
Be not too hard when he blindly dies
Fighting for things he does not own
Be not too hard when he tells lies
Or if his heart is sometimes like a stone
Be not too hard for soon he’ll die
Often no wiser than he began
Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man
And nothing is given to man
Mr. Protik Prokash Banerji, popularly called Protik da by law students is an advocate at the Kolkata HC. Interning at his chambers is an experience of a life time. People who learn drafting and oratory skills from him swear by the excellent teacher he is. He talks about movies and literature as authoritatively as he talks on law and wrote on such subjects for the Economic Times in 1994-1995. Presently Protik Da is the Junior Standing Counsel, Govt of West Bengal, HC at Calcutta.