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Death by Paper, Weight

Ahmadabad: law courts

A daunting foray into the Indian legal system in the form of the Bhadra Session Court. Our goal? To obtain the documents required to prise our equipment from Ahmedabad airport customs.

Dismounting the auto-rickshaw we pass through a narrow stone gateway that opens out into a courtyard dominated by a huge banyan tree that shelters and smothers the assembled practitioners of the court and ultimately most visitors of this legal outpost. A stern looking gent, the only person present wearing a full western style suit sits with his back to the tree, arms resting on a desk. I follow our local fixer through a moat of parked mopeds – drawn in part by the pull of his authority and in part by the need to start somewhere with someone and he being as good a place as any. Explaining our predicament – he introduces himself as an advocate and his nonchalant grimace turns to a nonchalant smile.

Ahmadabad: law courts

Ahmadabad: plenty of certified forms

The courtyard is a feast of sights of sounds – worthy of more than a mere bit part in our field study: layers upon layers of signs advertise legal services; crows squawking overhead only to be overruled by the whine of a distant rickshaw; the chai seller announcing his trade by tapping a handful of saucers with a cup; typewriter’s perched on suitcases bearing the languages that are proffered – mostly Gujarati and English. The small grey suitcases serve the cross-legged typists well – being of the right size and sturdiness to support the light use of a heavy typewriter. Clack, clack, clack, ting. The ‘desk’ brings back memories of our field study in Ghana where a luggage shop displayed a row of suitcases – it took a few home visits to confirm that the luggage was indeed largely used in the home as furniture – a relatively robust cupboard, certainly cheap and, should the reason arise – portable.

One of the trick’s to what we do is about having just enough process to be able to get the job done (in the worst case scenario without screwing up) and not so much that it takes the team’s energies away from more interesting pursuits. It’s fair to say that the Indian legal system is process-heavy: every little thing handled by a different person; everything in duplicate or triplicate; stamps that are not valid without counter-stamps. Today, the advocate is our homeboy and barriers melt away.

Ahmadabad: plenty of chai

If technology is everything that was invented after you were born, then technologies that have been superseded are historical artifacts. Except here in this time warp of a courtyard – where the ancient typewriter continues to be nothing less than a computer with a built in printer and an unlimited power supply. Oh, and it sings with a clack, clack-clack, clack, ting.

Kid Koala, eat your heart out.