How Gourango lost his O

Sanjoy Ghose, in this book, ‘How Gourango lost his O’, offers us an insightful and humorous “non-story” that regales the tales of struggling lawyers, their colourful clients, and the landscape of the Indian judiciary, all via the perspective and experiences of one such lawyer – Gourango, the unwitting star of this narrative. 

The Leaflet is pleased to publish an excerpt from the book, to be released on May 15 in New Delhi.

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Ali Khan

His grandfather claimed that Mughal blood ran through the family’s veins. Ali, as a little child, every evening snuggled in the lap of his grandfather, had been more eager to hear about the latest exploits of his favourite djinn at Feroz Shah Kotla than to actually care about this Mughal blood. Ali’s whole day was spent waiting for those moments after dinner and before ammi’s rude calls could bring him back from his dream world and usher him to sleep. Ali knew that Dadajaan was a lawyer. What did lawyers do? They fought with other lawyers in a place called court.

“Ali, do you want to be a lawyer when you grow up?”

His answer was always the same, “No, I want to be a professional djinn catcher.”

Kings, queens, battles, palace intrigues, nothing lifted little Ali’s spirits as much as the world of spirits. Whenever Dadajaan would try to recreate the tale of a scared old monarch trapped in an ancient fort, prisoner of his title, forced by his people to take up battle against a mighty foreign power only to face defeat and death of his beloved children, Ali would yawn and say, “Dadajaan, not this one. Djinns.”

Grandfather Khan had just sold off his share in the family haveli in Chandni Chowk and shifted south. Topping the proceeds with his savings from his decent practice, he had purchased a house in the upcoming tony Nizamuddin West. The shift from the narrow lanes of Old Delhi, drenched in history, to the expanse of South Delhi was more than just a change in geography. None felt it more than Khan Sahib. He had been born in those lanes. He had grown up with the sights, the sounds, and smells of Delhi 6, as Chandni Chowk was known by its postal code.

However, after his wife, Nagma’s death, he took the call to move. He was practicing from Patiala House which was at the heart of the Capital, one of the prime princely properties taken over by the State and converted into criminal courts. The royal ballroom, the banquet room, and even the swimming pool had been converted into court halls or into Chambers for Judges. Outside the beautiful building, ugly tin structures housing Chambers for lawyers had cropped up. Khan Sahib had procured one such Chamber. He and Nagma had only one child. Ali’s father. Sadly, he was lost to poetry. He took Ghalib a little too seriously and actually believed that he had to reach the legendary poet’s level of intoxication to achieve his level of creativity.

Khan Sahib knew that his good-for-naught son could not be depended on for much. He was grateful that at least he had done his bit to continue the family line. So, the entire burden of the family was on Ali’s shoulders. Khan Sahib could not afford to go easy on him. He always held Nagma responsible for how things had come to pass. Always defending her son, perpetually finding some excuse, some justification. This had angered Khan Sahib to no end. Now that Nagma was gone, all that he was left with was regret.

Ali’s father began his life, like many a poet who walked the earth before him, with great optimism. However, over the years, even a self-published collection of romantic couplets, financed by Khan Sahib, could neither lift his spirits nor his fortunes. What hurt him the most was how his father had virtually written him off. It was as if his only achievement was to have given him a grandson, an heir. As the years passed, he increasingly found solace in his drinks. In all of this, no one thought of his wife, Gauhar Bano. Poverty had ensured that her father palmed her off to a big lawyer’s house to be married to his useless alcoholic son. She went about it stoically. She knew her station. Had her husband not been a wastrel, a person like her, a Class VIII drop out, a government clerk’s daughter, would not have found a place in a grand haveli like the Khans’. She was fed well, she lived well. She just had no life.

Nagma had felt the guilt. The fact that Gauhar lumped it, being the wife to her own son, troubled her even more. However, he was her weakness. She tried to compensate Gauhar by not being the mother-in-law she could have been. She would also shower her with gifts and try to be as kind as possible. Deep down inside she knew that this was not just compensation, but she consoled herself with the thought that life was not perfect. She was blessed with a responsible husband but a wastrel son, perhaps the Almighty had designed the reverse for Gauhar, a wastrel husband but a responsible son.

(This is an excerpt from the book, How Gourango lost his O, by Sanjoy Ghose, published by Eastern Book Company.  This extract is reproduced with the permission of Eastern Book Company. Readers can pre-order  their copies from EBC Webstore or from here)