HABEAS CORPUS

Anukrti Upadhyay

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He rose and stretched. The draft was complete. Articles, sections, case laws - all neatly and compellingly cited, together with an appeal to their Lordships, the Preservers of Civil Liberties. That always tickles the vanity of the bench and it will be the full bench for this one, with yours truly in the chair as lead counsel. Nothing’s out of reach, tra la. He flexed his shoulders, rolled his neck. The house was quiet as usual. It was a good decision to work from home, saved time and I worked faster, eight hours straight, with focus. And for a non-billable client. Pro-bono work, when my time is gold. Not for the faint of heart. He walked across to the kitchen. This damned dry weather. He poured some hot water out of the thermos flask into a mug and added a spoonful of honey. Can’t afford a sore throat. A writ of Habeas Corpus demands theatrics, oration - the august Framers of our Constitution, in their far-sighted wisdom, extended the protection of the majesty of law to every individual. The liberty of her person is held sacred, her bodily integrity is hallowed, it is the only religion justice knows, it is the only creed law follows. Fuck, I can write a book. He sipped the sweetened water. This matter is bound to get me noticed by the right folk. Going to be the youngest senior advocate someday soon! Judgeship not out of reach either. Nothing’s out of reach, tra la, nothing at all. Fuck, I want to make love, pure, animalistic and uncomplicated. He pulled out his mobile, found the number and typed quickly - Hey. How is it going? You have time for a quickie? He pressed ‘send’ and answered an incoming call. It was one of his juniors. “Hey. You got the revised writ? It will be mentioned tomorrow in the Chief Justice’s court. I expect a bit of a media circus. We will need to prep the mother. She must be there in the court with us.  It will help. This is an important matter for us, a win-win whichever way the verdict turns. If the court rules in our favour, we would have struck a blow for liberty and if we lose, it would be the big bad state playing a crooked game.” His phone beeped with a message. “Ok, gotta go. Make sure that the mother’s is at the chambers early tomorrow.” He checked the message – You only text when you need a quickie. He smiled. I take it as a yes. You have the stationery or I bring? The phone beeped almost instantly. Bring your own bloody condoms. Going for a shower. I like this girl, clean, no-fuss, none of the heavy emo stuff. Plus lives just fifteen minutes away. He glanced at his watch. Shouldn’t take more than an hour. In and out. Fits in neatly with my schedule. He stepped into the bathroom and took off his shirt. Peering into the mirror he flexed his chest, examined his shoulders. Can do with working out more. Still, not bad for forty. Nothing’s out of reach, tra la. He squeezed some toothpaste on to his toothbrush.

The taxi smelt of tobacco and stale food. Still, clean for a black-and-yellow and the driver’s the quiet type. Anyway, taking a taxi is the only option. Can’t drive over to her place and leave the car out front. It is a flashy car too, bound to be noticed. No point in making people talk. Discretion is important. It would be foolish to let a bit of fun come in the way of bigger things. Bigger things. I am meant for bigger things. Nothing’s out of reach. He rolled down the window. The November air was dry and cool, the sea flat against the encircling buildings, the buildings flat against the sky, the sky endlessly flat against itself.

The lift was out of order again. Never mind, good to get the blood pumping. He punched a quick message – I’m coming up the stairs. Open the door and take off your clothes! The clothes bit was a joke of course but he didn’t like to wait for her to open the door. There was no point in running the risk of being seen outside her door. There are people around all the time. A man outside the door of a single woman makes for talk. And that man in newspapers often. Though not as often as I would like. Must ramp up the networking. That judgeship should always be squarely in sight.

 

She stood just inside the open door.

“Hey. How are you? You still have your clothes on!” He stepped in quickly and closed the door.

“You’ve decided to dispense with the preliminaries altogether?”

“I am in a hurry!” He held her by the shoulders and kissed her.

“When are you not?” She turned away. “It’s been two months since I saw you last. At least have the decency to text sometimes.”

“Yaar, don’t start all this. I don’t need it from you, I get more than enough of it from elsewhere. You know me, this is the way I am.” He reached out a hand and trailed his fingers down her cheek to her throat. “Come on, don’t spoil this.” He pulled her to him. She shivered slightly, her eyes flickered. Nice-looking, a bit overweight but nice breasts. He pressed his body against her, cupping his hand over her breast. “I can smell you.” He murmured, grazing her cheek with his mouth. “Let’s go into the bedroom.”

They lay in bed, their naked bodies still pressed together. “That was wild, man. You were so wet, you needed this desperately!” She punched him in the arm. Laughing, he reached for his trousers and pulled out his mobile phone. “Fuck. I missed a call. I need to call him back. Hey, Raghav, how are you?...Yes, I read the brief. It is a vexed issue but I think there is room for some creative interpretation there. I’d like to see all the documents. Can you get them sent to my chambers? I can have a call with the client the day after… Saturday, Sunday, it doesn’t matter.” He stroked her back absently. She traced an imaginary line with her fingertip from his temple down his throat, his chest, abdomen, all the way to his groin. He caught hold of her hand. “Sure. You check with the client and let my secretary know. Bye.” He squeezed her hand. “You were trying to disrupt my call, you naughty girl!” His phone beeped with a message. He glanced at it and groaned. “Oh no.”

“More work?”

“I wish. I can deal with work. It is this woman I have started seeing recently.” His phone beeped several times. He turned off the ringer. “Refuses to leave me alone. And I had thought I had found the perfect woman – beautiful, intelligent and married to someone else. But she is fucking intense.”

“Women are intense when they are in love.”

“Maybe but you know me now for, what, three years? You know I don’t believe in this ownership type of love.”

“Five years, and yes, I know you. Have you explained your theory about the purity of sex-only relationship to her yet?”

“Yaar, she just doesn’t seem to get it. She has fallen for me. God knows what she sees in me.”

“I wonder. I think it is not what we see, it is what we imagine.”

“Then she just needs to rein in her imagination.” He scanned through his messages. “I am not her ticket out of whatever kind of marriage she has.”

“What kind of marriage does she have?”

“How would I know? Her marriage is none of my business. You know me, I…”

“Don’t like mixing spaces. Yes, I do. If she is so troublesome, what’s stopping you from cutting her loose?”

“It is not that easy. She is completely gone over me. Buys me gifts all the time, writes poetry for me, the works! Plus, she is sexy, all toned and tight, none of this flab.” He patted her stomach. “But I have decided to be firm with her. She’ll have to learn.” He squeezed her shoulders. “Chal, I gotta go. This was great. It is the most relaxed I have been in months. Thanks so much, Sweetie.” He rose, picked up the discarded condom from the floor and headed for the bathroom. She lay still for a few moments. Then she too rose and pulled on her t-shirt.

She was sitting cross-legged, sipping tea, an open book on her lap, when he came into the living room. He took her hand holding the cup and raised it to his mouth. “You have two of the most critical skills a woman should have – making love and making tea!” He brushed his moist mouth against hers, a laughing light in his eyes.

At the door he paused, hand on the latch. “You do me so much good, Sweetie. When will I see you again?”

“I am not sure.” She removed his hand from the latch and opened the door. He stepped out. “Perhaps in a few years. I had applied for a fellowship and it has been granted. I’ll be leaving for the US next week. Take care.”

He stood before the closed door for a moment, then shrugging, he turned. It is perhaps best this way. Five years is too long. Things could have gotten complicated, she was beginning to have expectations. He walked down the stairs. Plus, no lift every time becomes tiresome. I’ll go straight to the chambers now. Take one final look at the writ and then go over the documents Raghav’s sending. That client has deep pockets and the matter is acrimonious. It is sure to end up in the Supreme Court. It will mean greater visibility for me with the corporate set too. If I handle it well, I’ll get in with the movers and shakers both here and in Delhi. Nothing’s out of reach, tra la.

***

Anukrti Upadhyay has post-graduate degrees in Management and Literature, and a graduate degree in Law. She writes in both English and Hindi. She stunned readers and critics alike with the twin novellas 'Daura' and 'Bhaunri' in 2019. and delighted Hindi readers with a short story collection 'Japani Sarai'. Her novel 'Kintsugi' was released in 2020, and her first novella in Hindi 'Neena Aunty' will be out this month from Rajpal and Sons.