Last Thursday our Bangla class visited the High Court of Calcutta, a zoo of a place, in that it keeps a very strange breed of creature called “lawyers” in its walls. They swarm around in vast halls, sitting in plastic chairs, and yelling at each other and with judges in barely audible court rooms. I’m sure there’s a system in the High Court, but on a first glance, I’m surprised it’s functional.
We also went to see some of the criminal courts in an adjoining building. Unlike the High Court, the lower criminal courts were largely vacant. This is because Calcutta has no crime, one of our teachers wryly noted! Judging by the quality of the bathrooms and the number of shitstains in and around the toilets, I have little faith in the diligence of the cleaning staff. I can’t tell you about the diligence of justice.
My real reason for wanting to visit the High Court is that it supposedly has an archive of some type, with manuscripts and attestations dating to the 18th century. However, different people have assured me that the archive has either (A) been destroyed in a flood 20 years ago (B) been destroyed in a flood last year, (C) moved to the Alipore Court or (D) never existed.
Last month I received a reply back from Fulbright that the letter of introduction they sent on my behalf to the Court had been rejected and that I would not be able to access whatever archives exist there. Being Calcutta, I thought, I’d have more luck if I went in person, met the right people, and prayed for rain, so to speak.
Luckily AIIS (American Institute of Indian Studies) contacted a lawyer at the court, who toured us around and introduced us to the deputy registrar, who then introduced us to a man who position I still have no idea about, but who assured me that he would give it his all to assist me in accessing these supposed archives.
Now, to wait and see, and pray for rain.
No pictures, sorry, not allowed at the Court.