Veteran lawyer and politician Ram Boolchand Jethmalani aka Ram Jethmalani was famed for his wit and wisdom. He had served as India’s Union Law Minister and as chairman of the Bar Council of India. The highest-paid advocate in the Supreme Court, he has represented a sweep of cases from the high-profile to the controversial for which he has often faced severe criticism.
Here are a few interesting autobiographical notes from Ram Jethmalani in which he steps out from the shadow of the self to highlight the trials and tribulations of being the man he is.
My mother & I grew up together
I was born in Shikarpur, Sindh, in 1923. My mother was just 14 then and a child herself. The two of us literally grew up together at the home of my grandparents. My mother was very special to me. There was a very delicate bond between us… we were like friends. I was the only son of my parents amongst three sisters but was never a spoilt child.
I was forced to go to boarding school
I was distraught when my father sent me to boarding school Sindh Model School, Sukhur. I didn’t want to leave the pleasures of home. My father wanted me to become an engineer but law was in my blood. My grandfather and father were lawyers. Now, my wife Ratna, daughter Rani and son Mahesh pursue the same profession.
I became a lawyer at 18
I got a double promotion in school and completed matriculation at the age of 13. I secured an LLB degree by the time I was 17. In those days, one could only become a lawyer at the age of 21. But a special resolution allowed me to become a lawyer at 18.
I charged my first client Re 1
Soon, along with my friend AK Brohi, I started a law firm in Karachi. Brohi was senior to me by six years but we started practising together. I still remember my first client a distressed landlord. I charged him Re 1 as my fees.
Two wives and four children
My first love was Dolly, a girl in school, we are still friends. I married Durga when I was a little over 18. I went to meet her with my grandfather and Durga entered the room with her aunt. She didn’t even make eye contact with me. When I met Ratna, my second wife, I was taken in by her intelligence as a lawyer. We married secretly on the eve of Partition. Polygamy was permitted in Pakistan then and we never faced any problems as such. My family included two wives and four children, three from Durga (Rani, Shobha, Mahesh) and one from Ratna (Janak).
Partition was emotionally disturbing
In February 1948, riots broke out in Karachi. Brohi, who later became the law minister of Pakistan, advised me to leave for reasons of security. Parting company was traumatic. I believe that Partition was born of temporary madness. We will return to our roots someday.
I had no home, no office
When I landed in Bombay, we slept on the floor in refugee camps. The only thing I had was my law degree. Despite that and six years of practice, I had to enrol at Bombay University and qualify all over again. A barrister charged me Rs 60 and gave me table space to receive my clients. But he had already rented out the place to a cotton merchant. I received clients with shreds of cotton all over my head.
The power of politics excites me
My father and grandfather were involved in politics at the municipal level. After I settled down professionally and financially, I took the plunge. I campaigned for Krishna Menon in a by-election in 1967.
I lost the first polls I contested
In 1971, I contested as an independent candidate from Ulhas Nagar. Both the Shiv Sena and Jan Sangh supported my candidature. I lost but gave a good account of myself.
I was against the emergency
When the Emergency was declared, I was the chairman of the Bar Association of India â€” the highest position in my profession. I became a severe critic of Mrs Gandhi something which few people were in those days. A warrant for my arrest was issued.
I was forced to flee the country: After the Supreme Court delivered its verdict in the Jabalpur case, I left India for Canada. I returned 10 months later after Emergency was lifted. While in Canada, my candidature was filed from Bombay North-West. I won the election and retained the seat in 1980, but lost to Sunil Dutt of the Congress in 1985.
I raised 400 questions on Bofors
In 1987, I raised the Bofors issue and asked Rajiv Gandhi around 400 questions in this regard during a single month. I was called names, but replied by saying that I was a watchdog of democracy.
I dare to express myself
People who say they are not interested in politics do not have the courage to stand up and express themselves. If the state of politics has deteriorated, it is because good people have turned their backs on politics. I have been part of the Vajpayee government as urban development and, then, law minister but I do not identify with any party. I stand for my own views.
There is no cut-off age for love
I don’t deny enjoying female company. I have had exceedingly intimate relationships with many charming women. There is no cut-off age for love. But sex without emotional involvement is something I don’t understand.
I have never really understood god: I am not an atheist, but I have never been able to figure out why God created the world. When I see children suffering, I wonder: what is wrong with God? Is he a sadist? I am personally inclined towards Buddhist philosophy.
I have cordial ties with my children
I haven’t been able to spend enough time with my children because of my professional commitments. I would try to make up by taking them out during vacations. I am happy that, today, my children are well-settled but I have never been able to get over the loss of my first-born, Mohini, who died of pneumonia at the age of three.
I have no regrets in life
All that I have earned today means nothing to me. I am a strong believer in providence. I no longer have any political ambitions. I do go to court, but I actually want to lead a retired life now.