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   The other day, I was invited for tea at an ancient solicitor's firm... (May 9, 1990)

The other day, I was invited for tea at an ancient solicitor's firm in Homi Mody Street (the former Bruce Street) in the heart of Fort. It was like returning hime or, at least, to past values.

There is at least 50 years' difference between the offices in Fort and those at Nariman Point. Nariman Point is chrome and plastic and fake. Ther is more show that work. The offices look like foyers of cinemas on Lamington Road, and the owners of the offices looke like Hindi film actors sitting in their readymade executive chairs.

The solicitor's offcie that I went to for tea represented all that is authentic and charming about Fort. I had been given precise directions: two doors from Parisian, one entrance away from Piccolo, second-floor, the lift may or may not be working.

It was working: taking only four passengers; including the liftman. But the liftman was extremely polite, probably a third generation liftman of the same lift in the same building. I have found liftmen to be among the saddest people on the earth, with a permanent complaning expression.

The office faced the lift shaft. It was small, though with an unnecessarily high ceiling, and it was packed with people and files. Junior lawyers doing their articles or law clerks preapring briefs of whatever.

There was no peon to take my card to a receptionist, and a receptionist to ask me if I had an appointment, and then to announce me in. I gave a gentle tap on the door and walked in.

My host, the solicitor, was sitting in a large but comfortably high-backed chair, propped with pillows in white covers. The desk looked like it was continuously in use. He had hung up his coat, but the tie was still on, and the attachable collar.

The other guests were permanent: a retired supreme court judge, two elderly solicitors. It was their custom every day, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, when the court had its recess, to meet and have their tea. They were regulars, I was the guest for the afternoon.

The tea was brought in: a silver pot, cups, milk, sugar, a fresh pocket of Marie biscutis. One of the solicitors poured the tea. The host opened the biscuit packet and passed the biscuits around. And we talked of mice and men.

At 2.45 p.m., when the court reopend, our tea session ended. The host gently hinted that I had been detained long enough from my work and I was excused to go back to it.

 
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