BOOK REVIEW

Honour Bound: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer in the English Courts

Oishani Nandi reviews this book on the trials and triumphs of the current senior partner of Zaiwalla and Co. Solicitor.

  • Honour Bound by Sarosh Zaiwalla

Instigating vast dialogue between Indian and English communities, from professional experts to the common man, Honour Bound: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer in the English Courts brings a fresh story to the table. With rampant globalisation and our current intervolved political landscape, acceptance towards other races and ideologies is a familiar notion, but it was not always this way. This book traverses through the trials and triumphs of the current senior partner of Zaiwalla and Co. Solicitors, Sarosh Zaiwalla and narrates how a small-town Parsi man overcame being one of the only Indian solicitors in a post-imperialistic England.

Sarosh Zaiwalla’s memoir, Honour Bound, takes an evocative walk down memory lane to a transitioning England and paves the pathway for aspiring solicitors from outside the United Kingdom, dreaming to make it in the Square Mile. This story outlines Zaiwalla’s journey from a time where diversity was scarce in English legal circles and opportunities scarcer for those with different shades of skin colours to one where an Indian Parsi Zoroastrian founded a trailblazing legal firm bringing in millions for the English economy. As a young Parsi, Zaiwalla looked to venture into politics as opposed to the traditions of business as expected, and instead, become the Prime Minister of India. While his dreams did not materialise, the author traversed the English channel only to become one of the first Indian solicitors of England. Despite being an outsider, Zaiwalla preserves utmost professionalism and integrity and reiterates the need to remain grounded to your roots even whilst abroad. Presenting a cast both acclaimed and notorious, this memoir features peace leaders to mafia bosses, past residents of the Lok Kalyan Marg to those of the ‘Jalsa’ bungalow. Toeing the line of lawyer-client privilege, Zaiwalla presents a memoir that keeps one on their toes.

Pioneering the legacy of Indian Zoroastrians in foreign terrain, Zaiwalla’s tale commences in the preface of this memoir. In this preface, he pays his thanks to his country India, his clients and coworkers, and finally the English Bar for treating him with unprejudiced fairness. The author explores the impact of his diasporic past in his first chapter titled a “Passage of England” alluding to E. M. Forster's ‘A Passage to India’, a critique of the inefficacy of the law beholden to the racially prejudiced social thinking of colonised India. Zaiwalla discusses his Parsi heritage and his ‘first brush with the law’ that would give his life direction. His next chapter dwells upon the tensive cultural fabric of post-imperial England. Coming from the land of the colonised to that of the coloniser, Zaiwalla learned early on that respect was not easily earned but harder due to the colour of his skin. The next two chapters of this memoir “The Shining Years” and “From Side Table to High Table” illustrate his struggle to ascend through the rungs of the ladder of success, from junior associate to senior partner. Due to the convenient timing, Zaiwalla acted as an intermediary between the ever so uptight English suits and the ever-burgeoning global community from the ranks of India, China, Iran, and other such newly industrialising countries. This chapter sheds insider scoop of moving from cubicles to offices with a panoramic skyscape of the Square Mile. The 5th chapter, “Bollywood, Bachan's and the Consequential Damage” offers an up-close and personal sneak-peek into his affairs with a Bollywood glitterati, leading to another unexpected affair. The next chapter “China Calls” delves into his interactions with India’s neighbour China. Upon seeing Zaiwalla’s success story with the Indian consulate in England, none other than the Chinese government reached out to Zaiwalla to facilitate dialogue between 10 Downing Street and Beijing on the matters of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ agreement. Chapter 7 and 8, “‘My Boys Don’t Trust Indians’” and “Trials and Tribunals” respectively, hark upon ever-present racial consciousness, where the author comes to the realisation that no matter his professional stature, one will always be subjected to one’s own racial stereotypes. Chapter 9, “Iran and Russia: The New Frontiers” grapples with the complex diplomatic crossfire amongst the political giants in the international forum. Taking a turn back to his days in the court, Chapter 10 “The Mafia Client” deals with one of Zaiwalla’s more racy and notorious clients, a Canadian Mafia Boss. The book culminates in Chapters 11 and 12, “The Great and the Good” and “Changing Britain: Class, Not Race” respectively. In these final Chapters, Zaiwalla learns the hard way that while socio-economic status can be changed, the colour of your skin is forever.

The famous ambassador for Spina Bifida, Robert M. Hensel once famously quoted, “I can not, and will not judge by what my eyes can see. For the skin on a man shall not reveal his true identity.” While this quote was once perceived to be idealistic, it is the same thought process that emboldens people such as Sarosh Zaiwalla to shift social attitudes and preconceived notions and pave a path for those wishing to do the same. Honour Bound: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer in the English Courts, illustrates the odyssey of one England's finest solicitors, and one of India’s own men. This memoir successfully sheds light on the harsh realities of climbing up the social and professional ladders in a foreign firm and carves the road for young leaders looking to break social norms.

OISHANI NANDI is a student at Oberoi International School in Mumbai. She may be contacted at oishani.nandi@oberoi-is.net.
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