Legal luminary T.P. Kelu Nambiar, who died on Sunday, was among the last in the vanishing breed of lawyers with a mastery over the art of advocacy, erudition, language skills and wit. He embodied conviction and kept himself abreast of happenings.

This correspondent first met Mr. Nambiar while working on a story on the legendary judge P.T. Raman Nayar on his birth centenary. With his phenomenal memory and a penchant for witty anecdotes, the senior advocate was of immeasurable help in forming a picture of Raman Nayar.

As someone who began legal practice in 1954, following in the footsteps of his father-in-law A. Achuthan Nambiar, he was well aware of the contributions of legal stalwarts of yore to his profession. Small wonder, in several speeches of his, he called upon greenhorn advocates to learn history to shape their future.

Kelu Nambiar’s speeches and articles were collated and published in three volumes, which offer several valuable lessons in advocacy. “A case has to be argued with precision, without indulging in unlimited arguments,” he said in an address to junior lawyers in 2003. “Oral marathon by lawyers goes unappreciated. Do not frontload your case with untenable contentions,” he told them.

The eminent lawyer also paid rich tributes to his distinguished predecessors in his noted articles. He had a flair for using English for which he was grateful to The Hindu. “Being an inveterate reader of The Hindu, it is unsettling for me not to have the daily on time,” Mr. Nambiar, who sounded desperate, told this correspondent over the phone once when the delivery of the daily was unusually delayed.

The Hindu is my English teacher and I can’t do without it,” he would say. Mr. Nambiar called himself a V.R. Krishna Iyer addict and described the jurist-activist ‘a sage’. He was all for upholding the nobility and pride of the profession and the Bar. Mr. Nambiar’s humaneness set him apart from the rest. He wrote a touching obituary when an advocate-clerk, N.K. Velappan Elayidom, died. Though he stayed away from active legal practice during the last years, he was clued in till the last day.

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