Man who worked as a labourer in Kerala is now a US judge
Surendran K Pattel, an attorney of Indian-origin in Texas, has had an inspiring journey -- from growing up in poverty in Kerala to becoming a judge in the United States.
On January 1, the 51-year-old was sworn in as the judge of 240th Judicial District Court, located in Texas' Fort Bend County, The Week magazine reported.
It was a big achievement for Pattel, who was born to daily wagers in Kerala's Kasaragod and worked through school and college to assist them.
While in his teens, he and his sister rolled beedis -- thin tobacco flake-filled cigarettes -- to earn money. Pattel would also work as a labourer.
He decided not to continue his education after class 10 and started working full-time rolling beedis.
But that tough period changed his view and he decided to resume studying after a year-long break.
He enrolled himself at the E.K. Nayanar Memorial Government College but still had to continue working. His attendance suffered and professors refused to let him sit for exams.
But by this time, Pattel was aspiring to be a lawyer and pleaded with his teachers to give him a chance.
"I told them that if I do not score well, I will discontinue," Pattel told The Week. "But when the results came, I became the topper. So, the next year, they were so cooperative with me. I graduated from college as a topper."
Next, Pattel wanted to pursue an LL.B at the Calicut Government Law College but finances were a problem. He said in his first year, his friends helped him. After that, he took up a housekeeping job at a hotel.
Pattel received his law degree in 1995, according to his website. He began practising in Hosdurg, Kerala in 1996 and gradually became a well-known lawyer. Nearly a decade later, he was practising in the Supreme Court.
The year 2007 presented his family an opportunity to the move to the US. His wife, a nurse, had been chosen to work at a prominent American medical facility.
The couple sought and received permanent residency and moved to Houston, Texas with their little daughter and a second baby on the way.
Two years after moving to the US, Pattel sat for the Texas bar exam. He cleared it in his first attempt.
Pattel wanted a rigorous understanding of US law so he applied for the LL.M program at the University of Houston Law Center.
His area of focus was international law. After graduating in 2011, Pattel did contract work, handling cases related to family law, criminal defense, civil and commercial litigation, real estate and transactional matters.
Later, he set up his own law firm.
Pattel, who is aligned with the Democratic Party, said he believes courts should be "as accessible and compassionate as they are fair and just".