On New Year's Day, it was a dream come true for US-settled Keralite Surendran K. Pattel as he was sworn in as the judge of the 240th Judicial District Court in Texas' Fort Bend county.

District judges are chosen through elections in the US and Pattel, 51, defeated the sitting judge in the first round of the election to become the first Malayalee to be a district judge in the US.

Pattel's path to the post was far from easy and was due to his determination, hard work, and willingness to fight his way upward, as he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. As his parents were daily wage earners, he, to make both ends meet, had to work as 'bidi' roller and soon became an expert. Life was tough for him when he took a break for a year after his Class 10.

He completed his further education and bachelor's degree, while engaging in part-time work including as a daily labourer so as to earn his livelihood, but never let it affect his studies.

After enrolling for LLB at a college in Kozhikode, he worked in a hotel, and in 1995, he passed law and straight away entered into practising law.

Then came his marriage to Shubha, a nurse by profession and he moved base to Delhi and was practising at the Supreme Court.

In 2007, his wife got an opportunity to work in the US and he too joined her and since his passion was law, he, after working in a supermarket for a while, appeared for the Texas bar exam and cleared it.

He then got admission for the LL.M programme at the University of Houston Law Center, passed it with flying colours, and began work as a lawyer again. This New Year's Day, he wrote himself into the record books.