The NUJS as I saw it

The NUJS as I saw it
The 'Pillar' of Justice

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Topper in Love!

This relates back to those days when I just happened to step into my third year in NUJS. Out of a total batch strength of around eighty to begin with, we were now left with some seventy odd. Few of them had flunked and few left the institution like the lady I was referring to previously. Some who had made it to the third year were struggling to cope with the academics and had a bleak future to look ahead. One such character was Tilak. A decent, calm, composed and introvert boy, Tilak was always quite weak in studies. He was, unfortunately, one of those guys who aspired to score the highest in exams, but could only manage just enough marks to pass. He put in more hours of studies than any of the brilliant guys around. But, I guess, he never knew what to study and the mode of writing marks-fetching answers in the exams. My interaction with him was quite minimal, but his case remains fresh in my album of memories, fresh enough to quote his account at this juncture.

Quite similar to the tales in movies, Tilak fell for Nisha, a charming girl in the same batch, who unsurprisingly happened to be amongst the high scorers. In fact, it actually surprised all of us to witness the courtship, as she was always known to be those academic freaks whose life centered around heaps of law books. But then, love in college is driven by an army of cupids, I believe. Just show your interest in it, and cupids come running for your life. This was the case with Tilak and Nisha. After the end semester vacations, we resumed classes only to see the two of them sitting together in the last row. This is, by far, the best indication of the blooming love between any couple. Quite amazed at the sight of the lady taking the last row, the rest of the batch applauded the choice of priority that she had undertaken. She, like any other ordinary mid ranker, chucked her note books and stopped taking notes. The fact that the rest of the class always depended upon the hundred pages of class notes distributed by her during exams took a back seat and, absolutely oblivious of the days to come, she began deriving the pleasure of a new chapter to her college life.

Tilak belonged to a very humble background with parents just managing to get him an educational loan. And he too was aware of his financial constraints, but never let anyone sympathise on him. Quite a self dignified person he was, for sure. But the moment love struck his life, he was a changed person. Taking loans from his friends for shopping and spending the rest on phone calls became a regular habit. The one thing that cupid doesn’t provide you with is the money to enjoy your love, which is the paramount parameter for any love story to meet a contended closure in college. Nisha, on her part ensured that the money spent by Tilak was well accounted for. Just like a true lady love, she purchased gifts for her boyfriend, money that would have otherwise been spent on law books and journals. Quite surprisingly, none of them foresaw the obvious future which loomed all over in the regular chats amongst the other classmates. In fact, I do remember Atul rendering his unwarranted advise to the couple, ceremoniously, only to fall before deaf ears and blind lovers. I always wondered why Atul was never taken seriously by others, even though he hardly proved wrong in anything he said. Anyways, nothing worse could have happened to Tilak as he was always a weak student to begin with. He performed pathetically in his projects and his gallows in the college became quite apparent. But as regards Nisha, we witnessed a phenomenon which could hardly be comprehended by anyone around.

A person who had never been second in submitting her projects, decided against submitting them altogether. Despite repeated warnings from the subject teachers and wise words from her friends, she could not submit any project for any of the subjects in that semester. After all, she was never the same old girl again. Love had propelled her into a world of dreams which was quite astronomically distant from the truths of reality. Some of us even ventured helping her by volunteering to partly complete her projects and gather class notes for her. But could a person who was catapulted so far away be possibly brought back to ground?

As could be easily predicted, she faired poorly even in her end-semesters and consequently was detained in four of the five subjects offered that semester. Quite ironically, Tilak managed to clear all the papers, though with poor marks. Our batch often exhibited its unity when the college authorities metted out injustice to one of our fellow mates. Detaining Nisha otherwise, would have certainly drawn the wrath of the class, but in this instance, it was a simple res ipsa. Her unspeakable callousness towards academics was only reflected in her results and we could never question the genuine marks of the college administration. However, just to make matters clear from our end, the class representative (much similar to a class prefect in high schools) had a chat with the Vice Chancellor only to be shown the door. Seeking a re-valuation of the subject marks meant shelling out half a grand for each. That calculated to a total of two thousand bucks in her case. Considering the terrible financial condition that she was undergoing consequent to her extravagant generosity in purchasing gifts for her boyfriend who had, in this case, happily managed to pass all his papers and save his back, the class decided to contribute for her revaluations. Evidently, this was the utmost that the class could do for her, taking into account the frequent counseling sessions that her friends used to render her. But, as was expected, our contributions failed to provide her anything more than an emotional comfort. The University’s decision of detaining her had made firm ground and had to prevail.

With utter remorse and disappointment, she had to bid adieu to the college as her parents summoned her back home and advised her against repeating a year in the college. We were infact hardly surprised by the decision she had arrived at, as this was the usual practice amongst detainees. It still perplexes me to imagine the excruciating impact such a step would ordinarily have on the career of a student, who having spent two years at an institution, decides to leave the institution with no alternate plans to take recourse to. It was a month later that we heard that she had joined a computer course in her home town. What was more fascinating, though unpleasant, for us to hear was that the couple had decided to call it a day and ‘break up’. It’s for no reason, I think, that Atul had said that gauging a woman’s mind was a task even God failed to succeed in. The odessey of a brilliant student, traversing the corridors of fame in the college, falling in love with an ‘ordinary’ guy, deciding to quit studies and thereafter leaving the college after being detained for poor performance in exams, is one kind of a tale which would perplex the best fiction authors.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Show Stoppers

I spent five years at law school amidst a mix of intelligent, beautiful, sharp, witty and wily ladies. I wasn’t a Casanova for certain, and neither did I have a large female following. But I got to hang out with friends who used to count the number of girlfriends they had dumped in their college life. Also, belonging to a batch which had girls outnumbering the guys helped matters in this regard. The fact that the topper from our batch was a female, the fact that the second topper from our batch was a female, and also the fact that the third topper from our batch was a female, is never taken into account while I narrate certain anecdotes which aspire to prove my point.     

Let me begin with a story which is again related to moot courts. It’s for no reason that I always tend to relate to this facet of law school. There are occasions when you keep abusing and maligning a thing as you could never achieve it yourself. Mooting ability is one such ‘thing’ for me. This again refers to my maiden attempt to conquer the mooting circuits in law school. Once the list of the much coveted ‘moot court society’ was out, I realized that I was pegged against a female, who happened to be one of the smartest and loveliest ladies that NUJS has ever seen till date. To prove my point, may it suffice to say that she was too smart to remain stuck in the law school for five years. On grounds of having adopted ‘unfair means’ in one of the project assignments, which I thought was a deliberate and intentional strategy on her part to quit legal education, she was detained for one year. She took recourse to the best alternative to repeating a year in the same institution. She left legal education for good, and now she can be seen in one of the decent news channels reading news on global economy. Quite a remarkable attempt to earn fame and success at a young age, I think. In any event, and coming back to the point, I was initially quite excited at have a girl like her as my opposing counsel. It was only much later that I realized the soup I was into.

My well wishers advised me to appoint spies to detect her preparations for the moot. Later, I realized it would hardly serve a purpose as she was always seen flirting around with guys at pubs and restaurants. Further, I learnt from my reliable sources that she had not even bothered picking up a copy of the moot problem so as to begin her preparations for the same. I conjectured that she would either have the genes of a Jethmalani, by far the best criminal lawyer in the country in modern times, or she wouldn’t be bothered enough to please the jury and win the contest. The only method to find an answer to that was to confront her directly, I thought. The next day, after classes, I got a chance to speak to her. Being a shy guy, I had hardly spoken to her before and approaching her on this issue had to look weird. Anyways, I wanted to give it a try.

“Hey”, I said.

“Hi, whats up”, she replied indifferently. I realized that she was attending to a crowd of boys jostling around her, and that I made myself look like one of them. It’s always so good to be a beautiful girl, I thought. 

“Fine yaar, just thought of having a chat with you”, I didn’t know why I uttered the italicized. I guess the law school culture had seeped into me, as this one word found immense importance in the daily conversations amongst people. Also, this helped giving an informal tinge to my exchange of words.

“Chat with me!!!”, she exclaimed, as if she was some nobel laureate and that speaking to her demanded an appointment.

“Ya. Why, do I need to seek permission from her highness to have a chat?”, I replied a bit sternly, probably giving the indication that I was not to be confused with those bunch of self imposed puppets of her’s.

“Wait a minute. Did you try to snap at me? If so, please be advised not to try repeating it. No one talks to me like that. You get it?!!”.

Well, this was quite a bit for me to take. I understand that I wasn’t a macho and certainly did not have the looks resembling Herculean, but, come on, I too had my ‘dignity’.

“Hey... calm down. I did not come to begin a tiff with you. Just wanted to let you know that you are up against me.”

“Against you. What have I done to be up against you?”

Now, that was a shocker for me. Was I sure that she was actually the one, who was placed to argue against me. Did I see the list correctly? Did I cross check and make myself certain about it? Boss, I thought, I would make a fool of myself had I been wrong in this regard.

“Just a second. Aren’t you the one who would be arguing against me in the moot? The one that’s taking place in a week’s time?”

I held my breadth. If I was proved wrong, she would do nothing short of announcing this to her puppets who were looking at the entire scene with curiosity. And this would be blown out of proportions to capture headlines the next day in class.

“Oh, so all this while, you have been trying to talk about that moot court competition. You see, I haven’t even seen the list. And frankly, I did not even know the schedule of the moot until you spoke of it. You see, I just don’t care. For me, ‘preparing’ to argue in the court, and that too, in front of idiots who hardly know the law themselves, is not much of a deal. An hour’s work would suffice me to beat any damn person. And now that I know you are the unfortunate chosen, I shall try my best to give you a piece of my cake.”

Firstly, I couldn’t comprehend an iota of what she intended to say. ‘A piece of her cake’, what was that supposed to mean. Was this one of those law school phrases which I still had not picked up? Or was it just an innovative way to intimate me of the perilous consequences of having to face her as the opposing counsel. But then, I was now quite sure that she hadn’t started her preparations and that my insiders were correct to that extent. She either had to be one of those stupendous lawyers to argue without having read the law, or a witch to read the minds of other competitors.

Days past by and my memorial was ready to be submitted. While submitting it, I enquired about her highness from the moot court society. I was told that she hadn’t even submitted her memorial and that the time for submission had virtually come to a close. She would be facing negative markings for her late submission, if she at all decided to do so. That gave me a booster. I had scored a point even before having to face her in the court. But then, the suspicious instincts of a human mind never seemed to abandon me and I kept thinking of the possible tactics that she would employ to give me a final jolt.

Finally, all speculations came to rest. Just on the day of our appearance in the court, I received the news that she had found a new boyfriend and that she had decided to spend the entire week with him. Poor girl, her new found love was so exuberant about the entire scheme of the likely prospects, that she debunked the idea of even appearing for her competition. Good news for me, and bad for her, I thought.

The fact that I scored the least in the competition and had to find pillars to hide behind after the results were out, wasn’t that an encapsulating a news as compared to the one about the new couple in the college campus. All throughout the day, you could hear people discussing the affair. After all, the most sought-after girl was won over by a classmate. I thought of congratulating her for her prospects and place my regards for leaving me without a competition in the moots. But when I realized that I had flunked the competition even without someone who could rebut my arguments, I shuddered to think of approaching her. The embarrassment was such that I decided to call it a day for my mooting prospects in college.

The story doesn’t end here. It was only a month after the entire fiasco that she ‘broke up’ with her boyfriend only to be single again. What was the point of having a boyfriend and not appearing for the competition, I thought. Either she was stupid enough not to have foreseen the probable future to her ‘relationship’ with the guy, or she just wanted to escape the brunt of the judges without giving the impression of being scared and intimidated by them. I employed all my analytical skills to decipher the entire situation, and quite inevitably, I ended up reaching the same conclusion every time. She had a premonition that I would be quite excited about facing her in the moot competition. Now, the reputation that she had built all these days in law school of being a smart, intelligent and beautiful girl, would fall flat if she were to lose the competition, and that too, after having had to face the easiest competitors around. Thus, the entire scheme of things. So, do we derive a moral from this story? I guess yes, but then spelling it out would ruin the joy of conjecturing it. And so, I refrain.

They say that even God can’t read the mind of a woman. Before I may be interrogated as to who these ‘they’ are, may I lay the basis for this assertion. The basis lies with the frequent philosophical chats I used to have with Atul before he got entangled with the NIFT girl. He used to look at the girls in college disdainfully and provide me with this unsolicited phrase, thereby counseling me to maintain adequate distance from them. It still perplexes me to find a plausible reason for this phrase, but for the present discussion, I do not intend to dive into the matter. The bottom line remains that even God cannot read the mind of a female, leave alone guys.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tryst with Moots

Well, as days went past by and the semester was at its full swing, Atul’s affair with Mitali also accelerated in almost a geometrical progression. For him, academic grades were of least importance and so one might even guess how he would have graded the upcoming moot-court competition. The NUJS moot court competition is by far the most happening and exciting event that happens annually. Inter-batch and intra-batch contests are held for the NUJS moot team selection. Students forsake hours of merry making and curriculum studies, just to find a place in the prestigious team, thereby gaining the opportunity to represent the college in moots organized within and without the country. I was advised by my peers and seniors to take part in the same and try my luck. I didn’t understand the role of luck in moot courts. Come on, you just cannot rely on your luck to succeed in a competition that is based on pure oratory and research skills, I thought. Anyways, I decided to try ‘my luck’.

There are certain things in a law school that drives people into stardom overnight. One amongst such things is the author of moot problems. The problem-setter’s or the author’s name is usually mentioned as a footnote with the much hyped ‘©’ appearing along with it. I often wondered whether law school students, who are generally expert plagiarisers, could hardly produce such geniuses who could ‘create’ legal problems over which hundreds of students could debate upon. Nonetheless, as potential mooters, we were not supposed to raise such queries, as the implications could easily be conjectured.

We were given five days to prepare our ‘memorials’ and submit them to the ‘moot – court society’. The other thing that attracts major attention and distraction of students in a law school is the number of ‘societies’ that are formed, either by ambitious and opportunistic students, or by various departments in the college. Elaborate plans are formulated at the inception of these societies, only to be jettisoned into the unknown, once they serve the purpose of ornamenting the CVs of its members. However, every general norm has an exception – the moot court society, being one of them.

Five days was, in any case, too less of time to complete an independently researched memorial. Thus, I decided to do what all other potential mooters had already campaigned for – working ‘in groups’, which basically implied, copying, though with minor changes in the language and frills, a standard memorial written by a stud mooter, who was to be given an extravagant dinner by all of us later. The deal sounded good to me. So, the task that was to be completed in five days, got done away within a couple of hours. Next came the task of mugging the memorial and the case laws which substantiated the arguments put forth therein. Now, mugging was an exercise which children undertook to rote poems at schools, I had thought. Law was a subject to be comprehended from law books and analysed and debated at courts of law. However, this business of mooting revealed yet another aspect of legal studies. ‘One should be ‘thorough’ with the memorials, ‘thorough’ enough to refer and cross refer any point of law discussed in it while arguing one’s case in front of the judges’, I was told by one of my seniors who had the tag of being the champion in an international moot court competition.

Later in my tenure at law school, I realized that mugging and roting were infact the keys to high grades in exams. Most teachers did allow ‘bare acts’ and law texts during exams, no doubt, but it never served any purpose, as hunting for the applicable provision in a legislation of about a hundred sections, is quite an impossible task in the limited span of two hours. In any event, the case laws and quotes from landmark judgments, which are critical in impressing the examiners, could only be expectorated in the answer scripts by mugging them an hour before the exams. I wonder if this mechanism of examination at laws schools ever helps in churning good lawyers out of students who merely get trained in developing a short lived retention capacity.

So, as regards my mooting experience, I decided to ‘mug’ the memorial, which in itself was a twenty-page document with each paragraph making references to a dozen of case laws. One can imagine the pain I had to undergo in this process. For few, with high retention capacities, this was a challenge they welcomed all throughout. But in my case, had I stopped cursing myself for having undertaken the task and attempted to seriously memorise the memorial, I guess, I would have had the chance to prove myself a lesser clown.

Finally, the judgment day arrived. The court sessions were scheduled to begin at 8.30 in the morning. The very thought of getting up early, taking a shower and adorning the black suit, sickened me. With the resources I had earned in one year at college, I managed to borrow a black blazer and a black trouser, though of a different shade. I was anyways prepared to be assaulted by the judges. As if my attire mattered much. The night before my appearance in the court, I managed to read through the memorial once. That was the only occasion for me to read through the irrelevant arguments that were written in it. It was a decent indication of the wrath and hard times I had to face the next day at court. Finally, I realized my contribution to buy dinner for the original author of the memorial was an utter waste. Hopeless and cursing myself for one last time, I went off to the land of the nod and waited for the next morning.

It was nothing unusual for me at the court room the day next. The judges slaughtered me not just on points of law and the crap that was written in the submissions, but also on my general demeanor and mannerisms in the courtroom. As I had well expected this to happen, it didn’t come as a surprise. I just wondered what music the others would be facing as they too had identical memorials and similar lines of arguments to place forth in front of these self imposed judges. It is a matter of chance, I thought, for a person to be allotted a court room with familiar and friendly judges. As was always the case, I was granted the toughest court with the rudest and most arrogant seniors judging me. The only consolation was a tender smile and a word from Atul the moment I came out of the room.

‘Who are these idiots to judge you? Two years previously, they were the same as we are today. Their knowledge in law and standing in the college is based on the two years of lectures they’ve been hearing in class rooms. Let them appear in the actual law courts and face the wraths of the judges there.’

The results of the moots weren’t surprising either. I was one of the lowest in the rank list that was published by the moot court society, a clear indication that I had to give a shot at other extra – curriculars to make a name for myself. Mooting was simply not my cup of tea. There are occasions when failures do not bother you. There are times when you become an Atul. This was that occasion for me. My low grades in the moot simply reflected my inability to impress my seniors who considered themselves to be demigods while being addressed as ‘your lordships’. However, what actually surprised me was that the others who had participated in copying the same memorial had done much better than me. Infact, one amongst them even secured the highest marks. But then, as I said, it didn’t matter to me at the end of the day. Finally, I had become an Atul in one aspect of life at least.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Tale Begins

Gradually, days flew by and we were elated at the news that our classes would be conducted in our campus and our University buildings. That was the beginning of our third semester after a long two months’ break. New classrooms, new furniture, and a renovated library – all added to the charm of the college, and moreover, the enthusiasm amongst us. It was much later that we realized that this charm would gradually fade away, and for reasons justifiably so. Sociologists generally refer to a term called ‘panoptical structures’ while studying the structures of prisons and correctional homes. Despite the marvelous design and gorgeous exteriors, students generally felt claustrophobic while attending classes or simply hanging out with their loved ones. Guards seemed to be omnipresent despite all efforts by the students to avert their presence. Obviously, there was a genuine reason to be unhappy.

Every student in the batch, after having completed the first couple of semesters, felt comfortable and identified themselves to be NUJSians. Not to my amazement and surprise, Atul wasn’t amongst them. Once I happened to ask him the reason for his apparent displeasure.

‘ Atul bhai, what seems to bother you all the time, man’, I asked candidly.

‘ hmm…’

That didn’t give me a satisfactory answer, or did it? I thought to give it another try.

‘No, I mean, hardly have I seen you happy and contended with your surroundings here. I understand we’ve never been in this kind of an environment before, and so, a natural discomfort is quite obvious. Yet, I guess, we need to reconcile to the fact that all places are not the same.’

I thought adding a pinch of philosophy might just succeed in drawing an answer from this perennially mysterious chap. And to my utter amazement, an answer came. But the answer was the most shocking and heartening one I could have ever imagined.

‘Am in love’, came the reply. This was a shocking answer anyways, but what was to follow was even more gruesome to digest.

‘I don’t know why am telling you this, probably ‘cause you are one of my closest friends.  Infact, you are the only friend I have in the guy’s hostel.’

‘Don’t beat around the bush, come to the point..’ I said impatiently. This was a phrase I had learnt at law school, a sign of lawyers craving for the essence.

‘It’s Mitali. We have been seeing each other for quite some time now. I guess, you might not know her. She’s not from this college… from NIFT.”

National Institute of Fashion Technology or NIFT had its campus just opposite our’s. We used to have a gala time standing in the balcony watching the fashion shows and lovely ladies walking the ramp. NIFT was quite famous for the beauties that it hosted and guys, in rem, used to throng the area in search for their lucky day to talk to anyone of them. Well, amidst the mela of Sushmita Sens and Angelina Jolies, there were a few exceptions, I guess. Other NIFT girls used to disown them, so ‘ugly’ and ‘unpresentable’ they were at times. Infact, these exceptions came to limelight more than the others for the looks that nature had hurled upon them. Quite cruel this world can be, I used to think taking instances of these girls.

I later found out from Atul that Mitali happened to be one of these unfortunate one’s whose looks could stand out in a mob of a million, just by its sheer repulsiveness. I immediately recognized the girl from the description he gave of her. However, be it for the friendship I had with him and for the phrase that one genius had once framed, ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’, I maintained a revered and diplomatic silence. But, Atul didn’t stop then.

‘You know what, I don’t care a damn if people here laugh at me. I have fallen for her and she too loves me dearly. She’s the loveliest lady on earth for me and that’s all what matters.’

I understand that love is blind, but the epilogues that come along with it sometimes irritated me. Atul was doing just the same.

‘I have hated this place since day one. You know very well that I’m not one of those in the crowd. I believe in myself and my ambitions in life are completely different from anyone of you guys who succumb to the institutional structures.’

Being contextual is yet another lesson that law school teaches. You digress from the issue at hand and the hell befalls. But as usual, Atul ‘cared a damn’ for any of these ‘law school teachings’ and his repartees were just a consequence of the same. What had ‘succumbing to institutional structures’ to do with Atul falling in love with the ugliest of girls around!

‘Anyways, let’s keep all these talks aside. Tell me, when did you start meeting her and when did it all happen. You must have had a bit of fun, isn’t it.’ I wanted to add a bit of humour in the conversation and had no intentions otherwise. But very obviously, it fell into the ears of the wrong person at the wrong time.

‘What do you mean by that? My love for her is pure and has nothing to do with physicality. Do you understand that…and never repeat this mistake again. Yes, I have been meeting her for the last couple of months and fell in love sometime during those days.’

The last couple of months were vacations I thought. So, did Atul come all the way from his hometown just to meet Mitali and fall for her? But then, I didn’t have the guts to ask him that and let him do most of the talking. There are times when you should allow a person to speak for himself without interrogating him. The more you question him, the lesser will he speak content.

‘While you obsessed students were busy spoiling your lives interning in law chambers and NGO’s, I spent time with Mitali and discovered the greatest desire in my life. She might not be the most beautiful girl on the planet for you guys, but she’s undoubtedly the most soft-hearted person I have ever met in my life. The best personification of elegance, charm and candour, this is Mitali.’

During this tete-e-tete with Atul, I for once, tended to believe in the age old story that there’s always someone in the world who has a partner awaiting his or her arrival. Even an as unimpressive girl as Mitali did have someone for her, in the form and shape of Atul. And Atul, on his part thought that Mitali was the chosen one for him.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The 'Aranya Bhavan' days

Ya ya… ‘am sorry… for two reasons…

First, it’s been over 20 days since I posted my last bit. The one thing that law school taught me, and taught me well, was to make fancy excuses for every folly that could piss off the teachers. Not that I want to exert my skill at it today, just that reasons of lack of time and over-piling of work, could possible top the charts if I were to do so.  Anyways, here’s a consolation for my limited readers (by the way, the stats say that my readership is rising!!! quite surprising.. isn’t it??) – I promise to step up my frequency of writing by at least 50%, going forward.

Second, I’ve decided to write more about my college before I start on Atul. Reason – I don’t know… perhaps, I need to build the suspense of bringing him on stage – not for long though. I think, my next post should raise the curtains.

Okay. So, here we go.

As days past by in NUJS, I realized the sands of time were mercilessly slipping away. Indeed, time is just like sand at a sea beach, the firmer you try to grasp it, the faster it slips away. Life at law school, or for that matter at any college or university I presume, is so exciting and happening that every soul wishes it to stay for eternity. Going to bed, getting up for classes, partying out or simply sitting over mugs of booze in the hostel terrace at nights – everything seems to be at ready disposal with no guardian to command. The only impediments are the mandatory requirements of attendances and the deadlines set by the University, which frankly enough, fade into pale insignificance in the daily lives of students.

In my first year, the college did not have its own building and campus. We had to march to a nearby building rechristened as ‘Aranya Bhawan’ for attending our classes. The University had taken one floor on lease, I guess, for a couple of years while our own building was being put to shape. Notwithstanding, the University had arranged for our accommodation in the hostel premises inside the campus. Hence, our job was to get up everyday at around nine and get ready for classes half an hour hence. It is rather ironical that during its primitive days, the college seemed to attract better faculty than in its later days after having grown in age and infrastructure.

Classes were taken on time without any breaks in between, resulting in us sitting for almost five hours at a stretch, listening to subjects like history, political science, sociology and economics, the necessity of which, till date, most of us fail to understand. We were made to believe that these subjects would aid us in comprehending law from a perspective unknown to the ‘ordinary’ lawyer and that it would propel us to be Fali Narimans and Ram Jethmalanis one day. I wonder whether these stalwarts ever read such subjects in their law courses and if so, whether they did so knowing their utilities in legal practice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Prolegomenon

A sunny afternoon in June, 2002 marked the beginning of an epic as I stepped into the campus of the National University of Juridical Sciences, a so-called ‘premier law school’ striving to achieve ‘excellence’ in legal education and training. Having read about the college in the dailies and recommended by most lawyers in my home-town, I was distinctly pleased to have qualified the written test and see myself as a budding lawyer in the years to come. A yet-to-be completed building, on the side of the ‘EM bypass’ in Kolkata, the college did not have much of a history to share. What it had for certain, was a bright future and perhaps an even brighter prospect for the students who passed out of it. Thus, just three years since its inception though, I had good reasons to join the college and set forth for a journey into the world of legal studies.

Kolkata was never an alien land for me, as I had been a frequent visitor to this ‘city of joy’ since my early childhood. Memories flood my mind of the regular journeys I used to undertake to this city – reasons would be ubiquitous, conclusion only in the unison. My awe and admiration for the city had seen no horizon – the Howrah railway station, the Bridge, plethora of ambassador cabs, and the vast multitude of people – everything had a story to share. Every aspect of the city seemed to unfold its own history wailing for someone to listen to it.

In its short history of about ten years, the National University of Juridical Sciences has achieved laurels from across the globe for its curricular and extra-curricular activities – laurels which very few universities in India can take pride of. Be it in the arena of moot courts where law students compete in their advocacy skills, or in the sphere of publications in national and international legal journals, or just in the sphere of winning scholarships for further education abroad, NUJS students have shown their mettle, enough to take on the world by themselves. Yet, behind all these success stories which seem to be the only foundational determinants of life at a law school, there is a dimensionally different paradigm – the paradigm of an average law student in college who struggles to cope with the academic, cultural and economic torques which the same institution seems to hurl every moment.

Here begins the tale of Atul Singh – nothing heroic in it, as he was never a Bonaparte in the making. It is but a narration of the life of a simple and moderately poor boy, from the northern parts of Jharkhand, in law school. One may conjecture a story involving an austere lad possessed of stupendous legal acumen, who makes a mark in the extremely competitive conditions of law school, who quotes the most gorgeous lady in the batch and gets the highest paying job in US after having completed five years of training in legal education. Well, be it the chance of destiny or the misfortunes of the reader, the accounts to follow have nothing to convey in such lines. In fact, Atul’s stay in law school had no nuance of similarity with the story of a boy who paves the way for his success through all odds. What more, I would rather call Atul’s stay in college a complete waste, as after half a decade in Kolkata, he still remained the same boy, with perhaps the same legal intellect and a love story which would only be worth a smile of pity from the readers.

Why Atul?

Given these characteristic fallacies in the account of Atul Singh, why am I being compelled to write about him at all? Why did I not find the story of a guy who broke all academic records in the University’s brief history and later went on to join the best university abroad for higher studies? Or why did I not find apt to narrate the story of one of the intensely beautiful girls in college, who spent her days in NUJS simply counting the number of boys who fell flat after having got rejected.

I believe, with all the humility that a law school student can possess, acquiring exceptionally high grades in examinations at law school requires no genius mind. It is indeed a travesty of fate and the system that governs the educational spectrum of the country that qualification of students in any subject is, in-turn, subject to their performance in a test spanning for a couple of hours. Having witnessed the pattern of curriculum in a law school and the modes of examinations being conducted, I guess, I would not be completely wrong to conclude that a system which lays Cumulative Grade Point Average (as that is the criteria for determining the ranks of students) as a manifestation of the legal knowledge of a student, is nothing more than a mere sham. In the alternative – and for the consolation of those who have been fortunate enough to flaunt their CVs with the high ranks – ranks and CGPAs do reflect certain skills of students no doubt – for instance, the wit to answer legal problems in the most concise yet comprehensive form and in the shortest time, the intelligence to relate a life problem with the provisions of certain legislative enactments and tracing suitable remedies that courts of law can provide for, and a sharp retention capacity of retaining a catena of judicial pronouncements and legislative provisions and citing them while answering the queries – yet, obtaining these skills deserves no special and exceptional mention besides just the ordinary words of praise. Every law student, I believe, is expected to develop a sharp wit, a good intellect to apply the law-in-books to the practical life problems and a decent retention capacity to know, at the least, ‘where to find the law’. Without these qualifications, the holder of a Legam Baccalereus degree may well become an advocate, but not a lawyer. This explains the relatively miniscule significance that I have accorded to the so-called ‘record breaker’ in academics in comparison to the rather simple, non-exciting, nonchalant and dismissive tale of Atul Singh.

Having humbly understated the achievements of toppers in a law school, let us now divert our discussion towards a more interesting and perhaps, a more engrossing, issue. Ladies and the library – these are the two factors which keep guys in college ever willing to stay in the campus even while there may be other compelling reasons to do otherwise. Indeed, the campus of NUJS, as is the case with other professional colleges and Universities globally, has been a witness to few of the simplest yet gorgeous, gorgeous yet brainless, brainless yet immensely curt, and curt yet occasionally boisterous ladies that the present societal superstructures are bestowed with. In the brief history of eight years that NUJS had seen till I graduated in 2007, there had been more than a couple of ‘scandals’ that had made their rounds among the students who were always on the prowl for gossips. Infact, these gossips used to be the ingredients of long deliberations in both the boys’ as well as the ladies’ halls of residences, particularly, during the nights when students were normally expected to be busy researching legal textbooks and indulge in such other mundane activities. With better things to do and interesting discussions to participate in, these academic exercises were meant to take the backseat and, fortunately for everyone (including the college administration), they did get the seat they deserved!

Lovely ladies, as I witnessed at law school, and as was the general observation of most of my peers, would more often gloat over the number of boys who never stopped trying to build impressions – impressions of a chivalric hero, impressions that would be uniquely different from the ones made by other potential ‘rivals’ – enough to win them. Their days would pass by thinking about the attires they would wear the next hour and the nights chatting either amongst themselves, or with their potential wooers. Indeed, ‘potential’ is the word. Boys usually became the guinea pigs for these ladies who were to be tried, tested and then either ‘accepted’ for a relatively short time or jettisoned into the mockers’ discussions. For the lucky few, who fell in the former class of wooers, their term would undoubtedly be the most exciting and ‘happening’ phase in law school. They would build memories worth cherishing a life time as compared to those unlucky many who would pass few days in melancholy, few in self dejection, few in self pity and the rest slandering the lady who once used to be the burning flame in their lives.

I decide to keep this account as short as it was, for fear of accusations of chauvinistic and inconsiderate generalized statements against beautiful ladies at law school. Every single boy at law school, during my days, yearned to be ‘liked’ and ‘adored’ by the female beauties, whether or not they happened to be in the same batch. And yes, all boys are not blind enough to ignore the negatives in the female race, if at all they exist. Speaking personally, I could easily cite a number of instances where a moderately intelligent boy began a phenomenal march to the higher scales in the rank list after he successfully ‘conquered’ the girl he liked. Indeed, the power of love and the lady anchoring it cannot be denied after having witnessed such phenomena. Further, having seen many instances of conglomerations of intelligence, smartness and inexplicable beauty in the same female, one can never doubt the fact that females could possibly make the best lawyers. Reasons for their success in the race to the top of the chart may be many, some despicable by nature and some stunning and awestrucking. Interestingly, the law school campus clearly proves this assertion.

Given the multifarious interesting issues that can be written about the girls at law school, I still decided to have Atul as the hero of my creation, and not for insufficient reasons. What would then explain the rather partial treatment that Atul has received, to be preferred over other ‘interesting’ people who actually achieved something, either academically or otherwise, at law school. Is it the bond of friendship that I and the central character shared amongst us that compelled me to write about him? Is it my sense of sympathy that provoked something to be written about Atul, who would otherwise remain in oblivion, as was always the case with him as a law student? Or, is it an unjustified attempt to trivialize the character of a secluded person, a character which could hardly be understood by any of the fellow inmates in the five long years that NUJS afforded.

Well, to state briefly, Atul Singh’s character epitomizes a complete tale of a life at law school. I realised, during my tenure at this ‘temple of justice’ that a sketch of Atul’s life here would inevitably incorporate all those aspects of law school, ignoring which would render the entire account a futile attempt. A complete narration of his life at NUJS would bring to light the anecdotes of the toppers and high rankers as well as the heroics of the fellow students whose conquests over their respective lady loves could by themselves constitute novels and classics. It would also highlight the tales of the ladies at law school whose eloquence, elegance and mannerisms would put the English royal families of yesteryears to shame. The character of Atul would merely be used as a tool to narrate the activities that, in turn, characterized the nuances of law school education. The class room teachings, the on-campus activities, the scene beyond the classrooms, the recruitment, and obviously, the ladies – all these aspects, I believe, could be better comprehended only by having Atul’s character as the basic anchor and foundational support.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why 'Legally Kidding'

Since the day I graduated from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, I kept cherishing the idea of writing a letter to my University thanking it for all that it gave me, and surely too, for all that it took from me. But, not so late in the day, a brahminical idea dawned upon my puny and incapable self - writing a fiction based on my days at law school. Oh.. wait.. wait... its not that I am a prolific writer and that I ever did it for the money that bestsellers fetch these days. And for all my cynical readers (and I hope, I have many), this blog's a proof of my pious and metaphysical bent of mind!!!!

This forum wishes to present to you a purely fictional story, set in the background of my law school. Don't worry.. I wouldn't hurl upon you a volumnious book at one go. Com'mon, even I need the time to keep writing the script for the following sequels!!!! A good freind of mine once quoted a celebrated author.. he said something to the effect that 'writing a book is much like delivering a baby... fun to concieve but equally painful to deliver'. I can just hope (against hope) that I'll succeed in finishing my novel. In case I do, I would perhaps boast of having saluted my alma mater in a way, not may people are lucky to do.

For start-ups, here's what my creation wishes to give to its readers.

Ever since the inception of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, in 1987, legal education in India has witnessed a rapid metamorphosis. The founding of the Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad and the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata in 1998 and 1999 respectively, have only gone ahead to introduce law as a refreshing career option for students all across the country. So much so, that these autonomous universities are commonly called the ‘law schools’, with more to be added to the list in the near and distant future.

Having graduated from the National University of Juridical Sciences (in short, NUJS) in 2007, the author was a witness to a unique ‘law school culture’ during the span of five years he spent in Kolkata. In this span, he saw unparalleled academic excellence by some, international recognition to many and a marvelous environment of legal training, unexpected of any other university in the country. The laurels achieved by the university in its short history remains a feat unmatched by most law colleges, Indian and foreign alike. Besides, interesting observations of the lives of faculty members and students coupled with the unique environs surrounding the law school was perhaps too fascinating to be penned down in the form of a novel.

However, given the apparent fame of law schools and the opportunities they seem to bestow upon the students, there is a completely different paradigm to the story, a paradigm which often remains unnoticed unless spelt out candidly and criticized constructively. A bitter truth lies behind the dazzling glory of these institutions. The system can be brutal at times and subjects of such brutality remain anonymous only to be identified years after one realizes the futility of everything that the system had to offer.

The account primarily revolves around the tale of a boy, named Atul, hailing from Deoghar, a small town in Jharkhand, who joins NUJS only to finally rebel against the elitism that permeates the law school culture. Atul encapsulates a typical prototype that is churned out by law schools year after year, which are distinguished only by the transmutation of simple and nondescript guys into complex entities bogged down by shades of incomprehensible attributes.

The novel will not be a stereotype, neither will it offer a sensational climax. But it shall certainly be an interesting story of Atul, who joined law school never willing to severe his roots to acclimatize to the cultural shift. Not to mention, he did try to bring himself upto the high standards set by the system, only to make a graceful exit when failure was at a striking distance. Poor academics and hopeless extra-curriculars could only add to his woes, which he quite successfully camouflaged in his apparent inclination for active politics. And with law schools offering but a little scope to excel in this area of his interest, he could only salvage his esteem by having a close group of fellowers, the author being one of them. A character of self-contradictions, Atul did get some spice in his life when cupid struck chance upon him, only to take it away in the guise of unforeseen tragedies.

Besides narrating the character and the story that unfolds the life of Atul in NUJS, the novel also seeks to reflect few other aspects, perhaps typical to a law school. The immensely gorgeous ladies and their activities, the trendy guys and their courtships in campus, the election days and the political battles that take place annually – everything seek to depict a typical life at law school, and possibly the hypocrisy that surrounds it. The recruitment process and internship programs that form part of a life at law school, shall find a special mention in the account, reflecting the various dynamics that go on to make law schools much sought after by every law aspirant of today.

In a way, the novel shall seek to be a sarcasm on law schools, a sarcasm on what it has to offer and a sarcasm on what it entails. Based on various aspects of life at a law school in general, and NUJS in particular, it traverses the self inflicted ordeal that Atul set for himself struggling to make his presence conspicuous in the myriads of hypocritical dogmas encapsulating him. A little introspection would only reveal that the story of Atul is nothing but a common story of a common guy finding himself stuck in uncommon surroundings. The protagonist in the tale is not standalone. He is to be found in every product of every law school.