By: Manasi Gandhi – Batch of 2015 (NALSAR University of Law)
You know how people talk of reaching a point in their life when they are no longer sure of what they are doing and why they are doing something, etc? It’s been famously termed mid-life crisis (as if turning 40ish didn’t make you feel old enough). But if you are a law person, this existential crisis hits you twice – you will, in all probability, also hit a mid-law-school crisis. You join law school with aspirations influenced by Alan Shore or in my case Erin Brokovich and Sunderlal Bahuguna. Yes, yes, I’m one of the anal environmental law freaks. But it’s cool – I’ve learnt to temper my passion with adequate amounts of constitutional law to make it palatable for everyone else. But I’ve hit a point where I’m not sure if I’m going to stay true my original plan – the temptation to leave it all and do plain litigation work involving property and constitutional law is overwhelming. So here I am, hoping that pouring my heart out to random strangers will help me gain perspective. So far, my articles, few and far between as they are, have generally been bitchy and have rebuked you on choosing the easier way out. But I empathise today, really do, because I feel like a sell-out myself. Constitutional law is just too damn interesting, damn it!
Lets rewind a couple of years and see where this all began. I wanted to be a vet and vehemently so. While still in my angst-y phase, my cousin continued the family tradition of going to NLS – yes, I’m the black sheep of my family for not having gone to NLS – and law seemed interesting. Another cousin followed and law was suddenly a viable alternative to veterinary. While I was still confused, I saw two birds die – one flew into my room, hit its wing against the fan and hit the wall. The other was a more gruesome death – the pigeon hit the fan and blew up in a mass of feathers and blood all over me while I was still sleeping. That is how my dream of saving non-human lives died a violent gory death. Law remained the only option thereafter for making a contribution to society while still earning a livelihood.
I prepared for the CLAT for a total of 2 months – do not follow my example, this all played out as a matter of luck and luck alone. My parents, especially my mother had certain conditions though. It was NLS or GLC – every other law school had some serious unacceptable flaw. I gave the CLAT, got through to NALSAR and then began the arduous process of emotionally blackmailing my parents into letting me go. It took a week of crying and puppy-dog faces to convince my mother to grant me consent – I pay the price for having emotionally blackmailed her even today when I fight with her over something trivial.
I arrived in NALSAR, full of hope, to be India’s Erin Brokovich. In my first semester, I learnt of M C Mehta’s million cases in environmental tort law and fell in love. It was where I belonged. I was happy that I’d found my place – I didn’t even miss home that much. And then things took a turn for the worse. My closest friends back home moved to the States and I felt alone and vulnerable. They’d always been a phone call away and now it the only option was Skype while adjusting for time zones. It was difficult. And then the NALSAR administration went outright crazy. We had a paper leak scam and then we had blatant insensitivity and then a Judges’ report on the administrative and financial frauds, now fondly referred to as Nalsargate. All this took over my life completely in a mere semester and my dreams crashed. Law school was supposed be where the future of the nation is nurtured – weren’t most of the great political game-changers people with legal backgrounds? A place which was rotting on the inside could not possibly produce lawyers who put principles before profit – something was wrong and not just with NALSAR. Every friend from another law school that I spoke to, told me of the apathy to issues of social justice and the blind emphasis given to corporate law and firm jobs. I wanted to run away and start over someplace else.
And then the administration here changed. The new VC with his “New Deal” gave me hope, hope that a law school is not just a factory of arse-licking law-firm-minions. It has the potential to be the centre for conversation, an institution with the resources and adequate legitimacy to stand up for what is right. When NALSAR sent in a recommendation to the Verma Committee on Sexual Harassment, I’ve never been more proud to call it my alma mater.
So where is this rant leading upto? Just this that law school is a place where you think and learn to stand up for what you believe is right. That your opinion, whatever it may be, is your entitlement – the only pre-condition being, you must be able to justify it. An opinion based on half-knowledge is not an opinion but an instance of delusional self-worth. You can come to law school to join a corporate firm but if you do that only for the money, then my friend, you have a sorry slave-like life ahead of you. You can come to law school because you feel the criminal underbelly of Indian society is mistreated. You can come to law school if you want to be the next PM. You can come to law school if only to find yourself. You can come to law school and change your mind about everything you’ve wanted from life. But whatever you do, stay true to yourself, be honest with yourself because the one thing NALSAR has taught me is just this that it is easiest to lie to yourself.