Originally published on 17th of August, 2012.
Call me whatever you wish. I have made a request for anonymity so as to afford myself an opportunity to write from the heart without being accused of seeking attention, or any form of hypocrisy.
The news of Wasim Iqbal’s death came as a rude blow. I don’t make any pretension of knowing him. I’d never heard of him before I read that he had died. Worse, he had killed himself. A mother waiting eagerly outside NUJS to take her son home for Eid was greeted instead by his dead body. My generation lost another of its kin. Through all this, I feel an incomprehensible sense of loss for not being able to know Wasim personally before it happened. He took this step, supposedly, because he had failed four papers out of five, and would be repeating a year in law school.
Wasim’s death has reopened the debate that unfolded before my eyes in October 2009 when NALSAR lost someone in similar circumstances. Are we being tested too hard? Is the system too rigid for everyone to live up to? Is law school success or failure so significant that human life loses its significance?
No one can point out which part of the system is most rotten, but there is something bloody rotten about it as a whole. From Day 1 in law school, everyone is competing for the coveted job. Moots, debates, quizzes, papers, editorial positions are means to achieve that end. From Day 1, it’s one for one, and none for all. You’re on your own. ‘Eye of the Tiger’ rings through your mind. There are those fortunate few who discover the escape route of inebriation early in law school, only to realize much later that there is no escape. From the day you step foot in the ‘hallowed’ corridors of these ‘islands of excellence’, you run a race for half a decade. The pressure of performance creates a malaise in our minds, which leads us to make our notions of right and wrong a bit too fluid. It leads us to exert ourselves to inhuman levels at times. It leads us to step on our pride and suck up to people half our intellect in order to get grades. We spend sleepless nights writing memorials, studying for exams, finishing submissions, or just emptily gazing into space while smoking a cigarette, pondering about our existence here, and whether we’re playing it right. One needn’t be Einstein to figure out that in law schools like ours, you either fall in line or fall out. Some take the battle through five years, and some chose to discard it on the way. I don’t know which side Wasim played at, and frankly, I don’t care. I have lost him forever, without ever having known him, and nothing can bring him back.
In my opinion (which I make without any claim of humility), our examination system needs a strong relook, particularly because the proportional relation between mugging and grades is too obvious for us to comfortably ignore it. We need a relook because it conspicuously rejects those of us who don’t agree with it. We need a more humane approach towards those of us who have somewhere decided not to fight the half-decade long battle with the system. Our CVs, and more particularly our academic performance through these years, should not be the final determinant of who we are, and what we can do with our lives. Academic underperformance in law schools should not be a Goliath of such proportions that the David in us is left without any chance of conquering it and moving on.
The purpose of this article wasn’t to pontificate or repeat what has been said ad nauseum, but just to pay my personal homage to our man Wasim, and give myself an answer for why he chose to leave us. With every bit of determination and hope that I can muster, I pray that you’re in a better place. Go in peace, my brother.
(The author is a student currently reading in the 5th Year of the B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) Course at NALSAR University of Law. Due to reasons cited above, he has chosen to remain anonymous.)