Please introduce yourself to our readers. Please tell us a bit about your family back ground?
I am a first generation lawyer in my family. My family has always preferred to be in government services/jobs. Although my father and grandfather have done law, they don’t practice and it was just a stepping stone for them to get government jobs.
Where did you go for your schooling? What were your aspirations when you were in school?
I was born and brought up in Jalandhar, Punjab. I have done my high schooling from Jalandhar, Lucknow and Bangalore. I have gone from many aspirations throughout school: from astronaut, to archaeologist, to fashion designer, to an economist. Strangely, law was never one of them growing up.
Which factors do you believe shaped your decision to pursue law?
As is with lot of students in India, I chose the Science stream in 11th grade, so that I could have options in competitive exam. Initially, I aimed at Eco (Hons.) after high school and in hindsight I realize that it was a decision I took because everyone around me was making it. Among many exams, I gave CLAT as well and got through NALSAR. My parents advised taking NALSAR over DU. It was only once I entered law college, I realized that there are just so many different ways of understanding and doing law, that I felt comfortable in calling myself a lawyer eventually.
Your experience at NALSAR? Apart from studies which were other activities in which you were involved passionately?
I have a love-hate relationship with NASAR. I hate the campus, because it was a residential campus, far away from the city life and very restrictive in terms of mobility. It was generally a bubble, where everyone knew everyone. But I am glad that I got to study under and with brilliant people, who in more than one ways, pushed me to think and work critically
I have always loved writing. So lot of my activities outside studies, was with legal and non-legal writing.
Could you tell about your internship experiences? What sort of internships did you prefer and what learning experiences did you gain from it?
Through the 5 years I have interned with: Sidharth Luthra, Senior Advocate; Khaitan, Sud & Partners (Corporate team); Mulla & Mulla (Litigation team); Trilegal (litigation team); Google (legal team); Alternative Law Forum; Knowledge GAP (under Swaraj Paul Barooah)
I really think it is important to explore different kinds of laws in different kinds of spaces. Now, I see so many students, as young as 1st year being obsessed with finding the next big corporate firm to intern at, but we just need to pace ourselves and really give ourselves the chance to see what we like and don’t like. Litigation, policy, research is definitely something one needs to give a shot in internships. Its only through interning at all these spaces, I was able to choose what kind of work I want to do
Any remarkable experiences during your internships that shaped your career?
Interning under Mr. Sidharth Luthra was brilliant. I got to see how legislations live out socially and how lives are really affected. It’s so easy to be objective (or at least pretend to be) in law class rooms, but its different when one interacts with people. Alternative Law Forum, is where I decided that I want to get into human rights lawyering and do it in my own unique way and not let anyone tell me how to go about it. It also made me realize that I should be looking for amazing and wonderful people to work with rather than firms/organizations/places.
What are your thoughts on activities like mooting, debating and publications in law? What skills do law students acquire by engaging themselves in such activities and their value on CV?
Mooting is so privileged over everything in law school that it’s really sad how one really needs to push themselves to be doing things other than that. Often law schools would have designated funds to give to students who go for (national and international) mooting competitions, but not for students who are publishing, going to conferences etc. That always bothered me in NALSAR. So strong was my hate for mooting, that I consciously made efforts to not be interested in it. As I mentioned before, my love is always with writing, so I channeled that into couple of legal writing publications and got onto the NALSAR Student Law Review Board.
On CV, I really think it depends on what kind of work one is pursuing after college. So, if one is trying to get into a corporate firm, from interviews patterns and placements, it seems that they look positively on mooting. While, if one is looking for LLM, or Masters in other subjects, publications are a plus point. But I think life in law school is much more than CV. Whatever one is interested in, they could just build on that. This could be debating, cultural fests, organizing movie festivals, reading groups, organizing talks/panels, anything.
You have worked at PLD – Partners for Law in Development. Please describe to us your role and experiences there. How you managed to get placed there?
Law colleges’ placement cells generally approach only particular kind of places. The firms/banks/law offices that were being called on campus weren’t really exciting for me so I started applying on my own. I started emailing people everywhere for possibility of working with/under them and then one of the people I had emailed recommended me PLD. After the application process, interviews etc. I joined the place.
I joined PLD as a Law researcher and worked on issues related to violence against women. It is a feminist organization embedded in women’s rights movement in India. It helped me build my own sense of feminism, while at the same time realizing how toxic it gets to work and think with casteist savarnas. It gave me insights into politics and dynamics of civil society spaces in Delhi (and to some extent, India).
Should aspiring law students prefer NLUs over conventional universities? What is better at NLUs; except high fees and “great infrastructure”?
I think the success of any college experience is the intellectual and creative stimulation one gets in a campus and gets the avenues to explore themselves in whatever ways they want. In that sense, I really think what kind of faculty, student-teacher relationship, different kinds of engaging discourses the college encourages is what a person needs to look for before going to any college. I really don’t believe in the NLUs/non-NLUs (or within NLUs) hierarchies. The high fee across law colleges is severely cutting down on access to majority of people and sadly, every year, all students just look/think the same.
Did you find that your law school education had prepared you sufficiently for the many tasks you were required to execute during your internships and later at your job?
College teaches you basics and the fundamental legal tools, knowledge and methods to deal with different kinds of situations. In that context, I think law school education definitely helped me carry out my work in internships and elsewhere.
How did you come to work at TISS? Please describe to us your role and experiences there?
While I was about to complete a year at PLD, a friend offered me a job to work at a very exciting project. This project is placed at Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies at TISS. It is a project which studies discrimination based on non-normative gender and sexuality. In particular, I work with the Political Formations team which is exploring unruly politics in India (Delhi in particular) w.r.t institutional student movement, political parties and the erotics of the relationship between citizens and political leaders. I am a Research Assistant and the project includes both research and ethnographic work.
You have chosen unconventional approach in your career. From where did you get inspired? Is there any story behind it?
I have always subverted norms around me. So, doing the work one does, is just an extension of how one lives their life. I think I have always just been so bored with the ordinary, that it pushed me to do things/ think differently. I honestly believe, the key is to just stop bothering about what others are doing and just do your own thing and be in competition with yourself. Live for yourself and not your CV. In NALSAR, I felt how upsetting it used to be for people who are constantly trying to stay on top of the class, trying for the next big moot, or winning the next argument in class, or impressing this or that teacher, and it made me realize that I am proud of not subscribing to the meritorious notions of a perfect law student. I passed with barely above average CGPA, participated in 0 moots, have not won any gold medal and couldn’t be more happier with what I am or have become.
What would be your parting message to law students?
Don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable and exploring. And pay attention in CPC classes (I regrettably never did and realize now how important the subject is). A big shout-out to my fellow SC/ST law students: You deserve all the success and don’t let anyone tell you what you are capable of.
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