As the first edition of GNLUMUN approaches, I sat down over snacks for a conversation with Secretary-General Amrita Mohan (5th year), and Deputy Secretary-General, Udita Bhatt (4th year) to get them as nostalgic as I possibly could, for our first post on Senioritis.
On Why Law
Amrita: This may sound really clichéd, but I come from a family of Lawyers. I’ve grown up wearing my grand-dads robes, and all my family members discussing Law over dinner – so it’s always been an option for me. After applying for Economics (Hons.) to DU (where the cut-off was 99%), I decided to take CLAT, and here I am.
Udita: My story
is quite convoluted. A senior of mine actually put the seed in my head – she saw me as a Lawyer in the courtroom. I started out wanting to do Civils (IFS in particular) – I’d always pick news about North Korea over learning about Indian Politics. I looked at the Law school curriculum and realized it would help me preparation for Civils. That’s when I decided to take CLAT.
On First Year
Amrita: First year is so hazy in my memory. What I do remember was not making it past my first intra-round. I impromptu booked tickets back home and went home for a week. It was extremely heartbreaking. When I came back, things were different. I didn’t care about mooting anymore.
Udita: Yeah, I didn’t make it past my own batch mates either.
And then they did brilliantly at Manfred Lachs (Udita – 2014 Asia/Pacific Best Memorial + Finalist) and Jessup (Amrita – 2016 India National Round Winner).
Amrita: I had a seven-week long internship, my bad steak just continued throughout the first year. In December, they floated the NLS negotiation competition. You didn’t need any preparation – they’d give you a problem 15 minutes prior to the competition. I was another one of my batchmates, and neither of us knew what it would be like – we thought it might be like a debate of some kind.
So, we went to NLS, chilled and thought it would be a gala time until we were up against NLU-Delhi. They had these fat Corporate Law books and Ramaiyyas and even produced their own fake cheques. We had to make do with a blank sheet of paper and passed it off as our offer – it was so juvenile!
The next semester I MUNed at BITSMUN Goa – I used the opportunity to travel Goa. It was also my first ever Pentagram, which was too much fun on the old campus. All in all, the first year was a lot of trial and error for me.
Udita: Well, for someone not used to being away from home for more than 2-3 days at a stretch, it was something my parents and I took some time to get used to. I did nothing (no moots, MUNs or debates). I guess the only thing I managed fairly well was academics. I found myself studying better/more than I did in school, because of the fact that the subjects were so engaging, and there were some good faculty – especially in the stream subjects. It wasn’t because I wanted to get the top rank. I had the time to spare in first year.
It was also about getting to know people. For the first time, I could stay up till 2/3 AM just talking to people. I mean, back home, there wasn’t this type of company. You need to remember, we didn’t use mobile phones as much back then. I had my first phone in 10th, but the type of students we were, you couldn’t envisage picking up the phone and calling someone at 10 PM. I was able to explore the social side of me, which was very nice.
On Classes and Faculty
Amrita: Five years is a long time, but every semester is so short, and we end up studying 60-odd subjects, so it’s tough to remember exact details, but, Professor wise, I think Professor RK Singh was outstanding – he really struck a chord with me. Classroom discussion wise, Pratima ma’am is a class apart. And Girish sir, with his stories. There aren’t specific incidents I can recall, but there’s this particular feeling you associate with a professor – maybe a smirk, or a laugh. Some professors at college are very brave, very outspoken, which is very charming to see.
Udita: There are also some who know everything, about every student. I mean, there are occasions where they will point out things about the students in a manner where you can’t take offense.
Amrita: You would think that you come to college and be more outspoken, especially because it is a law school, but that didn’t happen here because we don’t have as many forums. Back then, we had the inter-batch e-mails, where we could express our grievances, but now, they’ve stopped that too. So, people become lazy and stop caring after sometime. Some professors, however, show you that even in this setup, you can still be brave, that you can still stand by your values and voice them.
On Old Campus and Moving to Attalika Avenue
Amrita: Our first year that way was crazy. First semester was the old hostel and the old academic block. Second semester was the old hostel, new academic block, which meant that we would travel up and down every day, which was a gala scene. There were tiny buses, and we would be late, and sit on the rooftop of buses! We moved here only during third semester.
Udita: What you won’t know, is that the Boys’ Hostel hadn’t been constructed initially, so everyone was put up in the current Girls’ Hostel. We had this HUGE wall with wired fencing, but you could still see across – which was a source of many humorous incidents. First year that way, was very enjoyable for us because there was this lovely sense of camaraderie – just knowing that people were right across. This was despite the fact that people had to put up with tiny double rooms.
Amrita: We moved in from this palatial apartment type place on the old campus, which were residential quarters given to government school teachers. So you had one room, one bedroom, one pantry, one dressing space and then two bathrooms – all between two people. It was massive! We had small blocks of these rooms, and bang in the middle was The Island – where people got together and played football, cricket. I mean, it was tiny – about a quarter of the current Green Oval, but it was so cute. It was like a gated community, where everyone was together. Our acoustic nights were a really cozy place, with bonfires.
So moving from there, to tiny matchbox places like these was quite tough on us.
Udita: Yeah, we came to a vast, desolate place where the horizon stretched on and on. You should remember that the entire second half of campus – the auditorium, the hostel – it hadn’t even begun construction, so campus was quite empty. We were virtually in the middle of nowhere.
Amrita: I don’t think we had these many eateries either – just Radhey’s and the Galla. No Lovely or Havmor. We ended up going to Info for everything.
On Taboos and Changing Perceptions
Amrita: BITSMUN was my first MUN in college. I had MUNed at school earlier, which had been quite intense – and I didn’t think many people did it in college, but on the contrary, quite a few engineering students take it quite seriously. BITSMUN was in Goa, so things didn’t really run as per plan. Everyone turned up hungover to committee, and the Chairs would distribute aspirins! The first hour was largely about, what did you drink last night? How was the party?
This was quite a shock for me. I come from a very conservative, South Indian family (quintessential TamBrahm, adds Udita), just a very protected environment. I came to college, and I heard my neighbors were doing drugs, and I remember asking Anu, “What’s happening to our generation?”
I found it quite bold back then. So, Goa was quite a new experience for me. I vouched not to be swayed by peer pressure that day.
Things changed when I started to intern, though. I found that one way of networking was through having social drinks. It is the harsh reality of the profession. I mean, over 5 years, you learn how to moderate between two worlds. You don’t have to be a party animal, but you don’t need to be the wuss that I was in the first year. I found that balance, over time.
There has been a huge change in my perception since I first came to Law school. People who knew me before, don’t necessarily recognize the type of person I am now. I still stand for the same values, but I was more vocal then. I’ve begun to accept things a lot more now.
On the MUN culture at college
Amrita: My second MUN was Stella Maris, in Chennai. Very normal – nothing spectacular. That’s when I realized that the entire activity had become very school-like. I didn’t find it as engaging anymore.
I had done two rounds of mooting by then and picked up Surana & Surana. Our problem had released by then, and when I was reading on International Taxation in my second year – which was very exotic because not many 4th years also know too much about it. (They won that moot, too)
That’s when I stopped. Rajalakshmi was my teammate then, and was President of the Debating Society, and we did wonder whether we should be MUNing more. She floated the idea of an MUN society within the Debating Circle.
Later on, Kunal Chaturvedi, from her batch, suggested for a committee within the Center for Public International Law, instead of making it another SAC or Debating Society event. That way it would be more academic, and we hoped we would get more support from the administration. And that’s how MUNSoc began.
Udita: I remember, the two of us were so nervous when we started again. We felt so rusty, and so old while organizing intras for you guys. Things got real then – we had to know procedure, know committee details and be really well-versed with current affairs
Amrita: Yeah, at Law school, you’d believe you would know about everything, having studied so many subjects, but by the end of 4th year, when you start streamlining what you’re going to study, you stop reading other things as much. So, if you ask me about anything random, I might not know about it. But that can’t be an excuse – not at an MUN, nor in real life. In 4th year/5th year, you can’t use the excuse of being a first year to ask doubts.
Udita: Amrita wasn’t here for the first intras, so a lot of the responsibility fell on me. She’d atleast done a few MUNs after coming here, but I hadn’t – things kept coming in the way, whether they were continuous evaluations, or tests, or just general drama. I never got back to MUN until Amrita sent me a voice note asking me, specifically to be there.
That went without saying. I had entertained the idea of organizing an MUN for our college for a long time, so I knew I would be a part of the committee. However, I never anticipated becoming Deputy Secretary-General – that happened by fluke.
The intras made me realize how much I missed MUNing. For someone who claimed International Relations was her favorite subject matter, and would always resort to reading the BBC instead of playing a game on her phone, MUNs were something I didn’t do at college, so I was really glad to be a part of it all over again.
On GNLUMUN 2016
Udita: You have no idea how real this is. Until 18th March, when we see banners and our OC in place, and people walking in, it will not feel real.
Amrita: Both Udita and I have never worked specifically for one committee, so we’ve never worked with the administration before. Having an idea is something, but executing it at GNLU is something else. Things here keep changing, and we don’t get notified of it. Our Faculty Convener is also new. So it’s a learning process for all of us – we’re learning things every day.
Udita: It’s safe to say, the administration keeps us on our toes.
Amrita: This is completely for college. I felt, till 4th year, that I hadn’t done anything for college, which had given me so much. I loved mooting, but so what? Kunal felt the same way, and after he came back from his internship at the ILC, he realized we needed increased exposure to International Relations and International Law, and that’s what MUNSoc is here to do.
Udita: GNLUMUN will be different because we’re hoping to bring legal backing to what usually goes in the name of diplomacy and superior speaking skills. We want delegates to have a standard of research and be well-versed with problems of International Law, because that is what any UN simulation aims to do.
Amrita: It isn’t about picking a statement made by a Head of State and playing around with it. It’s about understanding your diplomacy, and doing so in a legal context.
Udita: It’s pretty easy for a USA or a UK to boss committee. We don’t want them to do that simply because they are permanent members, but because they have solid research to back them up. International Law is inherently weak, and mostly subservient to national interests, but that needs change. That’s why we deliberated a lot over agendas and committees. We didn’t want typical committees, with typical agendas. There’s a mix of traditional agendas and unconventional ones, so we’re hoping to incentivize research and creativity. That’s how GNLUMUN will be different.
To meet these incredible people in person (and so many more), apply for GNLUMUN 2016 now!: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1uUFKv_3a5PbIontPBbqDEcM4-Gqq316KMqgOIQNGu38/viewform?c=0&w=1
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