Senioritis

0.11: GNLU

Note: As the end of semester and CLAT draws closer, I wanted to show that you can pursue a plethora of things at law school & that your ‘life’ – constituting all of your interests, passions and aspirations  can remain intact even after you come here. Nothing needs to change. I decided to sit with Nuhar Bansal, a fifth-year at the Gujarat National Law University, to ask her what Theatre means to her and how this definition has evolved over 5 years. What ensued was a marvelous hour-long discussion, one that I will remember and cherish. Thank you, Nuhar. 

                                                                                            – Tejas Rao

The First Year of Law School

The memory that stands out the most has to be my Theatre Club Audition. Theatre Club had been established by my immediate seniors – it was the first year that the rest of the college was introduced to theatre as an activity. My audition was really fun. The head, Kunal Chaturvedi asked all first years to line up, asked me to enact being a lesbian coming out to her family, gave me 5 minutes to prepare, and said, “Go figure”. I wanted to make it stand out. My scene went a little bit like this. As usual, I was talking to my girlfriend on my phone, when my mother walks in, setting off panic alarms, and I decide to come out to her. After explaining everything to her, I run out of the room. Following on from this, I acted as my mother, who then is melodramatic, but calls her girlfriend and says, “Guess what, my daughter is just like me”. Kunal was rather amused, haha.

Another thing is also the way our hostels were designed on the old campus. Essentially, it was a bachelor pad type thing – very apartment like, with multiple blocks. Each room was pretty big, with a pantry, a bedroom and a washroom – really comfortable. The reason I’m detailing this is because the one thing I see in my batch, is that the structure of buildings and blocks has stayed throughout. What I mean, is that our closest friends are from those blocks we used to live in, even today. My closest friend, is my old neighbor. This definitely won’t exist with your batch, for example. It used to be really homely.

I’m also inclined to mention a fun memory here. Women’s clothing in India doesn’t come with pockets, and I hate holding things in my hand. As a result, I had a green sling bag, which always contained my keys, my phone and my money – three essentials, as I’m sure you’re now accustomed to. I never moved anywhere without it. In my first month of college, I was known as “green-bag girl”. My green bag – the most inconsequential thing, became my identity.

The Interest in Theatre

I’ve always been interested in Dramatics, which comes from my family. Both my parents are really academic, but are equally inclined toward sports and extra-curricular activities. My nanu actually ran away from home to go to Bombay and become an actor, so I think I’m carrying the genes pretty well. I was the head of the theatre club at Christ Junior College (Bangalore), so the step to theatre at college was only natural. I must admit, however, that it was not a passion – it became a passion only after coming here.

Changes at College

I’m going to talk about two things here. The infrastructure and the social culture here, and you’ll see that the changes in infrastructure has impacted the social culture greatly. Back then, with my generation and the batches above us, things were very personal. Conversations were very personal, and there was a lot less of “What’s up?” type conversations. People waited for you to answer, instead of it merely being a greeting. The bonding was very strong. This could also be because of the way we perceived ragging – everyone knew what the boundaries were. And as juniors, we knew that the bond formed through interactions would be very strong. Like, right now, I don’t know as many people, apart from Theatre juniors, or people I know through Theatre juniors, as compared to my seniors, whom I had a very good rapport with. This could also be because of the administrative instructions issued. The personal interactions aren’t there, anymore.

This extends to Theatre too. Joining the club used to be all about wanting to perform on stage, but now, it seems like a very strategic thing to do. Who’s heading the club, and whatnot – considerations that really shouldn’t matter. The outlook toward everything has changed – we overthink conversations, clubs, and a lot of other things.

I used to deny this outright at the start – because I felt I wasn’t that old, but I’m seriously telling you, there’s a generation gap between my batch and yours, and it’s now very visible. The virtual world is reflected greatly today, and the warmth seems to have left the place. My nostalgic memories are from two years ago, when I’d rather have them from this, my final year.

Theatre Club

As I’ve said above, I’ve always been interested in Theatre – I always liked acting. The genre of the play never mattered to me, and the impact of the play was something I was very into. I’d be okay with enacting a negative role if it had a positive impact – even if it meant crossing a few boundaries and being unconventional. Initially, theatre used to be synonymous with Bakchod plays – simple post dinner entertainment. It used to be pretty impromptu. In my second year, we had people coming in who had done formal theatre training – who allowed us to revamp things. That was the first time we enacted an English play, where we told people it was a serious thing. We got equal amounts of positive and negative responses – but all of it only encouraged us to explore more genres.

I’m really grateful for the type of seniors I had – Kunal, Ravinder, Harshal sir, Ankit sir, some of whom had done theatre professionally. They made me appreciate Theatre as an Art – that’s where the transition from Actor to Director happened for me. Today, I get a bigger kick from directing a play – I love to see how everything comes together – music, lights, textiles, dialogue. I now want to do all parts of Theatre. This is also when I realized that people’s outlooks toward Theatre in a non-Arts environment like a Law School, is very different.  At the end of third year, I realized that I wanted Theatre Club to make people think and not just entertain. We needed to create a space that was enabling for people, which became 0.11 (a classroom).

In addition, the rapport used to be very different. Seniors used to treat you like younger siblings, but that never affected the way we worked. Our working relationship used to be very different. I’m a very bossy person by nature, and as a second-year I yelled at a fourth-year, saying “Aisa nahi hota hai, sir”. To have that freedom was incredible.

What it does to you personally is incredible – the experience of stories, and being able to think like a different person. I’m having pangs of detachment now, and I think about what is next for the Art of Theatre at college all the time. People here really need to know what it is – their perceptions need to change.

Museum of Species in Danger (written by Rasika Aghashe after the Nirbhaya incident) is the one play that changed my life. It was the first play I directed full fledged. It’s a very strong feminist satire – Sita, for example questions Agnipariksha while Draupadi talks about the struggle of maintaining her sex timetable with five husbands. It takes you through a journey of various feminist incidents in India. It was very over-ambitious – college had never seen anything as heavy as this. It was then I realized that my audience was law-schoolites and if they weren’t ready for it, nobody would be.

That was the semester I had stopped leaving my room for meals, or for classes – I got an attendance back (which thankfully got cleared), but the toll it takes on you is real. I became a different person when I was speaking to my parents. You get under the skin of the character you are portraying. My happiness is largely derived out of seeing other people being impacted by what we’re doing. I used to see 2 people, and now I see 5 – and this incremental growth, if I have in any way contributed to it, makes me incredibly happy.

The Balancing Act

The deal with me is I can’t do something only for the sake of doing it. For example, I took Science in 12th only because I liked Math. I took a gap-year after 12th to explore things – did Arts, which changed my perspective completely, especially after doing Science. That’s exactly why, when I began liking something, I devoted myself to it.

Also, I never came here to be a full-time academic. Being in the Top 10 of my batch is never something I truly desired. I would have loved to, but it’s not something I actively wanted. Honestly, there is a time where I did not manage – I messed up my academics really badly. I’m very lucky that I have friends and genes that can pull me through. On my worst days, where I’ve done zero preparation, I got an average score. My parents never forced their expectations upon me, which I’m very grateful for. My academic performance has never been great, but it hasn’t been bad.

This also doesn’t mean that I’ve ditched other ‘law school’ activities. I’ve done 3 moots, including an international moot. I did IMLAM in my first year, followed by two national moots in my second year. I loved the learning experiences overall.

Ultimately, I think it is all your choice. This entire notion of not doing traditional law school activities has not affected me personally, and I really don’t think it should. My ambitions for Theatre are huge, and this doesn’t extend to my ambitions with Law. There are enough examples of people who are as dedicated as I am in Theatre Club with an incredible academic percentage too.

A lot of this confidence will come from the set of friends you maintain. My closest friend is a person who hadn’t been exposed to Theatre for the first 15 years of her life, and even when she did, she had heard of it mockingly. But now, when people ask her what she’s looking forward to in Chicago, where she’ll be for the next year, she listed Theatre as one of the things. She regularly reminds me that I know things she doesn’t, because of Theatre, and that gives me perspective and means a lot.

That’s why I’ve been able to enjoy my journey through Law School – the motivation helps you immensely.

I’m never going to say I should have gone to Theatre School instead, because if I didn’t come to Law School, I wouldn’t have discovered myself and my love for the art of theatre as I have and for that – I’m grateful.

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the author alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

Of MUNtains and MUN: GNLU

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.

                        – Tejas Rao

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

DISCLAIMER: The views represented above are that of the author alone and do not reflect the views of the magazine, Ergo. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of Ergo for any errors, omissions, or statements on this site, or any site to which these pages connect.  We accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

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