Law School Lore: Starting Line
[I did train to become a lawyer and that involved spending half a decade in a residential campus with some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever known. This is a series on things we did there which might give context on why one exhibits certain traits. Or not.]
My alma mater, the National Law School of India University is amongst the foremost law schools in the country and happens to be situated a very convenient fifteen minute drive from home. Unfortunately though, as it is a public university it needed me to clear an exam, score better than others and secure a rank good enough to get in. Through a good amount of sustained effort and a sprinkling of luck, all of that happen and I made it. Well just about. Tail end of the first general list, but point is I made it.
And like me, so did ~83 more of us as we learnt of our results one hot evening in May 2011. Post the initial jubilation of getting through, the inevitable thought about what school would be like started to pop up and us being the edgy 17–18 years olds we were in 2011, we headed straight to facebook. Ah yes, facebook before it was taken over by the boomer gang. Good memories. Anyway, our seniors had very nicely set up a page called ASK NLS where prospective students could ask their burning questions and get their answers. To their credit, they did answer questions rather diligently — those questions ranged from food availability to quality of the rooms to sports and what not. It was only towards the end of 2012, when we were going to be admins of that page did we realise that the actual purpose of that page was to do a recce on the incoming batches and start profiling kids when they got to campus. Very sneaky. Very effective.
Two other future batchmates also had the idea of creating a group for just the batch and one by one someone kept adding folks to it and we pretty much found everybody who had to be there. I don’t even remember who added me to it because it’s been that long and I knew all of two people at first, one of whom didn’t even use facebook then. Nonetheless, results were public and anyone could use the half braincell we shared and figure out who was who. And boy, that made for an interesting group! I’ll chalk it up to the high of ‘achievement’ and validation, but literally everyone only posted things that gave them an opportunity to sound or appear smart, yours truly included. [If you were on that group and you find yourself saying, “No, I didn’t do that” stop it, you’re lying.] Questions about career choices turned into ethical debates, conversations were had about philosophy (nono please feel free to laugh) and early friendships were being forged with “Can’t wait to see all of you! xoxo” type stuff (fine slight embellishment but you get the point). The group also had a mystery member LH some months later but that’s for another time. I do think the group was a good idea as it helped overcome the daunting task of making completely new friends in person.
The first time I visited campus after the exam was the day were all to report to the management as per the letter we had received (it’s still lying in my drawer somewhere). That day in itself was nothing momentous, we just submitted out marksheets and transfer certificate from school and signed some documents here and there. We also had a notional interview with the VC and a few professors who did a fantastic job in making us feel welcome and not scared of the unknowns that lay before us. Just after this interview, each one of us indulged in a little game of Russian roulette that kiiinda set the tone for the year ahead. We picked roomies…by a draw of lots. Well okay we picked room numbers and obviously with those came others. Since I was at the tail end I got to see who my roommates were (from the handwritten record kept) and noted that I knew one, from facebook, and the other was hitherto unknown (who I later got to know was waaayyyy ahead of the curve and had deleted FB much before it became cool to do so).
For someone who lives that close to school, I ended up being amongst the last to leave all because my pre-university college was being prissy with issuing a TC and it needed a fair amount of pushing. So mum and I waited at school while dad ran about getting the document. All that while I did nothing but have very brief conversations with people who, until now, were just names and random profile pictures on FB. That was…interesting. Probably my first lesson in knowing that there is a vast gulf between an online self and an IRL self.
Did I mention a medical test? There was a full fledged medical test we had to undergo at the hospital close by. Still unsure what the purpose of that was. 830 pm in a semi-occupied hospital standing without a shirt getting a chest x-ray is an experience in itself ya know. Oohh we also got free transport to the hospital in an ambulance! Thankfully my only time in one (so far).
This was the 30th of June, 2011 if memory serves me right and a Thursday at that. Doesn’t further the plot in any way, but just thought I’d mention it.
The orientation was held in the examination hall which is just one big hall and I’m actually surprised that it comfortably held all of us — 80 odd students, their parents, perhaps a sibling, 50 odd LLM students and maybe some of their parents too. Now the orientation itself was probably a little more for the parents than us. After the usual pleasantries and school history yada yada yada there were brief discussions on campus rules (booooo!) and then the uhhh highlight. “Each student is going to come up and introduce themselves!” Yes. Every. One. Of. Us. And we did. Out came facebook persona once again because 15 seconds of fame innit. Introductions ranged from hobbies to authors of choice to dreams post law school and of course, someone had to, sing. They did because someone in the faculty made reference to their singing skills, so kinda under duress, but well it happened. Of course it did. The one that out though went like this, “ABC, BA LLB(hons), batch of 2016. Enough said.” Following which he put on an imaginary pair of sunglasses and dropped the mic.
Orientation itself ended with lunch after which parents were encouraged to leave their wards in the custody of the university and officially allow it to mold them, but unofficially say goodbye to all traces of innocence and naivety. My batch in particular had a large number of students from Bangalore so all our parents had this wonderful idea of making a mailing group and “keeping in touch” (probably code for spying on each others’ kids) but to the best of my knowledge, nothing ever came up of that and they probably didn’t meet any more than any of us would’ve liked them to have. At this point I do recall saying bye to mum and dad and running off…somewhere. I don’t even know where (probably to nap).
The rest of the evening was one which was very…strange. Now I did wind up at the room at some point where I obviously met my roommates in person for longer (this was 208, Himalaya). I first met the one I knew from FB, we’ll call him SS. Now, I somewhat knew the other one’s name, but it’s really unique — so much so that I’ve never seen another human with it. And me being me with my inability to remember names, promptly forgot. I asked SS, “Dude, do you remember his name?” SS, “Ahh man, yes, no, wait!” We took a few moments but then remembered (either that or it was serendipitous that he appeared and told us himself). And then I forgot again! I asked SS and he said, “We need a mnemonic.” SS did find one and it involved the Hindi name of a fruit which was somewhat similar to the first half of AC’s name. Yeah great first impression.
In the evening, a few of our seniors snuck their way into Himalaya, the exclusive, isolated, first year men’s hostel (where seniors were banned) and were hanging out in the common room. Out of curiousity, SS, KAC and I turned up there. Now, NLS isn’t the kind of place where ragging of the engineering college variety happens — neither did our insecurities need a power trip, nor did anyone actually give thaaaat much of a damn about the kids. So these ‘positive interactions’ were very rudderless and punctuated with “If you feel uncomfortable, please know you can leave whenever you want.” I do know for a fact that some folks did come in reinforced expecting to be ragged but then were severely let down.
Anyway, this particular common room gathering was mostly just names and where you froms and my favourite — claim to fame. I don’t think I’d heard that phrase before but thankfully my brain did enough math to make me understand what that meant. It also did enough math to not use my grades/ranks as a claim to fame as that is certifiably lame. Now in the 18 years I’d lived until then I don’t think I’d done anything fame worthy, so I just pulled out the most “wut” aspect and said that I was the only person I knew who supported Tottenham Hotspur FC (COYS!!!). It garnered the exact response you have right now, which is of “umm okay, next.” But that said, this wasn’t even the lamest sentence uttered that day. What was said remains with those who were in attendance, but rest assured in hindsight, we all left the room wondering why we said all what we said.
We were treated to the generosity of these abovementioned seniors shortly thereafter when they asked if we drink and said they’d take us to our friendly, neighbourhood shady bar (Surya). Obviously the three of us tagged along despite AC not drinking then and me not being a beer person, because hey, gotta socialise. We sat at a long table at the surprisingly not that shady from the inside bar and got to a slightly more relaxed chit-chat while I sipped my orange fanta and snacked on some bhajjis (that I’d learn years later I was actually very allergic to). The evening led into the night and we genuinely had a good time and made it back to campus before room check. Room check. A practice whereby all first years had to physically sign their names on a sheet to prove that they were on campus and basically accounted for. No need for a habeas corpus eh. I do remember it raining as well and since the mess was on the other end of campus, we got a nice dose of muddiness that’d become a dear friend for the years to come.
Post a decent mess dinner, I made my way back to 208 and wound down for the night. I had the worst makeshift mattress (the real ones were to come a couple days later) but still slept like a log, exhausted from…well I dunno, trying to be a responsible young man.
As I lay my head down, I realised that you could put me in a room for a hundred years and “spend the evening chatting with seniors and spending time in the kind of bar your parents would never want to see you in” would not have been my idea of the first night at the hallowed law school I’d so longed to be a part of. I’m grateful it was because like everything that followed, the half decade I spent in that institution was filled with new experiences galore and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.