By Rabindra Mitra
The word gave me goosebumps even in my 4th semester. Memories of the all-nighters, scribbling short notes and then shorter ones from them, countless mocks – all held together with endless streams of caffeine engulfs my mind …
So, when I was asked for an ‘inspirational’ write up about CLAT and life beyond, I burst into giggles in the middle of Criminal Law class. How do I inspire others when my entire journey should be etched in bullets points in an ideal aspirant’s “Never-To-Do” list?
But to cite our nation’s best President, stories of failure teaches one more than those of success and so here I am.
Coming from a ‘legal’ family, my initiation with law took place at a very early age, but it wasn’t until 11th standard (Read ‘compulsory mathematics in B.Com’) that I began to eye it as a career. Though I wanted to prepare on my own, I enrolled in a coaching centre under parental pressure and only managed to attend a few classes before I was down with pox.
So began my CLAT journey on a rather sombre note.
Back on my feet, I dismissed my parent’s plea to rejoin classes. Like most (overconfident) test takers, I took CLAT to be a bunch of grammar, elementary calculations and facile legal problems and was sure of my ability to take on them single-handedly.
I ordered LST’s postal course, arranged hand-me-down notes and CLATapult’s materials received from a cousin and comfortably forgot about it, except occasionally ventures through M.K. Pandey and R.S. Aggarwal.
It wasn’t until April, when my Boards ended, that the gravity of the situation sunk in; but by then the Titanic was too close to the iceberg.
The first thing I did was spend an entire day rummaging through old question papers, as well as, the previous entrance tests by NLUs. I noted down question patterns and oft repeated questions, made a study chart, stared at it and then proceeded to wallow in self-pity. But by then, the situation was, to quote Alan Shore, ‘Either do something or “drop my pants”’.
So, I pulled all-nighters, rigorously adhered to my study routine (which itself is a Herculean task as any student would vouch) designating fixed hours for learning, revising and giving mocks.
I made CA notes under subheadings like ‘Awards’, ‘Important Appointments’, ‘Legislations’ etc., practised acing English section in 20 minutes, practised Logical Reasoning and dragged myself through three mocks everyday (One past year paper, two online mocks).
I studied like there was no tomorrow! But as you all know, last minute cramming is anything but easy. It was heartbreaking to see your peers top mocks, while you struggled to pull your score above 120. Every day I would debate with myself about dropping out. Slogging a maniacal fifteen hours a day, it seemed like an enviable option.
But as Linkin Park would put it – “It’s easier to run/ Than face all the peril on the road”.
I knew that my level of preparation was insufficient but was determined not to give up without a fight. So I plodded on with faith, courage and lots of self-doubt.
Towards the end of April, my scores started improving. Maths no longer gave me nightmares. My hopes reared their heads once again and I went to confront the first online CLAT with sufficient confidence.
That year it was CAT, with an additional ‘L’ section. The difficulty level was astronomical and its effect on hapless test-takers measurable on a Richter Scale. I remember the gasps of panic all around me in the hall. But I didn’t lose heart.
My carefully acquired perseverance came to my rescue as I calmly went through the paper, skipping tough questions and double-checking all the easy ones.
I breezed through the English and Legal sections – my allies.
I painstakingly solved the alien-looking Maths section manually; little realizing that it would work hugely in my favour as a lot of candidates wasted precious minutes deliberating on the best short-cut formulae.
As I look back, CLAT is more a trial of one’s nerve than mugging facts and figures. You are more likely to bell the cat by keeping a calm head than knowing the capital of Honduras (Figure of speech. Do read up GK).
Focus should be on the subjects that are your fortes, but not at the altar of your weak ones. Chances are that that one ‘Achilles heel’ topic could pretty much end your law school dream.
When the results came out, I fortunately managed to secure a law school.
It was not Tier-1, but NLUO gave a lot of freedom to moot, debate (academic topics only; not about the malfunctioning AC or the latest ‘administrative’ policy), attend conferences and other stuff (We recently hosted Google Start-Up weekend).
Adjusting here, away from home-cooked food and clean sheets, balancing 75% attendance with sleeping hours, is tough but as the saying goes – the only thing tougher than change is to remain where you are.
My law school journey taught me patience and tenacity, to not give up even in your lowest moments, but mostly, it imbibed the value of time. I’m not talking merely about time management; I’m speaking of seizing the day. Because that’s what most teachers omit to teach.
Those nerve-racking 120 minutes does not mean the end of life, but it can certainly lead to a better one. I can’t ‘teach’ CLAT by choking someone with a melee of questions. But I can inspire them to stand their grounds and face whatever comes. In CLAT and in life…
I believe my “been-there-done-that” know-how would help aspiring lawyers to crack CLAT. I’m passionate about law and teaching and looking forward to an opportunity to prove it.
So, to all the ‘me’s out there, sceptic about their preparations, I say “never be complete… lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may” (All hail, Tyler Durden). It always seems impossible until it’s done.
Rabindra Mitra is the Legal Reasoning Faculty in CLATapult, Bhubaneswar. He will be teaching alongside Shreshth Singh Tomar, CLATapult’s Legal Reasoning faculty from the Kolkata-based centers.
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