Dorian arrived in Law School from Osgoode Hall, Canada as part of an exchange program. This article of his was printed in the first edition of Quirk published in January 2005.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. As the taxi approached the main gate of the National Law School of India University, Perv announced, ‘this is law school’. ‘Cool’ I thought. The place seemed smaller that I imagined but nice. The school was surrounded by such dense vegetation and certainly evoked an exotic feel. Having backpacked around North India on a budget, the university seemed like a nice place to live for a little while. Then I went inside.
While I had finally located my cubicle, I stared in disbelief. Like Bilbo Baggins standing unannounced in Gollum’s case, I stood in the glow of the afternoon light filtering through the cloudy window. On the desk and bed frame was a layer of dirt an inch thick. There were cob webs hanging from the ceiling. Through the dirt it appeared as if the walls were painted beige. The closet was just as filthy having been used for a few months. There was nothing to do but take out a rag and start scrubbing. The whole time I was whistling Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound.
When I entered the washroom I definitely wished I was homeward bound. The concrete door and chipped yellow tiles were uninspiring. However, it was the mildew covered walls of the shower stalls and the squat toilets that really made me reconsider my decision to come on exchange. How could I possibly study at a place where I don’t feel comfortable taking a crap or a bath? God of Small Things I need you now…
I had to remind myself of some of the reasons I came to India. This was supposed to be a wonderful opportunity to have a cross-cultural experience, see the country of my ancestors, do some interesting volunteer work with an NGO and maybe even meet a wife (I wasn’t serious about the last one but my friends seemed to think that I would come home married. If the girl with the dancing eyes hadn’t turned me down I probably would have). Looking back, I adjusted to many of the things that had so irritated me at the beginning of my trimester. I adjusted to the squat toilets and the showers. I never quite got over the concept of mandatory attendance but I did get used to the constant chorus of “yes maam’s” and “present sir’s” that would be sung at the beginning of each period.
And then there were the rules. These rules are of course enforced, in large part, by the security staff and students. I think the security guards are supposed to be like Athena looking out for the protection of Law School-ites; but they’re not as comforting. They seem to be more interested protecting students from themselves than from outsiders. They look lazy but if you approach the girls hostel I found out that they can get quite lively.
How the rules are enforced by the Student Discipline and General Management I’ll never understand. SDGM truly completes the Big Brother effect described by George Orwell. Whatever you do, somebody is watching. It’s a wonder there isn’t a siren in the rooms that go off when someone masturbates. Were it feasible, it might have already been there. For all the Che Guevara t-shirts, I haven’t detected the hint of revolutionary zeal at NLSIU. There is a culture of complicity at the Law School that I have yet to comprehend. For a community that hasn’t mastered forming a line in the cafeteria it has mastered falling into line with respect to the rules. Fucked but fascinating.
I suppose the only thing lacking on my exchange was the romance and sexual encounters that are usually part of the American and European university experience. In A Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde wrote that the way the way to a woman’s heart is through her eyes. I agree. I was told that foreign guys pick up a lot of girls based on their ‘exoticness’ and the fact that they have an accent.
Well, mine didn’t seem to do me much good at law school, so I’m not sure what’s to be said of the ‘accent theory’. Mind you, it probably didn’t help that I looked like the male version of Medusa with my wild hair. That alone may have been enough to turn some hearts to stone.
My law school experience is not a tale of two cities – experiences forever linked in time and space. I’ve found that law schools and law students are very similar no matter where you go. We are some of the most creative, detail oriented, ambitious people on the planet. Very likely some of the most miserable as well.•