Thursday, December 30, 2010

The highest of highs

I don't understand where all this negativity about the year gone by is coming from because, upon reflection, I can recall some phenomenal times. In ascending order, here are my top ten memories of 2010:

10. The IIT Delhi Debate, February 19 and 21, 2010

I remember clearly that my initial objections to debating at IIT-D this year were of doing yet another debate under the pressure, nay, expectation, of winning. I would’ve loved nothing more than to debate with my juniors and do for them what all my seniors (bar Verma and Uttara at Venky in my third year) had refused to do for me—teach me something by personal example. That it didn’t quite turn out that way is my fault entirely—I jumped at opportunities too quickly, ignoring the fact that all of the reasons why I failed to “crack” debating in India were still painfully persistent. Yet, for brief periods of time in classrooms in every possible corner of IIT-D, with six stitches in my mouth, with sugar haemorrhaging out of my body and my right knee swelling to the size of a little balloon every few hours, I rediscovered why I’d decided to do selections at all in fifth year. And while my speeches in Round 3 and the octo-finals weren't the best I've ever given, they were very, very close.

9. Manchester United 0-1 Leeds United; January 3, 2010

I’ve written about this sufficiently and thought about it even more, but nothing can quite capture the feeling of watching hours and hours of football with steadily growing but still restrained optimism and watching it finally explode into life over ninety perfect minutes.  My memories of that night are extremely disjointed yet extremely clear—putting on the yellow sweater, constantly reminding myself throughout the second half that the 4-2 at St Mary’s the last time out had been a better performance and that the halftime lead was totally justified, Snodgrass’ freekick rattling their crossbar in the eighty-first minute and the last six seconds which I couldn’t bear to see. People can go ahead and call Jermaine Beckford a Premier League flop all they want—the fact is, that night, he owned Manchester United.

8. The view from Table Mountain, Cape Town; June 25, 2010

A million miles removed from the footballing memories that epitomized our trip to South Africa for the World Cup, there was the unforgettable view from the top of Table Mountain. Two images—one of the view itself and one of the Twelve Apostles—come to mind instantly, but perhaps the most surreal was the five minute walk up the road from Table Mountain CafĂ©, which was impossible to the point where we were physically lifted off our feet by the wind. Fabulous.

7. Coming home; December 5, 2010
Coming back to middle-of-the-afternoon sleepy Delhi in winter is an experience like no other. If I’d been living a dream over in Oxford, it was perhaps equally important that I woke up from that dream in Delhi. In many, many ways, this has already been a memorable vacation.

6. Fifth Year Party; June 3(?), 2010       

Probably this year’s definition of ‘carefree’. And I’m all for exercising extreme discretion in using words such as ‘epic’ and ‘awesome’ in describing law school parties but, from my openly biased perspective, this one qualifies without argument. Shockingly, I remember a lot of conversations from that night (some better than others obviously, wink wink) and I think this was probably the onset of true law school senti and, at the very least, a forgive-and-forget about the really silly stuff we’d held against each other for unreasonable lengths of time. I remember the bun-butters at Chetta before getting on the bus, I remember walking back past Chetta towards hostel under an orange sky at 5.45 a.m. and, most of all, I remember the masala dosa and filter coffee in Nags about an hour and a half later. I promised myself I’d say ‘I love my batch’ at some point in this post, so this is it.

5. First day of class at The University, Oxford; October 11, 2010

I haven’t often been excited by academics, but this was an entirely different story. So much comes to mind—the taster lecture, the Civil Procedure confusion, the Punishment class with Dr Lacey and Dr Zedner and the thrill of watching trade theory unfold before my very eyes over the course of Week 1’s readings, a lot of which were read thrice. The challenge of once again having to keep my head above academic water and prove myself all over again has been pretty evident throughout Michaelmas 2010 but, effectively, the point was made on the first day itself.

4. The XVIIIth Annual Convocation, NLSIU, Bangalore; August 29, 2010

Soon after, I would write: “I've never before managed to make so many people with nothing in common very proud of me for the same reason and I've never before managed to feel properly deserving of it all. To say that the last week has been the greatest of my life would be an exaggeration, but not by much”. I can’t think of a single thing I’d change, even at a distance of over four months.

3. The reunion at Queen’s Lane Bus Stand, Oxford; November 11, 2010

There are literally thousands of things I can and will remember forever from the ten days that followed but when I think back to it all now, the thing that strikes me most is how full of possibility life seemed at that very moment. Nothing that I can recall off the top of my head approaches the endless feeling of clear blue skies and literally a ton of weight lifted off my shoulders (I should stress here that this was purely metaphorical—it was pitch dark and drizzling in the late afternoon and I ended up lugging around Sowjhanya’s backpack and sleeping bag for the better part of three kilometres) when I saw the girls standing at Queen’s Lane. The trip itself was remarkable for a thousand reasons besides, but my unfading memory is the one of where it all began.  

2. Marianne Biese’s email; March 18, 2010

Defined by the monster hugs with Shantanu and Mihir (the first people I told) on lib ramp, the call to an utterly jubilant, Canada-bound Sowjhanya at the airport, the do-you-realise-why-I’m-hugging-you hug to Yaman, the I-feel-like-a-proud-father email from Chaitanya, the come-off-to-Koshy’s from Varun and the constant outpouring of affection for about a week afterwards. Convinced me that, ultimately, NLS was worth it, that the people I met there, even more so. There would be disappointments down this very road, of course (the Inlaks final interview comes to mind) but, just for the chain of events that ‘[no subject]’ email set into motion, I shall always be thankful. It still feels like a dream, it really does.

1. Soccer City, Johannesburg; June 23, 2010

For sheer anticipation, noise, colour, organization, awe, emotion and gratitude, I don’t think anything will ever come close. That I got to share it with the three people I love most in the world seated next to me is more than I could ask for.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The lowest of lows

I really wish the Indian media would get off Ricky Ponting's back. Anyone who has seen his career from the start knows that he will give himself the greatest bollocking of all for his form and for that of his team. Decisions regarding his place in the team, his place as captain and his retirement from international cricket are all currently outside his control and lie with competent professionals. Let it be that way. I think he's been more than gracious in defeat and has not, for a minute, hesitated in applauding the efforts of the English cricket team which has thoroughly outplayed his team in two out of four Test matches.

I have said enough.Those who have to understand, have understood.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Congratulations, Varun Rajiv. I think there's a lot to be said for the "bide your time" approach to recruitment at National Law School. :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fits like a glove

Learnings from the week past:

1. "Broken Dreams" by Shaman's Harvest is pretty close to the best wrestling theme song going around today.
2. Try not to get angry quite so much.
3. Don't let the ridiculous overpricing of Red Bull make you forget what a thing of beauty it is.
4. "Oh radio, tell me everything you know / I will believe your every word, just tell me so."
5. Don't ever lose faith in the Australian cricket team.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Three passages I never expected to see in the same article

I can't think of a more fitting way to mark this one hundredth post than by quoting liberally from Vaughan Lowe's excellent piece "The Politics of Law-Making: Are the Method and Character of Norm Creation Changing?" from  Michael Byers (ed.), The Role of Law in International Politics: Essays in International Relations and International Law (2000), which has to be the best thing I've read since, well, last week.

"If the tribunal chooses to adopt the concept, the very idea of sustainable development is enough to point the tribunal towards a coherent approach to a decision in cases where development and environment conflict. There is absolutely no need for the concept to have been embodied in State practice coupled with the associated opinio juris. Its employment does not depend upon it having normative force of the kind held by primary norms of international law. Tribunals employ interstitial norms not because those norms are obligatory as a matter of law, but because they are necessary in order that legal reasoning should proceed. All that is needed to enable the norms to perform this role is that they be clearly and coherently articulated. Once they have been articulated, they operate as modifying norms, bearing upon the primary norms that surround them. But they have a broader significance. If, for example, sustainable development is declared to be the reconciling principle that establishes the relationship between development and environment, it is highly unlikely that any other principle will be employed to effect that reconciliation, at least until sustainable development is displaced. The concept effectively 'occupies the field'...Further, any shifts in emphasis that may be necessitated by the accidents of case law will be tested for their coherence with sustainable development. In these senses, the principle exercises an immense gravitational pull."  (p. 217)

"Similarly, those negotiating treaties, or development loans, or environmental controls, at the national or the international level, are likely to approach that task within the context of the concept of sustainable development. The concept colours the whole approach to this area of international law. The metaphor of colour is, indeed, a powerful one. The effect of interstitial norms is to set the tone of the approach of international law to contemporary problems, bringing subtlety and depth to the relatively crude, black-and-white quality of primary norms. I have used one example; but I expect there to be many others in the coming decades, during a phase in the development of international law analogous to the development of equity in English law. For example, it is likely that international law will begin to develop its own concepts of unjust enrichment and other restitutionary remedies, across a whole range of contexts from the determination of compensation in cases of expropriation and injury to alien property to remedies for breaches of treaty obligations. The concept otabus de droit, already established in the approach of civil lawyers to international law, is likely to achieve much greater prominence as a check upon exercises of legal power by States. Through the influence of these principles, the whole character of international law and its relation to the most pressing problems of fairness and justice can be materially altered. And, to make the point once more, this is done by principles that owe none of their normative force to the traditional 'State practice plus opinio juris' or to treaty law processes for the creation of binding legal norms. I expect the method and character of the creation of the most important and influential norms of international law in the next generation to be markedly different from that which has obtained in the past." (p. 217-218)

"Legal concepts and norms are important. But the matrix in which they are set is not a normative system of pure juridical reason. No one—statesman, judge, or whatever—can switch his or her brain into a purely legal or purely non-legal mode. Brains are brains. The same brain functions as the judge judges, reads newspapers and novels, watches films and television, and does everything else. It is inevitable that reasoning, in whatever context, proceeds against an inarticulate and perhaps irrational backcloth of concepts, linkages, suppositions, and prejudices built up from the general experience of life. And it is because interstitial norms operate in precisely those areas where primary legal norms do not dictate clear legal solutions that they are the most likely to be heavily (I would say overwhelmingly) influenced by non-legal factors. Interstitial norms are the points where general culture obtrudes most clearly into the processes of legal reasoning." (p. 220).

It's true - academia is a kind of disorder. :)

I'm not sure if there's a point to this story but I'm going to tell it again.

My photo
I've been wilfully caught up in the self-defeating quest to get to know myself for years. I've never expected anything beneficial to result from such a quest. I tend to evoke extremely polarised reactions from people I get to know in passing. Consequently, only those people who know me inside-out would honestly claim that I'm a person who's just "alright." It's not a coincidence that the description I've laid out above has no fewer than, title included, eleven references to me (make that twelve). I'm affectionately referred to as "Ego." I think that last statement might have given away a tad too much. Welcome Aboard.

IHTRTRS ke pichle episode mein aapne dekha...


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