BA LLB, 2013
Dear Professor Dhanda
You've been an inspiration and I take pride in being your student.
Thanks for teaching us the importance of critical and original thought. I assure you that I meticulously go through my reading material before any professional endeavour now.
BA LLB, 2011
Dear Professor Dhanda,
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for teaching me, (and hundreds of others like me) to think critically, to discard cynicism, and to embrace empathy in our every day engagement with the law.
As I've learnt, the practice of law is often overwhelmingly cynical and self serving, but the years spent with you have imbued so very many of us with an acute consciousness of the duty we have to use the law to do good.
Thank you for touching and changing so many of our lives.
Lots of love,
ALOK P KUMAR
BA LLB, 2008
On paper Prof Amita Dhanda taught me four courses over five years in NALSAR - starting with Law and Poverty in my second year all the way to the optional law school pedagogy course in my fifth year. Each of these courses were illuminating and thought provoking in their own way but talking about the content and the teaching methods will not, I think, adequately capture how much of an impact Prof Dhanda has had on me. I was one of those front bench, note taking, always-hand-up-in-the-air "bachchas" who probably got on her nerves with my over-enthu to be the best in her class. I was also extremely clueless and unaware of my many privileges and the flaws in the ways I viewed the world. Prof Dhanda challenged me to be better than I thought I was. She told me off when she needed to, but encouraged me where she thought I was trying to make sense even if she disagreed with me. I always looked forward to Prof Dhanda's classes because of the intellectual stimulation they gave me. She not only challenged me to be better than I thought I was, but also brought out the best in my batch in ways my fellow batch mates probably didn't think possible. She allowed everyone to find their own voices in academic matters and only pushed us towards the path of rigour and empathy in our work. Being in Prof Dhanda's classes has not only made me an immeasurably better lawyer than I could have hoped to be but also put me on the path to try and become a better person in every way. For all the love, care and encouragement she has shown me and numerous others over the years, I can only say, from the bottom of my heart, "Thank you ma'am!".
As I try to pin down just one profound conversation with Professor Amita Dhanda to celebrate and cherish the coolest teacher one could ever hope for, I realize that it is proving to be more difficult than any piece of writing I have done in this entire year. For what it’s worth, I will still try. At the outset, I wish to come clean about the fact that there have been times when I might’ve felt a little green with envy about not having met Professor Dhanda earlier in life like most of her other undergrad students. (It would have probably fast-tracked the things we are learning about ourselves and each other, in relation to each other.) But we take what we get and for that I consider myself extremely lucky and, in some ways, even luckier than most. The latter because in the last two years that I have known Professor Dhanda, I was presented with an unmatched learning experience, where I learnt from her as much about law as I did about life. Maybe this is the reason why it has been so difficult for me to write this message.
She is a teacher who puts into her students so much care and attention, day in and day out for years altogether, while at the same time acknowledging that each one of her ‘bacchas’ are in distinct ways, a work in progress which makes their learning curves so very different from their peers. To my understanding this is truly some Yoda level teaching that she does with her students. Yoda because she is always somehow aware of the kind of pedagogy that works best for each of her students so as to bring out the best in each one of them. So, for instance, in my case, when I was being mentored by her the big question for me was which subjects should I be teaching. Now knowing that I would most definitely suck at teaching a subject like TPA or CPC (because of my own admission before her, at multiple points of time), she gave me the chance to design a part of the Ethics course to teach alongside with her, because she somehow knew that this is something which would “make my heart sing”. I know for sure, that no other teacher in India would have even entertained this thought or would have given me the necessary encouragement that I needed at the time to have done something this weird and different for a course like this, which at best is only seen as check-box subject to be ticked in most Indian law schools. She took a chance on me and my weird idea and nurtured it like a baby plant, and somehow it flourished. The weird-cool thing about her is that she almost always makes it work somehow. Now according to me, that is truly the BEST kind of teacher anyone could hope for.
Apart from her being my Yoda, which in some ways also inspires me to be a Yoda some day to my students, I also find that in more ways than one, her teaching has made me much more comfortable in my own skin and has given me the ability to start seeing myself as an independent thinker in my own right. While her work in the classroom gave me the language to articulate what I think and feel without always second-guessing myself. Her work outside the classroom made me come to terms with the fact that it’s okay to feel things intensely and that there is nothing wrong with a person who feels too much.
She has been a teacher, colleague, friend, cheerleader and so much more that it becomes almost impossible to write a coherent message to express everything that I feel today as she superannuates. I am really excited to see her in the new role of Professor-Yoda Emirita at NALSAR and the new adventures that hopefully she and I would have together in the years to come.
[PS- Ma’am, I have a feeling that after reading this message you might say that I used Yoda (the character from Star Wars) in reference to you, so as to impute how ancient he is because he is 900 years old after all. But that ascription of why you are being compared to Yoda is entirely on you, and that is not at all my intention here. :P]
BA LLB, 2013
Prof Dhanda, or Dhanda as we privately called her, came into my life like a blazing beam of light. Long before we started her course on Law and Poverty, there were whispers of her fearsome personality. In class, I remember being wide-eyed and hanging on to her every word, and this starstruck feeling never really left me in how I related to her. I was so desperate to be her favourite, but the field was crowded. It baffled me, I felt I was devoted to her in a way the rest of the faithful were not; in my eyes she could do no wrong. And yet that bestowal remained forever elusive. A consoling, and sadly fanciful, theory is this was entirely to do with my inadequate Hindi, ruling out any rapport built on folksy Punjabi banter.
I doubt she is impressed that I have unwittingly strayed into a career in arcane securities law, but Dhanda did more than throw new light on legal education for me. She led us towards the building blocks for an ethical framework of everyday living that continue to guide me years after I left law school. Everything is worthy of some good old problematising. This is in keeping with her firm conviction that education should be more than a technical apprenticeship.
I must also give her credit for a whirlwind romance with someone from a couple years ago founded in large part on a mutual admiration for Martha Nussbaum.
Future generations of Nalsar students will be much poorer without Prof Dhanda’s teaching. I wish her a well-deserved, but no doubt busy and fruitful, retirement. I will be brushing up on my Hindi if you ever need me.
BA LLB, 2020
For me, one of the defining experiences at NALSAR is my interaction (and lack of) with Prof. Dhanda. Even before I had the opportunity to meet her in person, I was well-aware of the phenomenon that is Prof. Dhanda. The tons of stories that both seniors and batchmates shared about their own interaction with her made me scared but also curious. It slightly nudged me into undertaking one of my first internships at law school with the Centre for Legal Philosophy and Justice Education which Prof. Dhanda headed. I must say that I didn’t get the opportunity to interact much during this time but it did make me decide that I would jump at any opportunity to work for her. Of course, I was still scared of her (probably still am) but I got to witness her as a person who lights up the room with her personality and jovial attitude.
I ended up being a part of a number of events that were aimed at creating a real-life impact by encouraging (and initiating) academic discourse on matters that most of us (academicians and students alike) tend to turn a blind to. I am fairly certain that I am inspired more by her work outside of the classroom than within. I am also certain that my limited interactions with her during the first couple of years at law school not only shaped my own understanding of “rights” but also put me on the path to work further in this area.
If I have to point at my most memorable moments with her, it was after the conclusion of a conference when she made us all (conference peeps including herself) sing for at least a couple of hours during our dinner. In fact, it was like a mini-family dinner. She, as a person, is as inspiring as she is as a professor. Probably, she is the only professor that I know that kept nudging all of us to think not only with the brain but also from the heart. Personally, she was there for me even when she was going through the worst of the times. I will always cherish her role in my personal and professional growth. In short, I was blessed to have her support during most of my law school days and I am glad that I had the opportunity to learn from her.
BA LLB, 2018
Like perhaps hundreds of other NALSARites, one of my earliest memories on campus is of Dhanda Ma'am's first LM class, where we, a group of optimistic teenagers, thrashed (and perhaps also trashed) out a variety of ideas and conceptions that all of us held about the law. In some ways, the issues raised and techniques used in that class shaped my attitude towards all my other courses in 5 years at law school, and at times even my experiences outside the classroom. But of course, that was only the beginning of my interactions with her.
We disagreed spiritedly in class on several issues, including during a particularly memorable discussion on the Dangerous Dogs Act that she surprised me by recalling in great detail several years later. We were also often on different sides in her role as an administrator, sometimes in relation to requests made in my personal capacity, and sometimes when I made my case with her for the benefit of others, to the extent that I often left our interactions wondering if Prof. Dhanda did indeed see the law as any more than its rigid, positivist self.
Taking her Applied Jurisprudence course in my fourth year allowed me to engage with her in a smaller group. Her long standing tradition of inviting her elective students home for dinner made me realise for the first time that my scary looking law professor with her long email signature also had the ability to make an outstanding Rajma, among other things. More recent interactions with her even after graduating and her willingness to vouch for me and take initiative on my behalf has played a part in me feeling like I never left.
That it's time for her to move on from all the roles that I've described above, and more, is of course monumental for the institution that has given us all so much. But it does appear that the cows have finally come home.
BA LLB, 2014
The first LM class was such a revelation. Hoping to bridge the gap between law in books and law in action by pursuing field work relying on her learnings echoing constantly at the back of my thought. Dhanda ma’am's methodological input has allowed one to adopt an interdisciplinary lens to analysing a legal problem. Thank you for making us think differently and develop empathy in thought while dealing with social justice issues. Your task of educating us applies continuously beyond any set book or curricula that we hope to cherish as and when we grow as lawyers, academicians and activists alike.
PS - Please continue using hand gestures while teaching and if we make a meme page to showcase your unique style will share. Continue inspiring future generations with your thoughts and values.
Forever grateful and humbled to have been your student. Wish you a memorable birthday.
BA LLB, 2019
Being Prof. Dhanda's student is an experience that is comparable to none other. My first semester movie review of The Lion King for Legal Methods, wasn't as brilliant as I had envisioned. However, during the presentation, the experience of defending my arguments, debating on subtle points and explaining my stance, helped me build courage and determination to vocalise my thoughts, in class/group discussions. Another fond memory I have is being pleasantly surprised by a birthday wish from her, in my first year. In my final year, I was extremely interested in a particular social science seminar - but the draw of lots didn't favour me, and I didn't get a chance to enroll officially in the course. When I went to speak to Prof. Dhanda, to ask her to accommodate me/give me a chance to earn my way in (perhaps with an SoP), she told me something that I already knew, but understood only that day - if you really are interested, you'll be a part of the course irrespective of whether you receive credits for it. I took her advice, audited the course, and the knowledge I gained from the lectures and seminars has actually helped me pursue related interests! Thank you so much, for all that you have taught us both within the class and outside, Prof. Dhanda! You're truly one of a kind, and I'm grateful to have been your student. Happy Birthday!
DIYA A MATHEWS
BA LLB, 2004
Restless in that Barkatpura campus, I wondered: is the law really for me?
And then came she from ILI -
Difficult and demanding, said they.
But to me she made all the difference;
And made those 5 years tolerable.
Thank you, Ma’am. Today and everyday.
BA LLB, 2014
After training generations of law students, academic and lawyers, Ma'am is finally retiring from a career which has definitely gone down in the annals of history. She was an integral part of the Nalsar experience for me and in many ways, defined my Nalsar experience. I recall and cherish every moment that I have spent in her class as also my experiences with the Centre for Disability Studies which she headed, disability being her lifelong passion.
She generated thought without taking over. She pushed students to think, so they no longer were pushovers. She inspired without overwhelming (mostly!). She was a teacher par excellence but above all a humanitarian with a keen sense of balance about what is right and what is wrong.
I still miss her classes and continue to watch her videos online, whenever I can, just to listen to this great teacher.
For her idea of ‘problematising’ and theorising, her distinct ‘Alright’ before she started every class, her encouragement, her stellar scholarship, her intellectual integrity and above all, her resounding love and passion for the law- I feel proud to have been trained by her.
Ma’am, it is with eternal gratitude I have for you, that I say, Thank You!
BA LLB, 2018
“What is law?” This was the first question that Prof. Dhanda posed on my very first day at law school. I’m not sure I have the answer yet, but I certainly do have the tools to think about what the law does and what it should do, and for this, I have Prof. Dhanda to thank. She intimidated and inspired me in equal parts. Never have I read for class as fervently as I did for Prof. Dhanda’s classes, and never have I been chided so mercilessly despite reading. Of course the fault was mine, I completely missed the point the article was trying to make :P I soon learnt that Prof. Dhanda’s appreciation could be as heartfelt as her criticism could be heartless. Her classes have truly been the most transformative in my law school experience. She enabled me to be a kinder, more sensitive lawyer and person, and I can’t imagine a NALSAR where the first class is anything but the mysterious law question.
Thank you, Dhanda ma’am, and wish you a happy, happy superannuation! I hope the lack of administrative duties gives you the time to watch that list of movies reserved for semester break (the one that was always cited to dissuade project deadline extension requests), and to be even more fierce in your critical legal scholarship!
BA LLB, 2015
As a young, ignorant entrant into law school (surrounded by other young and ignorant entrants) there was a constant desire to look upto someone in those early days of July, 2010. Even before the classes had commenced, there was enough buzz around this one particular professor who you should pay close attention to in class, whether you like it or not. A few minutes into Prof. Dhanda's first class with the Class of 2015, I realized why the headlines were buzzing even before the news broke.
Since the very beginning of our interaction with Prof. Dhanda, she always encouraged us to speak our mind and infuse it with originality. I remember how she asked all of us to introduce ourselves, and not just state our names but also describe ourselves in a line. Although a brilliant idea to get to know a bit about everyone in class, it was a hard task to summarize yourself in one line. And from that moment onwards, I knew that being in her class was not easy! She might pepper them with jokes and anecdotes, but boy, you needed to know your stuff even if you fluffed!
The times ahead, until we graduated in 2015, were rife with moments of laughter, tears (yes!), disappointment, encouragement but most importantly, her presence. It is hard to imagine NALSAR without her. An institution in herself, one cannot step out of NALSAR without an essential education in "marrying" one concept with another, or "problematising" an already problematic life at law school, or internalizing her infectious laughter. I feel for the batches joining NALSAR 2020 onwards - your absence shall be felt as much as your presence mattered.
I can only express gratitude towards Prof. Dhanda at this stage for having made such an impression on me as a young law student which continues to affect my thinking and reasoning. Criticality and complexity are now a regular feature of life, and its inception can only be traced to that introductory class with Prof. Dhanda. Thank you for being a part of our lives, Ma'am. I hope hundreds of others get a chance to say this too.
Your student, always.
BA LLB, 2008
It is indeed a matter of serendipity of having found a great teacher, mentor, guide, and oh yes, a saviour too, all in one person. This one year with you groomed and pushed me to think beyond as I was presented with an opportunity to broaden my horizons and think from another perspective, and that too without taking a paternalistic approach. You were one of the reasons that made one year at NALSAR truly an enriching experience for me.