ANKITA PRASAD GOLLA
BA LLB, 2015
It was I think our first week in Law School (July 2010), since we did manage to reach class on time during those initial days, it was a full house of sorts. The scheduled class for the day was "Legal Methods" and a couple of minutes later Prof. Dhanda just glided in with such ease; in a certain no nonsense (respect instilling) manner that brought us to our feet. Among all the things she continued to enlighten us with over the years that followed, the very first thing that comes to my mind rather vividly is when she told us that, we were not in school anymore so we did not need her permission to use the restrooms. Post that first class and I speak for all 80 of us here, we were a little starstruck, because somewhere it dawned on us that this is what makes NALSAR what it is, she was NALSAR at its finest best. The other instance I remember is how once during the Law and Pov. class she was explaining something; her saree got entangled with a nail beneath the board and she was like, “Heh, I'm poorer by a good saree now,” and intertwined that bit the lecture and that one time when she wanted to use " Poor Dhanda" for her Law and Pov. class's email ID. Of course, the entire batch will never forget that fateful day when she rather casually taught us a well needed lesson in integrity, we gave in proxies for the other half who did not turn up and she said exactly this, " The CLAT batch, the happening people tch" and walked off in a huff. While law never really was something I ever warmed up to nor I ever will, the Law and Lit. class was rather close to my heart and I remember her being appreciative of the write up I had sent for the project and how I still gloat about it ( I do not have a copy though :(). I am so glad she held us and continues to hold us all so close to heart and that we gladdened her a wee bit, made her a wee bit proud and that she placed us right up there at the altar, much to the envy of the other batches. Ten years later, I still reminisce her genius, wit, integrity and the animation she brought to law. Her heartfelt laughter, her impeccable sense of dressing; she embodied one of my favorite quotes from Harry Potter, where Phineas Nigellus said, "Dumbledore's got style". Yes, she really was our Dumbledore and always reminded us to turn on the light. NALSAR, those five years, people would say will skim and flee but nobody really told us about how the memory of it will spoil everything which would follow and at every chance our mind lingers and that she majorly helped weave that level of magic extraordinaire and the sparkle of these memories will never dim. Thank you Prof. Dhanda, for instilling in us a sense of being just at an age when we did not know better, but now we do and we are better for it, because all the while when you taught, you also ensured what it is to live and how scintillatingly well it can be done. We love you as much as you do, thank you for letting us share albeit a minuscule bit, a part of your legacy and history. And, if we could we would do it all over again. So glad that we are not a part of Nalsar, whose corridors will be devoid of your illuminating presence, Nalsar will be missing the chink in its armor and its moral conscience and tallest human. May you continue to right everything in just instance which accosts you, may you thrive thrive and flourish because like they say they do not make them like you anymore not even bad copies.
Batch of 2015
BA LLB, 2011
Three semesters into NALSAR, I was all but done with the law - to the extent where it meant anything beyond a shiny corporate placement package at the end of the 5 year period. Then came Professor Dhanda and the Law and Poverty course. It felt like coming up for fresh air - I remember, still, the rush of the first week of her class where I could sense my brain cells coming back to life. It was a minor miracle, and then, like some kind of gift that kept on giving, I had the chance to learn from her just about every semester till the point I graduated. To learn with Professor Dhanda was to be trained in a particular kind of careful scholarly conduct, and also to constantly be curious, to find the unexpected in the quotidian. Almost ten years since our last class, halfway through a PhD, I continue to be utterly grateful and in awe of her generosity and wisdom. Thank you, Professor.
BA LLB, 2013
The one thing I will always remember about Prof Dhanda is the democracy she brought to the class. Probably it was the fact that she was seated on the table instead of her chair. More likely, it was the fact that you were treated as an adult having a conversation with the teacher instead of a school kid being lectured. Opting for her courses meant one solid day of work just to prepare for class. In 5th year, it was tempting to choose bunk and chill instead. And yet I always found myself coming back to her classes. Some of it had to do with the knowledge that only she would let you submit a paper on topics like the judicial philosophy of Markandey Katju or say 'the insistence on the existence of subjectivity' with a straight face. Thank you Prof Dhanda - for all the flagging of issues, drawing of links, problematising of statements and appreciating points somewhere. I would like to believe that the description I had put up on your first facebook fanpage still holds true - you are one of the great things about Nalsar!
BA LLB, 2007
I still have my (much persused) Law and Poverty reading material. Prof. Dhanda remains an intellectual and professional inspiration to all those who were marooned for 5 years in Shamirpet. Interdisciplinarity was de rigour in her classroom long before it became an academic buzzword. For many of us who went into teaching, she remained both a benchmark and aspiration. Thank you for everything Prof. Dhanda!
HARSHA V RAO
BA LLB, 2014
Prof Dhanda, without question, impacted everyone who passed through NALSAR. Even those who disagreed with her used the language of rules, discretion, power, and limits to power, that she taught us. You could like her, love her, admire her, or the exact opposite, but you could not deny that she set high standards and forced everyone to work towards them. She was a conversation starter, occasionally polarizing, sometimes baffling, frequently funny, and constantly unafraid.
For me personally, her legal methods course was what made first semester tolerable. It gave me the language and tools to question everything and look for nuances, which I use to this day. But the first test that she set us, that turned out to be an almost fill in the blanks test, much to our disbelief, also showed that you can sometimes just keep it easy :) I think she has a lot to be happy about, and we are much the better for it. Thank you!
TALHA ABDUL RAHMAN
BA LLB, 2008
BA LLB, 2019
On the first Monday of law school, all of us anxiously looked forward to the most awaited module of the first semester-LEGAL METHODS. Dhanda Ma’am entered and quickly scanned the room. She then turned to the board and wrote "You will speak. I will listen.'' Her words sent shockwaves across the room. Ironically, at this precise moment, the whole class went quiet.
Confused with the message, I looked around and saw the same alarming looks on all my peers. Over the next 4 months, all of us had the same look of awe after every Legal Methods class. I remember coming in with a clear head for most classes but often leaving with thousands of questions in my head. During this interval, ma'am truly kept her word. She let all of us speak and share our ideas, only giving her insights to intrigue our musings.
Years later, the words on the board are still vividly alive in my memory. At the end of 5 years of law school, all of us had become rather fond of listening to our own voices. We were after all, more aware and sure of ourselves. But Ma'am’s interest in knowing the thoughts of a bunch of fresh-off-the-boat 18 year-olds gave us the initial confidence to start speaking. Ma’am’s encouragement not only made us believe in ourselves, but also helped us find our own individual voices.
It is no secret that over the years, Dhanda Ma’am has nurtured countless students in her shadow. And I feel very privileged to be one of them. Thank you for being educative and empowering all at once. I hope you keep spreading your love and passion for Law even in the next phase of your life. Happy Retirement Ma'am.
BA LLB, 2016
Amita Dhanda, is a teacher/ professor/ feminist personality that I had honestly not heard of before NALSAR. And once I was in, it seemed like every aspect of NALSAR had Dhanda in it or some thought process inspired by her (for good or for controversial). I have some very specific memories of Ma’am, like getting really angry at her for not teaching my batch Law and Poverty (Batch of 2017). Ma’am made up by taking classes of Ad Law. I think that spoke of her love for teaching and shaking us into learning!
The biggest gift I received from Ma'am, was that she has instilled a moral barometer in me. I was finally able to articulate why a decision didn’t sit right with me, or why the new academic year policy was in fact a good thing (haha). It is sad that new incoming batches, will not feel the dread/anxiety/excitement of law and pov/ legal methods (where many of us failed for the first time), but hopefully Ma’am can now chill and problematize!
Lots of love to you Ma’am!
BA LLB, 2017
Professor Dhanda was my first frame of reference as a lost first year, suddenly in law school by sheer accident. Disillusionments are par for the course for anyone who begins a professional course that’s as glamourised as ours, but through each of these, for me Professor Dhanda remained the distinct hallmark of our institution - can NALSAR be that bad, if Amita Dhanda teaches here? Like any teacher who represents the best of what that title entails, Professor Dhanda’s words had the potential for impact far beyond the physical restraints of a brick-and-mortar classroom, and till date one flatteringly worded email from her in response to a first year project is imprinted in my mind as the one occasion when I began the process of building self-belief, one that continues to be a work in progress, but that started with a gesture on Professor’s part. She taught me that the law holds place for all endeavours of human thought, that its impact touches everything we see and interact with, and therefore there is far more to be discovered and to be analysed than what conventional career trajectories may dictate. Thank you, professor Dhanda, for everything. I will always be indebted to the institution that owes its existence to you, but at the same there is little for me to recognise in a NALSAR that lacks your person.
I had a ringside view of Prof. Dhanda's methods as an intern at CDS- her scholarship and searing candour were my incentives to return as a doctoral student, five years later. I have since learnt that she characterizes everything at NALSAR- a creative research program that speaks to me, the library that aids it, the collegiality in every meeting, and teaching that nurtures- all of which have made her presence incredibly rewarding. I write this with gratitude that's deeply felt. Thank you, Madam.
Professor Dhanda was the first Professor who addressed the LL.M. batch of 2009-11 as colleagues. I had made up my mind before LL.M. that I will pursue teaching as a career choice. But I didn’t know what the idea of a teacher was until I had spent one semester studying Comparative Jurisprudence with Professor Dhanda. We were reading Martha Nussbaum, Rawls amongst others and were having a tough time navigating through the readings. You see, suddenly the bars were raised (for some of us at least). She understood that we were all coming from different backgrounds and were finding it difficult to follow. She slowed down and spent days teaching us how to read Rawls, Nussbaum etc. We were forced to think and contribute to the classroom sessions. She would remember each contribution and address us by the keywords we had used during our interactions. ‘Where is my trigger friend’ she would say.
Our batch had spent sleepless nights working on the assignments; having heard the terrifying tales from the LL.B. students that she would not accept anything less than original. We had no option but to give our best. That was the first time many of us experienced the joy of writing. Then came the feedback through mail. It was also a first for many of us to receive feedback on our submissions via e-mail. She was fair and kind in her comments but not generous. Some were upset. But everyone agreed that it was the best learning experience for us. She made us very uncomfortable before we could find our way into the discourse of critical legal thinking. Thank you, Professor Dhanda for making me very uncomfortable. Being her baccha means living up to the higher standards of integrity, kindness (in the sense of understanding the diversity of backgrounds people come from) originality, critical thinking and building solidarities with those less privileged than us. I hope I make you proud someday. I look forward to hear many more stories of uncomfortableness in the years to come.
BA LLB, 2015
Dhanda ma'am's law and poverty classes will always remain special to me because I owe her my first original and non-wiki paper, in other words her classes were the first to actually inspire me to go back to the library, do some research and write something that I can call my own! We all know the importance that carries in our profession, it is like that teaching a man to fish adage. So thank you ma'am! We all know that this is not an end of the innings as you will continue to be Professor Emerita, and a reason for many more future students like me to actually wake up, take notes and build a foundation for our careers :)
BA LLB, 2005
It was a hot Hyderabad afternoon. The NALSAR campus drowsed sleepily in the sun, while some of us who had project discussions scheduled trudged reluctantly to the academic block to meet Dhanda Ma’am. The mess lunch sat heavily in our stomachs and added to the sense of being slightly dazed.
When it was my turn, I tried bravely to pitch the idea I had for my project but realised I was making heavy work of it. A few minutes in, Dhanda Ma’am looked at me and said ‘What’s the matter, Neela? Are you bored?’
It was like a light bulb went off somewhere in the dim recesses of my brain. Bored? Does that mean we are actually allowed – no, supposed – to be INTERESTED in what we are doing? This is all not some chore to be laboured through, complaining all the while, in the hope of a decent grade at the end of it?
It is hard to describe the impact of those three words on the rest of my life in law school and beyond. It was like someone had given me permission to have fun with my work, and boy, did I! It’s something I still find myself doing. Dhanda Ma’am helped me understand that it is okay – necessary, in fact – to think for myself and sift critically through material and information on hand. I learnt a skill that stands me in good stead to this day.
Thank you so much, Dhanda Ma’am! This isn’t an adequate enough tribute to you, but a small one that I hope makes you smile! Happy superannuation and I am sure the best is yet to come! Love and Hugs ☺
BA LLB, 2015
BA LLB, 2018
Right before I entered NALSAR, I spoke with a then recent graduate to understand what the place is like. He mentioned Prof. Dhanda, and the only word he used in her context was 'boss'. I say this, without an ounce of doubt, that I learnt the meaning of 'boss' in all its hues over the next five years, and possibly even later.
As the common trope goes in NALSAR, Dhanda Ma'am was an intimidating character in my NALSAR story. She – just as in the many, many tales that we had heard – rejected my LM project, and nearly turned it down a second time saying that she did not believe it was my work. That, I think, sharply shaped my law school journey since I was always on the lookout to prove to her that I was probably smarter than how that one project made me out to be.
While we can all write tomes about what she taught, and how it has shaped us as professionals, I think what equally impacted my growth was working with her in the academic committee. While my batchmates joked about how I could sweet-talk her into agreeing to any requests, only I know how daunting a task it was; so much so that at times I felt dejected even before negotiating. But of course there were occasional bits of appreciation and encouragement and it would be unfair on by part to not duly acknowledge those. Looking back at those times, I think I learnt about administration more from her than anyone or anything else. On a lighter note, since I was on the committee for three years, at one point the autocorrect on my phone started changing ‘dhaba’ to ‘Dhanda’ and it certainly left a lot of people in splits! :P
Dhanda ma'am's penchant for the most unconventional humour once found its way onto my Facebook wall. After two years of planning, we went out for an Acad Comm dinner, and of course I posted a picture on Facebook, also mentioning how I missed a few acad reps who I had worked with in the previous years. Appears a comment: "What Ayush hum bhi Acad Com mein hain, humein bulaya bhi nahin, miss bhi nahin kiya!" I remember people found it so hilarious that in our next class, she very proudly said "my comment has more likes than his post!"
With final year uncertainty, and a missing sense of direction, working with Prof. Dhanda during the CLPJE Conference in 2017 gave me enough food for thought, a much needed push and the motivation I had been lacking. My most fun memory of hers in college remains the dinner in the Convention Centre when we all played Antakshari. Of course, four years had given me a hint of her fun side, but that was the first time we spent with her outside a professional setting, and it was indeed a memorable time.
What I am most grateful to Prof. Dhanda for is the rock that she was for me towards the end of my third year, when things were miserably falling apart and I was diagnosed with clinical depression. While the concessions she extended to me were what an Acad Convener could do in the ordinary course of business, she also spoke to me, making sure to give support at a time when I was least expecting it.
On any kind of law work I do, Prof. Dhanda’s ideas always seem to be stamped, such is her influence. A source of inspiration and encouragement, sometimes intimidation, and at times an adversary – she has been a defining character in law school for me. While I admire her as an administrator and have learnt tonnes on that account, even to this day, I do disagree with her on aspects of the academic system and, of course, legal theory. But who am I kidding - even the courage and competence to disagree is something that many, if not all of us, owe to her.
@Ma'am, I wish the very best for you for times to come. I am never forgetting those signature acts – “Best AD”, “let’s problematise,” “my bacchas,” that trademark yolo hand-spinning, and the most aspirational sass I’ve seen after Maya Sarabhai. Just a reminder that my Applied Juris dinner is still due and I am going to hold you to it :D
My regards and best wishes,