AMBIKA SANGWAN

LLM, 2014

Dear Prof. Dhanda,

Words do not seem to justify the indelible impression you have left on me, professionally and personally. I fondly remember the two-year association I had with you during my LLM. Our engaging classroom discussions; your openness and appreciation of students, made you a personable instructor. I consider myself truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of your brood (bachhas- in your words) and be nurtured. Your constant endeavour to get the best out of us, still remains a driving force for me. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude as a small GURU DAKSHINA.

I wish you good health and happiness.

 

Love and Regards

Ambika Sangwan

 

CHAND CHOPRA

BA LLB, 2012

Prof. Dhanda,

 

Being your student changed my life. I know it sounds cliched and unbelievable to many, but till you taught us Law & Poverty in Second Year I had no drive or purpose in law school. Sure memorising notes and understanding law at a superficial level was the easiest thing to do. But you made us truly understand what law is and the potential it had to change lives for the better. You transformed my life and I’m forever grateful that I had an opportunity to be taught by you. Wishing you a beautiful life ahead with the best of health and happiness. 

 

With warm regards

Chand 

 

PT SANJANA

BA LLB, 2017

Dear Madam,

 

My NALSAR journey would not have been smooth and complete without your support.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your guidance, support and insights.

I wish you the best of health and happiness

happy retired life.

 

Sincere regards

P.T. Sanjana

 

APOORVA YADAV

BA LLB, 2015

While it would not be possible to enlist every single reason Prof Dhanda was so formative in my time at NALSAR, I can speak of the one that has stayed with me the longest. 

You gave me a Law and Literature course that told me, a literature nerd who somehow found herself at law school (and later found her way back to literature because of the confidence she gained from this course), that I did have a home in the NALSAR curriculum: I could have meaningful conversations with the intimidating legal discourse I was confronted with using the tools I had developed over years of reading fiction: something that didn’t ‘serve a purpose’, as I had been told all my life until then. My fiction served a purpose, I realised while applying legal theory to Albert Camus and Gabriel Garcia Marquez: it changed perspectives and created its own, affective, creative, and ultimately, transgressive jurisprudence the way nothing else quite could. 

For that clarity of purpose, for those hesitant murmurings of interdisciplinary thought that I had begun to formulate, Prof Dhanda, you will always have my most sincere gratitude. Paradoxically enough, I would not have been the literature scholar I am today without the legal training I received under you.

 

RAJEEV KADAMBI

BA LLB, 2004

Dearest Ma’am,

A true teacher is one who does not just clarify knowledge of the subject but one who enables a student to overcome their obstacles within. You are one of those rare teachers who have that gift of discernment. Since receiving your guidance from 2000 onwards, the passion to be in University has sustained me. Throughout my graduate studies and academic travels, I have realized that you were the only teacher I had. And you continue to teach even after. Given this, whatever I try giving back will always fall short, for it is the very nature of this debt that must remain in perpetuity.

My memories of learning and interacting with you are numerous. I’ll always remember a telling self-observation you shared with me that aptly describes yourself, “there are no half-measures in what I do,” you once said! I learnt immensely from your sense of fairness and practical action that transformed everything you took up. Your insights about problems of systems lacking discretion seemed more than just a professional credo for you in administrative law, but integral to your struggles against administrations that ignored individuality and vulnerability. You worked from within these structures and transformed them by recognizing the place for nurture and wonder.  

Here is wishing your family, friends, and you lots of warmth on this very special occasion!

 

Yours truly,

Rajeev

 

ADITYA SINGH

BA LLB, 2011

The gift to converse and learn from Professor Dhanda was the high-point of my NALSAR journey. Thank you, Ma’am, for shaping – and forever changing – the way one looks at law and life. And for always treating us like adults even when we behaved like foolish kids.

 

ANINDITA MUKHERJEE

BA LLB, 2015

I have put off writing this until the very last moment, because I'm not sure where to begin, and what to say. I have had the privilege of reading these tributes in advance, and they've often caused me to tear up. Reading them reminds me, in dark times, that there is unquantifiable value in goodness, even if it does not often translate to mainstream success or popularity. Your impact as a teacher, academic and administrator is awe-inspiring, but if I am to be honest, the thing that I hope I inculcate (as Jhanda!) is your willingness to learn and unlearn and learn again. Whether it is your political positions, technology or swimming, you approach learning with such openness and such inexhaustible energy that, sometimes, in your company, I feel like the set-in-their-ways-oldie. I think it's this willingness to do the work, to walk your talk, that makes it easier for your students too to unlearn things and approach the world with clearer eyes. At the risk of sounding cliched, I don't think anything I write is going to do justice to all that I have learnt from you, and all that I cherish about my equation with you, so I'll leave you with a little poem that reminded me of you, when I stumbled across it.

A Thank You Note by Lang Leav

You have told me
All the things
I need to hear
Before I knew
I needed to hear them

To be unafraid
Of all the things
I used to fear,
Before I knew
I shouldn’t fear them.

MIHIRA SOOD

 
BA LLB, 2007

The Law & Poverty Seminar was a rite of passage for 2nd year Nalsarites, and my paper for it, on Bollywood movies of all things, was ambitious to say the least. I don't know if you ever knew it, Prof. Dhanda, but it was your delight at my work that made me feel, for the first time, that I belonged at law school. 

At Nalsar, it was usually the inter-disciplinary courses that were the most rigorous, a fact which is attributable in large part to you. I didn't know when I joined that that would be the case, but that is one of the biggest reasons I am so grateful to have studied there. 

Many years later, in a stray online chat, you suggested I return to teach a short elective. That began my turn towards academia, a career path I had for some reason not considered till then. Once again, you were probably unaware of how much a single conversation with you influenced my life, as always, for the better.

Words (at least mine) are inadequate to convey the depth of my gratitude and respect for you. So let me just say, thank you. Everyone should have a teacher like you. Love always, your bachha.

 

DIVYASTUTI

BA LLB, 2005

You taught us to read, research, analyze, articulate. 

You taught us independence, objectivity, discernment, sincerity. 

Much of what you taught is the foundation of my fascinating career.

Law school curriculum was bearable because of your classes. 

Doing research papers in your subjects and seminars was pure joy. Loved every bit of the brainstorm and slog. 

You always encouraged me to do my own thing, however radical, and find my unique way of adding value - this has turned out to be a guiding force in my life. 

Grateful beyond words for your invaluable contribution.

 

ANUP SURENDRANATH

BA LLB, 2006
 

SANYA SAMTANI

BA LLB, 2015

Dear Dhanda Ma'am 

One of the very first things you told our first year classroom was 'if you do not read, you will be killed' with a sinister finger across your throat and a twinkle in your eye. Of course, nervous titters filled the room after you said that. As a good, studious bacha, I remember thinking that of course I would read - what other option even was there? But little did I know what you actually meant was that 'you will be killed anyhow'; only the method would be different depending on whether one read or not.

The point somewhere is just this that painful though it was at the time, I should be glad of another death. You opened my mind and heart to another way of being - one that definitively killed the me I was when I entered law school. For that, I am grateful. Thank you for teaching me how to problematise, even and especially when it made me uncomfortable. Thank you for your kindness in doing so, one that didn't coddle but also didn't needle. Thank you for your empathy, Ma'am, when you showed that administrators could also have a heart, and that rules didn't exist for overzealous enforcement. Thank you also for asking me what a 'functioning' was - recognising that I was elsewhere in an important class - seven years later, my thesis will now tell you about functionings and capabilities and all!

The breadth of what I learned from you continues to amaze me. Apart from carrying your modules with me wherever I go in the world, I find myself reaching for the ideas that you taught us, more and more. In the course of my research degree, I have had flashes taking me back to a particular idea or thought, only half remembered - which I then rushed to consult my trusty Law and Poverty module to help me remember. In fact, just the other day I asked Ninny for your Pluralising Inclusion course outline, because I was so sure that the idea that one must always legislate / make policy keeping in mind the most disadvantaged came from something I had read as a part of one of your courses - and landed up kicking myself because it looks like the best course available to us at Nalsar was one that I never took, for reasons only intelligible to a former me :'( 

Over these past five years, it seems like the process of being killed and emerging from the ashes of a former me continues on. Lucky me, I get to remind myself of the times when you taught me to think critically, not cynically about operating in an unequal world. Like the time when I floundered through deconstructionism that threatened to deconstruct me and my idealism about imagining a better world. 

So if I think a certain way, or I do a certain thing, or am a certain way, and you say to me 'you're the best' - my response to you will always be, 'I learned from the best - the best AD'. 

 

All my love
Sanya

 

PS: Happy happy birthday to you, Dhanda Ma'am! I hope you know just how loved and cherished you are by all of us.

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MANOGNYA CHEETI

BA LLB, 2015

I have always felt an interesting mix of feelings in relation to you, ma'am. I was perpetually late with my submissions, and was generally embarrassed to approach you because most times I wouldn't have done what I was supposed to. I went through some difficult periods in law school, and while I may have avoided speaking to you about them (even when you reached out) I had absolute confidence that I could always go to you if I really needed to, and you would understand and help me deal with things. It meant a lot to me to know this, and to go through the five years knowing somebody had my back.

The kind of effort you made towards pushing students out of their comfort zones or towards ensuring that everyone gets enough chances to fix things as long they were willing to try, made time at college that much more rewarding. 

 

VISHNU SUMANTH

BA LLB, 2018

Thank you, Prof. Dhanda, for teaching me to appreciate the law in all its shades of grey, for opening my eyes to my enormous privilege, and above all, for teaching me that a good lawyer was necessarily a compassionate one. Eternally grateful.

 

REJITHA NAIR

LLM
 

MALAVIKA PRASAD

BA LLB, 2013

Professor Dhanda,

 

I’m not going to tell you you’re an icon or a giant or a once in a life time professor or any of that. Because of course you are, and of course all of us see that and say that, and often. It’s probably even easy to reduce your presence to authority and scholarly accomplishment, given the context we are introduced to you in. What I’ve been thinking about a lot more these last five years of being by your side as a student-colleague rather than under you as a student-baccha, is that not enough is said of you as a human being. And I would like to take a stab at that.  

 

I’ll never forget the work you put in to level the hierarchy in the short stints in which we were colleagues. (As if I wasn’t thirty five years younger, without so much as a critical fiber in my being when we first became acquainted.) Or the time that you told me to embrace my anxiety because what I saw as my greatest setback was what you saw as a significant asset. (As if I had not flaked on a deadline or two, broken down in public the day before, and been incoherent or dissociated through much of the time prior.) Or the time that you just casually slipped in passing that you felt our reading on a certain subject had far exceeded yours. (As if that was not made possible entirely by the kinds of opportunities you or your stewardship afforded to us.) Or the time you told a room full of people that I deserved a lion’s share of the credit for the work product we had delivered together. (As if my first stab at the project had not been completely overhauled by your far more radical lens, and the second, third and fourth drafts had not been repeatedly reworked after our meetings at the lawn of the CC.) Or the time you told me that just because you are a professor and look put together, doesn’t mean you don’t struggle or need support to lean on, sometimes even from someone like me. (As if such a thing should need saying.)

 

Self-involved and anxious as we tend to be when young and unaware of our own inner worlds, I don’t know how much I registered of the fact that you were always trying, despite everything, to listen, process, acknowledge, empathize, make space, hold space, give, give some more and change. That you were trying to welcome out an agent, an equal, a full human being, from a cave into which I had retreated as a dissociated child, confused student and terrified worrier. In the smallest nod, the quickest sign off line in an email or text, the most fleeting eye contact or the slightest inflection of your voice. The more I came out of my cave and into my own, the more I began to see our interactions for what they were. 

 

Of course no radical self-acceptance is possible at the hands of another person. And I appreciate that you make the space for my quirks, my needs, and my boundaries, even when it’s frustrating or out of alignment with our shared goals. In thinking about power and navigating authority everywhere – something you know I struggle with continually – I am most struck by how little of your vision you expect me to fit. All this is a long way to say, I find more ways to accept myself – even those pieces of me I’d rather have disowned or neglected – because you choose to be you in our journey together. Not as a senior authority figure who can just hurtle through life without a moment’s reflection given her position of power and seniority. But as a colleague and friend who is always ruminating, rejigging, redoing, revamping and reflecting, despite her power and seniority. 

 

Of course all roles you play bleed into each other, and I don’t want to engage in some forensic analysis of separate strands of your being or anything! I only want to say that I see you as more than the professor and academic you have been in our shared context (even if some years too late). In my books, you’re far from superannuating those equally (if not more) cherished roles. I am grateful for you, and I am so very grateful for our time together, the missteps, the hiccups, the challenges and all. 

 

As we go forth, I hope that we can find that our inner worlds are enriched in more colourful ways by the friendship we share. I hope that we can find solidarity and connection in each other, even as we work towards being in solidarity and sisterhood with those who lead our movements. And of course (surely I cannot close without talking shop at all?) I hope that our pedagogic dreams will one day see the light of day, and that the public practice of self-respect and love can be the world we leave behind.

 

Happy birthday! 

 

With love,

Malavika