Student Of The Fortnight : Road to Rhodes

Rhodes Scholar selected for Oxford University class of 2015

With students in the fray for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships via its India Chapter – the road to Oxford’s coveted campus is one that demands an outstanding character, leadership skills and immense intellectual prowess. Since its inception in 1947, nearly 200 Rhodes Scholars from India till date have claimed their name to fame for the prestigious program. Some prominent names from diverse fields include economic policy maker Montek Singh Alhuwalia, noted playwright, actor and film director Girish Karnad and adviser and writer on international environmental law Lavanya Rajamani, also an alumni of National Law School India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, to name a few. Following in Rajamani’s footsteps is Mansi Sood, potential legal eagle from the NLSIU who stands proud amongst 85 scholars from various fields chosen for Oxford University’s class of 2015. Mansi speaks to Corporate Citizen on her path to try and achieve a balance between democracy and judicial justice – and emphasizes on being your ‘’own’’ self so as to assert integrity in the legal profession

Alumni of the prestigious Nation- al Law School India University (NLSIU), Mansi says “The logic and structure of law always fas- cinated me and I felt I would en- joy it. The fact that law can be a great equalising force also appealed to me. Togeth- er, these things inspired me to take the chance and pursue law. I can only tell you how glad I am that it worked out!” For an upcoming lawyer, Mansi fielded our questions with maturity and balance. Mansi’s pride in her alma mater, preparation for the Rhodes scholarship, her aim to become a lit- igation lawyer, the current judiciary system and social responsibilities inarguably makes law look a good career option to pursue.

Pride in Alma Mater

The NLSIU, says Mansi, is a breeding ground for excellence. And although she believes that there are several factors that go into making any col- lege the best in its field, she says, “What really makes NLSIU the best, aside from faculty and infrastructure, is the student interaction and the atmosphere within college. The quality and di- versity of students ensures that you are constantly pushing your boundaries and broadening your horizons, there is never a dull moment. It also helps that we have a great alumni network, and they are always extremely kind and supportive, whether it is in terms of offering assistance with extra-curricular activities like mooting and de- bating or giving career advice.”

Heading for Rhodes

Mansi dismisses any kind of grooming mantra for bagging the Rhodes Scholarships. “Honestly, I don’t think there’s a secret mantra or anything. Like I said, the entire atmosphere of the institu- tion (NLSIU) gives you the freedom to be the best at anything you want, by exploring a wide array of opportunities. Professors, friends, peers -- everyone is always very encouraging.” On the choice of subjects too, she puts her faith on the NLSIU curriculum that emphasizes the concept of electives in the final year with a study pattern where there is no need to choose any major sub- ject -- where everyone has to mandatorily study all the subjects offered in the particular curric- ulum.

On preparation techniques, Mansi says that she had not aimed for the scholarship during her first year and gained awareness only during her second year of the UG program. “In fact, I had no clue about the Rhodes till my second year, when one of my friends got the scholarship. And I don’t think it was a path that I was groomed into either. At the back of my mind, I always had a faint no- tion that I may want to study further but that was all. I only started thinking about the scholarship at the end of my fourth year. ”

On the challenges faced during the prepara- tion phase for the Rhodes, Mansi had to under- go a process which proved challenging, “I had to put a lot of effort into discovering what it is that I wanted and concretize my goals, ideas, and ambitions. That process of introspection and the subsequent articulation of my thoughts in my statement of purpose is what required maximum work. The other part was of course the inter- views, but I think those were slightly easier, con- sidering that I have been learning to discuss and defend my views for five years in law school! I thoroughly enjoyed both my interviews though.”

On the final steps to grabbing the coveted scholarship, Mansi elaborates on the mandatory stages, viz., the application and the interviews.

“Every individual in a society has the same basic responsibilities towards all fellow individuals – behaving in a certain manner, doing certain things, not doing certain things”

She said both stages need to be tackled in a com- plementary manner such that the application process becomes distinct from the theoretical path. “The application is more about being able to put down your thoughts on paper, telling your story. The interviews, on the other hand, require you to defend your views, not just about your goals but on a variety of topics. So preparing for that means you have to be up to date with every- thing that is going on in the world.”

Rhodes advice

Mansi says that her trip to Oxford has begun as the Rhodes scholarship is for students wishing to study at Oxford. She has enrolled for the Bachelor of Civil Laws, with a focus on commercial law subjects in the academic session starting Septem- ber 2015. With applications for the scholarships generally kept open for June, students who are going to start their final or fourth year in July in that particular year are eligible to apply.

Her advice to young Rhodes aspirants is in being honest and true to oneself. “There are a lot of things that can be said about the Rhodes scholarship, about the work involved, etc. But the most important thing, in my opinion, is to be yourself and talk about the things that matter to you the most. The rest will fall into place.”

A larger role

Mansi is very clear on coming back to India post her qualifications and will embark on litigation as her chosen fi eld.

“Even though there are still fewer women lawyers than men, especially in litigation, I think the situation has defi nitely improved a lot.” She discounts gender biases in the judicial arena: “The judicial system is one of the cornerstones of democracy and it is undeniable that the Indi- an judicial system needs reforms. Transparency, accountability, judicial appointments, pendency, there are several issues that fall within this um- brella. However, I don’t think bringing about or advocating change with regard to any of these aspects is solely related to being a woman or even a lawyer for that matter. These are things which affect the public at large. That said, I would definitely like to do whatever I can towards resolving these issues.”

For the benefit of the larger public, Mansi believes in social engineering, “I think every in- dividual in a society has the same basic responsi- bilities towards all fellow individuals – behaving in a certain manner, doing certain things, not doing certain things. The same applies to me too, whether it’s as small as keeping my surroundings clean or something bigger like exercising my right to vote. But as a lawyer, I feel I have a greater re- sponsibility to help people, to work towards the improvement of society and towards the growth and development of this nation. Practicing law is, in my opinion, the most direct way of doing this and I intend to do the same,” signs offs Mansi.

By Sangeeta Ghosh Dastidar