"What’s my story? Let’s pause and think for a moment, shall we? Because I have never been asked this question before. So, let’s start from the very beginning where like most Indian families who teach their children the beauty of studying and understanding thermodynamics and electrochemistry, I was that kid who chose PCM with Economics and even took coaching for Engineering in grade 11th. Did I want to be an Engineer? Absolutely not, and do I regret choosing Science as a subject in high school? once again absolutely not, because I do believe that science is the foundation for everything in life, and had I not chosen that path I would have never realized my love for Law and Justice. I have always been an outgoing, vocal, and team leader sort of a person because that is how my parents raised me, to never shy away from voicing your opinions or asking questions, to never say YES to something that you don’t completely believe in, and to always fight for what’s right.
Well, I realized in high school that I wanted to become a Lawyer and somehow the idea of being a lawyer to me always meant defending those who have been wronged and protecting our basic human rights, but if I had a nickel for every time someone tried to discourage me because I sounded either idealistic or naive. However, my journey started with GLC Mumbai which challenged me and put me out of my comfort zone every single day and where most people around me had started interning at Big Law firms in 2nd year itself, I was completely immersed in college activities and I remember thinking to myself “should I also start applying for internships”, “what if I don’t get a job later on because I didn’t intern”, but then the 18-year-old me told myself to focus on the present and take baby steps. I focused on academics, took up leadership roles, got involved with organizations working for a cause, and eventually made my own little network in this legal world and got my first internship in 4th year, and as a first-generation lawyer, it wasn’t easy but was definitely worth it. I remember coming home with my first ever cheque of Rs. 9,000 after the end of an unpaid internship and handing it over to my Daadi, and my mother wondering how and why I got money for an unpaid internship, a question I asked my senior myself to which I was told that I had done a good job at work. At that moment I felt pure joy and I realized that the feeling of hard-earned money is quite spectacular.
That’s how my journey at law firms kickstarted and progressed, first as an intern, a paralegal, a trainee associate, and then an associate, and this ride was nothing less than exhilarating, exhausting, and enlightening because it was then that I became fully aware of what it really took to be a lawyer, let alone a female lawyer. Most of the time as a female lawyer you are working twice as hard as your male counterparts not because you are expected to but because you are unfortunately sometimes subjected to unpleasant comments based on your appearance and not your work, and you end up feeling like you owe it to yourself to prove it to the world that you are where you are because you absolutely 100% deserve it. In this competitive and demanding profession where you find a lot of people around you with the advantage of being connected to someone or with relatively easy access to internships and jobs, every little step that you take and every decision that you make to carve out a successful path for yourself is a pat on your back.
But while we are on this topic let me also acknowledge the fact that I have always been blessed with amazing male bosses throughout who never showed any kind of discrimination and always appreciated me for my work, corrected me when I faltered, guided and encouraged me. Sadly though, we still live in a world created by Bollywood where the concept of court and courtrooms are absolutely absurd and alien to people and while I have had my own share of ups and downs, experiences and explanations to provide to people who never really understood why I chose Law as a career option and that too in a country like India, I definitely lucked out in the family department as well where my parents stood by me and taught me how to tune out the world and focus on your goal. They taught me that when you are a hard-working determined soul working towards something, no matter how many challenges life throws at you, you will come out stronger than ever and that feeling of success despite it all will be unparallel. There is so much inspiration around us and I don’t know if every child derives inspiration from their parent’s life stories or not, but I certainly do. I look at them and see two individuals but also a team that faced a million problems which also included migration from their hometown (Kashmir), but they studied hard and worked even harder and built a wonderful life for themselves. When I ask them how they managed everything? Their honest reply is that they dreamt big.
In this increasingly globalized world, we as a society love to come together and talk about fancy things like changing the world, but we often forget that the first step towards change is to talk less and do more. When I decided to go abroad for my LL.M, I knew that it was going to change a lot of things in my life but me wanting to come back to my country and make it an even better place to live in remained. I may seem and sound like I have it all figured out, but I don’t. As I am writing this article, I am going through a transition in my life by taking a risk of letting go of something great, something that I have worked for all these years, and am maybe moving towards something even better or maybe not. I’m just an ordinary girl with decisions to make, a positive outlook, a dream, and a business idea. But let’s make a start by treating all genders equally.
We as women are often called “overly emotional”, “sensitive”, “demanding” etc., etc. like they are derogatory terms but are they really? To all you wonderful aspiring women out there let’s not be judged for emotions that in reality give us so much strength, remember to dream big, work hard and be passionate about more than just one thing in life because the sky is the limit and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just remember that everyone is living their own story and has their own tale to tell, and similarly, no one knows your story better than you so own it and keep at it. Taking this opportunity to tell myself that “I did well so far, but have miles and miles to go before I sleep”.
- Aarika Raina
Ms. Aarika Raina is an alumna of Government Law College, Mumbai. She completed her Masters from Georgetown University Law Center with a certificate in International Human Rights where she was a Merit Scholar. She has worked as an Associate with the Dispute Resolution team at Khaitan & Co and the Corporate and M&A, Labour and employment, Media and entertainment sector at Parinam Law Associates. During her time at GLC, she excelled in both academics and extracurricular and was also the Public Relations Head of the Moot Court Association and went on to become the General Secretary in the year 2016-2017. Her association with GLC continues till date as she has also been a part of judging various inter-college moot court competitions and judgement deliberation competitions.