ThaLaivi was in interact in school and for her, in her first year, LSC was a natural progression from the service oriented nature of her school days. Then slowly, by her second year she realized that it was more of a learning process than a helping process. Apart from learning the law itself, in the course of LSC activities, one also learns a hundred other useful skills. Of course, I have oversimplified what she said and hope she will post regarding the same over here.
When I came into law school, I was told by my cousin that LSC was a great avenue to gain practical knowledge and have a first hand experience of the law. The "learning experience" interpretation of LSC ran in my head till the end of second year. Not that I now no longer believe LSC as a learning opportunity. LSC still remains my greatest source for knowledge regarding law, life and the ways in which one can use law in life and life in law.
Springing from the same idea, that of LSC as a learning experience, at some point I have started questioning my own legitimacy in advising people in such important matters. Though I console myself saying we always give a disclaimer when we are not sure, and how we say we are just students and we'll consult an expert(one of our teachers or alumni) or how we advise them on the law only.
Gradually as I observed how people take my words so seriously and consult me even for non-legal matters, for a short while I was a bit apprehensive about saying things, and that it might adversely affect them if they acted according to my advice not knowing it comes from a half informed source.
Very often I found myself telling people to do things that were obvious next steps in law but seemed absurd and impracticable under the circumstances and looking through the spectacles of their culture and background.
There were two questions that came up
- Is what I tell people correct and accurate under law?
- Is what I tell people right and useful?
The second question is a bit more tough. There are many occasions where I have felt that I am imposing my beliefs on them. Though I have always couched my opinions, even on random matters, in technically correct language i have still done it knowing that what I tell them is taken very seriously. When I first started thinking like this, I also used to think whether it was right to impose these beliefs upon them. As time went by, I just got back to the usual advising without any hang ups about pushing them into a formalistic dispute resolution system which is at many levels alien to them and also in a way challenges the dispute resolution systems they have already been through. Very often these local dispute resolution institutions be it a maulvi, powerful "Silk and mangoes merchant" or a group of elders are great influence on the lives of the people even when they do not go them with a dispute. I have stopped worrying about whether LSC is going to disturb a delicate balance existing within a system. This despite disguised threats from the powerful "Silk and mangoes trader".
Though this is a little in the air as compared to the other posts on this blog, it is not completely irrelevant and without bearing on LSC. in another upcoming post, An LSC member will write about how this question of different understandings of the role played by LSC became important when deciding what LSC activities should be taken up on a priority basis.