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@ University of London

I wrote these blogs when I returned to university to study again, at 41 years of age, alongside full scale responsibilities at work! And what a turbulent time it was, but one that catapulted me to an entirely new league in life. University of London recognized me an ‘International Student Blogger’ and later very generously awarded a ‘Top 75 Student Blogger’ badge for these blogs. Happy to connect with anyone who relates with my stories here!

October 25th, 2013

University hopper @ 41, once more!

Last month, one sultry afternoon I was busy in my office finalising a particularly delicate audit report, when my wife’s SMS queued in ‘…your Fedex box is in…’

Jumping off my chair, I dashed out, hopped into my car and navigated through the busy streets of Calcutta as if my life was on fire and reached home in no time! My wife’s eyebrows narrowed as if she was staring at a ghost ‘…are you well? All okay at the office…?’ My 14-year-old daughter was smart to sense my reason for exhilaration and wasted no time bargaining for her share of the pie for giving me my ‘box’. Twenty-four years after stepping out of college, I could feel my teenage excitement once again as I leafed through the fresh pages of my newly arrived University of London International Programmes LLB study guides. True, I had seen it all a couple of weeks earlier through the highly sophisticated prism of our ‘VLE’, but the reality of the ‘oven-fresh’ pages far overwhelmed all virtues of virtuality. I was rejuvenated, almost therapeutically.

So what, on earth, my friends questioned, did a (luckily) fairly well established business professional dream of, to be motivated into a UoL degree of law all over again? Honestly, the decision was driven not so much by the brain as much it was by the heart. The story goes a year back, when one day staring at the majestic Himalayas on a rather romantic holiday, my notion of career, fame and accomplishment suddenly took an unreasoned U-turn.

Without delving too much into philosophy, let me plainly state that on my return from the hills to the ‘plains’, I met this grand old lady called the University of London on the net and was immediately drawn to her like a magnet. ‘Law’ was narrated to me like a gripping novel, very different from the coarse and mundane set of rote rules that I have been used to, up to now.

I began feeling as though the subject, that I once hated cramming into, suddenly seemed to have the potential of intermingling with my persona. I thus made up my mind to decidedly embrace it as a companion for the rest of my journey left in life.

As days and weeks progressed, I have tended to increasingly feel that the practice of ‘law’ is more akin to the practice of, say, religion, rather than profession. From now on, god willing, I’ll probably need my profession only to fund my passion. It is this chance discovery that has rekindled my youth in mid-age and helped ignite the fire in my belly to fuel my marathon run. It is thus that I didn’t mind squeezing into the space that should otherwise rightfully be occupied by minds younger than mine.

I can only thank my stars for having shown me the way to the doorsteps of the University of London International Programmes. The sheer pleasure of this august company will hopefully come in the way of any remorse, should any, that might creep within me in future for having taken this life-changing decision.

Welcome, dear friends, let’s together partake this ‘Odyssey’ and enjoy from here on!

Cheers, KK

03rd December 2013

The snakes and ladders of study

A lamp and laptop with University of London International Programmes portal.

My London LLB box was opened a month back. With all arrangements complete, books placed tidily on shelves, stationery of all kinds neatly arranged in drawers, laptop powered and connected to the net… it’s time for lights, camera, action!

I pick up my new jet-black Waterman and ink the first word on my new exercise notebook, almost in school-like cursive writing, when… pause! Water.

Back at the desk with glass in hand, the meandering mind starts wandering, eventually finding its way inside the hall for the graduation ceremony in the Barbican Centre, academically attired in the flowing silk gown as Her Royal Highness rises to speak. A sense of pride flashes by as the thunderous applause of the audience greats The Princess Royal. Dream within dreams, the journey moves on to Senate House, Russell Square and on, for hours together, till… snap!

Caesar, the little pet beagle has been licking furiously at his masters’ ears to try and rouse him from his slumber. Staring sheepishly at the dog, I realise I had fallen asleep before even starting my first study session. Guilt takes over from pride and hands over the baton to remorse!

With Caesar on constant vigil, my daydreams slowly start drying up. As Professor Wilson guides me into the kaleidoscopic crimes of Criminal Law; guilty acts (Actus Reus) and guilty minds (mens rea) assumenew dimensions and context. Professor Geary takes turns etching common law and reasoning into my hardened grey matter through a labyrinth of cases in the courts of law. And Caesar too learns to wag his tail every time the learned judge hits the hammer!

The caravan progresses through Chapters 1 to 2 to 3 and back to Chapter 1. Case laws start getting intertwined into flesh and blood of daily life, so much so that if Lord Hope raises expectations one day, Baroness Hale dashes them on another (of course, vice versa as well).

Snakes and ladders game

Audi alterem partem (right to be heard)and nemo iudex in causa sua (rule against bias) moves out of legal texts and merge into the social side of my character. Live legal cases of terrorism and high profile murders become more relevant for their argumentative values and ratio decidendi (reason for deciding) beyond the fictional excitement of television ‘breaking news’!

Alas, beyond the warmth of the subject lies reality of the exams! Soon the burning need for acceleration will kick in, and kick out this luxury of leisure walks around the magnificent lawns of legal philosophy. It will then be time to look out for new ladders of tenacity, discipline, hard work, sincerity and regularity. It will then be time to courageously pick up and throw the dice again whenever shoved back by the snakes of panic, impatience, overconfidence and laziness!

Cheers, KK

14th January 2014

A journey to the center of the mind

October 2013 was a breeze when life at the University of London had just begun. By December 2013, the sails picked wind and the cruise sailed comfortably till the new calendar remained out of gaze.

Man studying with hair standing on end

On the morning of 1st January 2014, the hair on the head began experiencing an anti-gravity pull.

Responsibilities at work were piling, eating into valuable study time. Festivities and celebrations were becoming botherations.

A cricket commentator would say … the asking rate is rising; wickets are falling and overs getting exhausted without adequate runs on the board.

During whole of the first week of Jan 2014, I experienced a ‘gurgled’ feeling inside me, whatever that means. Priorities were getting mixed up between responsibilities of a senior executive in office on one hand and the exam goose bumps of a junior university student on the other. The harmonious cacophony of uninterrupted pre-election fever on TV was not helping the cause. Nerves were getting really nervous and rattled, carrying garbled messages all around the body and the heart trying to soothe them working overtime on the only job it can do-pumping blood, and even more blood.

Talking of blood… Blood was being splattered on Criminal Law VLE discussion forums as well, with tons of murders and manslaughters every day-with intention, without intention, voluntarily, involuntarily, with or without causation…diminished responsibility…huh! In Public Law, Labour party was baying for the blood of the ruling party of Conservatives in Westminster Hall. In Contract Law, I was trying hard but failing to see how a blood bank could be held contractually liable for failing to deliver blood (due to being stuck in traffic jams) to a terminally ill patient.
‘Take a break before you break’ is my mantra (remember my glass-of-water-break in my earlier blog Snakes and Ladders?) Water again… it occurred to me. This time I went parasailing (in reality… not in dreams like last time).

Far from the maddening crowd…

Parasailing figure

… As I pulled up several hundred feet above the deep blue sea the first bout of fresh oxygen gushed into my lungs. With a deep breath, a feeling of wellness percolated my tired body, permeating through strained nerves, massaging tensed cells and tissues with the alacrity of a seasoned spa therapist. Eyes closed softly, the tranquil solitude of the deep blue sky soaking me in. In yogic glory I glided through long distances seamlessly in the sky without any of the herculean efforts of pillar-to-post-running that I’m used to doing on the ground.

I recalled Rabindranath Tagore …‘The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous’. Unable to gaze into infinity, my vision channeled inwards, deep into the boundless universe of my mind, throwing me into an unbundled meditative contemplation of pure joy. I stirred into reality when my parachute clicked, and felt a rush of positive energy gush through my nerve channels, cleansing all pits of negative thoughts along its way.

Rejuvenated, I realized the time had come for my descent, for a fresh innings on the ground but this time with a winner’s mindset, reminded that there is simply nothing to be lost in the journey called life.

They say that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Back with a steely resolve, my feet found new ground as I confidently strode into the boardroom and took on my corporate Board meetings with elan a week later. After all, profession has to be nourished first so that it can take turns to feed passion.

February 2014
Back to my LLB drawing board with just about the minimum time left for exam preparations, I’m raring to go at it once more, this time with renewed confidence. The timetable has been revised – 58 chapters in all, first reading done for 20 chapters, 38 to go in two months and a month left for revision. Not bad, eh?

‘Life is about timing’ says Carl Lewis, so for the final lap…on your mark… get… set… go!

Cheers, KK

18th August 2014

An 18-year old with 24 years experience…!

Entry to the University of London LLB programme @ 41 was a watershed event for me last year, and the six following months… a roller coaster ride. From sleepy beginnings (The snakes and ladders of study) through wake-up moments (A Journey to the Centre of the Mind) it has been pulsating, right up to the finishing line.

The last time I ran this race was two decades back during my Chartered Accountancy Finals. Those were different days though. In early 20s, youthful potential energy was in abundance. Devoid of any serious responsibility, life was relatively uncomplicated. In short, those were days when the heart thumped more in anticipation of love and life rather than apprehension of failure and fear..!

My transformation in 20 years is best reflected in my handwriting! What then used to be alphabetical gems…crafted ornamentally for communicating special messages to special people, now appear to be the work of cockroaches running around with their legs dipped in ink!Years of detachment from active studies had taken its toll on me. On D-Day at my exam center, wearing a somber look reminiscent of the proverbial sacrificial lamb awaiting its turn, my mind raced repulsively away from the question paper at hand. As case laws mangled into each other beyond cognition, drops of sweat oozed out of my forehead in the air conditioned hall. I could feel the ground slipping away from beneath my feet. “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water”… Tagore had said. I had to take the plunge. Closing my eyes, I tried to clear the mind of confused strains with a two-minute meditation and a few deep breaths, managing to direct all my resolve to the narrow tip of my pen. All my grey hair acquired in the last 20 years had by now come to my rescue. Slowly the wheat separated from chaff and I could clearly see through the mist to what the examiner was looking for. And the rest, they say, is history.

After a three-month agonizing wait, the storm has passed over and my shelves look spruced up once again with new books.

Sipping a fresh round of coffee, I like the idea of warming up for the next lap once more, this time as an 18-year old with 24 years experience!

Cheers, KK

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