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INTERVIEW: Dr. Rashmi Mathur from NLUJ on Her Inclination Towards Canonical Literature

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This interview has been taken by Jatin Karela, Campus Leader at Lawctopus and a fourth-year learner at NLU, Jodhpur.

Dr. Rashmi Mathur, Nlu jodhpur

Dr. Rashmi Mathur has 11 years of teaching experience and has excelled throughout her academic and professional life. She has taught graduate, post graduate and M.Phil students for 5 years at Banasthali University.

At NLU Jodhpur, she teaches General English, Legal Language and Business Communication. She has participated in and presented at 15 national and international conferences to her credit and has published 3 Research papers.

She has an active interest in the spheres of Legal Writing, Legal Feminism, Post-Colonial Writing and English for Specific Purposes. Her future career plans involve specialization in legal language, publication of research papers in Major Research journals and working on Research Projects.

Hello, Dr. Rashmi Mathur. Tell us something about yourself. 

Ans. I am an avid reader, a literature enthusiast, a solicitous teacher, and an incurable gourmand. I look for meanings and patterns behind seemingly innocuous objects for I firmly stand with Ms. Eleanor Catton who says, The ability of humans to read meaning into patterns is the most defining characteristic we have.”

Probably, that is as much as I would want to focus on myself since, like all good teachers, I prefer to blend in the background and allow the focus to be on the process of knowledge acquisition.

What are your favourite subjects? What subjects are you currently teaching?

Ans. I have trained myself to discourse on Legal Language & English for Specific Purposes in the professional sphere but my personal inclination is towards Canonical Literature- writings which have survived the test of tide and time and yet have the power to swerve popular imagination and carry within itself the seed of all that is relevant to humanity, even spanning cultures and civilizations in the process.

As a specimen consider T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land– written more than a century ago and ending with a lesson from the Brihadaryanaka Upanishad where Brahma says ‘Da’, a diktat interpreted variously by Humans, Demons and Gods to stand for Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyatta- give, compassion, self-control. The ending continues to ignite my imagination and I reiterate it continually in overcoming life’s challenges. 

What made you choose this career line? Any particular people who inspired you to enter the revered teaching profession?

Ans. As a young girl in a joint family, I had a literal cavalcade of younger cousins wanting me to tutor them through the intricacies of poetry and prose. I was ever willing to teach and my reward was appreciation after exams and expressions like “What you spoke echoed in my ears during the exam and I aced.” This encomium was reward enough and made me inclined towards teaching. 

In post-graduation, some of my teachers notably Professors John brothers made teaching so lucid and evocative that I probably started envisioning myself as switching over from the side of benchers to the podium and then the rest, as they say, is history no-no her-story.

Tell our readers about your law school life. What are your fondest memories of it?

Ans. I have been associated with Law school as a tutor and not as a protegee so I will address this question from 2 perspectives- first my own learning experience and then as an instructor at a Law school.  

As a learner, my favourite moments revolved around the University library. I was obsessed with taking out each volume to see what could be found relevant and my biggest moments of disappointment were when the relevant pages in a book were torn by miscreants and then there is the haunting fragrance of old books waiting to be opened and discovered which still plays at the edge of my memory.

At NLU Jodhpur, there are umpteen memories from that of people to classroom moments to epiphanies but what I can recount right now is the all-encompassing silence which pervaded the campus during the pandemic and what moved me most poignantly was the forlorn-looking bell which had lost its all-important position as a marker of time.

The silent bell probably made me feel the enormity of the change which had come over the world so swiftly. Now, things have almost returned to the former status quo yet the echo of that apocalyptic time still remains even though the bell now resonates mellifluously.

What strategies did you use to be successful in college (in terms of studies, making good relations)?

Ans. I was a through-and-through bookworm who probably lived more between pages than in the real world. This has made me extremely taciturn and a bit of a loner so I am not the best person to discourse on social skills.

But one strategy I think which might give an inkling about acing writing skills for young learners is the usage of a Thesaurus. I was never satisfied with the usage of the first available word but always craved to look for a better word and this just continued endlessly and still remains an indelible habit. Probably, the habit can be interpreted as an inexhaustive effort to better yourself and not be satisfied with the status quo. This is also probably also my message to students, best voiced by Tennyson in the poem Ulysses as 

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Share something about your journey as a law professor and what you like best about teaching at National Law University Jodhpur.

Ans. As detailed above, I came to teaching as a natural outcome of my inclination. This journey hasn’t been a roller coaster but more like a train journey traversing through a hilly terrain- meaning that the view is panoramic and edifying but there are occasional unsettling moments due to one’s own anatomy. 

Life at NLU Jodhpur is calming and exciting- every year the new entrants with myriad views and perspectives make me feel like a newcomer all over again and as they say, life stays forever young for teachers.

The best part of teaching is probably not inside but outside the classroom, because inside, your perspective goes out to more than 100 students who understand and amalgamate differently but outside, when a group of students come to discuss the topic in-depth, explore the sphere further and show the inclination to take on newer challenges, academia becomes a pleasurable realm. 

What is the best thing about being a Law Professor? And what’s the worst?

Ans. The best thing about the realm of Law is that continually throws up new ideas, challenges, perspectives, and events (though not all are enlivening) so there is no dearth of fodder to feed inquisitive minds and as they say, all knowledge is inter-connected so being in tandem with the changing scenario is what I probably find most fulfilling in the field.

The worst part is this feeling not unlike that of a station master who watches trains come and go but remains steadfast to his/her post. The students arrive, graduate and go but the teacher remains steadfastly bound to this position which kind of casts a gloom over my mind but then I find succour in John Milton’s famous line, “They also serve who stand and wait.” 

What according to you should be the focus of the law students at law school? How should they shape up their potential career graph?

Ans. I would like to answer the second question first by pointing out that becoming a lawyer doesn’t mean a narrowing choice but on the contrary widening them tremendously. So, my students have aced competitive exams, entered the exalted portals of the judiciary, ventured into B-Schools, acquired coveted positions in law firms and made their institution proud by entering into Ivy league institutions but synchronously, they have also become writers, travel photographers, pastry chefs and content creators so my advice- give yourself free rein and explore what suits you best.

With regard to focusing during law school, don’t pick and choose or go with a blueprint that I will only show interest in what shall make my career graph rise. Give yourself a free hand – a pre-determined trajectory can curtail but not expand. Make the most of the experience and look for fulfilment in all you do. 

What are your views about today’s students? How were the students in your time? Do you notice any difference? Any word of advice for your students?

Ans. Students today are incredibly gifted, very opinionated about what they want from life, and more vocal but slightly more slothful also. Nowadays they are better multi-taskers and maintain better work-life balance.

During our student days, it was only rugged hard work that could get one through but today it is equally smart work that helps a student ace.

My advice for students would be to set a gentler pace for life and not precipitously run to scale all peaks at once which is best expressed in Robert Browning’s words which say, The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!’”

This Interview is a part of our Star Student/Faculty interview series wherein our campus leaders interview the star student/faculty of their college. Stay tuned for more!

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