IDIA UP Chapter scholars, Sumyya and Anmol Raj, qualified the Common Law Admission Test, 2021. Sumyya, who secured All India Rank 1215, will be joining RML National Law University, Lucknow. Anmol bagged All India Rank 91 (PWD), and will attend National Law University, Odisha.
They are interviewed by EBC-SCC Ambassador Vanaj Vidyan, who is a fourth-year student at RML National Law University.
Congratulations on successfully qualifying CLAT 2021.
- Before we get to the formal questions, let us begin by asking how you feel about the results? Were you expecting this phenomenal performance?
Sumyya: It is absolutely surreal. I was never certain that I would actually score enough to get into a top NLU. There were always lingering doubts that sometimes would be so strong that it would make me want to give up. But because of my mother I kept pushing through. I kept working everyday to the best of my abilities and it makes me so happy to see them bear fruit.
Anmol: Not at all. It is a very nice but strange feeling because it is like something you were too scared to imagine, actually taking place. I will never forget the day when I got to know about my results. It is a very special day for me.
- Please introduce yourself to our readers. Was deciding to study law a conscious choice? What motivated you for that?
Sumyya: Hello everyone. I am Sumyya. I hail from Amroha, Uttar Pradesh. I love reading and writing diaries and letters. Moreover, I am also into coding and web designing. Studying law was not the first option I had in my mind. I have an active interest in politics and when I was young, I wanted to be the Prime Minister of India. As a teenager, I wanted to change the world by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in History from St. Stephens College and thereafter cracking civil services. But entry into St. Stephens and civil services both are not that easy, and one also cannot be so sure about it. It was only after opting for humanities in 12th that I realised I want to work at the grassroot level. So I need to be equipped with the right knowledge to be able to work for the betterment of society. That is when I thought of pursuing law and started searching all about the 5-year law degree.
Anmol: Hi, I am Anmol Raj from Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh. I live with my parents and my elder brother. I am visually impaired. I love to play online chess and I also have an interest in technology. Inspiration for choosing law came from various sources. One of my father’s friends, who is a lawyer, was the first source of inspiration. When I moved to Lucknow to continue my studies after a long gap of 5 years, one of my teacher’s family members was also in the legal field. She informed me about the possibilities of succeeding in this field despite being visually impaired. I thought about it and decided that I want to help those who fail to afford legal aid due to financial inability.
- Tell us a little about your educational background. Where did you complete your Class XII? Any memories you would like to share associated with your school life?
Sumyya: I did my schooling from Aligarh Muslim University Board and secured 93% in humanities in 12th standard. I stayed in the hostel there. Initially, I did not want to open up to people because I was too apprehensive of sharing my life experiences and struggles as I am a single child of a single mother. I am just 17 but I have gone through a lot. I was shy and reticent, but after being in the hostel, I learnt a lot from everyone. I realised that everybody suffers in one way or another. And now, I am a completely different person because of the people I met throughout the years.
Anmol: I have had blurred vision in my left eye since birth due to a defect. I completely lost my vision in both eyes just 2 months before the 10th board exams. Thereafter, I lost 5 years of my academic life in treatment. When I resumed my schooling in 2017, I had to start from Class 9th so again I was dragged back by 2 years. But when I started, I was motivated and I worked hard to make up for all the lost time. I was academically inclined and used to participate in debates, and all other activities within my reach. Once, I went for a rehabilitation course of three-and-a-half months in Mumbai; there I was trained in mobility, and computers as well. I was awarded 1st prize for scoring highest in academics, computers, and games (mental and physical). That was a defining moment for me after that long frustrating gap of 5 years during which I felt I was losing my skill sets. I felt great and since then I have not looked back and always tried to give my best in everything.
- Not everyone is privileged when it comes to higher education financially or otherwise. Family support usually plays a crucial role. Would you like to share something about how your family supported your preparations? How was their reaction on coming to know of your success?
Sumyya: My mother is an Anganwadi worker. She is my only family. She is everything to me. What she has done for me and is still doing, it is impossible for me to express. She stood beside me at every point of my life as the biggest support system. I was not so sure about cracking CLAT but she motivated me and made me believe in myself. I used to study at night, so she used to wake up to check upon me and to see if I needed something. When I had started my preparation, I was skipping mocks and had got a lot piled up in the last 3 months. I completed all the mocks because my mother made me conquer my fear of mocks and also made me accountable for them. And that I believe it made the difference. Along with my mother, my paternal uncle (chacha) was also there for me, emotionally and financially. He took out time from his busy schedule to help me study and motivate me. I will forever be grateful for that.
When I told them about my success, they were all happy and proud of me.
Anmol: My parents and my elder brother have always been supportive of me. After my vision loss, they took great care of me and motivated me a lot. It was only because of their strength and encouragement that I could resume my education.
When I told them about my results, they were very delighted and proud.
- Could you share something about your CLAT preparations? How did you get to know about IDIA?
Sumyya: This question reminds me of a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
Likewise, until I stopped preparing for CLAT, I never loved it.
I started my CLAT preparations in 2021. Like every other student, I started with an aim to be at NLS but I am grateful for RMLNLU as well.
This year was no different from last year, with covid deaths, lockdowns, online classes, uncertainty over board exams, and much more. Some days I used to be highly motivated, and other days, my pessimistic self had adverse effects on my preparation. But I was fortunate enough to have my mother and IDIA by my side. My IDIA mentors helped me out a lot, from concept-related doubts to analysing my strategy, my mocks, and pushing me to do more. Watching videos of the past year toppers helped me get through it too. It was only then I came across a video of one last year’s rank holder, therein I came across IDIA. After researching about it, I tried to contact through Instagram; within a few days IDIA UP Chapter contacted me.
Anmol: Initially, when I had decided that I wanted to pursue law, I did not know about CLAT and NLUs. It was only in September 2020 when a friend of mine provided me with a link saying that since you want to pursue law this webinar may help you. I joined it and it was IDIA’s sensitisation session. I got to know everything I needed to know about CLAT and other law entrance examinations, NLUs, and the diverse career options as well. I contacted the IDIA UP Chapter immediately through the contact info provided during the session. And I did not look back ever since. The study material provided and the regular interaction with my mentors really helped me. Not only it was useful in maintaining regularity in my schedule but was helpful in releasing the exam-related stress.
- What was the IDIA selection process? Once you got selected, how did IDIA help you?
Sumyya: I wrote INAT i.e. IDIA National Aptitude Test. After passing INAT, the background check was done. Then I was inducted as a trainee in the Chapter in December and started my CLAT preparation. Mentors from the IDIA team were allotted and study material was also provided. With the help of my mentors, I started going through the study material. I was so motivated and excited in the beginning that I completed the study material for English in just 2 days. I was enrolled in a coaching but since I had started late, I had a lot of pending classes. I started with the very first class but that made me to skip mocks. That was the biggest blunder I made. But thankfully with my mentors’ help I realised my mistake and I got back on the right track within a month. I was not so confident with current affairs but the weekly quizzes organised by IDIA team helped me prepare well. Logical reasoning classes conducted by IDIA volunteers were a definite plus.
Anmol: I wrote INAT and after the background check process was done, I was inducted as a trainee in the Chapter. IDIA guided me at every step of my preparation. The mentors made me familiar with the entrance exam pattern. Since I had to prepare for my 12th boards as well, my mentors planned my studies for me and I started with the IDIA’s study material which really helped me solidify the basics in each section. I depend on the screen reader for reading and the soft copy of the study material made it accessible for me which otherwise would not have been possible. I was enrolled in a coaching and tests started from January. I attempted the test, got to know about my mistakes and worked on them with the help of my mentors. The one-on-one sessions with the mentors, the logical reasoning classes, and the weekly current affairs quizzes helped me a lot and this direct interaction proved to be fruitful.
Being visually impaired, I needed a scribe to accompany me in the exam but I was not able to find one. It was only in one of the logical reasoning classes of IDIA that I met my scribe. In fact, he himself came forward to help me. He has really worked hard for me and I am extremely grateful to him for that.
- CLAT is often accused of being an examination for the elite, for excluding financially weak students with Rs 4000 fee, and excluding State board students with its English-exclusive nature. Do you concur with this statement? Do you think you would have prepared for CLAT if not for IDIA? And if yes, how would your circumstances be different?
Sumyya: I wholeheartedly agree with this. I feel CLAT is getting further and further away from the general population of India and as you mentioned, becoming a poster child of the elite. I know many people who had to work extra hard for this test just because they did not have the privilege to be taught in english medium schools. I think it is very wrong to have made the language of the privileged few as the means to success in this exam. But IDIA has truly helped me a lot to overcome this barrier. The mentors and other seniors guiding us, despite being busy, would never shy away from lending an extra hand and solving our doubts. They would keep sending us important worksheets and PDFs to help strengthen our command of this language. Had it not been for them it would have been very difficult for us. Preparing for CLAT without IDIA’s help was out of the question for me. It would not have been possible at all to even think of sitting for the exam without their financial and academic help.
Anmol: Yes, I believe that the current CLAT pattern gives unfair advantage to a certain sect of students. I have heard of debates regarding English being the all means all of CLAT.Of course, I feel it is wrong. It gets restricted to a very small pool of people and prevents diversity in these premiere institutes which is quite detrimental. I hope the consortium works towards this. And for the exclusivity of students from financially weak backgrounds is concerned, I remember losing all hope when I learnt about how much it costs to take the test and the fee structure of the NLUs. We could not afford it. I was ready to compromise my dream. And then I got to know about IDIA which changed everything for me. Finally, it felt like there was some hope and maybe I could actually do what I have always wanted to do after all. So yes, IDIA has played a huge role in this. I would not be here if it were not for them.
- Did the online nature of the past year affect your CLAT preparations? What were some other hardships you faced? What motivated you to keep going through them?
Sumyya: Yes, it did affect my preparation a bit. I think the biggest drawback of online preparation is that the sense of competitiveness is missing in online classes. I am a really competitive person. Seeing others doing well, I get motivated to do better. Interaction among the co-aspirants and with the teacher also becomes tricky in the online mode. The IDIA mock score list helped me here to an extent. I used to compare the topper’s scores with mine and analyse what it is that I am lacking. My IDIA mentors were there to solve my doubts anytime and the weekly quizzes used to be interactive as well. So, there were some drawbacks and hardships but there were benefits too. Since I had started late, the online mode allowed me to catch up on all the classes I had missed which could not have been possible had it been the offline mode.
A lot was going on in the country throughout the year so, there were some days of motivation and some days of distress as well. But I kept in mind the sacrifices my mother has made and her faith in me kept me going. Her hard work made me work harder.
Anmol: Yes, the online nature of the preparation did affect me a bit. I used to have major network issues because I was at home in a rural area. I had to plan my day as per the network availability. But it was manageable. I had the benefit of watching the class videos multiple times which helped me in revising. It is true that the sense of competition is lacking in the online mode but I believe online mode has more benefits for me than disadvantages.
I have had some moments when I wished to give up, especially on not scoring good in mocks. But I always tried to focus my mind on why did I start, why do I want to do this, what do I want to achieve, what would be that happiness when I succeed? All these thoughts kept me motivated since I did not want my dream to remain a dream only.
- You will now garner five years of knowledge at a national law university. Do you plan to apply it for giving back to society?
Sumyya: Yes, definitely. In fact, this was my motivation to opt for law in the first place. I do not want to work in the corporate sector. I wish to go for judiciary or litigation so that I am able to fulfil my aspirations of working for the society.
Anmol: Yes, I want to use the knowledge I will acquire to help people like me, like IDIA does. I wish to become a criminal lawyer. That is what I have in mind for now, it may change after 5 years, but one thing is certain that I will work to the best of my capacity for the downtrodden people.
- There are millions of talented students who fail to access quality higher education in India. Your performance in CLAT serves as an example to all such students. What would be a message you would send to an underprivileged student, who harnesses the same dream as you?
Sumyya: The only message I have for all such students is: believe in yourself. It is true that people prepare for 2-3 years to get into a law school but if you work hard consistently without committing many mistakes, you can do it with a few months of preparation as well. Things may not go the way you have planned, but do not panic, just believe in yourself.
Anmol: My online advice would be: work hard to improve your weak areas, do not waste your precious time. If I can do it, anyone can.
The interviewer thanks IDIA UP Chapter for facilitating this interview.
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