The Blue Pencil : Was being a lawyer something you’d always wanted? How did AIL happen?
Prateek Bhakuni : I was inspired to become a lawyer through books and movies. If not law, it would’ve been medicine since both my parents are doctors and I would’ve perhaps instinctively followed that path, so becoming a lawyer was a fairly arbitrary decision and took a lot of contemplation. AIL happened because I had done my recce and had found out that people did actually appreciate it. Moreover, the name Army was joined to it and thus it was something that seemed highly attractive to say the least. AIL has been one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.
TBP: How was life at AIL different from that of the armed forces? (Did it prepare you?)
PB: AIL has helped me a lot. The five years of hostel life, the interaction with the seniors be it physical or mental interaction was something that made us stronger. AIL was a cultural shock from the pampered life I had at school. It was tough, but it only prepared me mentally and physically to handle any obstacles that I faced at the academy. AIL takes you through that journey and builds your patience so thus everything which was difficult to deal with only got easier cause of it.
TBP: Are there any instances with the authorities/seniors that you can recall?
PB: There was this one incidence in my second year. There was a gang outside which was waiting for us to come out and mess with us, however of course the batch unity was such that the entire batch assembled and sort of mitigated what could’ve been a very messy disaster. There were a few minor injuries and a few legal consequences; so that was one of the incidences.
On a positive note I was one of the first people who was allowed to park his car inside the college and I guess that is a pretty nice memory. We once even had a walk out in the contracts mid semester. That was funnily memorable.
I didn’t have many confrontations with the authority, so nothing major there.
TBP: Do you have any tips on how one should make the most out of his or her time at college?
PB: I’ll say that one should enjoy the time that he/she has but also, maintaining a balance is crucial. Manage your time well, take part in everything you wish for but if you do believe you want to be more career focused, spend every month, every day trying to build that acumen for yourself. Further your knowledge, go to the library, read things and inculcate them. make sure that your CV is a class apart by the time you reach your fourth year, make it almost as good as the people at the NLU’s who might seem to have an edge over you (an average AIL student is usually a year behind an NLU student). Put in that extra effort and make it count.
TBP: Describe some of your best moments during camps and fests?
PB: The best moments were during perhaps the sports fests. In 2010, Yuvardha, we had a grudge match (football) against Symbiosis and it was the quarter finals. Symbiosis was extremely competitive. Our volley ball team had beat Symbiosis the previous day and on the same day a fire had broken out near our room so even though it was a rumour, it was believed that perhaps Symbiosis out of vindictiveness had caused the same. They were a great team no doubt, but we did end up beating them in our match against them. That was the best camp for sure.
TBP: You left joining a foreign company for JAG. What is the story behind that?
PB: It was lucrative job in Ghana with Accra. I was hesitant in leaving my parents behind cause my brother was out of the country as well but regardless, I had gotten my visa and tickets done.
I did have my SSB coming up and I decided to go for it and eventually ended up getting through, even the interviewing officer would not believe that I had left a foreign company for JAG (which lead to a series of events that involved me showing him my tickets etc.). Army is not a lucrative career. It helped me in avoiding the cycle of adjustment with a civil career which seemed a little too difficult for me. In the end, when my merit came through and it was a pretty easy decision for me.
TBP: Is there anything that you believe you could’ve done better and/or regret doing?
PB: I could’ve definitely made more use of my time in college and utilised it better. I didn’t take my internships too seriously which I guess I should’ve, had I been more focused and would’ve decided in the fourth year which field I wanted to go to, it perhaps would’ve saved me a lot of time, effort and confusion. So definitely that is something that I wish I could’ve done better and been more decisive. There was no-one to guide me, I didn’t get help and didn’t have personal connections for internships etc. so I guess, naturally that is one area where I could’ve done better.
I don’t regret anything as such though.
TBP: How difficult was it to adjust to the army life?
PB: To be honest, it wasn’t too difficult. As compared to the people who are with me I definitely had it easier. The academy is definitely not easy but AIL trained me to become mentally strong and adaptive. It wasn’t difficult to stay up nights since it was something I was already accustomed to from college. Being from an army background definitely helped with the discipline aspect of it all. I was mentally prepared for all that was to come.