In Conversation with Arjun Singh, Class of 2015. In this interview he talks about his time at AIL and subsequently joining the Armed Forces.
The Blue Pencil: Did you always know that you were going to do law? How did AIL happen?
Arjun Singh: To be very frank, I didn’t quite know that I was going to do law. I had taken Sciences (Medicine) and when I was in twelfth grade, my father had suggested this idea to me, cause he himself had done M.B.B.S. and Law. So that is primarily where the idea had come from. And as far as AIL was concerned, NLU’s didn’t quite happen and AIL seemed like the best option thereafter.
TBP: Did you have any life changing experiences at AIL?
AS: Yes, a lot of them! College was a great place because of my seniors. If not army I would’ve been doing litigation and that was only because of my seniors, because through a lot of experiences I built my interest. Every experience gave me a new outlook to life rather than changing it completely. We bonded with our seniors over such situational experiences.
TBP: Did you have any confrontations with the authorities?
AS: Well, not any confrontations per se, but yes there were certain issues where I would’ve liked them to centre their focus; for instance hands on experience. When we got out of college, life was a lot different than what was present in the curriculum. To be honest, in actuality, the very basis of a court was a lot different than what had been taught and I would’ve wanted more court visits in order to understand their functioning. But, no. No confrontations with the authorities.
TBP: When did you decide that joining the armed forces was going to be your goal as opposed to law?
AS: Well, I was greatly interested in litigation. However what I did realise through the course of five years was that litigation involved a lot of struggle. Money was going to come quite late, at a minimum delay of at least four or five years and even after that I didn’t think that I would be able to maintain the lifestyle that I had been accustomed to living in all this while. Also, being from an army background myself, the monetary aspect of it was not the primary priority, what really fascinated me was the organised and well maintained lifestyle alongside the kind of respect that people give you. That is the reason why JAG happened.
TBP: Did you bring any changes in your lifestyle in order to join the army?
AS: No, not really during my college years as such. But when I did join the academy, changes followed, but that happens with every cadet. Drastic changes occurred. We used to get up at 4:30am, physical fitness increased, determination and self discipline became priorities, we groomed ourselves in a proper manner. The spirit of pushing yourself was the key to get through 40-50kms of running everyday. All these changed would’ve never happened and also, would’ve never refined me into becoming all that I am. But I didn’t bring any of these changes in myself, the academy brought them in me, and for the better.
TBP: Any tips for army aspirants on getting through the SSB?
AS: This is perhaps going to be a pretty general answer. Just be yourself and do not go by the bookish knowledge. There is no hard and fast rule on how to crack SSB. Some do it in a single attempt and some in fifteen, they seek a balanced way of approaching situations, and that is subjective so one should try and look for the well balanced route out of situations. There is no right and wrong, how balanced you are is the only thing that is checked.
TBP: Would you ever like to change anything in the past if you could?
AS: As far as college is concerned, I would’ve perhaps, changed the curriculum a bit. I would have made it more practicality based with frequent visits to the court starting from the first year to the fifth year, rather than just limiting it to bookish knowledge. For me college shouldn’t be too academically centric. The court is the fundamental aspect of what makes a lawyer, the basic differences between the functioning of various courts is something that people are lacking nowadays and these small details only decide on which lawyer stands where. If the court mannerisms and skills in are developed within the student during these five years then perhaps, the five years of struggle that go in the making of a litigator will be reduced to merely a year or so since, a fresh out of college law student would be well versed with how to go about the courts and the law in general.
TBP: Life at AIL, how sheltered do you think it was as compared to real life?
AS: Well, it was definitely more sheltered. It is after all an Army college under AWES. There was a greater protected atmosphere with the wardens, the guards. But I don’t think that we were sheltered from any experiences as such. We were just constrained in a place like Mohali where nobody wished to think out of the box. However, my batch did make it a whole lot easier for me, we had great batch unity.
TBP: Do you have any other future endeavours planned that you will be embarking upon?
AS: See, I am in the army. So life for now is pretty planned and stagnant, at least for ten years. Perhaps after ten years or so I might give the judiciary exams or might take a permanent commission based on my qualifications. I believe that the postings and the fauji life will keep me pretty occupied for now.