In Conversation with Rhodes Scholars, Anupama Kumar and Arushi Garg
Apprentice Lawyer

In Conversation with Rhodes Scholars, Anupama Kumar and Arushi Garg

Bar & Bench

Anupama Kumar and Arushi Garg, who were awarded the Rhodes scholarship this year, speak to Bar & Bench about the scholarship, their future plans and what to keep in mind while preparing the applications.

Bar & Bench: Firstly, congratulations. Have the celebrations stopped yet?

Anupama Kumar: Ah celebrations… I haven’t planned anything immediate, but I do plan to make sure I enjoy every bit of my last six months in Bangalore. I think I’m going to find something new to learn, kickboxing maybe.

Arushi Garg: Not really. I’ve stolen three hours of sleep in the last 48 hours.

B&B: Who did you think of first when you found out you had been awarded the scholarship? 

AK: My family. I’d spoken to them several times during the long, long wait for the results. 🙂

AG: The first thing I did was remind myself to breathe. I really can’t describe the feeling. Once everyone had left the Secretary to the Rhodes Trust in India asked us if we had any questions. One of the scholars asked, “Is this real?” I think that echoes pretty much what we were all feeling. If you’re talking about people, I called my family first, and then thanked all the people who’d helped me through the process.

B&B: So now that you have got the scholarship, any particular area of law that you wish to specialise in?

AK: Well I plan to come back and litigate eventually, so I’m keeping my plans fluid. But I do eventually want to practise public law.

AG: I haven’t finalised the courses yet but I am interested in international criminal law. Oxford doesn’t have a dedicated international criminal law course but they have a lot of allied courses that I am contemplating. A lot of members of the faculty have been very closely involved in the practice of international criminal law. For instance, the International Law and Armed Conflict was taught last year by someone who has served as the Adviser on the ICC to the African Union. Still, at this point I think I need to talk to a lot more people and do a lot more research before I’m certain about the courses.

B&B: Ok, clichéd question but why did you choose law?

AK: Because it seemed like fun. No really, my parents let me do whatever I wanted (and I can’t thank them enough for it), and going to a law school seemed fun and interesting. Four and a half years later, I can’t think of anything else I would rather have done.

AG:: Good question actually 🙂 I think it’s unreasonable to have to make career choices at age 17. So my decision was partly instinctive–I enjoyed reading the law, I thought it was a challenging profession. But at the end of the day, I chose to come to law school because it deals so directly and pervasively with the rights of people. Everything we see and do is connected somehow to the Law. There is so much potential to be a change-maker.

B&B: Can you talk us through the selection process? Did someone mentor you through the application process?

AK: It involved a personal statement and two rounds of interviews. I was mentored at every step by two close friends and seniors, both of whom are Rhodes scholars themselves. They were incredibly nice about all the questions I asked at various points in time, and I really, truly, can’t thank them enough for it. Apart from them, I had friends and family helping me too – asking me questions about my personal statement, telling me what needed to do in any interview and generally being around and providing moral support. I’ve also been fortunate to know wonderful teachers who were kind enough to write my references. I think that knowing just how important all of these people are in the entire process is very humbling.

AG: The application process requires a LOT of thought. There’s a written application based on which people are selected for the first round of the interview. Thereafter, 15-18 people are selected across all fields for the final interview. 5 people from this pool are awarded the scholarship. The key in all rounds is the Statement of Purpose you give in as part of your written application, based on which your interviews are also likely to be conducted. I think all rounds aim at the same thing–seeing how well you fit in with what the Scholarship is about. The reason you really need to think this through is because you need to be clear about what going to Oxford means to you, and how it fits in with what you’re passionate about in the larger scheme of things. You discover a lot about yourself in the process. A lot of soul searching!

A lot of my seniors were incredibly helpful throughout the process. In fact even alumni from other law schools (mainly NLS) were always willing to share their experience. So it’s not fair to name a particular mentor, but there are more people to thank than I can probably fit in here.

B&B: You are going to graduate in a few months. Looking back, how do you think your legal education has helped or affected you?

AK: It’s changed the way I think. I’m a lot more understanding of different perspectives, and a lot more critical of them too. Maybe I just think like a lawyer all the time (is that a good thing?)

AG: I could write many books in response to this question 🙂

If I were to mention just one thing, perhaps it would realising the virtue in being able to view an issue from multiple perspectives. As a law student in the BA-LLB course you get the chance to explore many diverse environments. I’ve gotten to work with NGOs, lawyers, judges, forms, research commissions, journalists–I’ve realised there’s something to learn from everyone, if you’re willing.

B&B:  Anupama, you mentioned that you want to eventually litigate. Why?

AK: Again, it seems like fun. I loved my internships in Courts, and I loved arguing cases in moot court. I really like the links between different areas of law and how they play out in relation to each other. I also really like the idea of working with people, it somehow makes everything seem more real, if you know what I mean.

B&B: Arushi, have you thought about what you plan to do after the BCL?

AG: All plans are tentative, but I’ve considered a few options. Teaching international criminal law in India would be interesting. I think it’s severely under-discussed in India.

B&B: Lastly, any advice for those wanting to apply for Rhodes in the future?

AK: Figure out what you like, and do those things. It will all fall in place.

AG: I think the right time to ask me this question would be at the end of my BCL! But yes I would say the whole process is a learning experience. It’s interesting to take stock of what your priorities are, and what you ultimately want from life. It’s also interesting to meet other candidates and panelists and see what made them involve themselves in the Rhodes process. It’s a great experience-professionally and personally.

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