(Patna) “I am a practicing lawyer at Patna High Court. I deal with all kinds of cases including in the development sector. I take up pro bono cases for NGOs. In the past, I have filed cases on implementation of labour laws in Bihar. I have also worked on cases related to child marriages, right to education and trained officials and activists on laws related to domestic violence and child abuse.
I was 18 years old when my mother passed away. I was married within four months of my mother’s death. My husband was still a medical student and so I had to stay in a village with my in-laws with no options to be employed anywhere. I was not professionally qualified but I finished my graduation after marriage.
At the age of 19, I moved from a life of going to college, reading books and watching Oscars and Grammy’s to a life of cooking food all day on a mud stove in a remote village. My mother-in-law would get angry at me because I used to be in the kitchen all day, and yet, the food was not being cooked on time. Sometimes, I felt low because all my dreams seemed to disappear. Growing up, I wanted to be a commercial pilot and pursue higher studies in the USA. Nobody knew that I was also a regular teenager with aspirations. It was a very tough time for me but I never complained because I had no other option. I continued reading a lot of books especially literature. Through the books, I was living so many characters, and nothing in life could surprise me. If something doesn’t work out the way I want then I find a reason to move on.
I continued to hope that one day I would become a writer. I was into literature since my childhood and that interest didn’t diminish. For the next 15 years, I was a housewife and many times introducing myself as a housewife seemed disheartening. But I loved my children so much that I didn’t mind. I introduced them to a lot of books and told them stories.
I shifted to Patna for my children’s education and that was when I took up law. When I entered the court for the first time, it seemed like I am back to school again. I loved every moment of it. It was a profession that was cut out for me. Today when I look back, I think that we should not feel battered by the hard times. You must give life a chance and it will show you beautiful things.
When I started practicing in the Patna High Court, I didn’t face any gender bias; people saw me as a very confident woman. But there is a lot of caste bias and caste lobbies here. Since I was raised in an army cantonment, I had not seen any kind of caste discrimination. So, it came as a shock for me when I was denied the membership of Barrister Association because of my caste.
There is a Barrister Association at Patna High Court in which 95% people are from the “Upper Caste”. The Vice-President of the Association told me that I could not be a member because I belonged to a “Backward Caste”. I felt hurt and was disturbed for months and I thought if I was facing this kind of discrimination on the basis of caste, then what about people who are coming from villages to practice here. Then I decided I will make sure that people do not face harassment on the basis of caste. At that time, I reached out to many Dalit victims and organisations working for them. We have special laws, courts and public prosecutors for Dalits, but the conviction rate is zero because the whole system isn’t active. So, in spite of having laws, people do not get any benefit.
Right now, I am trying to file a PIL to make sure that the domestic violence law is implemented properly and make sure there are shelter homes everywhere. By helping others, it also feels like I am helping myself.”
(Find out more on impact of caste system on women in India here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PV_OL5XMWpE)