Moiz Tundawala graduated from NUJS, Kolkata in 2005. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at London School of Economics.
In this interview we speak to him about:
- His routine, and how prepares for examinations
- The shortcomings of the system in making education accessible to people with disability
- Plans for the future
Why did you decide to study law?
In school my favourite subjects were history and political science. Never the less I wasn’t precisely sure what to do after my twelfth board exams. I had an offer of admission from the WB NUJS, and also Political Science in Xavier’s Calcutta. Eventually I decided to go for law primarily because I would get a wider array of choices. Looking at the courses on offer, I knew that the university would teach me the law of a diverse variety relating to the human engagements. As a result, I could avoid committing to anything particular and narrow down my career options. Now as things stand, I continue to still cater my interest in history and political science by aiming a specialization in legal history and public law. It all ended well for me and in retrospect, I think I made a pragmatic decision to go for law back in 2005 over Political Science that was been offered.
What kind of study schedule did you follow?
I am largely indisciplined when it comes to study schedules. It is just that I always let my interests and curiosity motivates me.
How do you organise the entire activity of learning something, producing academic content and preparing for exams?
I use a computer with a screen reading software called JAWS, and a scanner with another software called Kurzweil. I scan books, download articles and other materials, save them in different folders on the computer. I always make it a point to take notes in class, especially when I think that teachers are sufficiently well versed. To help produce academic content, am told there are softwares which do your in-text citations and build a bibliography. Am yet to try them though, but will hopefully do it very soon.
On the substance side, I also make notes for every article, book and case that I read and deem important. While reading, I first look at mastering the core thesis and arguments, and then get down to focusing on matters of detail. Most important, is to keep writing, to oneself, for oneself, so that ideas are not lost, even if they be roughly developed.
How did you write exams?
When my sight started deteriorating, I started getting someone to write my papers. As in, I would dictate and the person would write. Second year of college onward, I switched to a computer.
As a visually impaired student did you come across additional challenges, while studying in the law school?
Yes, you keep coming across new challenges all the time. Most importantly, is getting access to the reading materials. Moving around in the library is also difficult. Asking for someone’s help to locate all the relevant books and the likewise. But, the folks in the NUJS library were extremely cooperative. Once I passed out due to deteriorating health, and they came up with an online electronic catalogue, which I think is very essential for a visually impaired student. Here in London, libraries are also sensitive to differential needs. I just have to write to them with the names of the books which I require, and the next time I go, someone from the staff fetches them for me. Mobility is another big thing. I have one regret looking back to my stint in NUJS, that I was not sufficiently confident to try moving around on my own. Had I been, law school would have been a much fun experience. Infrastructure will keep throwing difficulties, but I guess one must keep taking the initiatives to work around and also to get things done.
Did you find the legal education system in general and your college in specific to be sensitive to the needs of the visually impaired students?
The legal system as a whole is obviously not sensitive enough. The legal education in particular, is not sensitive at all because most important is to get materials in an accessible format, which is not available easily. Sadly, 90 to 95% of the books do not have an electronic edition yet. And scanning takes up a lot of your time and energy. Therefore, it goes without saying, this requires a lot of patience on your part. Every once in a while, if you are lucky, you do manage to get soft copies from here and there. My college was as co-operative as it could have been. They were the ones who encouraged me to switch to computer for the purpose of the exams. Library staff was also cordial and cooperative enough. Even teachers were sensitive to my requirements in the class. Especially, in my early days, some of them would just come up to me for a quick chat to figure out how I was getting along. This I think is very important. It is not always possible for a blind student who may find navigating the campus difficult to go to a teacher every time he or she is facing any particular issue. I was slightly daunted by the thought of reading so many cases and thick law digests. But, Dr. Sudhakar, a visually impaired professor of international law in NUJS, wisely advised me not to bother so much about all that, and that things would keep falling into place gradually. The knowledge that someone who has faced similar issues and has still ended up doing so well for himself really helped at that time.
Would you encourage visually impaired high school students to pursue law?
Yes, I would definitely encourage all the visually impaired school students to pursue law. As the system needs you more than you need the system. If law interests someone, come along, and do the legal system a favour. Enlighten other persons about the diversity within the society, the different problems which people confront, and the amazing things they are capable of doing in spite of all they go through. And yes, if you are not so sure what you want to do, law is sometimes a safe option.
How can other visually impaired students increase their academic performance? Do you have any suggestions for this?
I have nothing more to add apart from my own experience. Reading with vigour, and more importantly, thinking imaginatively. Furthermore, I think that if the teacher is good, paying attention in class would also be enough.
What are your future career plans?
Well am still not sure about it. At this moment, I am engrossed in my doctoral studies. There is still a lot of time to decide. But yes, a career in academics and research perhaps would be my preference. But I do not wish to rule out law practice altogether.
What message would you like to share with our readers?
Nothing apart from wishing all the visual impairments and other disabilities students, freedom from fear and inhibition and imaginative discernment.