Depressed Lawyer is Depressed

“Lawyers I suppose were children once.” – Charles Lamb

Some Depressing Facts

Fact 1: As per World Health Organisation’s report in 2011, depression affects 121 million people worldwide and it is responsible for 850,000 deaths every year.

Fact 2: Around 36% Indians suffer from what is called major depressive episode (MDE) which is higher than that of any other country [France 32.3% US – 30.9%].

Fact 3: As per the research conducted by Johns Hopkins University in prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) across 104 occupations, lawyers topped the list, suffering from MDD at a rate 3.6 times higher than any other professional.

[The researchers did not know whether lawyers were depressed because “persons at high risk for major depressive disorder” are attracted to the legal profession or because practicing law “causes or precipitates depression”. They just knew that, whatever the reason, lawyers were depressed! Whatte wow!]

Fact 4: Against popular notion, depression is a physical illness. Though great resources in research and clinical science have been devoted to depression in the past few decades, we can neither cure it nor fully explain it. What we can do is describe its general characteristics.

Lawyers, buckle up. Let’s take this seriously now.

Reasons for Depression among Lawyers

Daniel T. Lukasik, Managing Partner at the law firm Bernhardi Lukasik PLLC and author of LawyersWithDepression.com, being the victim of depression himself, points out various reasons for depression among lawyers, including that of (i) nature of work, (ii) pessimism, (iii) working against integrity, (iv) stress and anxiety and (v) not taking enough time to reflect.

Dan took almost 20 years to ask himself what he was doing all those years. No matter how hard he worked, he was always stressed. Like, most of us. He says, “People don’t appreciate the risks they are putting themselves in as lawyers, by chewing and eating and consuming stress on a daily basis. They don’t appreciate the risks they are putting themselves in for anxiety disorder or clinical depression. Lot of people don’t appreciate that depression is a physical illness.

Looking at the reasons pointed out by Dan for a moment, one would actually think the list isn’t complete when it comes lawyers in Indian scenario. Just think about it. How stressful is for a lawyer to survive here? How stressful is for a lawyer to sustain here? Stop these monotonous jokes on lawyers charging hefty fees, ask an ordinary lawyer who starts his profession, how stressful is to earn his livelihood?

Fine. Think about lawyers who are working in corporate firms who earn decent money. How stressful is the work culture there? More than that, what stress-busters are available to them? Timesheets, targets, results and accountability. Yes, all these things are prevalent in every profession now. But the nature of work, once again, distinguishes the legal profession from other profession. Loss of appetite and sleep deprivation are very normal among these lawyers. Just that they don’t know it is due to depression.

Depression can be contagious as well. One more set back for lawyers. More often than not, a lawyer comes across depressed persons on a regular basis. Let that be clients, fellow colleagues, family, officers of the court and sometimes even judges.

Even the dress code lawyers wear is depressing (There I said it!).

To put it precisely, we are on survival mode, always.

Blessing in Utter Disguise

“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face left on earth.” – Abraham Lincoln

Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of the best-selling book “Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Fueled a President to Greatness”, after immense research on Abraham Lincoln, the lawyer-turned-President, notes that Lincoln suffered from depression his entire life. Not just an ordinary depression. Besides his own battle with deepened sadness, depression and suicidal instincts, he lost three out of his four sons at their earlier age (two sons died when he was in office). Shenk notes that only his sufferings led him to a profound understanding of the unspeakable tragedy of war and that understanding enabled Lincoln to preserve and triumph in the face of America’s most devastating crisis.

Depression is like, the ultimate test. It is a blessing in utter disguise. It brings out the best in you, if you can stand against it. It helps you understand the life better than anybody else would. At the same time, it brings out the worst in you, if you fail to stand against it.

[I would trade small happiness over this ‘understanding the life’ anytime though.]

Recovery

There are many things one can do to avoid or to recover from the depression. Very simple things, like:

1. Eat. Even if sky has to fall, eat your meal and move.

2. Sleep. Weekend parties are just fine but sleep for at least 7 hours on week days.

3. Meet people outside legal profession. And tell them you’re not there to give legal advise.

4. Spend time with your family.

5. Reach out to people and say ‘hi’. It is extremely important to reach out to your fellow colleagues if they feel left out at any point of time.

6. If it is an urgent situation for clients, stop panicking and give your best. It is not your house burning anyway.

7. Be realistic. Stick to your instincts (Dhoni way). Try and develop optimistic instincts (Not really the Dhoni way).

8. Once in a while, scream.

9. More than once in a while, dance.

10. And do understand, as Studs Terkel would put it, Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

At the end of the day, what matters the most is living. Cheers!


என்னுள் இப்போதே கலந்து போ..!

உன் கூந்தலை வருடிய
காற்றிடம் சொன்னேன்..
பின் ஜென்மத்தில் என்
கைகளாய் பிறந்து போ..!

நீ தனிமையில் கேட்ட
பாட்டிடம் சொன்னேன்..
பின் ஜென்மத்தில் என்
குரலாய் பிறந்து போ..!

உன்னைக் கண்டு களித்த
முகக் கண்ணாடியிடம் சொன்னேன்..
பின் ஜென்மத்தில் என்
கண்களாய் பிறந்து போ..!

உன்னுள் வாழும்
உயிரிடம் சொன்னேன்..
தாமதம் வேண்டாம் –
என்னுள் இப்போதே
கலந்து போ..!


பெருமை தான் என்னவோ..!??

கயல் தோற்க வைக்கும் விழிகள்;

வீணை பிடித்திருக்கும் விரல்கள்

 

மிதக்கும் மிதவா கூந்தல்;

நூலிடை போர்த்திய ஆடை!

 

கல்லாய் இருந்தவளுக்கு –

கர்வத்தையும் வெட்க்கத்தையும்

கலப்படமில்லாமல் கலந்து

உயிராய் செதுக்கினேன்…!!

முன்னூறு ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்பு..!!!

 

இன்றவளை..

ஊனமாக்கி விட்டு

உற்றார் (!) பெயருடன் தன் பெயரை

எழுதி விட்டுச் சென்றானவன்..!!

 

பெருமை தான் என்னவோ..!??


விதியே நான் தான் இங்கே…!!!

முடித்தவுடன் மறக்கும் கல்வி;

வருடங்களுடன் வரும் புது நட்புகள்;

தொலைப்பேசி காட்டும் தாய் தந்தை முகம்;

உலகமயமாக்களில் தொலைந்து போன உறவினர்கள்..

 

போதிய வருமானம் –

போதாத நேரம்..!

 

பொய்யுரைக்கும் பெருமைச் சிரிப்பு;

மெய்யுரைக்கும் ஊமை அழுகை..!

 

விடியலுடன் எழுந்து –

இரவுடன் தூங்கி..

கடிகாரங்களின் நடுவே

நிமிடங்களைத் தொலைத்து..

நாட்காட்டிகளின் நடுவே

வயதினைத் தொலைத்து..

 

விடியற் பொழுதில் நட்சத்திரங்களையும்

இரவுகளில் வெளிச்சத்தையும்

தேடாமல் தேடித் திரியும்

அற்பன் நான்..!!

 

விதிவிலக்கல்ல –

விதியே நான் தான் இங்கே…!!!


When my b*m got operated

[Disclaimer: You read the caption right. But, this article has nothing of what you think it would have. It is neither nasty, nor obscene nor inappropriate nor immoral. It is not even a sad story. Sorry to disappoint.]

I think I was in 10th standard at that time. Old enough to get embarrassed.

I had developed weird, very small and round-shaped benign tumors one on my right chest and one on my.. yes, left bum. More like Sehwag & Gambhir Right-Left partnership. Vulnerable.

There was no pain whatsoever. Hardly noticeable too. I was perfectly fine living with that. Yet, my parents took me to a hospital near-by. Forcefully, of course.

That was a huge hospital, given the size of our tiny hometown. It had nurses. I mean, it surely had nurses. More than the patients, it just had nurses.

After waiting for some considerable time, one of the doctors called us inside his room. He examined those body parts of mine in front of some dozen people for few seconds and said, “Ok. There is nothing wrong with it. It will not cause any harm to the body.” I couldn’t be more happy.

He continued after a pause, “But, we should get it operated.” Shit had just hit the fan. I knew it. “Nothing serious. We will remove it tomorrow. And, you’ll be fine immediately after that.” I was fine by then too!

After I came back home, memorable movie scenes, where the hero undergoes serious operations, passed through my mind. I kind of liked it. Yet, I was scared. More than scared, I was embarrassed. Not sure, how the ‘operation’ will go on. Not sure, how I will be able to walk on the streets.

That Memorable Day

I was taken inside a tightly packed room with just a bed.

“When will you take me to the operation theater?”, I asked those six unwanted nurses who were guarding me generally.

Before any young nurse could answer, one fat lady nurse, “This IS the operation theater for you”. WHAT?! No lights above the head. None of them wearing masks. No boxes with wires. No TVs where I can see my heartbeats. Just like that, you cannot operate!

I was asked to remove my shirt and lie down on that bed, which more looked like a middle berth of a second class compartment.

Doctor came inside hurriedly. He was sporting a double-framed specs which didn’t fit his face at all. He asked me which one I would prefer first. I didn’t get that. He asked me again, with more clarity now, “Chest first or bum first?”. Not a happy situation. Not even a bit.

Since I didn’t answer within the limited time frame, he opted himself.

He initiated some stupid and irrelevant conversation. By the time I was wondering what the heck he was talking about, he injected anaesthesia on my chest. Aaah!

I felt much better after a minute.

Then came the best part!!

He looked at that fat lady nurse like South-Indian-movie-villain and asked, “Why are you not reading?”. Though I didn’t understand what he meant, I was happy with him screaming at that fat lady nurse. I didn’t like her. For obvious reasons.

Later I realized that, that fat lady nurse brought a book inside the room and she opened it to….READ!

Shell shocked I was. I mean, really, who does that? ‘Maybe he needs books to know how to operate’‘Maybe he likes listening to fancy fairy tales whilst operating a kid like me’. When I was pondering at Usain Bolt speed what is happening around me, she started reading.

Bible it was. Thank God.

But wait, are they reading Bible so that God can save me? Oh my!

Much against my anticipation, the so-called ‘operation’ got over in less than 15 minutes. Not-so-harming tumors got removed, much peacefully. I was all fine. Like I was before.

Just that cross-marked dressings lasted for few days before they could untie stitching.

Now, the marks that stitching left behind have faded mostly; but the memories are still afresh. Happy ending, after all!


Nation-wide Strike by Lawyers – Why?

It is quite natural for a lawyer (more particularly, a trial court lawyer) to go on for a boycott/strike without even knowing the reason for it. Most of us have been there and done that before.

Bar Council of India has called for nation-wide strike on July 11 and 12 to oppose the government’s proposed Higher Education and Research Bill (HER) Bill, 2011 and quite naturally, many lawyers have no idea what this Bill is all about.

Though BCI is also opposing National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill 2010, the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill and the National Law Schools Bill, it’s main concern is that of HER Bill, 2011.

Besides the argument on validity of this strike, which is altogether a different topic, here is a quick overview of what is this HER Bill, what problem BCI has with this bill and why BCI is wrong:

(1) What is HER Bill?

Like most of the new-age Acts, this bill too has quite an attractive objective, which is,

“to promote autonomy of higher educational institutions and universities for free pursuit of knowledge and innovation and to provide for comprehensive and integrated growth of higher education and research keeping in view the global standards of educational and research practices and for that purpose to establish the National Commission for Higher Education and Research to facilitate determination, coordination, maintenance and continued enhancement of standards of higher education and research including university education, vocational, technical, professional and medical education other than agricultural education and for
matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

To summarize this bill which is yet to be enacted:

  • It shall apply to all the higher educational institutions and universities other than those institutions engaged mainly in agricultural education and research
  • It will set up a National Commission for Higher Education and Research
  • It will further establish (a) General Council, (b) Collegium of Scholars, (c) Board for Research Promotion and Innovation (BRPI), (d) Higher Education Financial Services Corporation (HEFSC)
  • The Commission members (7 including Chairman) will be appointed by President on the recommendation of Selection Committee. Prime Minister is the Chairman of Selection Committee and other members mostly from the part of Government.
  • General Council will have more members, apart from the Commission members, like, head of the professional bodies, university vice chancellors and etc.
  • Collegium of Scholars will consist of thirty Fellows, being persons of integrity and eminence in higher education and research
  • BRPI will have a Chairperson and 12 other members (prominent academia) to be appointed by the Commission
  • HEFSC will be act as a body corporate, with power to acquire, hold and dispose of property, both movable and immovable. The board of directors would be from the Commission, General Council and few nominated persons from finance and other departments.

What will this Commission do?

The Commission, in consultation with the General Council and other bodies concerned, take all such steps as it may think fit for the promotion and coordination of higher education and research. It covers a vast area with respect to higher education and research, wherein virtually nothing is left out of its ambit. Most importantly, grant of approval to educational institutions.

What will this General Council do?

The General Council shall make recommendations and advise the Commission in the exercise of its functions.

What will this Collegium of Scholars do?

The Collegium will basically recommend to the Commission on various issues including vision on the emerging trends in different
fields of knowledge

What will BRPI do?

The Board will recommend measures to the Commission to promote and facilitate research in the fields of knowledge in higher educational institution

(2) What problem BCI has with this bill?

The plain reading of the bill would have given a clear indication of what possible problem Bar Council of India can have with this bill. Simple and precise. Their territory is being conquered. They surely don’t want ‘legal education’ to be within the ambit of this particular bill.

BCI’s issues are:

(a)  This bill is aimed at usurping the BCI’s control over legal education.

(b) It affects the independence of Legal Education and Judiciary (!)

(c) This proposed bill is unconstitutional

(3) Why BCI is wrong?

(a) It is wrong to say HER Bill will take away all BCI’s powers [See S.83(2) of the bill]

“Provided that nothing contained in this section shall be construed as restricting the power of the Bar Council of India to specify standards of higher education concerning practice in courts’

(b) BCI head will anyways preside over the Expert Advisory Group concerning legal education, which would be appointed by General Council [See S.27(4) of the bill]

(c) BCI has been defined as ‘Professional Body’ and listed foremost in the First Schedule to the bill and most of the places, their role concerning the legal education is specified.

(d) One cannot simply rule out benefits HER Bill might provide to legal education. For the first time in the history of Indian higher education and research field, there is some level of consortium is being attempted.

(e) BCI opposing the bill is more of an ego clash than anything else. It must have hurt the most when bill takes away the right to sanction educational institutions (negotiations on sharing of these powers are still possible).

(f) BCI is talking about ‘independence of legal education’, which is just a misnomer and never prevailed.

(g) About this bill being unconstitutional, sorry, I fail to see their point.

(h) Legal education needs a revival big time. BCI is not doing it. At least, not quite enough.

One of the bar members reportedly said in an interview that, “the state and national bar council set up as a result have played a pivotal role in ensuring and upholding quality of legal education”. Am not quite surprised. He said ‘upholding quality‘.

But, not for a moment I am suggesting that, the new set up would do wonders. Yet, the bill is promising and it is certainly worth trying. It would be a stupid decision to remove legal education from the ambit of this bill just to regret it later.


Happy birthday Ninth Schedule

18th June, 1951

Operation theatre. First surgery, within just 18 months. Tensed atmosphere. Yet, experts were around.

Situation demanded surgery. At least, that is what everyone around believed.

Motive was clear. To make an egalitarian society. At least, that is what everyone around believed.

Injury was healed, less successfully. Yet, the worst nightmare came alive. The infection that surgery caused that day remained for almost 56 years. And, it helped causing a vital blow to the heart in 1975. Though there might be people saying that the intense is reduced now, the scars that infection created, are very much there; as a symbol of political shame in the Indian independent era.

That infection, Ninth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

What an idea sir ji?

After series of judicial pronouncements starting from Kameshwar Singh V State of Bihar, where the courts struck down land reform laws on the ground that they violated fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, the Government got apprehensive that the whole agrarian reform programme would be endangered. Reasonably, so.

As a result of which, this day in 1951, the Government came up with the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Besides few other things, what all the Government did was very simple. Inserted Ninth Schedule to the Constitution and said ‘none of the Acts and Regulations specified in the Ninth Schedule nor any of the provisions thereof shall be deemed to be void, or ever to have become void, on the ground that such Act, Regulation or provisions is inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by , any provisions of this part, and notwithstanding any judgment , decree or order of any court or tribunal to the contrary, each of the said Acts and Regulations shall, subject to the power of any competent legislature to repeal or amend it, continue in force’. Well played.

In other words laws under Ninth Schedule are beyond the purview of judicial review even though they violate fundamental rights enshrined under part III of the Constitution.

The best part of this amendment is that it is retrospective in nature that is when a statute is declared unconstitutional by a court and later it is included in the Ninth Schedule, it is to be considered as having been in that Schedule from its commencement. Indira Gandhi would have said ‘Love you Papa’ for this genius.

The first real ‘tussle’ between Judiciary and Executive. The first real lesson modern day politicians learnt which they ought not to have.

Backfire

Since then, Ninth Schedule instantly became a bin which heartily welcomed every bit of dust and garbage. 1951 – 13, 1955 – 7, 1964 – 44, 1971 – 2, 1974 – 20, 1975 – 38, 1976 – 64, 1984 – 14, 1990 – 55, 1994 – 1, 1995 – 27. In 61 years, 284 Acts have been dumped in Ninth Schedule by taking a formidable lead against Olympic medal tally in the entire history by India.

The vital blow was when Judiciary held against Indira Gandhi in an election petition. She made amendments to the Representation of Peoples Acts of 1951 and 1974 and placed in the Ninth Schedule along with the Election Laws Amendment Act, 1975. ‘You tell me I lost. I go and change the rules of the game.’ Like that, very simple. And, court upheld the amendment too. Legendary.

That amendment bill was introduced on August 7, 1975 and passed by the Lok Sabha the same day. The Rajya Sabha passed it the next day and the President gave his assent two days later. No Anna Hazare. No fast unto death. Bill got passed just like that.

Another noteworthy political shame was when Seventy Sixth Amendment was passed in 1994 to accommodate Tamil Nadu Government’s Legislation which provided 69 percent reservation for backward classes. Somebody should have simply said, “Boss, wrong number!”.

Remains

After legendary battles in courts (and, considerably increasing law students’ syllabus), the position is somehow settled now after January 11, 2007. While delivering the judgment, 9 Judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court held that, all amendments to the Constitution made on or after 24th April 1973 (i.e. the date of Judgment of His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati case) by which the Ninth Schedule is amended by inclusion of various laws therein shall have to be tested on the touchstone of the basic or essential features of the Constitution.

In other words, even though an Act is put in the Ninth Schedule by a Constitutional Amendment, its provision would be open to attack on the ground that they destroy or damage the basic structure if the fundamental right.

For teaching all of us some priceless lessons which many of us already forgot, I shall remember you this day and wish you, “Cheers! Long live! Happy Birthday Ninth Schedule!”