Himanil Raina from NALSAR writes about how he found MUN and confesses a few things. Over to him.
I arrived in Law School 2 years ago. New place, new people, and new activities – it was a lot to take in at once. As days turned into weeks and weeks into months one began to settle into the new cycle. Readings, projects, presentations and the whispered murmurings of mooting legends proliferated everywhere. With time we were introduced to academic writing and the journal publishing rush started to set in. Activities such as Parliamentary Debates and Quizzing fought a desperately losing battle to stay relevant and expand their following beyond a small core of enthusiasts. Amongst all this there were a few among us who knew of M.U.N’s more than to call it a MUN.
There were many who had never heard of an M.U.N previously, many had heard of it in a passing reference more due to socials and suits perhaps. To those who were inured thoroughly in the activity however the law school experience was different in a way it never could be for non M.U.N’ers. Tons of material to read for class? Not a problem. Have the dreaded presentation with the teacher who didn’t boast judiciousness in granting marks as his foremost quality. Bring it on. Complete the fabulously researched article with countless footnotes for a submission. Been there done that. Stay awake through 4 hours of a lecture about as interesting as the mating rituals of a lumbricus terristris. Been through worse. Face a harrowing, nerve wracking session with the moot court judge. Yawn. I’m sure you begin to get the drift.
So how do I get 1+1 to make 3? For that it would be useful to understand M.U.N’s from 2 contrasting viewpoints. One describes it as an academic simulation of the United Nations wherein students participate as ambassadors of member states and manoeuvre through the treacherous world that is diplomacy engaging in a discourse on current issues as they negotiate, draft resolutions, strategize and negotiate some more. The simulation requires delegates to make use of and develop communication and critical thinking skills, skills including research, team work, leadership, public speaking, conflict resolution and technical writing. All this is supposedly done as per a certain procedure as differing delegates seek to advance their national interests by building alliances, blocs, backstabbing, smooth talking and a lot of smiles, shouting and gesticulations. The second view point and here I am indebted to Urban Dictionary describes M.U.N’s as “the only place where an agreement between Israel & Palestine was ever reached”, “where parliamentary procedure goes to die” and my personal favourite “an opportunity for scores of socially inept teenagers in a room to test corny pick up lines.” Whilst some would begrudgingly concede that there is some merit to this second stream of ‘thoughtful observations’ (in its defence Indian M.U.N parliamentary procedure is consistent with the highest standards of professional conduct and parliamentary behaviour of the nation’s distinguished lawmakers) I say the second stream of ‘views’ is in fact just as accurate and just as important as the first one.
Most students at law school fall into the herd mentality and end up engaged in a blind race to cherry pick their internships, publications and moots so as to complement the meticulously earned grades and create that perfect CV with all the proper boxes ticked off. Now I myself am not castigating any student who has fallen into this rhythm but there is one point I wish to highlight here. The other 99% of the batch, yeah when they’re not frittering their time online or stupefying themselves they’re busy with…….wait for it…..the exact same thing. So once the time flies by and you’re sitting at the other side of the table praying to the Gods to get that dream job exactly what it in that much prized CV that distinguishes it from the preceding 79 ones that have warmed the exact spot on the table where it lies. I’m not one to say here that mention of the M.U.N you went to is what gets you the job, no far from it. And I wouldn’t advocate pursuing M.U.N’s to someone who just wishes to add more weight to that by now already pretty heavy CV.
For once law school is left what is it that the student carries with him? Knowledge (if you weren’t busy playing Temple Run or Flappy Birds on the backseat that is), contacts (let’s just hope you’re not the kind who’d rather sit in the room and watch the latest episode of that series you love on the super fast college internet you’re never getting back) and possibly if you’ve developed and honed them, skills. What are these skills? It could be the research skills you have so painstakingly acquired through years of trawling through online databases and subscriptions that the college pays for. It could be the moot preparations, the 12 minutes of speaking like a mannequin (interrupted by 208 different questions which you’ve had a year to look up on and prepare for), a skill so very assiduously cultivated and honed to the point of tearful perfection. Although online courses like this which are designed by champion mooters across the country are now making it easier than ever to cultivate this skill. Or it could be social networking skills picked up through the many stages of an M.U.N, that social before the actual event, the 3 closest days you’ll spend to another person short of being dropped in a foxhole on a warfront before being mercilessly cluster bombed. It could be the skills of on the feet thinking which you had to develop in a M.U.N in response to a probing Executive Board question (who did the exact same agenda as the exact same country as you back in the day) or being pulled up on a point of your foreign policy (too incomprehensibly large for even the most immaculately qualified mandarin to be versed with) you aren’t aware of by the delegate of a nation you didn’t know existed till 5 minutes ago. It could be the ability to withstand a close cross questioning of the sort you’ve never experienced before when put up before a jaded, researched committee of a 100 (half of whose temperaments are not animated by the most favourable of dispositions towards you) that rips you apart at every point. A M.U.N is competitive, where the competition is not to pander to the tastes or distastes of the judge, it is not an event where securing a favourable impression with 3 people wins you anything. There you compete with your peers and are judged by them, to win them you need to win across a committee with the sort of diversity of people and viewpoints that makes your typical CLAT batch look like a homogenous pool of English educated, big city, relatively affluent kids and believe you me despite the great merit of that statement there IS a lot of diversity in the people you meet at law school.
The unstructured, uninhibited nature of a M.U.N allows it be an activity unique in that an M.U.N is what its delegates make it to be. It does not have defined themes as a conference or journal might have or fixed points of law and fact upon which moots are based. The open nature of the activity grants a sphere of freedom that can allow a law students to unleash all their creativity and hard work (admittedly not much remains after 5 years of systematization and mainstreaming, though notable exceptions are abound) so as to explore their limits in a manner that no other competition allows them to. Add to this fact that the activity has the added dimension of competing against living, breathing opponents in real time and one sees why the activity helps develop skills and grow like a person in a manner that other stale, restricted narrowly defined competitions never can. The greatest asset which I feel I have gained personally in my journey in the world of M.U.N’s has been self confidence. Justified, self confidence if I may further refine it. My first M.U.N was a disaster and I never really managed to grasp what was going on. Circumstances however shaped my life in a way whereby I got another chance to participate in an activity I never lost my keenness in. The realization that there are people better than you and that you need to self improve cannot be denied and blamed on biased organizers or incompetent judges because in a M.U.N a person forges his own self, there is no veneer to hide behind, no excuses to justify. Ultimately, the confidence and knowledge that you are capable of finding your own way or making one if needed is the most valuable self realization you can ever have. Some were fortunate to have experienced this before college and some continue to experience this when in it. All said it is an experience that no law student should deny themselves of, even if its horrific once, try again.