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Siddharth Raja

Siddharth Raja
LLM in IEL 1997-1998

Nationality: Indian

Before Warwick

As a young boy growing up in Bangalore in the 1980s, I was frequently exposed to the notion of an overseas education. The best illustration of that and, indeed, one to which I aspired and looked up to, was my own father who had spent five eventful years as a student in a dreary England in the 1950s.

As an apprentice learning the leather trade, my father was based in rural England; a life outside of the big cities in the UK in those days was a whole different world. He often reminisced that his landlady in the small town of Northallerton where he was for some time with Yorkshire Chemicals, once informed him, when going to London, that she was going out of the 'country'!

I decided to pursue law at India's leading law school, often described as the "Harvard of the East", the National Law School in Bangalore. As I neared the end of my Bachelor's degree there, I applied for and was keen to do a Masters in Law overseas. It was my father again who said that, just like him, I should consider an education on a campus University not necessarily in one of the large towns; and both my mom and dad were clear that I would have to do that entirely on my own steam. So, it was I ended up - on scholarship - at the University of Warwick in the autumn of 1997 for my year long Masters in International Economic Law.

Memories of my LLM!

I recall arriving on campus on a grey day from Sheffield (where my aunt and uncle lived), after flying in from India and traversing the Derbyshire Dales between Manchester and Sheffield through constant pitter-patter rain. My reception, however, was far from being so bleak! My admission procedures were well taken care of - I remember getting my first ever bank card and the maiden credit of a scholarship amount in that account warmed the cockles of my heart! I then took-up my digs at the then postgraduate residences of Arthur Vick, which at the time was, I think, the gold standard in terms of student accommodation on campus - what with its en-suite bathrooms and dedicated cosy kitchen and lounge.

The academic year itself whizzed past before I knew it with essays, assignments, dissertations and the like. I remember fondly the many trips I made to both London and Birmingham, the former to catch-up on weekends with a friend at LSE and share his almost unbelievably inexpensive living quarters in Holborn, while soaking in the atmosphere of one of the world's most dynamic cities; the latter to travel to the historic University of Birmingham at Edgbaston to engage with my dissertation supervisor Dr. David Salter, who was then a professor there and a visiting faculty at Warwick's law school, but who has since moved full-time to the University of Warwick.

Through it all, I was kept well-oiled by tea and stodgy pies and pasties served up at the small outlet that used to exist in the Social Sciences Department. If there is one thing that I missed on my recent trip back to campus after seventeen years, it is the absence of these quaint reminders of a time past, of something very English (certainly in that regard, the pasty shop); but maybe I am too much of a romantic! The pub though made-up for that feeling; still all very English!

The campus itself has changed beyond all recognition - my recognition - and I was struggling to snatch memory markers from my time close to twenty years ago. Change I guess is inevitable, but how much and for what purpose, and, indeed, what effect the redrawing of the physical spaces of ones past has on our collective memories for a vibrant, yet rooted, future, are all moot points for discussion in more informed environments. But, going back to nostalgia -- what I will forever cherish of my time at Warwick is the truly international nature of the class, curriculum and my fellow classmates. Apart from four English students, I am happy and very privileged (and, at the same time, humbled) to count as my classmates people from all across the globe, different countries, varied cultures, diverse backgrounds, and myriad perspectives. That global "weltanschauung" has stood me in good stead, not perhaps materially - in fact more than all the courses I studied - but subconsciously through my many travels and having lived and worked abroad.

Where am I now?

After my stint as a corporate lawyer with some of India's leading law firms in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, I worked for an international law firm in Hong Kong for a few years, before returning a decade ago to set-up my own law practice. In my career of close to two decades, I have worked as a corporate lawyer in Mumbai, Hong Kong (a bit in London and in the Silicon Valley) and, now lastly, in Bangalore. If there is one thing I am grateful for from my stint of overseas education, it is the ability to work and live amongst, as well as meaningfully interact with and respect, peoples of all nationalities and backgrounds; something that was ingrained in me at Warwick University. After having seen at Warwick an Israeli classmate enjoy the company of an Egyptian classmate, and vice versa, I guess all else, and all differences, pale into insignificance.

My time has come virtually full circle - I now teach, on the side of my commercial law practice, law courses at Universities in India. Every time I walk into class I remember fondly my time at Warwick and the strength of character to do right and the determination to do a good job every day, that my own education and upbringing still inspires in me, and daresay which constantly guides me.

Today, I am the Founder Partner of Samvad: Partners, one of India's leading mid-tier law firms with offices in four Indian cities. On weekends, my wife and I run a well-regarded heritage walking tour company called "Nandi Valley Walks" outside Bangalore where we live with our two daughters and dog.

If you wish to contact Siddharth, he can be reached at this address.