What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Day Zero Edition
This article has been written by Mukta Joshi (Batch of 2019) and Aniruddh Nigam (Batch of 2019).
In most crappy movies (looking at you, Lagaan), there is an increasingly common and tremendously infuriating plot device called a Deus Ex Machina. To put it simply (that is, to plagiarise a definition), a Deus Ex Machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the unexpected intervention of a new event. Its function can be to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device. A very relatable example of this is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, (because you shits don’t watch good cinema) where everyone’s backed into a corner and doesn’t know what to do, when the Sword of Godric Gryffindor appears out of a fucking hat and suddenly the climax is resolved in favour of the good guys. A Deus Ex Machina is infuriating, but it’s something you root for regardless.
We’re all sold a Deus Ex Machina moment when we enter law school. You’re given a license to mess around for three years, “explore yourself” and “do what you love”, because regardless of what happens, on the climactic day of Day Zero, the sorting hat of RCC will give you a Trilegal job to slay the basilisk of insecurity and emerge triumphant into the outside world with a good job, samaaj mein izzat, and a high-performing matrimonial/Tinder profile.
Except it’s not true.
Flashback to asking a senior for advice on attendance makeup in your first year. There were twenty precautionary directions given to you to ensure that Padma passed it – you had to figure out which hours you’d missed, whose signatures you needed, which proof you had to attach (e-tickets don’t work! You need a boarding pass!) and the last-last day after which your lost attendance would forever go down the drain. You were told that if you didn’t follow these strict guidelines, you’d be spending the next few weeks of your life at the mercy of The Manjappa. (The Manjappa is a recurring character through law school, and requires timely human sacrifices to keep at bay). You would experience purgatory if you didn’t follow these instructions. So you did, and your makeup (almost) always got passed.
Flash forward to what they tell you about Day Zero – they don’t. There is a world of precautionary advice about Day Zero that every junior should receive, but no one ever does. We’ve pedestalised Day Zero into this fuddu procedural happening that just works to everyone’s benefit and requires minimal, if any, effort. We have, in law school’s cultural consciousness, managed to make Day Zero literally sound like less work than a makeup form.
What they do tell you, is that everyone who wants a job, gets one. That’s the big lie. Sartre makes this point about the two modes of consciousness, which basically involves questioning everything you know. If you questioned this “big lie”, you’d understand that nothing the seniors tell you is true. The basis for our collective belief in the omnibenevolence of Day Zero is built solely on anecdotal evidence. Since Nayan got 4 jobs in spite of his CGPA, everyone will get 4 jobs in spite of their CGPA. It’s believable, too, because from your first year, you only hear about the people who got jobs. The narrative is one solely of success. It is entirely possible that the one job you saw that friendly senior get, happened only because the interviewing partner knew him from before and had a friendly rapport with him. But no one talks about this. The façade of success is used to mask the ugly bits of the process.
This façade of success becomes a part of your identity as well. Think about it – you nailed CLAT, you were probably on some hoardings in your town, uncles and aunties told their kids to be like you. You’re used to the world being your oyster. You’re told consistently, by drunk seniors, internship bosses and by India Today that everyone loves NLS. Somehow, by virtue of being in this college, you’re granted automatic entry into any firm you want. You’re literally sold the notion that Tier 1 firms are Khokhar and you’re Bhai (aka Sallu aka Salman Bhai aka the BLAcK BuCk KiLLeR ~). Ask a senior before Day Zero about it, and they’ll tell you, “you’re smart, don’t worry”, as if these firms just wanna chill out with a smart dude they like over a couple of beers and are not looking for an obedient employee they can safely invest a few lakhs in every year.
As a consequence of this hype machine, there are a few things you expect on Day Zero. First of all, you expect a job. And a job isn’t just a contract, it’s a safety net for the next few years. You expect a solution to life. Let’s be real, none of us know what we want to do. A job with a Tier 1 firm is just the perfect Deus Ex Machina for now, something to take back home from this place, something to rely on if all your other fanciful plans fail. If nothing else, it serves as validation – knowing that someone wants you so much that they’re willing to pay fifteen lakhs a year for your time.
With the security of a job, comes an expectation of celebration at the end of Day Zero. Even before the interviews were over, three different groups of people had asked me about leftover NLSD alcohol. By the end of the day, only one needed it. All of us woke up that morning expecting the day to end well, to finally be able to get a huge load off our shoulders, to relax after a few weeks (months? years?) of excruciating uncertainty. Day Zero was sold to us as a magic pill, which would serve as instant atonement to our law school sins. After all, all’s well that ends well, right?
Let’s ditch the outcome aspect of Day Zero for now. Forget the job-at-the-end-of-the-day part of it. Let’s focus, for a little while, on the physical process that Day Zero puts you through. Here’s a short, nasty, brutish (sup Hobbes) walk through your Day Zero. If you’re a Mukta, you’ll be up at 6:30, worrying yourself silly. You’ll spend twenty minutes in the shower, struggle through half a bowl of cornflakes, and polish your shoes with makeup wipes. If you’re a Nigam, you’ll wake up at 8:45 to a fully dressed Aatreya, skip pooping (and breakfast), dress yourself with 2/3 borrowed items and polish your shoes with your sock.
Regardless of who you are, it’s never a good start to the day. But it gets worse – as you get to the RCC “control room” (bureaucrats…), you’ll find that you now have 4 consecutive hours of group discussions lined up. Look, everyone appreciates the effort RCC puts into scheduling such a hectic day. But all it takes for everyone’s world to turn upside down is one partner leaving his house a bit late because he wanted to watch the remaining segment of Arnab Goswami from last night, and suddenly, 4 of your group discussions are happening at the same time. Even if GD’s were peaceful, fun, discursive processes, it doesn’t take a Jessup finalist to know that maintaining any semblance of sanity during this time is close to impossible.
GD’s are bad. They’re a space where you are physically pitted against your peers – you either win or you go home. As if law school weren’t competitive enough already. The stakes are higher now than ever before, and your fellow Day Zero competitors would sooner drop dead than back down. The only thing you’re realistically being tested on is your ability to talk about redundant BS like “Corporate Governance: Too Much or Too Little?” as if the topic was chosen by the same person who chose topics for that 5th grade elocution competition.
Only those who survive this round (based on the arbitrary discretion of an HR guy and a partner who clearly doesn’t care) will even be allowed to proceed to an interview. Did you know that? We didn’t.
Let’s suppose the Day Zero Gods look upon you favorably that day and bestow you with the ultimate gift of an interview. You’re not ready for this bro. We all learn to lie a bit here and there. But nobody prepares you for the intense exercise in fiction that’s about to ramrod you in the face. You are now sitting 2 feet away from a 40 year old businessman, and telling him that your greatest weakness is that you work too hard. Even the most gullible of 4 year olds would listen to you and say “kya faff kal laha hai”.
This pleasant experience ends at the RCC Podium of Jobs. Like the Goblet of Fire, each “firm head” on RCC will ceremoniously cut open a top-secret job envelope and excruciatingly write the names of the lucky ones, slowly, on a board, one at a time. With every firm, the room gets a bit underwhelmed. The dementor of Tier 1 firms is set to work. Of course, not to take away from the moments of genuine joy and celebration that exist for so many, but it’s constantly juxtaposed with heartbreak for your closest friends.
One thing is universal. There’s a certain feeling of dread that will hit you at some point during the day. If you’re a Mukta, it’ll be right after you bomb your first GD, only thirty minutes into Day Zero. If you’re a Nigam, it could be when you’re waiting for results and realise that maybe “being real” wasn’t the best interview strategy. Regardless of when it hits you, at some point, the rug will be pulled from under your feet. You’ll have to find the words for that phone call back home where you tell your parents it just didn’t work out. All the vulnerabilities and insecurities that only existed as distant concepts are going to crystallise in your self-perception, and it’s not going to be easy. It’s not a gunshot wound to the head (sup Cobain), it’s being thrown into an incinerator and watching yourself burn to ashes.
The reason you’re told to not care about the process is because you’re told the process cares about you. Maybe it used to – but it certainly doesn’t anymore. Nobody who got a job will deny that luck played a huge role in how things turned out. What we can tell you, as survivors of the process, but also as people who barely scraped through, is that it could be rewarding, it could be joyous and it could be heartbreaking. It’s important to be prepared for all of those things. But know that five years from now, Day Zero is something you’ll look back and laugh at. You may not get the abrupt solution this Deus Ex Machina promised, but maybe this one’s just a comedic device.