Wednesday, November 23, 2011

KISS Campaign!

Law College, Goa.
Year 2003
1st year

6 months into college, and my classmates were speaking this strange legal language. Worst, they seemed comfortable speaking that language.

Any intellectually stimulating conversations were to be made by throwing in these complex heavy legal words.

I know am not a genius, what I also know is that I was never born dumb!

These people, who chose to make normal conversations in legal language appeared to be smarter, wittier and above all more intelligent. What I could never understand was , why do you need to show off something you know you already have? If you are intelligent, you are intelligent, you don't have to throw your weight around everyone near you. In fact, the genius lies in making complex things simpler, not the other way round.

Unfortunately, The story of making things complex by using complex words when you can use simpler language doesn't stop at Law college or the legal system.


when I stepped into the engineering community, I heard some of them talk the technical language in day to day conversations. I was lost again.

But the difference is, law is meant to be for the society, to help the society, to uplift it, to protect it. Engineers can afford to use technical language because they mainly deal with their kind of people, but laws are meant for everyone, so it better be simple enough for everyone to understand.


I stepped into the financial community, the same problem followed me here!

At a closer look I understand that the whole complex language use starts with mainly,the laws. In law college of course it were the legal documents , in finance too, it's the law which screws your understanding. The language of the tax laws, SEBI, FEMA, not only require the knowledge of legal language and its interpretation but also a very sound financial knowledge. I wonder, does everyone using these laws, which includes the common man, have the level of legal and financial knowledge required to understand these laws which are primarily made for them? 

Take the example of the tax laws, all of us pay taxes, how many of us understand the language in which the laws are written? It's complex and not understandable. In the process of being precise ,articulate and clear, we are highly compromising on simplicity which completes the cycle of understanding.

Take the example of most public documents, your day to day rental agreements, contracts, sale deeds, all these documents use such complex language, that by the time you are done reading the whole document, you are :
A. Exhausted.
B. Not understood anything.
C. Confused!!

After having learnt the law for 5 years, I still don't understand clearly what a document is trying to say. You don't believe me, take a look at these statements:


“In case any dispute should arise between the owner and the contractor, whether in respect of daily in supply of materials by the owner or delay in execution of work by the contractor, or the quality of the materials so supplied or the quality of the work done or in respect of decorations or alterations suggested or made or extra work required to be done and so executed or not, or in respect or measurements or work done or required to be done, or demand and payment for part or whole of the work done or not done or dealy or refusal in grant of architect’s certificate by the Engineer or its correctness or touching the interpretation, fulfilment or breach of any of the terms of these presents or in respect of deductions to be made or extra payments to be recovered for work improperly done or not executed or in respect of work got done through another contractor for default or breach or non-completion of work agreed to be done under the particulars and for assessment of the value thereof and fixation of liability for the same between the parties hereof or in respect of any act or omission arising out of the performance of non-performance or the obligations or duties pursuant to these presents, the said dispute or disputes shall be referred to the arbitration and final award of a single arbitrator if the parties agree thereto in writing (failing which to the arbitration of an arbitrator to be appointed by the President of the Institute of Engineers ) (or failing which to the arbitration of the municipal or corporation engineer or any competent engineer or architect nominated by him in writing ) on a reference made to him by any of the parties by notice in writing , a copy whereof will be served on the other party at the address mentioned above or such other address as may be notified by that other party sent by registered post. The arbitrator shall be entitles to proceed ex parte after notifying the parties by a reasonable notice as to the time and place therefor. The arbitrator shall also be entitled to associate with himself a surveyor, if necessary at his discretion. The arbitrator shall have power to reopen and revise any certificate granted by the architect engineer under these present.” 

This and other documents like these are supposed to be creating rights, duties, and responsibilities! No wonder we have so much litigation pending in our courts. 

When we understand these complex documents then  we proceed to  act accordingly. I bet not more than 5% of the population of India understands this language and this format of a public document! If 95% of us are struggling to understand the public documents, then I want to know for whom they are made??

I think it's time we follow the KISS campaign. "KEEP IT SHORT & SIMPLE!" It's time we don't get bullied by these user's of such complex language and ask them to simplify it and make us understand what they mean. And ask as many questions till you get the whole meaning and nothing less. If each one of us follows this rule, I bet more than half the users of this language won't be able to simplify it for us. Why? Because they haven't understood it themselves! Most of them memorise the format, because there really isn't any other way of doing it. 

Okay I understand we got our legal system from the Britishers, and we have tried to work our lives according to their language till now. But isn't it time we take some effort to simplify the language so that our people understand it? 
Isn't it the right of every citizen of this country to understand the law of the land? 
Do you know there is a presumption of knowledge of the law of the land, and you cannot plead innocent for not knowing the law? In other words, "ignorance of law is not an excuse before a court of law." Which means 95% of us who find it difficult to understand the legal language have got screwed, are being screwed or will get screwed sooner or later!

What the government or the judiciary should do , is take up a campaign to simplify all laws.
  • print and distribute them at a very low cost , 
  • published in all regional languages. 
Free legal aid is given by courts and some law colleges, but having been a part of such a legal aid society for 5 years, I don't trust the quality of service provided at such places.So quality could be improved.

What all of us can do?
  • If we are making a legal document or any public document: If it's long, summarise it in point format 1st, covering all the important aspects.
  • Use short sentences, simple words.
  • Read and write to be understood.

Any other suggestions, comments, viewpoints are welcome.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Early Morning Post

I have never written a blog post so early in the morning! It's 6 am as I write it!
The only time I remember waking up early, ( Early to me is 7am! Anything before that is "almost night"), is when I was in school, when I woke up by around 7.15 and hurried up and got ready for school by 8am. I remember my childhood when I look at Aadu and Molly now a days!

I remember, 'Bhai' or mamma,('Bhai' is what I call my father), used to come to our room and declare the time, which used to be 7am. Me and my sister always heard it, but never woke up at that time. Then at around 7.10, the fan would be turned off! And turning off the fan is a BIG No-No in Goa, since it is so hot! Still we adamantly continued sleeping! At about 7.15, mamma would barge into the room shouting at us,pulling our blankets, or dragging us out of the bed. I do not remember much whether I ever finished my breakfast or not, or whether I was quick to brush or did I just lull around till I made it to school. ..Oh yes, I do remember that me and my sister sometimes finished our breakfast sitting in the car, while my father drove us to school. Shoes almost every day would be worn in the car!

I was amongst the late comers at least twice a month. In fact we had our own gang of late comers, people who would always turn up late. We were the relaxed , laid back types. Taking a few shoutings and punishments from Lotlikar teacher or Mense sir did not stir us, whereas the 'first time' late comers or 'rarely-late' comers would shiver , some of them would even cry! I could never understand the commotion some kids threw at such minor happenings in life. I could also never understand why the 1st ranker of the class needed to cry after she( only she's can cry for getting less marks! I have never come across a 'he' who has cried for scoring less!), scored a few marks less than the highest marks in Maths or science!

But crying in school is something I have done.Why school? I have also cried in Law college, why college? I also ended up in tears once when my boss shouted at me while I was doing my internship in Mumbai!

In fact crying is an emotion that touched me very late in life. Somewhere by the end of school life. And it became an emotion I could not control for many years. There was no saying, when , where and how I will cry. I just had to let go of all the frustration that would built up in me. And this has led to a series of embarrassing incidents, for me and also the immediate person responsible for all my tears! But still, throughout my school and college life I never cried for marks, ( I had other criteria that made me cry.)I only cried last year when I did not pass my exam at the 1st attempt! That too an attempt I had given half hearted without any preparation.

Failing an exam was an experience I only had last year. And it sucks!! I know of too many people who comment, laugh and pass judgements on people who have failed a couple of times in their exams, especially some important and tough exams! These are typically those people who themselves have never given a competitive exam and have no guts to even think of attempting one! Thankfully I had no one but myself who criticised me for not studying a "Lil harder", as I had not made the cut by a few marks ( It's always like that, isn't it?)
After giving the 1st paper, I felt so terrible about myself. I had never sat through an exam looking at people's faces. An examination hall is the last place I want to check people out. I better have stuff to write down on those sheets, and so I studied damn hard for the next attempt, and thank god! I passed!

It's amazing how my mind starts shooting memories and thoughts and information from the 1st moment I wake up! I know the mind is working throughout the night as well, but early morning thoughts are fresh! They give a new dimension to life, based on what has been learnt so far.

As for me, till yesterday I struggled hard to deal with a lot of emotional backlog, and a lot of study backlog as well. It's always this way, that when you have an important exam facing you in your face( say professionally), there's also an emotional exam tugging at your back! And you are takes so much courage and patience to decide to move your butt some way and kick off both the exams so hard in their face that you make your way clear!

It's the start of a new month today!
Also the start of a new study's my final lap for this exam!
Also the Birthday of one of my favourite person! ( And no....I'm not talking about Aishwarya Rai!)
And also the Karnataka Rajyotsava Day!
It's more than 1 reason to be happy, to start up early, to smile and to be at my best!!

Wishing you all A very Good Morning!

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