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Priya Motiani

JWB Blogger

Meet Sumati Bishnoi, An Advocate Who Plays Cricket And Rides Motocycle

  • JWB Post
  •  November 26, 2015

 

Did you know 66 years ago, today, the Constituent Assembly of India adopted the Constitution of India? Which is why, this day, the 26th of November, is recognized as the Constitution day.

And, which is also why team JWB met Sumati Bishnoi – a Jaipur-based advocate who has been practicing for 26 years now. 26th November and 26 years of practice… is that a coincidence or what?

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Anyway, when we saw her for the first time as she ushered us into her office, we took her to be a gracious yet bold personality. But little did we know, that hidden beneath the layers of this feminine persona was a tom-boy who can swiftly ride motorcycles and tractors and who is obsessed with playing cricket. So much so, that her decision to take up law initially was solely so that she could get an extra year of playing cricket.

Me: Criminal lawyer and Cricket player! How did you manage to fit both of those ‘C’s together?

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Sumati: I have been into sports since my childhood. Gymnastics, basketball, tennis, table-tennis, and of course cricket… you name it, I have played it. Law, well, that happened because of my family background. My father was a sitting judge and my grandfather was the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court. Two generations of the family were in the field so they wanted someone from the third generation as well to get into it.

Me: So, law wasn’t your first choice?

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Sumati: No. My first choice was MA Eng. Lit. I didn’t want to pursue law because I had always seen my father and grandfather working day and night. Back then, I was also the captain of the Rajasthan University Women’s Cricket team. If I’d taken up MA, I would have 2 years, but if I’d taken up law, which I gradually did, I would have 3 years. For that extra year of playing cricket, I took up law.

Me: Really!?

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Sumati: Yes. Also, during those years, my friends and I really wanted to work for a social cause. On a luna with a ten rupee note in our pockets, my friend Kavita and I went across the city. We ended up at Rajasthan Netraheen Kalyan Sangh situated in Gangori Bazaar. Seeing the condition and plight of the blind children there moved us deeply. So much so, that till date we visit the place and are working for its betterment… and especially for the girls there. I take care of their sanitary and cleanliness needs. It has been almost 32 years now!

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Me: That is praiseworthy, Sumati. Tell me about your fondest memory with the kids?

Sumati: There was a car rally that was organized quite some time back. We drove the cars with these blind children navigating us through the way. It was as if the map was printed in their minds. It was a commendable experience receiving the road instructions and directions from those kids.

Me: I wish I can experience something like that someday. So, getting back to your profession, how have the women been doing in the field?

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Sumati: When I started practicing back in the year 1988, I was among the first 15 women advocates in Jaipur certified by BAR Council. And today as we speak, the number has gone up to about 4000. So you can imagine how the times have changed for women in this industry.

Back then, I used to dress up in pants, shirt and blazer for the court. Even my hair was short. So, I often used to get mixed between the men. I was very tom-boyish.

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Me: Looking at your plush long hair now, it is a bit difficult for me to imagine a shorter version of them.

Sumati: Oh I’ll show you my pictures. I have safely preserved them all. I bet you won’t be able to identify me.

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Sumati: Speaking of working with men, I have also played cricket with men. There was a cricket match organized between the advocate and the judges. The Bar versus the Bench… because I was the only woman, the men on the bar steam didn’t want to take me in. So, I played from the Bench – the judges’ team. Even though we lost, that was quite an experience.

Me: Do you still play?

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Sumati: *Chuckles* Given a chance I would love to play again.

Me: I’m sure your kids must have grown up with their mother as their companion not only on the study-table but also on the playing ground!

Sumati: I tell my kids to prioritize sports before books.

Me: Really!?

Sumati: Yes! I believe sports bring about discipline and punctuality in a person. And I have always wanted my kids to inculcate these qualities.

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Me: I think a lot of people on reading this answer of yours would make their mothers read this article.

Sumati: *Chuckles* All my 3 kids, and even my husband, are into sports. My elder daughter has played tennis on a national level. My second daughter is into table-tennis. We even have a table upstairs. My son the youngest of the 3 is a swimmer. And my husband has been an athlete himself.

Me: It is a family association that you people have with sports. Wow. I think I am going to need a minute to digest that!

Sumati: Haha! Come let me show you something.

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And she walks us into the inner section of her house cum office and opens a closet which has an unusual sheen to it.

Sumati: These are the medals of the five of us. Only of sports, that is.

And I couldn’t decide if I should have been ecstatic seeing so many medals at one place or if I should have been sad about not having even a few of them in my entire twenty-something years.

Me: This is some awesome stuff. What else are you hiding in the closet? And I meant that metaphorically.

Sumati: Well, there are certain associations that I am a part of. There’s an NGO called Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultant; I am going to Paris in the coming few days for a UN Conference as a representative of this NGO. Then there’s another centre by the name One-Stop Crisis Management Centre. I work as the legal advisor and counselor for both of these. During my post-grad, I vouched for a special 40-hour meditation training. That training helps me a lot in my role as a counselor here.

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Me: And what are you like when you’re not playing the role of an advocate, a sportsperson, a counselor, or a legal advisor?

Sumati: *Smiles* I have always been very fond of learning new things. Whenever I get time, I practice my tailoring, stain-glass painting, calligraphy. Or I play guitar, tabla and harmonium. These are few hobbies that I’ve nurtured over all these years.

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Me: Okay. That’s really quite an interesting and lengthy list of things that you are proficient in. Anything else that you might be forgetting?

Sumati: Umm, something that I really like is creating wealth from  waste. I like to cut snippets from here and there and then assemble them to form something new. My kids and I get into a brawl quite often due to this. They tell me ‘Kyu kuda kachra jama karti rehti ho?’

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Me: While we are talking of your kids, also tell me about your in-laws. How have they been throughout the journey?

Sumati: My in-laws come from an agrarian background. Except my husband and his brother, the rest of the family stays in the village. Ours was a love marriage. They are Bishnois and I was a Gujarati Brahmin. That’s like poles apart. But I have to say I have been received and pampered in my in-laws family so much and so well… I could even go on to say that it outshined the pampering I received at my own house.

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I was listening curiously as she continued speaking with utter fondness…

Sumati: Back in those times when I used to visit our village, my mother-in-law used to keep me away from the kitchen because she knew I wasn’t used-to to the stove there. She even insisted me to go out in the farm and play cricket with the kids. My father-in-law… he taught me how to play kanchas. I used to drive tractors and motorcycles in the field.

A situation like this is unbelievable in even the times of today. And this is some 20 years back that I am talking about! I have been very fortunate to receive so much love from both my families throughout my life.

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Photo Courtesy: Nupur Agarwal

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