[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Meet Naina Pachnanda, a lawyer, author, poet, and a tarot card reader
Naina Pachnanda is a lawyer, author, poet, and a tarot card reader. After graduating from the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata, in 2014, she practised in the Supreme Court of India, High Court of Delhi, various district courts, and also worked on domestic arbitrations.
She also worked with L& L Partners (formerly known as Luthra & Luthra Law Offices) and practised as a litigation lawyer for five years. Just when she had started to find her feet, as a litigation lawyer, her urge to contribute to the country “in my own small way” led her to switch career paths. She joined Invest India, the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of India, in 2019, where she works as a Senior Innovation Specialist.
Naina also decided to simultaneously rekindle her childhood passion of writing poetry, which led her to start her Instagram handle in December 2019. Soon after, COVID took over the world and the lockdown was announced.
In a year filled with challenges, she decided to write about those very trials and tribulations through her poetry.
She speaks to HerStory about her decision to become a lawyer, why she decided to join Invest India, and what prompted her to burn the midnight oil to pen poems amid the pandemic.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
HerStory: Tell us about your background.
Naina Pachnanda (NP): I was born in Delhi and was raised in Chandigarh, Delhi, and Kolkata. I was a month old when my father was posted in the CBI in Chandigarh. After stints at Carmel Convent Chandigarh and Loreto House Kolkata till I was 12, I studied at Convent of Jesus & Mary, Delhi, for a year.
However, in those days, I used to live opposite Delhi Public School, RK Puram, and the sports complex really attracted me to join that school. I was a state-level basketball player, swimmer, and squash player while at school, and these skills were really honed at DPS.
I had always planned to study law after economics Hons honours but a year into the course, I realised that my true calling was law and I immediately gave the Common Law Admission Test to study the five-year BA LLB (Hons) course. I secured admission at National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata, and graduated in 2014.
At law school, I was involved in a lot of extra-circulars. I was selected to present research papers, I was an editor of the India Law Journal, a global law journal, since my first year at law school and am till date. I was greatly involved in the Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education project where we would train under-privileged children free of cost to appear for the CLAT exam and mentor them whilst at law school. I also represented my university in tennis at our sports fest, Invicta.
Growing up, I have always given my 100 percent to every single role that I undertake and to every single thing that I do. This is primarily because I feel there is no substitute for hard work.
HS: Why did you choose law as a career?
NP: My father and brother are my inspirations. My father, Ranjit Pachnanda, is an officer of the Indian Police Service and a lawyer by profession. He practised in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, back in the day. Over the years, discussions with my father about the criminal justice system led to an interest in law while I was at school.
My brother, Vikrant Pachnanda, is an Advocate-on-Record in the Supreme Court of India. Discussions with him about moot courts and paper presentations, while he was at law school, inspired me to take the Common Law Admission Test. I have also been assisting my brother, who is also the Founder and Managing Editor of the India Law Journal, as an editor since I was in my first year at law school to the present date.
HS: Tell us about your journey as a lawyer?
NP: At law school, it was my dream to be a respected senior advocate or a judge. In pursuance of my goal, I had the good fortune of working with the Additional Solicitor General in the Supreme Court of India, PS Patwalia, in 2014.
After a while, the excitement of litigation persisted, and I joined L&L Partners Law Offices where I continued to pursue my law school dream. Here, I had the opportunity to work on multiple matters spread across the High Court of Delhi, various tribunals and district courts, and domestic arbitrations.
I used to take great interest in reading the Constitution of India and I felt it was my calling to contribute towards my country's progress. This is why I joined Invest India, the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of India.
HS: Tell us about being a part of Invest India. What is the connection with law?
NP: My grandfather, Brig KD Pachnanda, was an army officer and my father is an IPS officer. After litigating for about five years, I was very keen to contribute to the country and create a positive impact as a citizen of India.
I joined Invest India, where I look after the legal regulatory, policy, and strategy affairs of innovation and technology commercialisation via the Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovation (AGNIi) programme. I am fortunate to have this opportunity to be able to contribute, in the little way that I can.
HS: Tell us about the work at Invest India and your learnings.
NP: I work as a Senior Innovation Specialist at Invest India. My role is to drive the legal regulatory and strategy side of affairs with an aim to contribute to India’s innovation and technology commercialisation. My role also entails in-depth research on pertinent socio-economic issues.
Invest India has often been referred to as a startup of the Government of India.
What I love the most about working here is that the environment, the mentorship, and the opportunities that one gets are immense and are not focused in any one particular area. This helps expand one’s horizon and thought process.
The crowd is very young - the average age is 30 - and our voices are heard and our opinions are valued. Each one of us gets the opportunity to tap our inner potential and convert the prospects that come our way into a reality.
HS: Tell us about your journey of becoming an author and poet. What do you love about writing?
NP: I call myself a ‘lawyer with a soul’! I run a blog titled Lawyer with a Poetic Soul. My journey of poetry began at the age of 10 when I wrote a poem on Harry Potter, which got published in Telekids, a supplementary newspaper of the Telegraph in Kolkata.
However, my five years at law school were very hectic and competitive, and poetry took a backseat for a few years. When I became a lawyer, my bandwidth for extra-curricular activities was even more limited.
In 2018, it was my father’s 60th birthday and my mother insisted that I write a poem for my dad. I used to work at a reputed law firm and I literally had a 20-minute window where I had sent an email to the client and was waiting for a response. So I quickly wrote a poem for my dad and then later presented it to him at home. This poem is my dedication poem to him, in my second book that is soon to come out this year.
A couple of days later, I was just sitting and thinking how no one is really happy. How do we really define the term happiness? That’s when I decided to write a poem, Happiness.
Despite being a tarot card reader, I believe that nothing is cast in stone and you create your own destiny. This led to a poem on how to Create Your Own Destiny.
Eventually I created my Instagram handle in December 2019. COVID and the subsequent lockdowns were challenges, and I decided to write about these very challenges and post them on my Instagram handle, unapologetically, for everyone to benefit.
I was fully committed to my office work during the day and would burn the midnight oil writing my poems. By December 2020, I had written over 120 poems, which are now going to be a part of a book to be released later this year.
Simultaneously, working with Invest India over the past two years and being an integral part of the Make In India campaign birthed the idea of my first book. A New India, on the schemes of the Government of India, is written in my own unique form of poetry, and was launched by Smriti Irani, Minister for Women and Child Development, in April 2021.
What I love the most about writing poetry is that it’s my comfort zone.
HS: What is the best part about the different things you do?
NP: I am a lawyer, author, poet, tarot card reader, and a keen sportswoman. I have also received a distinction and a medal for the highest marks in West Bengal in Grade 2 Piano ( practical) in the exam conducted by the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music, London.
I am a firm believer in the fact that knowledge is power. What I love best about each of these roles is that I have learnt so much in the process.
All of them combined have made me the woman I am today. I wish to continue to seek avenues and opportunities, and work hard to the best of my ability and continue to learn as much as I can, so that I can create value and positively influence society.
HS: What do you have to say about the highs and lows in your journey?
NP: Highs and lows are a part of life. There have been as many challenges, if not more, as there have been victories in my life. The challenges are what keep me grounded and balanced. I have learnt that neither highs, nor lows are permanent. Life is like a pendulum. Once a goal is successfully achieved, it gets replaced by a higher one. So, life is an ongoing journey, where I aim to learn as much as I can from my failures and my successes.
HS: Please share some anecdotes or experiences from your journey that keep you going even today?
NP: Through my seven years of work and numerous experiences with people from different walks of life, I have learnt that whether you are a woman or a man, there is only one way to win at life and excel in one’s career: it’s through wisdom, compassion, and courage. Emotions such as ego, anger, and impulsiveness really get you nowhere in life. They may help in the short run, but will never work for the long haul. Acceptance, patience, courage, and forgiveness are the keys to a successful career and life.
HS: Do you have any advice for young women entrepreneurs?
NP: My advice would be to stay grounded, and never let ego or anger affect your decision-making. Life and career are learning processes. Make wisdom, compassion, and courage the basis of every decision. Never be afraid to fail, because failure is an inevitable part of life. Learn from your mistakes and failures – that determines your real victory in life.
Never be afraid to take risks. Uncertainties are inevitable but with determination, anything is possible. Opportunities come our way, and it is in our hands to work hard and create those opportunities into a reality. Sometimes things work; sometimes they make room for something even better.
HS: What are your future plans?
NP: To create value and to help make the world a better place in any way that I can- whether it’s through my profession as a lawyer, or through my poetry, the books I write, or social media. I am donating all of my royalty from my second book, Miracles Do Happen, which is scheduled to release this year, to under-privileged children in hospitals. I wish to continue to work hard, and give back to society, as much as I can.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai