Letters to Kaka: postcard-images of Upendra Baxi
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This essay weaves together post-card images of Upendra Baxi’s formative life as a student at Berkeley, California in the 1960s. As a law student in Berkeley from 1964–1966, Upen wrote long letters every other week to his father, Vishnuprasad Venilal Baxi (1905–1990) whom everyone called Kaka. Through these letters we represent fragments of his life as a student, catalogue the courses he read and chronicle his first meeting with the Austrian jurist, Professor Hans Kelsen. The first part of the essay brings together fragments of the letters Upen wrote to his father. The second part of this essay turns to Upen’s use of the form of letters as crafting a specific tactic of speaking against power. We reflect on the link between the biographical and the intellectual. The link between the two parts of this essay—life and law—is liminal. To the many insightful analyses of the Mathura Open Letter and the birth of epistolary jurisdiction, we add a biographical footnote that privileges letter writing as a form of relatedness in critical solidarity. Upen’s literary inheritance, especially of writing letters as a form of forging kinship and relatedness inflects how he writes of law and life.