My Fulbright Journey: The Story of an Old Burglar

When I entered the interview room it was not like a typical Mughal styled room generally used in South Asia rather it was a small side room type enclosure. Two interviewers were of my age and one a blue eyed lady, who was in her 60s, was probably the chairman though her chair was equally small as the chairs of other young members.

US

It was my second attempt for a Fulbright Scholarship when I was called for the selection interview. I was not sure whether I would be granted a scholarship or not as my younger brother Sakib was already studying in the US as Fulbright. I was of the impression that probably the selection board might consider it not that much useful to award me scholarship from the perspective of their policy considerations.

However I was all determined to put my best to convince the board that “I am the most suitable person to be awarded scholarship from all the perspectives including the policy considerations of the United States of America”. This necessary evil of self-marketing I learnt after paying a heavy price in the form of poor interview marks in my first CSS attempt.

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The Interview

When I entered the interview room it was not like a typical Mughal styled room generally used in South Asia rather it was a small side room type enclosure. Two interviewers were of my age and one a blue eyed lady, who was in her 60s, was probably the chairman though her chair was equally small as the chairs of other young members.

Again in contrast to duel styled interviews the lady in chair started questioning in a very polite, comfortable and interactive way. By chance my recent trip to Berlin came under discussion and on noticing the sudden spark in the blue eyes of the chairman I openly expressed my liking for Berlin and its beautiful flora and the serene atmosphere. Not sure but the happy face of the chairman gave me a clear hint of her Deutsche roots.

Fulbright interview question: Why do you want to go to the US?

After a few routine questions about forensic science as my choice subject, the chair put the question: Why do you want to go to the US? Why not another country? I knew it was a critical question and I wanted to answer it in a logical way. Hence I requested the chair to allow me to narrate a short folk story of my Jhang area before answering the “Why US” question.

On having permission I narrated the story in the following words: “There lived a traditional burglar who used to steal things from houses during night by putting holes in walls of old time mud houses. In those days the weapons used by such burglars were a properly seasoned stick of good wood and an instrument to make hole in the walls. As the burglar was getting old so now he had started taking his teenage son with him also as a trainee to teach him the art of earning bread for the family”.

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The Burglar’s Son

“On one night the father and the son were heading toward a targeted house to earn their living. It was complete pitch dark intertwined with nerves shattering silence so to make the tender son bit relaxed the old father pointed his finger toward a little distantly located mud house and said: Look son! The house (finger pointed) where the oil lamp is glowing….I have looted this house three times.

The old burglar had some expectation that his son would appreciate his expertise of looting the same house thrice, however the son answered with a question: ‘Baba you looted this house three times and their house lamp is still glowing, but our house is still without a glowing lamp’.”

After narrating this folk story of old burglar to the chair I said “I want to go US to see why the house lamp of US is still glowing despite the fact that many people of the globe, including me, have an impression that United States of America has unleashed a bazaar of looting in many areas of the worlds”.

The chairlady smiled and my interview ended. After a few days I got the scholarship award letter. However I did not forget my mission to know why the US lamp is still glowing. And when on one fateful day I landed at John F. Kennedy Airport to start my study as Fulbright scholar in John Jay College of Criminal Justice, I kept on searching for the answer to my question also and finally I found it.

Dr. Shakir Ahmad Shahid, Ph.D, PSP, is a Postdoct Fulbright Alumnus in Forensic Science and Criminology, who has served in various fields like Policing, Investigation, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism on policy and operational levels as a Senior Police Officer and Director (counter terrorism). He has also worked in fields of Education, Investment and Rural Development as a civil servant, and in the field of Agriculture as a farmer.  He can be reached at drsashahid@gmail.com

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