Tag Archives: scholarship

Back From my American Fulbright Adventure

“ Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

A year ago from today, I was introduced to the Fulbright, a scholarship that not only altered the course of my life but jolted my very core into wakefulness as if I were dormant all this while.

I am an English Literature major. The idea of putative ownership of languages, particularly European, has always disquieted me. In the course of my education, I had been questioned numerous times about my choice of studying the language of the ‘colonizers’. I strongly believe that it is the need of the hour to make the national borders porous so that languages and cultures can invade new spaces. What drew me to Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship, beside the obvious reason of fostering cultural diversity, was the opportunity to instill the idea in American students that Hindi-Urdu is as much theirs as English is mine even though they are both culturally connotative. 

THE AMERICAN CLASSROOM NORMS 

In Delhi, where I come from, there is hierarchy in classrooms. The teacher is the boss the students look up to. More often than not, this hierarchy is so intense that the students do all in their power to gratify the ‘boss’ in order to climb up the score ladder. Teaching in an American classroom was the biggest gap that I encountered and happily bridged. A typical American classroom is a discursive dwelling where students challenge everything one asserts. The concept of lecturing is a thing of the past and has been replaced by dialogue. 

During my training at University of Oregon, I picked up the ‘American nod’ and soon found myself motivating students through such gestures. However, the freedom exercised in classrooms is not always favorable. I was often distracted by the sounds of munching of chips and sipping of coffees. Since Americans are highly sensitive to discouragement, I had to constantly weigh my words while communicating to the student that he/she needs to work harder. 

In a nutshell, Fulbright gave me the best of both worlds. Having inculcated the tools from both the teaching methodologies and shunning away the norms that are gnawing the education system in both the countries, I stand taller as an instructor today.

THE SOCIAL NORMS 

Never before had I encountered the practice of smiling at random people and enquiring about their well-being. The systematic queues before boarding a bus, the doors held open for the next person to enter, no honking, exercising compassion as if it were a collective norm, the tipping system were all daily conducts that initially got me by surprise but soon enough, I inculcated them for good. I often remonstrated against the American metric system in jest—“Why can’t they follow the measurements and date writing like the rest of the world?” My American friends guffawed and the Internationals sympathized flippantly. 

I come from a circular culture that practices humility when one talks about oneself. America being a linear one practices straightforwardness. People talk of their achievements uninhibitedly (The Americans say ‘If you don’t toot your own horn, who will?’) On the first week in the U.S, when my colleague offered a ride back home as my house was on her way, I denied the first time in modesty, expecting her to insist or ask a second time. To my surprise, I took a train despite leaving the office at the same time as her. That was my first well-learnt lesson on linear communication among the many that followed.

THE FULBRIGHT FAMILY 

The experiences recounted would be tasteless if I were to skip The Fulbright Family that awaits with open arms as soon as one lands in the U.S. Accomplished scholars from over 160 countries build a home together, cementing bonds by finding commonalities in differences for at the heart of it all, we stand to be humans before ambassadors of our respective countries. We contribute in shrinking the world and making it a better place every step of the way. A sense of reassurance envelops me knowing that I have well wishers scattered all over the globe — France, Israel, Spain, Korea, Taiwan and myriad of other countries! An Argentinean FLTA, elucidating how histories must be buried and a new start made, said to me, “I’ll miss our European friends the most. The ones who conquered our lands once but today they conquered our hearts.” These words edged in my mind as soon as they were spoken. 

Arpita Sahai is a Fulbright scholar at Boston University who pursued B.A.(Hons.), M.A and M.Phil in English Literature, bagging the “Academic Achievers Award” for her outstanding performance. As a translator, she is passionate about pushing regional texts across borders and making them accessible to the English speaking reader. Fulbright FLTA was an offshoot of her passion. Arpita wishes to acknowledge the encouragement of Dr. Meenakshi Pawha in her path.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

32nd India Heritage Awards Event

Twenty two India Heritage award winners displayed plentiful talents with their stage performances and academic excellence at the 32nd India Heritage Awards event held on Sunday, April 1, 2018 at Cerritos Sheraton Hotel, Cerritos. Eight of the high and middle school scholarship winners showed their excellence in dance or music by solo performances. The spell-bound audience gave repeated thunderous and sustained applause to encourage the young performers.  The very entertaining cultural program was emceed by Vasu Pawar and well known community leader Dilip Butani.

Top high school awardee Versha Nair with organizer Inder Singh and Dr and Mrs M.C. Gupta

Versha Nair of Rancho Santa Margarita won the top award of $2500 and revolving trophy in the high school category. The scholarship award has been instituted by Sanjiv & Rajesh Chopra in memory of their parents Sarla & Kishan Gopal Chopra. Ashok Madan and his wife Manju presented the revolving trophy “Profiles in Excellence” instituted in memory of Ashok’s parents, Thakar Singh and Shanti Rani Madan. The second-place winner was Titash Biswas while the third-place winner was Bala Thenappan. The next seven winners were Suraj Srivats, Soumya Ravichandran, Sumedha Attanti, Amogha Koka, Sriram Kotta, Siddartha Sen, and Anvitha Soordelu.  Interestingly, most of the winners were females.

Rhea Jethvani won the top award in the Middle school category. The award and revolving trophy has been instituted in memory of long time event sponsor Dr. Awtar Singh by his niece, Sonia Batra of Beverly Hills. The second-place winner was Debdeep Bandyopadhyay  while the third-place winner was Abheerava Koka. The next five winners were Saachi Pavani, Deeksha Kasula, Komal Kaur, Monica Pal, and Saadhvi Narayanan. Harshini Mohan and Monica Pal won the Visual and Performing Arts awards instituted in honor of  “Teachers, parents and family.”

Titash Biswas , second place winner in high school category,  also won Outstanding Achievement Award and revolving trophy in Visual & Performing Arts funded by Uka Solanki in memory of his mother Kadviben. Fourth place winner Suraj Srivats shared Outstanding Achievement Award and revolving trophy in sports with Karishma Muthukumar. The award and trophy are funded by Jagdish Khangura in memory of his wife Rajinder Khangura. Fifth place winner Soumya Ravichandran shared Outstanding Achievement Award and revolving trophy in community service with Madhulika Shastry. The award and trophy is funded by Satpal Jandial in memory of his parents, Mani Ram and Gian Dai. Nitya Parthasarathy won Outstanding Achievement Award and revolving trophy in Math, Science and Technology instituted by Dr. Mani Bhaumik in recognition of the “most important numeral ZERO invented in India.”  

All Performers

The keynote speech was delivered by Deepi Singh, who, in India, was head, Foods and Nutrition department in Home Science College, Chandigarh, and in USA had held the position of director Food services in Kaiser hospital, Panorama city.  In her speech she emphasized that one must have courage and determination to succeed in life. If someone has a handicap, he/she can conquer it with hard work, sincerity and will power. She did not let her handicap stand in her getting higher education or attaining other goals. She advised, “Make your handicap your strength.”

The Indian American Heritage Foundation has been recognizing the achievements of Indian Youth, graduating from High and Middle Schools in Southern California for the past 32 years. The Foundation is the leading Indian American organization to publicly recognize, reward and celebrate excellence of the community’s best and brightest graduating students in Southern California.   

All high school trophy winners with sponsors

The Foundation started with eight scholarship awards in 1987, now gives twenty-four scholarships annually. The annual event has been made possible with the support of some well-meaning people from the community including Bhupinder Mac, Sanjiv & Renu Chopra, Dr. M.L. Bhaumik, BU Patel, Sonia Batra, Ashok & Manju Madan, Satpal Jandial, Bhupesh Parikh, Bob (Harbans) Bawa, Jagdish Khangura, VJ & Simi Singh, Dr. Satinder and Ranjit Bhatia, Dr. Asmath Noor, Uma-Avadesh Agarwal, Dr. M.C Gupta, Commerca Bank (Sangita Chauhan), Harbhajan Samra and Arun Bhumitra. Some of the sponsors present at the event included, Uka Solanki, V. J Singh, Bhupesh Parikh, Dr. M.C Gupta, Dr. Asmath Noor, and Harbhajan Samra. One by one, the sponsors were called upon to present the award check to the young winners.

Inder Singh, in welcoming the attendees, appreciated the support by the sponsors who provided necessary funding for the continuity of the awards program. He also thanked the judges who undertook the grueling task of evaluating the applicants, and praised his “working crew” — team of volunteers — who worked hard to make the event a success. He said, “An individual, howsoever brilliant, intelligent and smart, would find it difficult, if not impossible to match the collaborative efforts of an effective team and he is blessed with a team which has been providing selfless service for the cause of our youth.” His team included Ashok Madan, Kewal Kanda, Aparna Hande, Amrit Bhandari, Dilip Butani, Deepi Singh, Prof Keshav Patel, Manju Madan, Navin Gupta, Rajinder Dhunna, Simi Singh, Vasu Pawer, and V.J Singh.

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