How House Lamp of an Old Burglar Started My Fulbright Journey (Fulbright Diary Leaf. 2)
Though I was not sure that Fulbright Scholarship would be granted to me or not; however I was all set to leave for the USA. I had applied in 36 US universities, and 23 out of those 36 granted me admission. And out of those 23 universities 18 schools awarded scholarships of varying amounts. Luckily two universities granted 100% scholarship so now I was at ease. I could go USA on these scholarships even if I was not granted a Fulbright.
Fortunately I got a Fulbright award letter also. I was placed in University of Baltimore, Maryland, and in John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. I was given the option to choose one school. After consultation with friends I opted for John Jay College due to its location of New York City. In the meantime I communicated with other universities who had granted me full scholarship, and requested them to defer my admission and scholarships till completion of my Fulbright grant. To my surprise both institutions agreed to my suggestion.
Finally that day reached when I was to leave for the USA. My operators Sajjad and Mudassir, both good boys, said me goodbye at Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad. It’s always difficult to set for unknown destinations by leaving hard earned comfort zones. However, by now, life had made me learnt that aspiring for high altitudes is inalienably coupled with difficult times and decisions. With heavy heart I checked in and after around 22 hours a long flight plane landed at John F. Kennedy Airport, New York.
It’s not a simple journey to start from a boundary-less village school and to reach John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Manhattan, New York on Fulbright Scholarship. Actually my posting as SP Diplomatic Enclave had resulted in my exposure to some serious observations. After meeting with various young career diplomats from western countries I felt some kind of innate psychological differences between them and us. I wanted to know the real reasons for these differences, and the same desire I explained to the interviewing board for the Fulbright Scholarship (Part I).
Due to low temperature, in places like New York, energy demand of the body gets increased and one naturally feels a lot of hunger. I too used to feel hungry after my day classes. However due to lack of familiarity with the surrounding I was not aware which food outlet sells Halal food and which does not. One day when I was very hungry and I was desperately looking for some Halal food outlet I saw a food cart on W-58th St 9th Ave who was selling meat food, rice and few other fast food items.
I had noticed this food cart earlier also but I had ignored him. Actually I could not muster courage to ask about religion from the cart vendor as I eat only Halal meat sold by Muslims. However today the severity of hunger prevailed upon my reluctance and I went near the cart to put my query to the vendor. When I reached near the food cart I heard a sound of recitation of the Holy Quran. A small audio player was relaying recitation of the Holy verses. According to details, which got disclosed later on, the name of the vendor was Mr. Ahmed and basically he was from Egypt.
I was so happy on finding a source of Halal food for myself and hence purchased a mutton-rice packing to replenish dwindling reserves of my ATPs. However on seeing Mr. Ahmed selling his food items to customers of all religions, colors, and ethnicities I got the answer to my old question also. I found that it’s the liberty, tolerance and diversity due to which the house lamp of the US is still glowing.