Editor’s Note: Indian Journalist Anubha Bhonsle was chosen by her fellow Humphrey Fellows at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism to deliver a speech during their graduation ceremony May 13. With her permission, we’re reprinting Anubha’s comments here because they so represent what our Fellows experienced during their year here in College Park and Knight Hall.
Thanks to Director Serap Rada and Assistant Director Marisa Osorio who nurtured and guided the Fellows this past year.
Learn more about the Humphrey Fellows Program on the Merrill College website.
Fulbright Humphrey Fellowship 2015-16 Graduation Ceremony Comments
By Anubha Bhonsle (India)
Many of you, perhaps most of you have been here at this event before, felicitating and sharing this day with previous batches of Fulbright Humphrey Fellows. Perhaps you know this day and what this year has been for us as intimately as we do. Perhaps you also know what’s in store for us after this Fellowship better than us. I have a long list of ‘thank you’s and I want to leave it for the end. But just to start, thank you to everyone who is here today sharing this moment with us.
I speak here today not as Anubha Bhonsle, not as a citizen of India, not even as a journalist but as part of a collective, representing the voice of the 10 of us who undertook this whirlwind of a journey together. These 10-odd months have meant very different things to each of us, yet a strong common thread binds us.
This has been a time of reflection for many of us, we have found the freedom to explore, experiment, learn and unlearn. At times we found ourselves stretched and in situations we had never imagined. We have had the good fortune of meeting intellectuals, academics, teachers who have been so generous with their knowledge, thoughts and experiences. And through learning from them, we have learnt not just more about the rest of the world but also more about ourselves. We are grateful for the experience, perhaps a condensed one, perhaps a bit of a bubble but one we are aware not everyone gets to experience.
We hope we have given back in equal measure as we received.
About 10-months ago, when we first met on the 16th of August as a group, we were almost strangers, we knew nothing about each other, perhaps just email IDs or we may have Googled each other. Like parents drop children off for their first day at school our host families dropped us to a point where we were all going to meet and greet each other for the first time. Serap brought sandwiches. We have come a long way since then. We made a family with people we knew nothing about. We made a home literally out of nothing. We have received great understanding and trust. There have been disagreements, debates, we have found ourselves on opposing sides, our countries, our cultural contexts, our diversity, where we grew up have all played a part. We go back to our respective countries knowing the world a little better.
We also go back with great friendships, not just amongst the 10 of us but with Fellows from other campuses and the many American friends we made.
There have been many memorable moments, when Jianglong met President Carter and as a true blue journalist was the only one who managed a picture with him, or when Ioana started working with the National Endowment for the Arts which we all know is a deep passion for her. Hasan’s first byline at CNN was a proud moment for all. Every time that Khim intervened during our work on climate change we knew here was a man who was speaking from a sense of rigor and experience. Sharmilla covered the Sundance, had her piece selected and performed at the South Asian adaptation of the Vagina Monologues and I am privy to the fact that she is very proud of the multimedia skills she picked up here. Wade is a strong, passionate advocate for the highest standards of journalism and we have had our head high every time she represented us in panels and talks. We have come to know a lot about Azer’s work and his strong business sense and we know have a Murdoch in making here.
There is little that Nanythe hasn’t done or cannot do to our mind. She published a book of poetry, translated it in English, which is a language she learnt here. Her photography has earned her kudos in her class, among her teachers. And Marat is a thorough gentleman, for those of us who saw him at workshops, articulating strengths, challenges or issues, one could only swell with pride that we share this Fellowship with him. If you ever find yourself on the other side of a negotiating table with Marat, I wish you good luck. I have had memorable moments that started with my book being published and went on to my work here on gender.
You have had a role to play in all these moments and we thank you.
I also take this opportunity and thank the US State Department for funding the Hubert Humphrey program. We know the American public has a stake here and we hope our time here has contributed to a greater mutual understanding. We thank the IIE for administering the program and for looking out for the nuts and bolts. Thank you to the University of Maryland and Philip Merrill College of Journalism for hosting us.
This has been a fabulous setting for our learning process. I’d like to say a special thanks to the Dean Lucy Dalglish for hosting the HHH program but also for a wonderful session she did with us. Also to the Graduate School for providing tuition awards that allowed us to take classes and participate in the intellectual environment the University offers. We have had fabulous teachers who have been forthcoming with their ideas and knowledge and have been mindful of the experience we brought to the table. We embedded ourselves in many professional organizations and we thank them for trusting our skills and us.
I want to thank each one of our host families for giving us love and affection. You were our first window to America when you picked us from the airport last year and you have opened your home and your heart to us. We will remain forever thankful. There are teachers and professors we must thank, who went far out of their way. Leslie Walker, Dana Priest, Lily Ciric Hoffman and Adrianne (Flynn), you have been generous with your knowledge and advice.
Many of our fellows have had speaking partners who have been gracious and patient. Thank you, from many of the families who joined the Fellows on this journey. It has been a beautiful time for them as well. Last but not the least Marisa, we know we are your first batch and we’ll be special. But thank you for your friendship and for everything you did for us.
And finally, Serap, there isn’t a thing you said that hasn’t come true in the last 10 months. Thank you for investing so much of your time, energy on us. Thank you, for thinking of everything. And I know this has been repeated but we know we will be your all time favorite batch.
About Anubha Bhonsle
Anubha Bhonsle (India) Resized Anubha Bhonsle copy 2 (1)is an award-winning journalist and author. She has wide ranging experience working on issues of politics, gender, conflict and development. In recent years Anubha has reported extensively from areas of strife focusing on the intersection of civil society movements, gender, human rights and political protests. Her documentaries have been recognized nationally and internationally. She won some of India’s most prestigious journalism awards including the Ramnath Goenka Award for Politics, the Red Ink Award and more recently the Outstanding Woman Media Person Award for her body of work in 2014.
The Jury at the New York Film Festival has commended her reporting from Manipur, on the impact of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act. She is a founding member of CNN-IBN. In her role as Executive Editor, Anubha has led the station’s coverage of major news events reporting from the ground. She anchored several flagship news and documentary shows. She also leads a team that produces the much-acclaimed Citizen Journalist Show. Her first book, Mother, Where’s my Country, will be released in December 2015. During her Humphrey year, Anubha will explore the intersection of democracy, dissent and technology.