Spells of inactivity in India

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.


My first week at Jamia, (my college Jamia Milia Islamia), went reasonably well and was only interrupted by the assassination of a former student while performing his play and a subsequent demonstration.

Classes for weeks two and three were canceled so that students could attend a film festival. Weeks four and later were to be spent on field work – they thought. At this point I called for time.

I requested a meeting with the Indian agency that organizes Fulbright activities in India. (United States Educational Foundation in India – USEFI.) They told me they had scheduled other activities for me but Jamia had insisted on my presence full-time. They would attempt, however, to try and reschedule. They did suggest that I visit some museums and do some touring. They also set up meetings with THE TIMES OF INDIA Journalism School, UNESCO, and the United States Information Agency.

Touring gets “old” fast when you are alone. The meetings with other agencies proved to be more valuable.

The Director of the Times School of Journalism was very helpful. He had spent 18 years in the States and also knew the status of broadcast education in India. He also confirmed my suspicion that my experience, so far, was not unique.

The United States Information Agency meeting was a breakthrough. They were aware of some of the problems I faced and blamed it on bad communication and the lack of a good orientation program. My suggestion was to have me prepare a presentation on this and this, finally, gave me something to do.

I spent the next two weeks researching Indian Broadcasting, Broadcast Education in India, and taking slides to support the orientation piece. (I also visited Agra and the Taj Mahal with my daughter.) I will be working this month, at home, on writing, organizing and producing the orientation piece. I will also visit York University in Toronto since I found out, after I arrived, that they had installed Jamia’s equipment and had been involved with them for the past five years. (Now why wasn’t I told that before..?) I will also be traveling to England to get some background material on the founding of Indian Broadcasting during the Spring break.

This is a lot like the experience of William Faulkner after he was invited to Hollywood to write a script – he asked if he could work at home – in Mississippi. (Like Faulkner’s employers USEFI and USIA agreed to this.)

In retrospect one shouldn’t be too surprised at these developments. Reports by past Fulbrighters did mention long periods of inactivity and drastically changed expectations. Every Fulbright grantee to India should come prepared to do independent work.

My leave, so far, has been interesting but not the one I had planned on. Unless there is some objection I will continue on my new course.

I will be a better teacher and advisor after this experience. I will also be more tolerant of our, and SUNY’s bureaucracy.

I did complete the essay and a tape slide presentation helped by The Pojman family of Cleveland, Ohio who were in Delhi while I was there. Interestingly enough the only time I was sick was because of a salad I ate at the American Embassy’s school.

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.