As part of its 75th Anniversary celebration, the executive committee of the FPA decided to raise funds and grant a scholarship to a deserving student of journalism. A committee was formed to seek out an appropriate student from the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University. The following criteria were decided on: the student had to be in dire need of funds; had to be from a foreign country; and had to have a record of excellence.

The suggestions and recommendations of Dean Monica Miya and Dr Bruce Kaufmann of Columbia University proved invaluable in helping the scholarship committee to select a student.

The student finally chosen, Ms Shailaja Neelakantan, from Delhi, India, was found to be the most deserving. Ms Neelakantan found life extremely difficult when she first arrived to do her Masters in Journalism. Not only did she have to cope with culture shock, but the high expense of living in New York was a big problem. Dean Miya told us, “At times I wondered if Shailaja was eating.”

With help from a small scholarship from Columbia University, some heavy private loans, and a part-time internship with India Abroad,Photo: Joseph Aranha

Ms Neelakantan managed a hand-to-mouth existence while studying and working.

Ms Neelakantan majored in political science at Delhi University in 1990, and immediately went into journalism. She traveled throughout India and wrote features for Destination Traveller, India's leading travel magazine. She spent several months at The Statesman, then worked for a year and a half at the Indian Express, India's largest selling English newspaper.

In her work in India, and since living in New York, Ms Neelakantan has covered stories of all kinds, from terrorists to a prostitute standing for election in New Delhi.

Although just managing to reach five feet in height and weighing barely 100 lbs, Ms Neelakantan gives the impression that she will go far in the field of journalism. She has our support, good wishes and encouragement.

Joseph Aranha

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