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How House Lamp of an Old Burglar Started My Fulbright Journey


Dr Shakir Ahmad Shahid

It was my second attempt for a Fulbright Scholarship when I was called for the selection interview. I was not sure whether I would be granted a scholarship or not as my younger brother Saqib Saki was already studying in the US as Fulbright. I was of the impression that probably the selection board might consider it not that much useful to award me scholarship from the perspective of their policy considerations.

However I was all determined to put my best to convince the board that “I am the most suitable person to be awarded scholarship from all the perspectives including the policy considerations of the United States of America”. This necessary evil of self-image building I learnt after paying a heavy price in the form of poor interview marks in my first central superior services’ exam.

When I entered the interview room it was not like a typical Mughal styled room generally used in South Asia rather it was a small side room type enclosure. Two interviewers were of my age and one a blue eyed lady, who was in her 60s, was probably the chairman though her chair was equally small as the chairs of other young members.

Again in contrast to duel styled interviews the lady in chair started questioning in a very polite, comfortable and interactive way. By chance my recent trip to Berlin came under discussion and on noticing a spark in the blue eyes of the chairman I openly expressed my liking for Berlin and its beautiful flora and the serene atmosphere. Not sure but happy face of the chairman gave me a hint of her Deutsche roots.


After a few routine questions about forensic science as my choice subject, the chair put the final question: Why do you want to go to the US? Why not another country? I knew it was a critical question and I wanted to answer it in a logical way. Hence I requested the chair to allow me to narrate a short folk story of my native area-Jhang before answering the “Why US” question.

On having permission I narrated the story in following words: “There lived a traditional burglar who used to steal things from houses during night by putting holes in walls of old time mud houses. In those days the weapons used by such burglars were a properly seasoned stick of good wood, and a mini spear-like instrument called ‘sannu’. As the burglar was getting old so now he had started taking his teenage son with him also as a trainee to teach him the art of ‘earning bread’ for the family”.

“On one night the father and the son were heading toward a targeted house to ‘earn their living’. It was complete pitch dark intertwined with nerves shattering silence. To make his tender son a bit relaxed the old father pointed his finger toward a little distantly located mud house and said: Look son! The house (finger pointed) where the oil lamp is glowing….I have looted this house three times.

The old burglar had some expectation that his son would appreciate his expertise of looting the same house thrice, however the son answered with a question: ‘Baba you looted this house three times and his lamp is still glowing, but our extinguished house lamp could never glow’.”

After narrating this folk story of old burglar and the lamps to the chair I said “I want to go US to see why the house lamp of US is still glowing, despite the fact that many people of the world, including me, have an impression that United States of America has unleashed a bazaar of looting in many parts of the globe.” The chairman lady smiled and my interview ended.

After some days I got the scholarship award letter. On one fateful day I landed at John F. Kennedy Airport to start my studies as a Fulbright scholar in John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York. However I did not forget my mission of knowing the secret of glowing US lamp, and I kept on searching for the answer to my question. And finally one day while returning from JJ College I found the answer to my question.


Shakir A Shahid

Dr Shakir Ahmad Shahid, Ph.D, PSP, is a Postdoct Fulbright Alumnus in Forensic Science and Criminology, who has served in various fields like Policing, Investigation, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism on policy and operational levels as a Senior Police Officer and Director (counter terrorism). He has also worked in fields of Education, Investment and Rural Development as a civil servant, and in the field of Agriculture as a farmer. Dr. Shahid holds the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry with research publications in fields of bio-materials, bio-energy, polymers and forensic spectroscopy. He also holds the degrees of Master in Psychology, M.Sc Chemistry, L.L.B, and B.Sc (Biology), along with qualifications in fields of crime management, police command, public administration, international law, history, forestry, and agriculture. In addition to being PhD Research Scholar in Criminology he is a passionate researcher in theoretics of complex systems, energy evolution, negentropes, information, cyborgology, socionics, sustainability, human behavior, history, national narrative, social re-engineering,  policing, intelligence, governance, national security, electro-magnetic spectrum, and forensic evidence. He can be reached at drsashahid@gmail.com