Deepamala Abeysekera - Sri Lankan student

Testimony 5th June 2003

Unesco Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Madanjeet Singh,
Advisor, Mr. N. Ram,
The Chairman, Mr. Sashi Kurnar,
Media Development Foundation,
Former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka,
Hon. Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar ( President's Counsel)
Faculty and staff of Asian College of Journalism,

Dear Sirs and Madams,

It is with mixed feelings that I write this letter to place on record my most sincere appreciation and deepest gratitude to the South Asia Foundation and to Asian College of Journalism for having bestowed on me the most wonderful opportunity I have experienced up to now in my life. As the Diploma of Journalism programme draws to a close, the time has come to bid adieu to all my dear friends and colleagues at AU, the most dedicated panel of lectures, the extremely friendly and caring members of faculty and office staff, the Chairman, Mr. Sashi Kumar and Trustee MDF, Mr. Ram, both of whom have been a tremendous source of strength, courage and guidance to me, during this most eventful 10 month period.

It has been an extremely rewarding experience to be a part of ACJs 3rd batch of graduates. We all came from different parts of South Asia, one of the most intellectually and culturally rich regions of the world, but embroiled in numerous problems and conflicts, which unfortunately holds back its vast development potential. If not for this situation, our region would have produced many more world leaders and trendsetters in a variety of spheres!

To start with, all of us were total strangers, but as time passed we became so close to each other, tied by strong bonds of friendship and camaraderie and became one big family. We had our ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments, arguments and discussions, conflicts and consensus, tears and laughs, but we became a strong team, a very strong one at that! We were trained to be good team players. In short, ours was a team, which demonstrated "unity in diversity" in its true sense.

Our panel of lecturers gave us the most demanding and rigorous training one could ever imagine and saw to it that we mastered the subjects with all their nuances. Our Chairman and Director Mr. Sashi Kumar and Mr. N. Ram were both beacons of light to us, guiding us all the way with their vast and numerous experiences in the journalistic world, from which we benefited beyond compare. My deepest gratitude and appreciation goes out to our Dean Mr. Larry Pinkam and Mrs Pinkam and to everyone of you ladies, and gentlemen, and hope you will guide us further whenever possible as we stumble along the most difficult terrain that lies ahead of us from now on, in this most confused and conflict-riddled society of ours.

Nishat, thank you ever so much for the 'broadcasting spirit' you internalized in me. Your sheer dedication, determination, courage and thirst for news stories never stopped amazing me. My deepest thanks to Naomi and Kamal, who guided us every step of the way. Solanki was willing to help us any moment we needed him. Sir, we always appreciated your enthusiasm. Last but not least Chandru, Senthil and Vinod for helping us edit our documentaries, which wouldn’t have gone on air on time, during ‘Good Morning Chennai’ and ‘Chennai at five’, without your help! Nalini, I loved your Identity Politics class like all the other lectures you have given us. Though I hadn’t taken it as an elective, I made it a point to stay for almost all the lectures only to see you conducting those sessions in the most lively and interesting fashion which is so unique and special to you! Mahalakshmi, I know there was so much more to gain from you, only if I had had more sessions with you. I really pity not being able to learn more from your vast knowledge.
That's why I consider the "New Media" students a lucky and privileged bunch! Yet your sarcasm, witty remarks and encouraging words always enlivened me. Bindu was throughout, my source of inspiration. If I had any problem I knew I could talk to her. Here especially, I have to mention the editorial guidance she gave me throughout my dissertation. My thanks go out to Sree kumar for being helpful whenever I approached him for assistance. I hereby register my thanks to the library computer lab and canteen staff who made our daily routine run smoothly.

My appreciation wouldn't be complete without a big thank you to Mrs. Sudha Urnapathy who looked after us like a real mother, Mr. Suriya Prakash who looked after our financial requirements (being SAF scholars) and Mr. Manoj who was so helpful to us, in many ways like an elder brother. We were very sad to lose him but I take this opportunity to wish him the very best in the new career he has chosen for himself.

May I humbly state that today I'm very happy to have been selected to participate at the "Summer Academy 2003" to be conducted at the International Institute of Journalism in Hamburg, Germany, as one out of 25 participants selected from the Continents of Europe, America, Asia and Africa. This would not have been possible without the training and recommendations I received from all concerned at ACJ. A big thank you for that!

All these experiences and achievements wouldn't have been possible if not for the generous SAF scholarship I received last August, which was quite by chance. To His Excellency Mr. Madanjeet Singh, all of us SAF scholars owe a deep debt of gratitude, for having founded and funded the SAF with a magnanimous donation of funds from his personal wealth, to espouse and uphold the ideals of peace, solidarity and understanding among the peoples of South Asia through education and sustainable development and regional cooperation.


My heart-felt thanks go out to Mr. Jeet Singh who, as a loving and dutiful son, made funding available to his father, so that he could carry out his cherished ambition and dream of serving the peoples of South Asia to his hearts content! This indeed is a very rare occurrence of a son repaying the incalculable debt he owed his father, in the context of today's society. It is a shining example to the younger generation of today. On a personal note, I wish to mention my special thanks to Mr. Madanjith Singh for having gifted me with a video camera when he was in Sri Lanka this year. I will endeavor to use it to the best of my ability for the service of the people.

Last but by no means the least, this letter wouldn’t be complete without placing on record my most humble and deepest gratitude and thanks to Honorable Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka chapter of the SAF, who as the chairman of the interview panel along with Mr. Lucian Rajakarunanayake and Mr. M.D.D. Peiris, had implicit faith, trust and confidence in me, to have selected me as the first female scholar to represent Sri Lanka for this inaugural set of scholarships offered by the SAF. I do not know whether Mr. Kadirgamar realizes how much this has meant to me and how grateful I am for this act of his! I hope I have been able to do justice to his decision to select me!

As for me, all these good things that came my way would not have been possible if not for a small cog, without which this entire machinery would never have moved forward to where it is today. Hence my eternal gratitude goes out to Mrs.Swinitha Perera, private secretary to Mr. Kadirgarnar, who brought to my notice the availability of this scholarship and made arrangements for me to meet the interview panel at very short notice. To her I will be indebted forever. To my beloved parents and my sister I owe everything, for without their moral support to keep my spirits up whenever I felt low and depressed, as well as finding and sending data for my dissertation, I wouldn't have carried through to the end!

Finally, as informed by Mr. Ram stated in the SAF prospectus, I as an SAF scholar, wish to formally make a request in accordance with the SAF scholarship scheme. That is, if I am eligible and qualified to be selected according to my performance throughout the diploma programme, I would like to be able to visit Pakistan and Bangladesh, two countries which play an important role in the political and economic affairs of the South Asian region. I would like to gain more in-depth knowledge of these two countries, especially their cultural and economic backgrounds, which are so vital for the development of our entire region, mainly with some of the thorny issues each country has with India. Especially as nuclear powers, Pakistan along with India holds the key to the progress of economic and political development of South Asia which is so vital and important for the improving of living standards. To help the millions of poor people and give them their economic, cultural and spiritual liberation! As my second option I thought of Bangladesh because as a graduate in Economics from the London School of Economics, I would like an opportunity to study the Grameen bank in Bangladesh as a case study of micro?finance institutions. If selected, I would be able to start on an approved theme of regional cooperation, funded and directed by the SAF, as part of its scholarship programme, commencing September 2003 on my return from Germany after participating in the Summer Academy in Hamburg.

In closing I wish to say that it has been a great experience and privilege to have studied in a country as vast, diverse and varied as India, a country our Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. Sumith Nakandala so aptly described as "Not a Country or Continent but a Phenomenon!", when I first met him at his office, after attending the first day of College at The Asian College of Journalism. I now realize how very true and accurate he was!

I thank everyone at AU once again, for the excellent training and experience given to us and for all the support and cooperation extended to me at all times, during this brief but eventful 10-month chapter in my life, of which the nostalgic memories will linger on for the rest of my life!

Very sincerely,
Deepamala Abeysekera


From Madanjeet Singh

To: Kamal Hossain, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, "I.K. Gujral", Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, Rita Thapa, Salima Hashmi, Lakshman Kadirgamar

Dear Colleagues,

Attached is a remarkable letter of thanks from Deepmala Abeyskera who was among the students on the SAF-Madanjeet Singh Scholarships at ACJ, Chennai. She eloquently expresses her experiences and feelings with "To start with, all of us were total strangers, but as time passed we became so close to each other, tied by strong bonds of friendship and camaraderie and became one big family! We had our ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments, arguments and discussions, conflicts and consensus, tears and laughs, but we became a strong team, a very strong one at that! We were trained to be good team players. In short, ours was a team which demonstrated "unity in diversity" in its true sense."

This is the spirit in which the South Asia Foundation was founded and, as with the SAF Joint Scholarships, all its projects - SAF Friendship Camps, SAF Learning Initiative, Cooperative Information and Documentation Centres - are primarily geared to promoting regional cooperation among the youth in SAARC countries.

Warm regards,
Madanjeet Singh