Note: On May 4, 2001, South Asia expert and former journalist Selig Harrison received Columbia University's Taraknath Das Foundation Award. This annual prize honors a person who has contributed to understanding between India and America. Past winners have included writer R.K. Narayan, inventor Amar G. Bose and journalist Philips Talbot.
I was among the speakers at the awards ceremony. Here are my (edited) remarks...
on Selig Harrison
It's an honor for me to speak at this wonderful occasion and to follow Phil Talbot's remarks. I bring greetings from the South Asian Journalists Association, which has discussed Sig's work at length on its e-mail discussion lists.
As you know, Sig wrote in the '60s about India being a dangerous place. I would like to suggest that Sig is himself a dangerous man. The reason? He is a scholar who can write AND a writer who is a scholar. At a time when too many journalists write without any understanding and too many experts write pieces that can't be understood, Sig's work stands out. And that makes him truly dangerous. He is also dangerous for us journalists because he is far more prolific than most South Asia writers. Leave some for the rest of us, please, Sig.
Here's proof that Sig writes in a compelling and fair way -- on those SAJA discussion lists, his articles manage to anger people across the political spectrum. Being unpredictable and an equal-opportunity anger-arouser is a true badge of honor for a journalist.
South Asia remains a vitally important and sought-after assignment at the top American newspapers. And as new correspondents undergo their pre-assignment training and orientation, the work of Selig Harrison is often on the top of their reading lists and the man himself is a universal "must-meet" before heading east.
Congratulations, Sig, on this important award, which you so obviously deserve.
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