Raamis in India

Raamis is a sophomore President’s Scholar and member of the University Honors Program who is majoring in biology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. During summer 2012, he is traveling to Aligahr, India, as a Richter Fellow to conduct research on water contamination, child psychology and public health in a slum.

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Dream, My Child

This is definitely the most exciting post to write because I am sharing some of the drawings by students from the slum school. These drawings have become an incredible discovery, not just for me, but also for the teachers of the school, my grandparents and other people who see them. The powerful scope and message of what has been drawn is exactly why I believe a defeatist and skeptic attitude has no place in this world. Indeed, this is not meant to be an overly sentimental examination, as I believe the drawings possess a rare, healthy combination of practicality and imagination. Without further ado, here are a few:

This picture is simply awesome, probably my favorite one. Look closely, and perhaps tilt the page sideways, and you can discern the religious symbols of four major religions: the Christian cross, the Hindu om, the Islamic crescent and moon, and the Sikh symbol. A 15-year-old girl drew this one. She wishes that people would help each other more regardless of religion, and view that all religions are part of our humanity.

What I was most happy about was the enthusiasm I received from the student body. There are 180 students total, taking both the afternoon and evening shifts, and the time I spent at the school revealed a lot to me as well. Here is how it worked: I brought art supplies and paper to the school, and told the children that I wanted every one to draw something for me, anything they liked. They had one hour to do whatever they wanted. They could draw for a minute, or for the whole hour. I gave the students one night to think about what he or she may want to draw, but all students had to draw at the school while I was present, and to hand me their drawings.

The boy who drew this, Anil, in Class II, simply said he loves early mornings.

The school is extremely small so I was able to walk around and monitor what their drawings.  They asked questions as they worked, “Is it okay if we color outside the lines,” or “Do you really mean we can draw whatever we want?” or “Sir, does this look okay?” It took a while for me to explain that I wanted to see their imaginations at work, not judge them for how good the drawing was or if the colors were inside the lines. This alone, aside from the drawings, revealed much about the psychology. Their experiences had taught them to simply copy something already drawn out, draw it well and not ask too many questions, lest they be judged harshly. Obviously, this isn’t the treatment they receive from the teachers, but more generally how they are viewed. As I mentioned in a previous post, these kids have always, always been judged. Harshly.

This drawing is titled “child labor”. The boy who drew it wanted to say that childhood is for running around, jumping up and down, playing with friends and learning. Children should never be made to perform labor at a young age. Many kids in the slum do have to start working at early ages, though not in factories. They must aid their parents in whatever way they can to bring in more money.

As you can see, these children are filled with ingenuity, genuine kindness and optimism, and are able to instantly discern motives. They are capable young people in an unfortunate environment who have the will and ability to succeed. More importantly, as they drew I saw that they cared about each other, often glancing at the drawing of the person next to them and offering a suggestion. I have shown three drawings from a total of almost 20 that will be published in a book. Or rather I hope the book will be published. I am running into some financial hurdles based on how much money I can allot from my research grant, but I remain optimistic that I can see this aspect of the project to its end. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. Be sure to check back in a few days. I will have a post on the first set of tests from the water contamination testing. That’s all for now!

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    One Response to Dream, My Child

    1. Jewel Lipps says:

      I loved reading this! I hope you can publish the book, I would love to see the other pictures and what the artist had to say about it. So inspiring! The observations you made about the kids are very enlightening and touching.

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