Student Writing

Where I’m From

A "Where I'm From" script draftThe first two weeks of our TMS Boston workshop have been an exciting and engaging experience for Fellows and scholars alike. Our first class focused on introducing ourselves to each other, as well as introducing our scholars to digital storytelling. After an initial icebreaker and a brief discussion about Community Code – how we would treat each other and, ultimately, create a safe space for us to share out stories with each other during our TMS classes – I shared my “Where I’m From” digital story. In planning the workshop, the other Fellows and I decided to encourage the scholars to create their own “Where I’m From” digital stories as a result of the high level of interest expressed by the Boys and Girls Club members when we showed them “Where I’m From” digital stories created by TMS Newark (NJ) Scholars during our recruiting efforts for the TMS Boston workshop. The members became noticeably energized and inquisitive when we followed the “Where I’m From” digital stories with a selection of those made by TMS Hyderabad scholars and informed them that the digital stories they would make in our TMS Boston workshop would provide them with the opportunity to share about themselves, their community, and their culture with TMS scholars in India and beyond. Based on their enthusiasm and interest, we decided to model our own digital stories in this manner.


I was admittedly nervous about sharing my digital story, as it is the first one I’ve ever made, and it addresses some very personal experiences and issues that mean a great deal to me. Most importantly, I hoped that my digital story would serve as a good example and even an inspiration to the Scholars in their envisioning of their own stories that they would be telling. To my relief and delight, as soon as my story finished, everyone in the classroom started clapping immediately, and I knew from that moment onward that we would be able to accomplish great things within such a supportive community of digital storytellers.


One of our Fellow interns, Sam, showed her digital story after mine, and she too received a rousing ovation from the scholars.

After viewing both digital stories, we discussed the common themes between both of them, as well as the different images and Sam and I had used to tell our story. The scholars then brainstormed a list of images they would potentially use in their own “Where I’m From” digital stories and shared them with each other. Since it was their first time sharing with each other, some of the scholars were a bit timid, but once the “sharing juices” got flowing, those who were quiet began to participate, and we got to see how many great ideas were percolating amongst our eager scholars.


The rest of the first class was devoted to discussing general storytelling principles and practices, what digital storytelling is and what are the elements that go into making a digital story, and what type of digital stories the scholars would be making as new members of TMS. We ultimately ran out of time by the end of the first class due to th fact that the discussions we were engaging in had every scholar participating and contributing their ideas and opinions. The energy level was high, every scholar was engaged with each topic, and the scholars would build off of each others’ ideas while showing an impressive respect for each other and our collective space. My fellow TMS Fellow, Franklin, as well as the Fellow interns, Sam and Nicole, came away from the first class very impressed by ur scholars and energized for the classes to come.


The second, third, and fourth classes served to ease the scholars into the digital storytelling process, with the goal of having them draft their scripts during the second class, complete their scripts and storyboards in the third class, and actively producing audio and visual content in classes 3 and 4 during the second week. After Nicole shared her “Where I’m From” story at the beginning of class 2, scholars shared about a personal object that reminded them of where they’re from that we asked them to speak about with their peers.

This served as a good segue to sharing the TMS Newark scholars’ digital stories as an example of what our scholars could do with their own “Where I’m From” stories. After viewing these videos, scholars spent the remaining time brainstorming ideas for their stories and turning their ideas into scripts. Class 3 had scholars finishing their scripts and turning them into storyboards. Fellows and interns worked with scholars to adapt their ideas into scripts and storyboards that worked best for each individual scholar’s style. For example, one scholar expressed himself best verbally, and so Nicole decided that it would be best to ask him the brainstorming questions we had prepared for the scholars and to record his responses. In doing so, the scholar produced an impressive amount of audio narration content that they then worked together to cut down into more manageable pieces that could be edited into the final digital story. Two other scholars preferred to write short poems in the mold of the TMS Newark scholars, and so Sam and Franklin helped them complete their scripts and storyboards in a manner that supported their vision and complemented their skills. Class 4 had Fellows teaching scholars about audio (voiceovers and sounds) and visual (photos and videos) production using our digital cameras. After putting the finishing touches on their scripts and storyboards (their “text” content), scholars began creating their audio and visual content. They recorded their voiceovers, took photos, and researched images online that matched their text content. Scholars also began working on iMovie on the Boys and Girls Club’s iMacs in their Computer Clubhouse media room with support from Fellows and interns alike.

At the end of two weeks of TMS classes, and with only one more week to go, I find myself beyond inspired by our scholars and my peers. We are all working together to bring our stories to life, and in doing so, we are learning about each other and ourselves. It strikes me that this is the point. This is the reason we are doing what we are doing. This is why TMS does what it does. This is why I wanted to serve as a fellow. Because I believe we all have a great to deal share with and to learn from others, and that such elemental acts of reciprocity and respect are the primary means by which we may change our lives, our communities, and our world for the better. I am grateful for this experience, for my colleagues, and for my scholars. And I look forward to our final classes together.

MGM Magazine: Freedom Is…

As mentioned in a previous post, the students at MGM Government Girls High School in Nampally focused on freedom for their final documentary.

Though it was already an ambitious undertaking, the students had the energy and interest to go further and create something more. We talked a lot about how family and community often dictate what freedom means for girls, even for things as simple as whether they are able to walk outside at night or wear jeans. We discovered that freedom is a nuanced topic, especially for girls. Sometimes they wanted more freedom, other times, they felt that what their family, religion, or community dictated was okay. Regardless, they all mentioned that they don’t have this conversation often with their community.

One big part of the final stage of The Modern Story curriculum is a community service project. Previously, classes have done community outreach about dirty water, a clothing drive, and an activist art project that featured a portrait of the city’s sanitation manager made out of trash. For my MGM students, I thought that something that spoke to their work and their needs would be the most appropriate project.

Bhargavi works on issue 1.

Bhargavi works on issue 1 of “MGM Magazine”.

So we decided to make a magazine so the girls could continue the conversation about freedom at home. Using the one working computer in our classroom, I set up a team to do the layout of the magazine on Word processing and tasked them with interviewing their classmates about freedom, taking portraits, and typing up the answers. Most people wouldn’t be thrilled about typing for 60 minutes straight, but these girls jumped at the task. They learned how to change the font, make columns, and import a photo. Simple skills, but fundamental ones that can further their future media production.

They also showed off their interview and editing prowess, deciding on which questions to ask about freedom and which photos to use. Some answers are simple, others are profound. But it did provide an array of answers the help continue the conversation.

Once we finished the basic layout with interview questions and photos, I added quotes the students got from interviewing a local NGO, and extra photos from a portrait/photography project the students also spearheaded.

After a long (and pricey) night at my second home aka the photocopy shop with my now good friend Hamesh, we had 30 shiny bright copies of the first issue of MGM Magazine for each student to take home, as well as copies for the headmistress and a few teachers.

I hope the conversation continues at home, but if nothing else I am very happy these students have a physical copy of their hard work to show off to their families and communities.

And thanks to Issu, you can check out the digital copy of their magazine below! Enjoy and share their work!

MGM Voices

In addition to making these wonderful movies, the students of MGM also elected one of their crew to write a short essay about the topic of their movie. Below you will find out about two of the topics in their own words.

Stop Power Cuts

In our school, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Girls Government High School (MGMGGHS) we did a movie on power cuts. In the power cut film, there are many characters. We did this film shoot because now a days so many times the power goes out and during that time we can’t do any work. In this film, the children also go to school, and in their class the teacher is teaching a lesson. When she is teaching the lesson, the power goes out and the teacher cannot tell the lesson to students. So many times the power is going out like this, that’s why we can’t do our work successfully. Power is very important to human beings. When we can’t have power, that means in our home, school, etc, we will not have fan, light, computer, etc. We can’t use any of these things. That is why power is very important to us, and that is what this film means. Power cuts means we can’t do any work successfully. Power is very important to us. The power cut film tells this message.

Written by Akhila

(The power cut group includes: Maheshwari, Kavitha, Anusha, Varaikshmi, Sirisha, Sandhya, and Akhila)


Get Rid of Rubbish

Good morning everybody.

We are from MGM Government Girls High School Nampally, Hyderabad, of 8th class.

Our title is Rubbish/Garbage. We did a movie on this because we want to protect our world. It is especially important because of the Swachh Bharat campaign that was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. We want to explain to our world: don’t throw garbage anywhere, throw it in dustbins. Because from garbage we get illness, and from garbage mosquito and small insects will grow and bite people. From garbage we get diseases like poliovirus, infections, and malaria (etc). We want to tell the Municipal Corporation they should clean the road every day but they are not cleaning everyday. With garbage, children are getting illness and that is why they are not going to school– they are irregular to school and they are not getting education. Garbage is very dangerous to our life. In our surrounding areas we are not safe, so I want to tell our world: don’t throw garbage anywhere, throw it in dustbins.

We want to protect ourselves, so we tell our mothers to protect children and family, and our friends help us do the movie on Rubbish/Garbage. We are following Mahatma Gandhi’s rules and Narendra Modi, who is the prime minister of our country. He was sweeping 1 kilometer, that is why we should clean our house, surrounding area, schools, temple, mosque, churches, etc.

Thank you faithfully.

Written by Amreen Fatima

(The rubbish group includes: B. Savitha, Asra Begum, Qareena Begum, K. Bhargavi, Zabunnisa, Afreen Begum, K. Priya Singh, and Amreen Fatima.)


Who Says?

I have to thank Selena Gomez for helping me achieve a recent feel-good moment.  Her song,
“Who Says,” lent itself to a lesson I created about bullying. For those of you less strangely in tune with the world of Disney Channel music than myself, here are her lyrics:




“I wouldn’t wanna be anybody else

 You made me insecure,

Told me I wasn’t good enough.
But who are you to judge
When you’re a diamond in the rough?
I’m sure you got some things
You’d like to change about yourself.
But when it comes to me
I wouldn’t want to be anybody else.

The girls did not know what I meant by bullying. Besides the fact that this is a strange English word (if you say it enough times you will start to feel that you are speaking gibberish), they did not know how to identify bullying’s basic components. Why? These components are built into the everyday school life of these girls. I’ve watched one girl pinch another into submission. I’ve overheard conversations about excluding a girl that is not as well liked. I’ve grown impatient as the girls who always listen when their friends speak in class deliberately talk to each other while another who never shares finally gets up the courage.

There is not anything particularly sinister about these incidents. These girls are eighth graders; middle school is famous for being one of the most difficult times of adolescence. We’ve come to know and love all of our students and I’m 100 percent confident that each one will grow to be a thoughtful and compassionate adult.

What does bother me is the institutionalized nature of bullying in our schools. The brightest students tend to be favored to an extent that can squelch the chances of others to thrive. While I was able to find a few campaigns against cyber-bullying in India, I struggled to uncover any anti-bullying efforts or resources for schools. Ten minutes into my lesson, I realized I was in over my head. How can you teach anti-bullying in a twenty-minute rotation when its basic premises are just not the norm? At the end of the day I felt quite discouraged and fairly certain that the only part of the lesson that worked was Selena’s peppy video.  Imagine my joy at coming across this original story in one of the student journals the next day:

“Once upon a time there was a garden. There were many flowers with beautiful colours except the Datura Flower. All the flowers in the garden teased Datura Flower. Datura Flower felt, “it’s not my fault to be like this!” All the flowers are colourful and they tease the colourless flower, saying “dirty flower,” etc. But one day God appears and takes the Datura Flower. All the other flowers say, “it’s not a colourful flower.” God said, “oh, I know but it is a good flower. This flower is not bullying any one.” So good people do not do bullying.”

She also included this drawing:

Sometimes the surprises are the best part about teaching, and these little gems are what make any moments of doubt seem irrelevant.

(Disclaimer: be prepared to play Selena’s video more times than you thought possible if you ever decide to show it to a group of girls in a school in India!)






Making Moves and Breakthroughs

I continue to be startled by the distinct personality of each school and how quickly they evolve – like new friends, who for every interaction open your eyes to surprises. As the girls get more comfortable in class, we have witnessed the breakout of closet poets, the soft voice of silent activists beginning to sound, and a humbling confrontation with the limits of our communication which force us to get creative with our bridges across the cultural and linguistic divide.

I have not updated since my start of class at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) Government Girls High School. I was most self-conscious to begin teaching at this school – the courtyard, shared with a number of other girls’ schools, initially felt heavy to me in a conservative discipline that left me unsure how I would be received. These was a stark contrast between the disruptive excitement that meets me upon my entrance into Sultaan Bazar, and the cautious curiosity mixed with skepticism I felt while sitting amidst the students waiting for a teacher to arrive and open the school that first day. I watch the students stand in straight-lined assembly and repeat the words of various national and cultural anthems, rising and falling to attention with the sound of a drum. When the lights of the classroom give out upon my first opening words of 9 o’clock class, I come to know that there are daily power cuts scheduled to the precise timing of my computer based class. Hyderabad gets the majority of its power from hydroelectric dams, and the low rainfall thus far this monsoon season which may necessitate lengthier power cuts jeopardizing the students’ learning environment.

I must admit, I was nervous – but this aside, and with two weeks of retrospect on this school, I can comfortably say I am most impressed with the dedication of these students to take full appreciation in their opportunity for education. It is this school that is now pushing me to be as creative in the classroom as I can, and to ensure that each lesson plan is rich in educational content deeper than the technical logistics needed to carry out our curriculum. The girls are demanding me of substance, so it was this school that motivated me to initiate a unit on human rights earlier than I had intended, and to incorporate lessons on the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. into our second week of class. I told the girls the story of Rosa Parks and segregation of the busses, and was impressed with how easily the girls could relate to this based upon the segregation of their own busses between male and female – a connection which makes an easy leap into the questions of gender equality that are made to feel taboo when you see the shyness in the girls when it is brought up. In pushing these touchy subjects and discussing civil disobedience, it is not to encourage a class of discontents but to stimulate critical thinking.

The barriers are quickly breaking down, and there was an amazing contrast between the photographs taken by the students in the second class, when cameras were introduced – as opposed to the fourth class, when they touched the camera for the second time. I was pleased to see the confidence to show action in front of the camera, and to express their own unique personalities to be captured by the eye of the lens.

Pictures from the first day of camera use, MGM:
On the first day of class, most of the photos were like this one below. As soon as in front of the camera, there was a rigidity – to the point that I had to introduce a ball to the frame to try to encourage them into activity.

Pictures from second day at MGM:
By the second time we use the camera, the girls are showing much more creativity – they are staging their own photographs, and coming up with fun ways to take pictures with each other.

In this class, the girls were asked to participate in an activity concerning the concepts of Justice, Fairness, and ‘Doing the Right Thing.’ I gave them prompts of various scenarios that serve as tests of character, and allowed the students to decide what they would do in these situations. Together in three groups, they discussed and came up with the right way to handle the situation presented to them. They then performed the scenario as a skit while other students took pictures. I have pieced together the product in the short clip below…

Finally, I will end with saying that there is as much diversity within the classroom as between them – and for every look of bewilderment is a response of striking insight. The following is a journal response written by one of the students named Neetu when prompted to write the ‘Letter to the World’ assignment. Neetu was in the Modern Story Class last year, and has joined into our class as a sort of ‘teaching assistant’ to help the new students in understanding. I do not know much about her own personal journey through the curriculum last year, but I am continually impressed by her composure and depth of attention and thought.

Dear World,
Hi. I am Neetu. Now I am in 9th Standard and I am from MGM School. My school is a little far away from my home so I have to come by bus. It is a little difficult for me to come to the school by bus, but in my life the most important thing is my education, for my education I am ready to fight with all the difficulties in life because I think education can change the world – even changing myself.
I am proud to be an Indian because the true wealth of India is the hearts of the people of India – which is very kind hearted. There is a lot of Brotherhood among the People of India, they give more importance to their culture. There are many different languages, cultures, religions, etc in India, but I think what is equal in all is the feeling of Indians that we are all Indians – there is unity in diversity in India as we all know.
India is a developing country, but it is not developed. After getting freedom so many years have passed, but still it is developing because there are some crises and social problems like child labor, child marriages, poverty, corruption, illiteracy. Still India is a developing country, but I hope that today’s children will work hard and be successful to make an India as a developed country in the whole world.

Thank you,

I am excited to keep you updated on our photo story projects that will be coming up soon!

Until next time,



Shooting Outward, Focusing Inward

This past week at Railway School was spent familiarizing the students with the digital camera, while simultaneously beckoning them to begin to unravel their own individuality and passion. In preparation for the photo story project, we have been working through the power of photographs in telling stories – both of socially relevant and emotion content. This balance was reflected in our lesson plans this week that began with a Letter to the World assignment and ended with an exercise in the movement from head-to-heart with poetry. I was impressed with the topics the girls brought up in their letters, and would like to let their voices speak for themselves this week with excerpts from their classwork.

The Letter to the World responses can be categorized into 4 major categories: Education, Environment, Unity in Diversity, and Equality/Human Rights. I will go through these one at a time.

Environmental Awareness:

I am surprised with the number of students expressing an interest in the problem of water pollution. Perhaps it should not be surprising, considering the quality of the lake water we drive past every day on the way to work, and the caution we exercise ourselves in what water to drink when while living here. Here are a few words from the students.


Long ago humans worship earth as a goddess but nowadays humans have big axes to cut trees and cars and buses to pollute air with smoke and fumes. Insecticides and pesticides are also polluting the water, and some people are wasting water – it is not a good thing to waste water. They don’t know that still some people don’t have water to drink and we are wasting food and water. Some poor people don’t have food to eat so we have to take care of the Earth, for people. For example, we use bicycles or walk for short distances, we have to reduce plastic and recycle. Forests are being destroyed. Forests and mountains help to make rain and keep life on Earth going, we need them for enough rain.

I am very sad about what is being done to Earth. That is why I am writing to the world a letter, so we will all grow up and become good citizens. I want to have to take care of the Earth, plant more trees in our house, school, and in towns and villages. Every human has the right to take care of Earth, plants, trees, and animals.

Think now, after all you have just one mother earth. I trust we will take care of the earth well.

Your lovingly,


Dear World,
I want to tell a few words to change the world. We should reduce the dust because with the dust we face so many diseases. This is our world, we should keep our surroundings clean and neat. In the world different religions are there, like Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. Different religions are there but we are living on the same places, Earth and Sky is the same. I want to tell one request to the world. The world should be clean and green.
Yours Lovingly,
8th Class

“I want to save the world from pollution. Please don’t do pollution in the world.”

“Our water is polluted by factories, by insecticides and pesticides, we have to save water. If water is not there on the Earth, we are all not alive.”

Education for All:

Dear World,

I am Prathyusha. My message to the world is “give study to everyone.” We see on the road that there are so many beggars. If we want to stop seeing beggars it means that we have to give study to all. When they are studying then they can get a position as a worker. When I come to a high position, I will build a hostel for all.

Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,

I am not convinced this is the original thought of a student, but I was also impressed with the following that appeared in the journal of Sweta Padmini:

E = Enlightenment
D = Duty
U = Unity
C = Character
A = Action
T = Testing
I = Ideas
O = Oneliness
N = Nation

Equality/Human Rights:

One of the girls was having trouble deciding what topic she should write her letter about. I asked her if there is anything in her community that makes her angry, and she responded that she gets angry when people make fun of beggars. She went on to write a heartwarming letter about the need to express love towards the people who beg on the streets.

Yuva Rani:

Dear world,
A country with large population and innumerable religious places has many beggars. In India all types of beggars are found in large numbers. These beggars are small children, women, handicapped, and diseased people. Sometimes children of young ages are stolen or kidnapped by members of gangs and get them trained for begging. The money the children or people begging get will go to those people. Most of the beggars are found near temples, mosques, and churches, railway stations, bus stops, hospitals, etc. In has not received people’s support. I is true that most people do not like this public nuisance but are somewhere eager to help the poor beggars. So, I am telling that we have to show love and affection with the beggars.

Yours lovingly,
Yuva Rani

Unity: Religious and Human

‘Unity in Diversity’ is one of the aspects of Indian culture that it seems many take pride in – for good reason. This sentiment resonated through the writing of some students.


Dear World,
I am Srav’s of 8th class from Railway Girls High School. I am telling about religions like Hindus, Christians, Muslims. In Hindu there are so many festivals. Holi is the important festival where we play with color – all of my friends come to my house and we play with color. On December 25th, Christians celebrate Christmas. If we have problems we pray to Jesus and they will be solved. The Muslims wear long white tops and caps also. In our country we don’t fight – we are friendly and we are all equal.


To the world,
I am D. Kirthi studying in 8th A. I am telling about unity in diversity. All countries have to be in unity. If we fight we get sad, if we all are in unity we get happy.

Keep smile and be unity.

I look forward to helping the girls express their opinions on all of these issues, and am excited to see the first signs of coming up with a meaningful project during our time together this six months. Finally, I will close with a few of the student’s poems…

Peaceful Heart
Running Person
Thoughtful Mind
Hugging Girl
Unlike to go to another school
Something Different
House is my Heaven
A Different Mind Thing


Krevathi on her Mother
Peaceful, Shanti
Cooking, Washing, Cleaning
Amma, Mummy

Thank you.

Until next time,

Meghana’s Dream

When I ask the typical question, “what do you want to be when you grow up” to my TMS students or other kids I meet in Hyderabad, the most common answer is software engineer. It makes me wonder what the answers were before the IT boom hit Hyderabad. Below I’m posting a homework assignment by one of my students, Meghana. The prompt was, “Think of one thing you are good at. Imagine that for one day you are the best in the world at that thing. Write about your day!” I’m surprised how sometimes we give short directions and the students totally get it, while other times, we try to give lots of direction and it’s confusing. Meghana’s response is not specific to one day but she does give many other clear details about her future goals. Though it’s not a digital story yet–it’s leading up to a project Ilana and I are calling “About Me & Super Me”–it is a modern story in its reflection Hyderabadi youths’ goals, as well as economic and societal expectations.

As some of my students like to write at the beginning of their assignments, please read and enjoy the story:

Meghana, Railway Girls High School

I think one day that i became a good worker in one good company as software engineer. I have to do good work in America. After some day’s and i come to India, first i see my parents. they should feel very happy. I buy one ‘car’ and my parent’s, my grandmother and my sister should go in that car. It is my dream. I should think I the best in the world and my aim. I will do that aim. On that time my parent’s feel very happy. I shall thank parent’s and my teacher. I shall thank to my project work teacher’s also. Again I should built one house. This is my ‘dream.’

A Very Belated Eid Mubarak

We’re back! Ilana and I have resumed classes at APRS boys’ school in Nalgonda, after an extended break for Ramzan and exams. We spent the past three days there, and after a one-day break we’ll be heading there again for the weekend. To introduce the photo slideshow project (see the photos from the first stage on Flickr) Ilana brought her Vizag and Vijayawada slideshows to share with the boys, and I created one of images of Islam around the world. A few of the photos came from my own collection from Palestine and Jordan, while the rest I found online, such as these photos from Ramadan in Sudan and Turkey:


Photo by Vit Hassan, taken in Northern Sudan


Photo by Vit Hassan, taken in Northern Sudan

Sultanahmet - Iftar 01

Photo by Erik N., taken in Istanbul

The boys were especially excited to see photos of Saudi Arabia, being the site of two holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina. But they were surprised by the range of other countries I showed pictures from, as they searched our class globe for Singapore, Argentina, and the United States.

That evening for homework each member of the class wrote a description of how they celebrate Ramzan (or Ramadan) here in India. Although Ilana and I were around to taste haleem (well, Ilana did anyway–I’m vegetarian), talk to people about the experience of fasting, and even take advantage of some holiday sales, what better way to introduce the full experience than with the writings of our boys? We were quite pleased with the detail of their descriptions, and we hope you enjoy and learn from them!



Our Ramzan.

By Bari

We are Muslims. In the ramzan Muslims will be Raza! Raza means we are not eat food and drinking water with 5 am to 6:30 pm. We  eat food at 5 am that is (saher) and to Namaz to pray and read Quran. 6:30 pm in the raza we will do IFTAR. Iftar means we will eat (khajoor) means dates and some fruits this is called IFTAR.

Quran is our holy book. Its come to Ramaz month. It is the gift of God. We will give respect to Quran. We will leave Raza on 30 days. After 30 days we will do one festival that festival name is EID-UL-FITUR means we will go to EID-GHA and pray the Namaz. This namaz is read at 7:30 am. Namaz is over we will give to shake hand and hugging and say each other (EID MUBARAK) we will go to our home and eat food and drink sheer korma. Sheer korma is very famous in ramazan. Sheer koroma means the milk and shewiya means like a (magi, noodles) we will got our relatives house and we will do salam and say EID Mubarak. This is called our Ramazan festival.



Eid-ul-Fitr, My story

By Siraj

Ramzan Festival

I will wake up on the festival at 5:00 am and go to brought the milk for Sewiyah. I brought 15 litres of milk for the Sewiyah. After that I will take a bath a have fresh. And wear the new clothes. We take the Itar (spray) on the new clothes. It was scent like a spray. After we will go to the (Eid-gah) the big mosque for the prayer. After the prayer we will back to home.

There was a my favourite and special sweet of the (Eid) festival was Sewiyah. I take one cup and drink it. My mom was cooking the Sewiyah very special. In the ramzan the Sewiyah was very special. After the drinking sewiyah we eat food of chicken biryani and curd. After we will go to meet the relatives. We shake hands and say (EID MUBARAK) to each other. After we meet our friends and enjoy. We will take (Eidi). The EIDI the gift to the childrens the relatives and parents gives. My father give me 150 rupees of (EIDI). We will enjoy the lot of the ice-creams, cakes, and burgur. After the enjoying I will get back home and eat the chicken biryani and go to the sleep.

Student Reflections: The Tailiban’s influence and religious conservatism in India’s Muslim communities

The following is an essay by Humera Anjum, 13 years old of IX Standard Class, Railways Girls High School Lallaguda. I was so impressed by her submission for an on-line contest that I wanted to post it here.

Minaret punctuating Hyderabad's skyline

In olden days some people use to say that women should not study and they should not work out of their homes. In Muslim religion people use to say women have to be in burkha if they come in front of any people. In villages, people want a boy not a girl because they say boys have to take care of their property. And they love the boy. If a girl is born they will kill the girl because they cannot bear the expenditure of dowry for a girl.

Nowadays governments like the Taliban are pressuring Muslim communities elsewhere to prevent girls from studying past 4th class. Also, these girls are facing severe hardship under the rules, customs and traditions of her community. Today even if we are in the 21st century many people are following some superstitious and unscientific customs as religion becomes more important in politics like child marriage, dowry deaths and sati- where women throw themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands.

As a result, in India many Muslim females are discriminated against before they are born. In our culture a girl is not valued as much as a boy. Among girls the drop-out rates are much higher, particularly among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, girls in rural areas and from poorer families. In rural areas only 9 percent of girls enrolled in class  reach class 10.

Also as a result, most of the women are engaged in household or domestic work. This consists of a vital but grossly undervalued type of economic activity. Domestic work does not qualify as productive activity as per the census of India’s definition. ‘Working women’ as per the census definition are those who work outside the households. Women do most of the household’s unpaid work e.g. cooking, collection of fuel, fodder and water, looking after children and animals, gardening, food processing, sewing and weaving etc. Yet they are not regarded as ‘working women.’ More than 90 percent of women workers are engaged in unorganized and informal sectors. When religious governments prevent women from gaining education it is difficult to work in anything but the informal sector.

So social evils more easily oppress women working in informal sectors. For example, these are the women first to face early marriage. Early marriage is a social curse against women. It is done to  keep families within certain religious and economic affiliations. With early marriages the troubles begin for the girls as these girls are not mature enough to shoulder the responsibility of families and motherhood. The Marriages Restraint Act lays down the minimum age of marriage for girl at 18.

For another example, the practice of giving and taking dowry has become a menace in India. Dowry means the money, goods and property demanded from a bride’s side as a condition for marriage by the groom’s side. You might have heard in your neighborhood and in your home people cruelly calculating and negotiating dowry amounts. In 1961 the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed. Dowry is a crime against women and society. Men and women should raise their voice against Dowry. The youth should take a vow to go for Dowry-less marriages. Economic independence for women is very important. Whatever little equality and freedom the working class woman enjoys must be due to their economic freedom, education and employment as only this will make women somewhat independent. I believe this to be even more true as governments like the Taliban pressure families to prevent women from gaining education and independence.

So, briefly, even today the girl is not given the respect, the freedom, and the position which a boy is given under the traditions of community. These community traditions are exaggerated by customs of religion in politics.

Exploring religion and mysticism in rural India using digital media skills

Arbani, a student in our 9th grade class at Nalgonda has been working on an illustrated story all semester. He wanted to demonstrate the first installment. Arbani attends an all Muslim boys school on the extreme outskirts of Hyderabad in a small town called Nalgonda. He wanted to explore issues of religion and mysticism in rural India.

In this short story, notice how the student uses nature as a setting for the crossover between Christian and Muslim faiths to occur. Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘On Nature’ may provide the reader with a poetic introduction: “in the woods is perpetual youth.” Arbani sees nature as the proper setting for religions to renew themselves and to mix together through mischief and economic need.  His story lives in the rural woodlands. It emphasizes what Emerson implied but never stated, that in the woods is perpetual wonder. I hope you enjoy this short piece. You will notice a marked difference in their ability to write with an individual voice and produce original ideas. This student has done so with success and many more are to follow. The enchanted wood of childhood not yet reduced to lumber.


Below is a copy of the script.

Once upon a time there was a village. In olden days there was a forest in the village.

In the village there was living a magician. One day the magician was going to the forest. Suddenly he saw two devils by the church. He took a bottle and caught the two devils. He was a very brave man. He caught the devil, who is not one man but two, and put him in the bottle. The devil said please open the bottle cap. The magician said I don’t open bottle caps…you would escape. The magician said I need so much money, I need spirit, I need a show. I’ll put on a magic show.

The magician made the devils his assistant and performed a show in the church. After, the magician took them and went to the devil’s home safely.

The devils are very powerful. The devils broke the bottle and escaped. The devils will is the magician’s will. The devils are happy. The magician is sad. Hear him cry at the mosque, at the muezzin, *his call to prayer.

*Note: Arbani also considered this for his last line:

“Hear him cry at the mosque, at the meuzzin, being alone is also his call to prayer.”