In Our Village Chennai Through the Eyes of Its Youth
A Project of Seam Childrenâ€™s Home, Chennai, India Edited by Maureen Connolly, Ph.D.
Preface Near the eastern coast of India lies the vibrantly colored city of Chennai. Within Chennai, there is a home filled with children who are grateful for even the smallest blessing offered in their world. Seam Childrenâ€™s Home (SEAM) houses some of the bravest, kindness, and most determined children I have ever met. Their enthusiasm is catching and their stories captivating. They are proud of their heritage and confident that the future holds good things for them. I hope that seeing their words published brings them a lasting feeling of success. The idea of writing an In Our Village book about Chennai came from attending a National Service-Learning Conference at which Cathryn Berger Kaye introduced me to Barbara Cervone. Barbara was promoting her In Our Village book about the children of Kambi ya Simba in Tanzania. I immediately knew that when I volunteered in India the following summer, I would work with my students to tell their stories. Barbara and Cathy facilitated the creation of this book and of many other books across the country and around the world by creating the In Our Global Village Project. They work with the Shinnyo-en Foundation to supply editorial support and grant funds to anyone who wishes to help children tell their stories. For this, my students and I are forever grateful. Though I find all of this book compelling, perhaps for me the most touching chapter is the one about Ganesh. When I arrived in India, everywhere I looked, I saw images of this god who looks like he is half man, half elephant. The leader of my volunteer group explained that he represents wisdom and good fortune. I learned the story of Ganeshâ€™s creation, which involves the removal of his human head and its replacement with the head of an elephant. When I asked the children of SEAM to describe Ganesh, they told another story, that of a young boy who loves and values his parents. It was those who do not have regular contact with their parents who could connect with this story of Ganesh. I hope that this book connects you with incredible people from another part of our world and reminds you to appreciate the people you see each day. Maureen Connolly, Ph.D. New York, NY U. S. A.
Page 2 of 20
In Chennai we greet each other by shaking hands and hugging. We say “Hi,” “Hello,” “What are you doing?” or “How are you doing?” or “Hello my friends.” When we meet new people, we ask, “What is your name?”
Page 3 of 20
Southeast Asian Mission Home
Pastor Arul Pragagam takes care of us at SEAM. Some of us have sisters and brothers with us here but we are all family. A picture of Dr. Thomas Rayer, MD, the founder of Southeast Asia Mission that started SEAM, hangs in our eating, sleeping, and praying hall. Sometimes missionaries come to give us food and clothing. We are very happy when our family and friends visit. There are 7 girls and 23 boys here. Boys sleep in the same room that is used for prayer, study, and eating. Girls sleep in a separate house. We all sleep on mats.
Page 4 of 20
Page 5 of 20
At home, we do not wear shoes. We leave them at the door. We wear our shoes when we are cleaning, when we play cricket, and when we walk to and from school and the chapel. We do not wear our shoes in school because it is a government school. In private school, students wear shoes.
Page 6 of 20
We eat rice, chicken, and different kinds of breads like chapatti, nan, and poor. Most of our foods are flavored with samber (curry). Our favorite sweet treats are fruits like apples, bananas, mangos, papaya, sweet limes, and watermelon.
Page 7 of 20
When we walk down the street in Chennai, we see many animals. There are many dogs roaming around our village. Also, we see cows on the streets. We sometimes see baby goats. It can be scary to see a rat or a snake too!
Page 8 of 20
We use chemical powder and sometimes rice powder to make designs by working to connect dots. These designs are called Coolam. We make Coolam in front of our doors to welcome people and to bring good luck. Sometimes we use rice powder to feed the ants who crawl on the Coolam.
Page 9 of 20
There are 53 boys in our 10th Standard class at the boysâ€™ public school and 50 girls in the 10th standard class at the girlsâ€™ public school. Each school has approximately 2,500 students. We sit at tables with chairs. School opens at 8:30am. We read from 8:30-9:30 and we pray from 9:30 -10:00. We study eight subjects: English Maths Tamil Social Science
Lunch Sports Science Values Education
Subjects we like include Maths, English, Tamil (our language), science, and social science. We do not like Values Education because it is school cleaning and road cleaning. We have to go to school every other Saturday.
Page 10 of 20
Books and Tests
Some of our books are written with Tamil letters. There are 248 letters in the Tamil alphabet! We are in the 10th Standard and this means that we have to take a test with grammar, application questions on poems and articles, and memorization. We study very hard.
Page 11 of 20
When we walk down the street, we see many people talking on cell phones. We want to have cell phones. If we had them, we would call our family, friends, and teachers. Some of us like to text message and receive new jokes and pictures. We also like to change the ring tones and save contact numbers. If we had a screensaver on our phone it would be Godâ€™s picture. We really like to play games on the phone. We do not think that children should have cell phones because they are studying and if they have cell phones they will not study.
Page 12 of 20
We like motorbikes, especially the Pulsar. We have motorbike workshops. Usually, there are three people on a motorbike. Sometimes babies ride in their motherâ€™s arms. We have to wear helmets. It is the law.
Page 13 of 20
Hercules is a good bicycle company. Sometimes two people ride on one bicycle, sometimes three! We saw a picture in the newspaper of four people riding on one bicycle! The bicycles have bells to ring to tell people to get out of the way. There are a lot of accidents here!
Page 14 of 20
Page 15 of 20
Birthdays For a childâ€™s birthday we celebrate by eating chocolate cake and ice cream. We give flowers like roses and sunflowers. We drink special drinks like Fanta, Coca Cola, Marinda, Slice, Masa, and mango juice. We eat a special dinner with ricecakes and curry. The child who is celebrating a birthday gives chocolate to friends, teachers, the schoolmaster, and classmates. The child gets new clothes like dresses for girls and pants and t-shirts for boys. Sometimes we get shoes, watches, or rings. Christmas At Christmas we get a ten-day vacation from school! We decorate a tree with a star on top and we eat chocolate cake. The girls perform a dance program to a Tamil song and wear special green saris. For presents, we get new clothes.
Page 16 of 20
On Sundays at 6 a.m. we walk to church. There are thirty of us who walk together. We pray, sing, and listen to the pastor talk. We do not eat until we come home to SEAM at 10 a.m. .
Page 17 of 20
Ganesh is a Hindu god, the son of Siva and Parvathi. He has a brother, Mughar. One day, Ganesh and Mughar competed for a mango. Their mother, Parvathi told them that she would give the mango to whichever son ran all the way around the world first. Mughar set out to ride a peacock around the world but Ganesh was the winner. Instead of leaving to travel like his brother, he ran around his parents and said, â€œMy parents are my world.â€?
Page 18 of 20
In November, we celebrate Diwali, a Hindu festival for a god who killed a demon. We do not have school or work on this day. We eat special foods like briani and chicken. It is a happy day because we get to set off firecrackers. On this day, Hindus visit their temples but all people in India celebrate, even Christians.
Page 19 of 20
Meet the Authors! My name is Milka. I am in 10th standard. My favorite food is curd rice. My favorite color is rose. My favorite thing to do is sports. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friend's name is Maha Lakshmi. When I grow up I want to be a teacher. My name is S. Rebecka. I am in 10th standard. My favorite food is chicken. My favorite color is yellow. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friend's name is M. Pathima. When I grow up I would like to work on computers. My name is Sykanya. I am in 9th standard. My favorite food is laman rice. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friend's name is Nathini. When I grow up I want to be a doctor. What I like to do for fun is sports. My name is M. Shunthi. I am in 9th standard. My favorite food is chicken. My favorite color is rose. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friend is Neethu. When I grow up I want to be a singer. What I like to do for fun is games. My name is S. Siva Tamar. I am in 10th standard. My favorite food is rice cake. My favorite color is blue. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friendsâ€™ names are Sham, Lunil, Kumag, and Manikandan. When I grow up I want to be an airconditioning mechanic. For fun I like to play Sachin. My name is V. Sham. I am in 10th standard. My favorite color is blue. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friend's name is Siva. When I grow up I want to be a policeman. For fun I like to watch a movie called Sri Kandth. My name is G. Lunil. I am in 10th standard. My favorite food is egg rice. My favorite color is blue. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friend is Surya. When I grow up I want to be a policeman. My name is K. Kumog. I am in 10th standard. My favorite food is chicken rice. My favorite color is red. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friend's name is Push Paraj. When I grow up I want to be a computer engineer. For fun I like to watch M.G.R. Vijay (a movie superstar). My name is R. Mani Kanlan. I am in 10th standard. My favorite food is chicken rice. My favorite color is Deanna yellow. My favorite holiday is Sunday. My best friend's name is Gianosh Kumar. When I grow up I want to be a Doctor. For fun I like to watch Vijay.
Page 20 of 20