There is some kind of beauty in the way kids spend their lives – unhindered by unnecessary obligations and complications of the world. Their life is simple because they live in the moment and the past or future doesn’t haunt them as much as it does to us adults. When I was staying at a village in rural Rajasthan, I had multiple interactions with the kids there. It can be categorized into two kinds. One was intended, which I had planned earlier, the other just happened when I decided to join them in their evening games.
I visited the only government school in the village which has classes till 8th standard, with the curiosity to know about the dreams and aspirations of children. There was no specific purpose behind the activity. I just wanted to gain insights into their worldly exposure and their thought process. While talking to the teachers in the school, I asked them if I can conduct a small activity with the kids from 6th to 8th standard. On getting the permission, I gave the students a few blank sheets, sketch pens and told them to answer two questions:
- What’s your dream?
- What would you want to become when you grow up?
The students were reluctant in the beginning. Slowly they started writing it down. Some decorated the pages while some just mentioned their career aspirations next to their names.
The result was interesting. In total, children only mentioned six kind of aspirations: To become a Teacher, an IAS, an IPS, a Police officer, an Army official and a Doctor. This shows the limited amount of exposure they have, in terms of the professional choices they can make.
As seen in most villages and small towns, teacher is the most visibly respected figure outside one’s family. It was no different here. A lot of kids wanted to grow up to become a teacher. Many girls aspired to become a police officer. In the later discussions, I learnt that the girls find the women police officials inspiring and empowering since they are seen as a symbol of power. This is a huge step ahead in the largely patriarchal society in this region of Rajasthan. Being able to go out and have some kind of influence over people around them, is what makes them attracted towards this profession. A lot of people also wrote IAS – again a visible centre of power. Only a limited number of kids wrote doctor and army.
It was surprising that none of them wrote ‘farmer’ even though most of the children belonged to families whose occupation is agriculture.
On a broader level, can we say that power is an aspiration for these kids? Or is it something else? I wish I could deep dive into the minds of these kids to know more. Interestingly, two of them came up to me and asked ‘Hum jo likhenge kya woh aap poora karoge?’ I can’t help but wonder if such dream mapping should be done in all schools so that we can learn about the calling of children and support them to fulfil their desired endeavours.
I also spent some time playing ‘Gilli Danda‘ with the kids of the village, though I failed terribly in learning the skill that they have mastered over time. After this game, they invited me to play a fascinating game I was skeptical about as I had watched them play it. Funnily, it’s called ‘Chappal Duhai’ where the children put all their slippers in a circle and then take turns to guard the slippers while the rest of the participants try to steal them. If the person in-charge successfully guards it, great. But if he/she fails to do so, all the children would throw the slippers on the person.
The elders would never play this game since hitting someone with slippers is a huge disrespect, but the innocent kids here remain unbothered about the actions associated with the play. One of the elderly in the village told me ‘Aap inke saath mat khelo yeh khel bahut gandha hai’.
They even sang, danced, jumped in joy and told me to record their wonderful performances. I realized how they put out an unbelievable amount of energy into the world.
The simple activity to learn about their dreams is something I thought of, on the spot. For the next time, I would be glad if you could suggest something that can help me taking this further or understanding deeply, the aspirations and dreams of another group of kids. Any interactive activity that will keep the kids engaged. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.