Nagore village was nearly razed to dust in the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India. A primarily farmers’ village, within 15kms distance from Bhuj, this village had little to hold on to.
All houses were down and barely any schools survived the quake. The village was thrown into an obscure darkness of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and evil social practices like child marriage.
15 years after the quake, on January 2016, Artologue was invited to paint with children of Rushey Mead School in Nagore village. It was just like a village on a road side.
Dusty, dry but bustling with activities. Nagore was mostly a cluster of small bricked, un-cemented houses. Narrow snake trail lanes making way to the interior of village on one side of the main road facing large fields on other side. The name of the school was difficult for us to connect but nearly every person we asked about the school on the way, knew about the location of school.
When we reached there, it was well around 11 am, sun right on our head and temperature nearly 35 degrees Celsius. It was an unusually hot winter day. We were welcomed by a lot of teenagers.
The students were nearly as many boys as girls. It was mostly a cluster of small bricked, un-cemented houses, very narrow lanes on one side of road facing large fields on other side.
A small warm reception, a short talk with children and the game began.
Jey got on to his job of engaging these grownup children and started bouncing ideas. It is necessary to get the hang of students, the place and their school system.
In no time we started painting. Theme for the painting was ‘Gujarat’. It was very surprising for us to notice that girls said they wanted to paint mickey mouse, Barbie dolls, and Justin Bieber. This was the impact of hollywood on this tiny indiscrete village of farmers.
However with some encouragement and guidance girls and boys started painting scenes from their daily life. With fun and candid chats, the hours passed.
Within a couple of hours we got to know that many of the girls studying in 8th and 9th standards were engaged to be married soon and a few of them were married, but yet to be sent to their in-laws family.
This was a pleasant surprise for us. We got to know that this village, like many other villages in India, had classes only till 6th standard.
For further studies, students had to travel 15kms to Bhuj. As a result girls’ literacy was an impossible task. After the quake, during the rehabilitation years, Rushey Mead school was established and is being funded by an organisation based in United Kingdom.
This school had changed the life of girls in this village by extending the classed till 10th and there was another school adjacent to this one that offered classes for 11th and 12th.
This enabled the villagers to send their children and especially girls to school even after their engagement or marriage and parents happily delayed their departure to the in-laws until their school education was complete.