Jay Copp 2014-05-13 02:45:28
Peace Poster Winner Draws from Experience Rail-thin and quiet, Tongbram Mahesh Singh, 13, does not stand out from his peers. His grades are average at Little Birds School in Moirang, India. He plays football (soccer) and performs in school plays. He fits in. His demeanor is what people notice. Adults admire his honesty, humility and obedience. Tongbram has reason to be cautious and somber. Nine years ago a speeding bus roared down the road out of control. His father, who worked for the police, was sitting on the lawn of a neighbor, celebrating the birth of a new baby. His widow’s pension came to 6,060 rupees a month, about $266. Tongbram’s mother also works as a weaver to support him and his disabled younger sister, who is blind and doesn’t speak. Tongbram lives in a normally safe neighborhood. But violence looms in the region. A northeastern state, Manipur is wracked by insurgency. More than 30 militant groups roam its hills and valleys. Killings and kidnappings occur with frightening regularity. Roadblocks and blockades are part of daily life. Tongram has drawn and painted since first grade. “When I was lonely, I painted,” he says. Last fall he submitted a peace poster for the contest of Lions Clubs International and then forgot about it. A few months ago, while being tutored, his teacher told him he had won the grand prize. In utter disbelief, he ran out of the room. “At first he did not believe he could win the prize,” says Dr. Kshetrimayum Umananda Singh of the Moirang Lions Club. His poster is an extension of his protective personality. “Children of different countries are together painting a world. A big dove with an olive branch in the beak is behind them as if the chicks are protected by the mother hen,” he wrote of his poster. He portrayed children from America, Europe and Asia. “We belong to different countries, different religions and colors, but the feeling for love of peace and hatred of violence and war is the same to us,” he wrote. “My native state, Manipur, is a conflict society. My friends in Lebanon, Syria, Tibet and Africa are suffering from the same strife. It makes us fear. When we fear we cannot enjoy playing. That is why we want love and peace. Where there is love there is peace.” His mother says his $5,000 award will be put in a bank to finance Tongbram’s education. He wants to be a cartoonist. Maybe by then, when he is an adult and drawing cartoons for children, peace will have come to Manipur. View all the 2013-14 Peace Poster winners at www. lionsclubs.org.
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