A mother’s depiction of the creative and cognitive process of her child’s imaginative illustration of trains, as he sees them in both US and India.
In his writings about education, Jean-Jacques Rousseau had the following warning  regarding answering children’s questions.
“To nourish his curiosity, never hasten to satisfy it ….. Ask questions that he can handle and leave them to him to resolve. Let him know things, not because you have told him, but rather he has understood it for himself.”
I do not know if my husband and I have often hastened to satisfy our four and half year old son, Agneya’s curiosity and passion for trains. Like all boys his age, he had several toys that were trains – alphabet trains, dinosaur trains, model train layouts and sets. Once in a while, we had to visit the local library on his request to let him play with the layouts they had in the toddler room. Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Emily and their friends  along with Sir Topham Hatt in the Island of Sodor was a favorite. Of course, he was a passenger too – usually accompanying mommy and daddy to New York city. He would collect tickets from us and wait eagerly for the conductor. It was his responsibility to hand them in. A friendly conductor would smile, wish him and even punch nice designs on the ticket for him. He loved the attention. Once during Halloween, an elderly conductor carved a pumpkin on the ticket for him. He saved that as memorabilia.
When it came to him representing trains in his paintings, the stories that accompanied them were far more interesting. In Figure 1, he depicts a pink train going through a dark tunnel. He himself is the driver, sitting in the engine (never knew he could do self-portraits!), mommy a passenger in the second coach, and a “bhoot”* in the last compartment. The platform is outside the tunnel and has ghosts of different colors – red, green, blue, and yellow. Each ghost has only one eye and jagged teeth. Some have hands, others do not.
A trip to a station in Kolkata**, India motivated another picture (Figure 2) – a green local train with strange shaped train car connectors, overhead wires for supply of electricity, engines with wheels and tracks.
A futuristic train (Figure 3) that he designed had stream-lined coaches, a car park which for some unknown reason had to be very dark with its lights out; a ticket office and passengers on the platform.
The Amtrak (Figure 4) an all-time favorite, was drawn much more carefully, with the engine having a stream-lined shape, trees near the track (I assume he feels Amtrak maintains its tracks well!), and over head wires. He discussed with me the possibility of having a cafe car. Strangely though, it had to be red in color while most Amtrak trains in real life are a combination of blue and gray.
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo …. off we go. So much for his interpretation of trains and living up to the spirit of Rousseau.
*Bengali term for a ghost.
**Ballygunge station on the Sealdah line.
 P. L. Harris. “Trusting What You’re Told: How Children Learn from Others”, Harvard University Press, page 2.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas %26 Friends
About the author:
Haimonti Dutta is an assistant professor at the State University of Buffalo, New York. She lives with her husband, Manoj K Pooleery and 4.5 year old son, Agneya Dutta Pooleery at Ewing, NJ. Agneya currently goes to a day care facility – the Jewish Community Center (JCC). He will be in the Four’s Class in Fall and was taught in the 2014-2015 school year by his wonderful teacher, Ms. Arielle Douglas. A very passionate and dedicated teacher, Ms Arielle helps incorporate art, music, exercises and gym, and playtime into the regular curriculum making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience for Agneya and his friends.
The opinions shared by the writer is her personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Learning and Creativity Magazine. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.
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