A glitch in the ticket-booking process left Taylor Graham ’16 without a place to sit on a 30-hour train ride across northern India. Graham’s search for an open berth on the train turned a bad situation good when he met a group of soldiers from East India. For the rest of the trip, he and the soldiers played chess and swapped stories. The experience made Graham, an emerging media major in the Roy H. Park School of Communications, fall in love with India, a country he would soon spend a lot of time in.
Graham’s initial interest in India stemmed from his parents’ stories about their travels in the country before he was born. Their tales inspired him to experience the subcontinent for himself as a student at Ithaca College.
The study-abroad program in India through the School for International Training also offered him the chance to explore issues he was interested in. One concern in particular really resonated with Graham.
“I heard about the dam issue in [the northeastern state of] Sikkim and the unrelenting pace at which the development of dams was taking place along the Teesta River,” Graham said. “Immediately I felt the urge to communicate the stories of those affected by the dam development.”
To convey the stories, Graham decided to make a documentary, Taming the Teesta, which focuses on the development of the hydroelectric dams in India and how the dams affect the people who live by them.
“A local villager described how hydroelectric interests had forced his family off their land without payment,” he said. “That interview and the many others I conducted taught me that environmental issues such as global water security must be portrayed on a personal level.”
In 2016, Graham received a Fulbright Scholarship to make a documentary titled Tale of Two Deserts. The film will explore the growing water crisis in northern India and investigate creative solutions—including the regeneration of a once-depleted river and the creation of artificial glaciers. He also hopes to demonstrate how these ideas may be replicated elsewhere in India and around the world.
Recently Graham traveled to India’s Thar Desert to work in partnership with the nonprofit OneProsper. The organization works to empower women in the region by supplying them with rainwater harvesting tanks and drip irrigation systems. After spending a week in the area, Graham created a video to share OneProsper’s message and to introduce each of the beneficiaries of the newly installed harvesting systems.
Graham is no stranger to advocacy projects. As an Ithaca College student, he and other students conducted weekly writing sessions with incarcerated youth at the MacCormick Secure Center, located near Ithaca. He and other students also created a nonprofit online marketplace, Lanapo.org, which encourages native artisans to market their own crafts and keep their artistic traditions alive.
“I never lacked for opportunities while at IC. There was so much to experience and get involved with on and off campus. I had an incredible chance to explore what I really wanted to do in life from the get-go,” he said.
Graham has a burning interest in learning, and he hopes to further explore areas where environmental challenges meet human rights issues.
“I wish to give voice to those who have been silenced and to think through the policies that will effect real change for those who are displaced, disadvantaged, and diminished,” Graham said.
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