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My Childhood | NCERT Solution | English | Class IX

Lesson Architecture

  • Theme

  • Plot Development

  • NCERT Solution

  • Questions for Practice

  • MCQ Worksheet


  • This story highlights the childhood years of Kalam in his birth place Rameswaram.

  • It also describes his first earning during the World War when the demand of tamarind seeds suddenly experienced a spike. He also sold newspaper bundles to earn his pocket money.

  • The story also focuses on his three childhood friends, who belonged to the Orthodox Brahmin families.

  • The story throws light on the incidents when Kalam felt the pinch of social evils like religious divide and orthodox thoughts.

  • Towards the end we can find Kalam’s decision to shift to Ramanathapuram for further studies. His father’s quotes of the famous poet Khalil Gibran, which had great influence in his life.

Plot Development:

Birth of Abul Kalam:

  • Abdul Kalam was born into a middle-class Tamil family in the island-town of Rameswaram in the former Madras State.

  • Rameswaram is a town on Pamban Island, in the southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It’s known for Ramanathaswamy Temple, a Hindu pilgrimage site with ornate corridors, huge sculpted pillars and sacred water tanks.

  • Devotees bathe in the waters of Agni Theertham, off the beach east of the temple. Gandamadana Parvatham is a hill with island views.

  • A chakra (wheel) here is said to bear an imprint of Lord Rama’s feet.

Impact of Second World War

  • In 1939 when Kalam was eight years old, the Second World War broke out. Though the war did not affect Rameswaram directly, it brought opportunities for the young boy to make money. There was a sudden demand for tamarind seeds in the market.

  • Kalam collected and sold tamarind seeds to a shop on Mosque Street. A day’s collection fetched him one anna.

  • Soon India was forced to join the Allied Forces and a state of emergency was declared.

  • The railways suspended the stopping of trains at Rameswaram station.

  • Newspapers had to be bundled and thrown out from the moving train on the Rameswaram Road between Rameswaram and Dhanuskodi.

  • Kalam helped his cousin Samsuddin, who distributed newspapers in Rameswaram to catch the bundles. This is how he earned his wages in his childhood.

Kalam’s realization of Hindu-Muslim Divide

  • Kalam’s childhood friends were Ramanadha Sastry , Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. All of them were from orthodox Hindu Brahmin families. But the boys did not feel the pinch of religious divide till this time.

  • When Kalam was in the fifth standard at the Rameswaram Elementary School , new teacher came to the class.

  • He could notice that Kalam was sitting in the front row with Ramanadha Sastry, a Hindu priest’s son sitting with a Muslim boy.

  • He immediately asked Kalam to sit in the last row.

  • Lakshmana Sastry, Ramanadha Sastry’s father, summoned the teacher and asked him not to spread the poison of social inequality and communal intolerance.

  • The teacher regretted his behavior and apologized.

  • Another incidence happened when Kalam was invited to have food in the residence of Kalam’s science teacher, Siovasubramania Iyer, who was a progressive thinker with a very conservative wife.

  • His wife refused to serve Kalam in her ritually pure kitchen as he was Muslim. So the science teacher himself had to serve Kalam food on that day.

Bridging the Religious Gap:

  • In the first case the new teacher reformed himself when Lakshmana Sastry rebuked the teacher for his act of religious discrimination.

  • The teacher did not indulge in such communal act henceforth.

  • In the second case, Sivasubramania Iyer counseled his wife and transformed her orthodox perspective.

  • On another occasion when Kalam visited the house of his Science teacher, his wife called Kalam in her kitchen and herself served Kalam food with her own hands.

Kalam’s decision to to shift to Ramanathapuram for further studies:

  • When India’s independence was approaching, Kalam requested his parents to give their consent to allow Kalam to move to the district headquarters for further studies.

  • His mother was hesitant initially. But his father agreed and motivated his mother by quoting the poet Khalil Gibran comparing children to birds that have to leave the nest one day.

  • Kalam recalled these childhood memories as they influenced him immensely and contributed to his holistic growth.

  • He grew up to become the most loved and respected Scientist and later on the President of India.

NCERT Solution

Answer these questions in one or two sentences each.

1. Where was Abdul Kalam’s house?

Ans: Abdul Kalam’s house was on Mosque Street in Rameswaram in the erstwhile Madras State.

2. What do you think Dinamani is the name of? Give a reason for your answer.

Ans: Dinamani is the name of a newspaper. Abdul Kalam’s brother-in-law Jalauddin would tell him stories about the Second World War, which Abdul Kalam would later attempt to trace in the headlines of Dinamani.

3. Who were Abdul Kalam’s school friends? What did they later become?

Ans: Abdul Kalam had three close friends in his childhood. They were Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. All these boys were from orthodox Hindu Brahmin families.

Ramanadha Sastry took over the priesthood of the Rameswaram temple from his father. Aravindan went into the business of arranging transport for visiting pilgrims; and Sivaprakasan became a catering contractor for the Southern Railways.

4. How did Abdul Kalam earn his first wages?

Ans: Abdul Kalam earned his first wages when his cousin, Samsuddin engaged him to catch the bundled newspapers from the moving train on the Rameswaram Road between Rameswaram and Dhanuskodi.

5. Had he earned any money before that? In what way?

Ans: Yes, Abdul Kalam had earned money previously. He used to collect tamarind seeds and sell them to a provision shop near his home. He would earn one anna for a day’s collection.

II. Answer each of these questions in a short paragraph (about 30 words)

1. How does the author describe:

(i) his father (ii) his mother (iii) himself?

(i) his father: His father, Jainulabdeen, had neither much formal education nor much wealth. Despite these disadvantages, he possessed great innate wisdom and a true generous spirit. He used to avoid all inessential comforts and luxuries. However, all necessities were provided to the family in terms of food, medicine or clothes.

(ii) his mother : She was kind and generous lady who could cook not just for the family, but also many outsiders who used to dine with them regularly. He inherited faith in goodness and deep kindness from his mother.

(iii) himself : He was a short boy with rather undistinguished looks, born to tall and handsome parents. He had a secure childhood as he had loving and caring parents.

2. What characteristics does he say he inherited from his parents?

He inherited honesty and self-discipline from his father and from his mother he inherited faith in goodness and deep kindness.

III. Discuss these questions in class with your teacher and then write down your answers in two or three paragraphs each.

1. “On the whole, the small society of Rameswaram was very rigid in terms of the segregation of different social groups,” says the author.

(i) Which social groups does he mention? Were these groups easily identifiable (for example, by the way they dressed)?

Ans: The two social groups that the writer mentions were the Hindu and the Muslim community of people.

Yes, they were easily identifiable by the way they used to dress up. The Hindus had vermillion mark on their foreheads. Ramanadha Sastry, wore the sacred thread as he came from an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family. The Muslims, on the other hand, woe a cap and lived on the Mosque Street.

(ii) Were they aware only of their differences or did they also naturally share friendships and experiences? (Think of the bedtime stories in Kalam’s house; of who his friends were; and of what used to take place in the pond near his house.)

Ans: They naturally shared friendships and experiences. According to Abdul Kalam, his three friends were from orthodox Hindu Brahmin families. As children, none of them ever felt any difference amongst themselves because of their religious differences and upbringing.

Events from the Ramayana and from the life of the Prophet were the bedtime stories Kalam’s mother and grandmother would tell the children in their family. Thus, in spite of religious differences they had natural bond for each other.

(iii) The author speaks both of people who were very aware of the differences among them and those who tried to bridge these differences. Can you identify such people in the text?

Kalam mentions two people who were very aware of the differences among the two religious groups. One of them was the new teacher of Kalam when he was in the fifth standard at the Rameswaram Elementary School. He did not allow Kalam and Ramanadha Sastry to sit together as the latter was a Hinud Priest’s son. Therefore, Kalam was asked to go and sit on the back bench.

The other person was the science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer’s wife. She was too conservative that she refused to serve Kalam food in her kitchen.

The people who tried to bridge the differences were Ramanadha’s father Lakshmana Sastry and the science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer.

(iv) Narrate two incidents that show how differences can be created, and also how they can be resolved. How can people change their attitudes?

Ans: One day when Kalam was in the fifth standard at the Rameswaram Elementary School, a new teacher asked Kalma to sit at the back bench. He could not stomach the idea of Ramanadha Sastry, the son of Hindu brahim to sit with Kalam in the front row.

Lakshmana Sastry summoned the teacher, and strictly instructed him that he should not spread the poison of social inequality and communal intolerance in the minds of innocent children. Not only did the teacher regret his behaviour, but the strong sense of conviction Lakshmana Sastry conveyed ultimately reformed this young teacher.

On the other hand, the wife of Kalam’s science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer declined to serve food to Kalam when his science teacher invited him in his house. His wife was horrified at the idea of a Muslim boy being invited to dine in her ritually pure kitchen. Instead his science teacher served him food. When he was leaving his house, Sivasubramania Iyer invited him to join him for dinner again the next weekend. He consoled Kalam saying that when the system needed to be changed, such opposition was bound to surface. The teacher then counseled his wife and reformed her eventually.

2. (i) Why did Abdul Kalam want to leave Rameswaram?

Ans: He wanted to leave Rameswaram and go to the district headquarters in Ramanathapuram to pursue his further studies.

(ii) What did his father say to this?

Ans: His father gave a reference of a seagull and said that the seagull flies across the sun, alone and without a nest. He also quoted Khalil Gibran to his hesitant mother saying that her children were not her children. They were the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They were born through her but not from her. She might give them her love but not her thoughts as they have their own thoughts.

Questions for Practice
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