My Childhood: SEBA Class 9 English summary, questions, answers, extras

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Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the lesson My Childhood by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam of Assam Board (SEBA) and Tripura Board (TBSE) Class 9 English textbook (Beehive). However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.

my childhood
Image: Ashish R Shandilya


“My Childhood” is an autobiographical account written by Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, one of the world’s greatest scientists. It embodies the themes of harmony and prejudice, tradition and change. Through a first-hand narrative provided by Dr Kalam, this prose highlights and gives us an idea of the life and society that existed in the southern part of India during his childhood.

Abdul Kalam was born in Rameshwaram, India, to a middle-class Muslim family. He grew up with three brothers and a sister. His father was a generous and knowledgeable man. His mother was a gracious lady. They lived on Mosque Street in their ancestral home. His father led a humble life yet supplied for his children’s needs. His parents were not well-educated or wealthy, but they were generous and compassionate. Every day, many strangers ate with the family. His parents instilled in him the values of honesty and self-discipline.

When World War II began in 1939, Kalam was only eight years old. Tamarind seeds were in high demand at the time. Abdul used to gather and sell such seeds at the market. Shamsuddin, his cousin, distributed newspapers and hired him as a helper. This is how he got his first wage. His parents instilled in him a belief in goodness and generosity.

All religions were honoured by the Kalam family. The Hindu festivities were attended by them. At bedtime, his mother and grandmother would tell the children stories from the Ramayana and the Prophet’s life. Kalam belonged to a group of three people. Ramanandha Sastry is the son of Aravindam and Sivaprakasan, a high priest at the Rameshwaram temple. They came from various religious backgrounds and were brought up in diverse ways. They were never aware of their differences. As they grew older, they pursued various occupations.

A new teacher arrived in Abdul’s fifth-grade class at Rameshwaram Elementary School. He wore a cap to distinguish himself as a Muslim. The teacher could not take a Hindu Priest’s son sitting close to a Muslim boy, therefore Kalam always sat in the front row, near Ramanandha Sastry. Kalam was requested to take a seat on the far end of the backbench. Both buddies were devastated by the situation and informed their parents after school. Ramanandha’s father contacted the instructor and warned him against instilling communal hatred and class inequity in the minds of children. He told the instructor that she had the option of apologising or leaving the school and city. The teacher expressed regret and promised to do better in the future.

Abdul was once invited to supper at the home of Abdul’s science teacher. Because he believed in religious segregation, his wife refused to serve Kalam supper in her kitchen. The teacher served him food and sat next to him to eat. From behind the closed door, his wife studied Abdul’s behaviour and found no changes. The teacher invited him back to join them the following weekend after dinner. This time, the wife prepared dinner in the kitchen herself.

After WWII ended, Kalam begged his father for permission to study in Ramanathapuram. Kalam’s father understood he needed to grow up, so he gave him permission. He advised his apprehensive wife that they should show their affection for their children but not force their opinions on them.

Textual questions and answers

I. 1. Where was Abdul Kalam’s house?

Answer: Abdul Kalam’s house was located on Mosque Street, in Rameswaram, Tamil Naidu.

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

Answer: Dinamani is the name of a newspaper. Kalam mentions attempting to trace the events of World War II in the headlines of Dinamani, implying that it is a newspaper.

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

Answer: Abdul Kalam’s school friends were Ramanadha Sastry, Aravndan and Sivaprakasan. Ramanadha went on to become the high priest of Rameswaram temple, Aravindan began arranging transportation for visiting pilgrims, and Sivaprakasan worked as a catering contractor for the Southern Railways.

4. How did Abdul Kalam earn his first wages?

Answer: The train halt at Rameswaram was cancelled due to the declaration of emergency during World War II. Newspapers were thrown from the moving train. Kalam’s cousin, Samsuddin, the newspaper delivery boy, now needed assistance catching these bundles of paper. He hired Kalam for this, and thus Kalam earned his first wages.

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

Answer: Yes, Abdul Kalam had earned money before that.

When World War II broke out, there was a surge in demand for tamarind seeds. Abdul Kalam gathered these seeds and sold them to a provision store. He received one anna for each day’s collection.

II. 1. How does the author describe:

(i) his father

Answer: Abdul Kalam describes his father, Jainulabdeen, as having little formal education and little wealth, but great innate wisdom and true generosity of spirit. His father was self-disciplined, honest, and austere, avoiding all unnecessary comforts and luxuries.

(ii) his mother

Answer: Abdul Kalam describes his mother, Ashiamma, as a generous woman who was an excellent helpmate to his father. Every day, she fed a large number of people, including many strangers. She was kind-hearted and believed in goodness.

(iii) himself?

Answer: Abdul Kalam describes himself as a short boy with average looks who was born to tall and good looking parents. He inherited honesty and self-discipline from his father; and faith in goodness and deep kindness from his mother.

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

Answer: In the words of Abdul Kalam, he inherited honesty and self-discipline from his father and deep kindness and faith in goodness from his mother.

III. 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)?

Answer: Hindus and Muslims are two of the social groups mentioned by Kalam. Yes, these groups were easily distinguished because Kalam, a Muslim, wore a cap and his Hindu friend Ramanadha wore the sacred thread, each displaying his religion.

(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.)

Answer: Rameswaram’s residents were aware of their communal differences, but they naturally shared friendships and experiences. During a religious Hindu festival, Kalam’s family arranged for the boats used to transport the idols. Even in Kalam’s home, children were told stories from both the Prophet’s life and the Ramayana.

(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?

Answer: The new teacher and Sivasubramania Iyer’s wife were both acutely aware of their differences. The new teacher arrived at Kalam’s school and separated him from his Hindu friend, but he is changed by the temple priest, Lakshmana Sastry’s strong opinions. Sivasubramania Iyer’s wife was initially offended by the idea of a Muslim boy dining in her kitchen, but she, too, came around and served him. Lakshmana Sastry and Sivasubramania Iyer were two people who tried to bridge such divides by being open-minded and reforming the rigidly orthodox believers.

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

Answer: Two incidents from the text that show how differences can be created are:

i. A new teacher arrived at Kalam’s school and directed him to the last bench, deeming him unfit to sit on the same bench as the priest’s son. 

ii. Sivasubramanium Iyer’s wife refused to serve Kalam a meal in her kitchen because Abdul Kalam was Muslim and did not share the same religious beliefs as her.

Two incidents from the text that show how differences can be resolved are:

i. Lakshmana Sastry chastised the teacher for sowing the seeds of communal intolerance among children and demanded that he apologise or leave the school.

ii. Sivasubramanium Iyer remained polite to Kalam and even invited him back to dinner, served him with his own hands, and sat beside him to eat. Sivasubramanium’s wife too was gradually transformed.

People can improve their attitudes by acknowledging that they have a problem and deciding to take action.

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

Answer: Abdul Kalam wanted to leave Rameswaram and relocate to the district headquarters at Ramanathapuram in order to fulfil his desire to pursue his higher education.

(ii) What did his father say to this?

Answer: His father stated that he knew Kalam needed to be alone in order to grow, much like how a seagull flies across the sun alone and without a nest. In a quote from Khalil Gibran, he told Kalam’s mother that their children were not theirs, but the result of life’s longing for itself. They had arrived through their parents, but not through them. They could be showered with affection, but their thoughts would be completely their own.

(iii) What do you think his words mean? Why do you think he spoke those words?

Answer: Abdul Kalam’s father meant that in order to grow and develop as an individual, Kalam would have to step out of his father’s shadow and leave the comforts of his home to make his way in the world. He consoled his wife by quoting Gibran, implying that just because they had given birth to their children did not mean the children belonged to them. Each child was an individual in his or her own right, developing and growing with his or her own ideas. When Kalam decided to leave home and pursue further education, he said these words to console himself and his wife.

Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions

1. What is Abdul Kalam’s description of his home?

Answer: Abdul Kalam’s house was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, according to him. It was a fairly large pucca house made of limestone and brick and located on Rameswaram’s Mosque street.

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13. What happened at Rameshwaram Elementary School when a new teacher was assigned to the class?

Answer: Ramanandha Sastry donned a sacred thread that identified him as a Brahmin, while Kalam wore a cap. When the new instructor arrived, he couldn’t stand the sight of a Hindu priest’s kid sitting next to a Muslim student. He motioned for Kalam to take a seat on the rear bench. Ramanandha was saddened by this. Abdul began sitting in the last row, but this made a negative influence on him. Both children told their parents about the occurrence. As a result, the instructor was chastised and scolded for teaching youngsters communalism and hatred.

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