Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the story “My Impressions of Assam” by Verrier Elwin of the Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 11 (first year) English (Hornbill) textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.
Summary: In this excerpt from his four-month research trip to Assam, Verrier Elwin introduces us to the hill people he met and studied there. He went looking for picturesque places, and he found them among the hill people. His writings centre on his observations and serve as an impassioned plea for the protection of cultural and ecological heritage. Elwin speaks highly of the warmth and hospitality of the people of Assam, and in particular the hill tribes. Finally, he talks about his time in Kaziranga National Park, remarking on how different it was from the East African parks in that he was able to see rhinos just two hours into his visit. He goes on to contrast the parks of Assam, where no animal is safe from poachers, with those of East Africa, where they are well-maintained thanks to the cooperation of the people. He urges that everyone take action to safeguard the parks’ animal populations.
Next, Elwin discusses the people of Assam’s hills, the focus of his interest. He wishes there was a museum to preserve and exhibit these communities’ artistic contributions but there isn’t one. As an illustration, he mentions the Kabuls, a Naga tribe, and their enchanting death chant, which is unlikely to be recorded and thus will be lost to history. Also at risk of being lost is the priceless heritage of oral tradition represented by the world’s folk tales. This decline is because today’s youth listen to Western music more than anything else.
Elwin then turns his attention to the splendour found in other hill people’s arts, such as wooden carvings, the colour schemes of woven materials, personal decoration items, etc. Amazingly, he says, the tribal people have an innate sense of colour, tone, and balance that leads to harmony in all they do. He argues that the hill people’s inherent aesthetic sensibilities should be protected lest they be lost to the deceptive standards of modernity. He exhorts the indigenous hill people to take pride in their heritage and not let it fade away, and he urges everyone in Assam to do the same by valuing the natural splendour and rustic charm of their rural communities.
Understanding the text
1. What does Verrier Elwin say about the tradition of courtesy and hospitality in the modern world? What advice does he give to the people of Assam on this point?
Answer: According to Verrier Elwin, graciousness and generosity are dying out in modern society. These customs have been abandoned in favour of the rat race, which is fueled by the modern world’s obsession with competition and rivalry.
Elwin believes that Assam’s appeal lies in the warmth and friendliness of its people, so he encourages them to maintain these traditions. It’s just one of many things about this place that has Verrier completely enchanted. He thinks it’s what distinguishes the people of Assam from those of other countries. Elwin expresses his hope that the Assamese people will be able to preserve their culture of hospitality and generosity even as they adapt to the norms of the modern world.
2. What difference does Verrier Elwin draw between the Game Sanctuaries of Kenya and Kaziranga?
Answer: Verrier Elwin contrasts Kaziranga with Kenya’s Game Sanctuaries by pointing out that, despite our claims to be a nonviolent, peace-loving people, we are the ones whose land has been used to poach animals from the Kaziranga sanctuary and whose parts have been sold for profit. However, in Kenya’s sanctuaries, where locals are rumoured to be particularly violent, everyone pitches in to ensure the animals are comfortable in human company. In contrast to the United States, they invest substantial resources into animal sanctuaries to ensure that their populations continue to grow. For them, man is a friend.
3. What appeal does the author make to the scholars of Assam concerning the songs and poems of the state? Why does he make this appeal?
Answer: The author was captivated by a performance of a death chant by a group of tribal Naga youths and realised that the northeastern region of India is home to many such venerable tunes. The elation of witnessing such a magnificent event is tempered by the sobering realisation that no effort has been made to record and preserve the songs and chants that are so central to our culture. It’s only a matter of time before this facet of our culture is lost to us as the younger generation drifts away from the old ways in favour of humming modern jazz tunes rather than singing ancient melodies. Verrier Elwin, therefore, implores the educated people of Assam to take the time and make the effort to document these traditional songs and poems so that they will not be lost to history.
Our state’s ancient melodies and poems are a valuable resource and an essential part of our culture, and Verrier Elwin has made an impassioned plea to the academics of our state to preserve them. The author makes an appeal to the academic community in an effort to preserve the songs, poems, and folk tales of the land before they are lost to the minds of the next generation as modernity spreads its wings across our state.
4. Why, according to Verrier Elwin, should wood carving be taught and encouraged in our educational centres?
Answer: Woodcarving is a tradition in our hill villages and among the indigenous people who live here, so Verrier Elwin thinks it should be taught and encouraged in schools. The wood carvings are works of such stunning beauty and delicate craftsmanship that one can’t help but marvel at the artist’s innate aesthetic sensibility. Unfortunately, much of this artwork is being lost to the onward march of progress. The author worries that woodcarving will become extinct if it is not taught and encouraged in schools.
5. “You have a great treasure there.” – What treasure is Verrier Elwin referring to and what is his suggestion about the treasure?
Answer: Verrier Elwin sees our culture as a priceless gem that must be protected and fostered. The natural and unspoiled aspects of our rural areas are valuable resources that should not be disregarded in favour of more modern amenities. It is a testament to the maker’s exquisite tastes and innate sense of beauty that even the simplest things can be transformed into works of extraordinary vitality and beauty. Elwin argues that our cultural heritage is our most valuable asset and should be treated as such through respect, preservation, documentation, and even study.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. Why does the author advocate for Kaziranga National Park?
Answer: The author encourages the people of our state to work together to ensure the success of Kaziranga.
Elwin visits animal sanctuaries in Kenya and is surprised to find that here in our very land, animals are more unsafe than anywhere else. This is in stark contrast to our claims of being a peaceful group with values of kindness towards animals ingrained in our culture. Countless animals are slaughtered and sold for their body parts. Something that has never been seen in Kenya’s protected areas before. This is why the author makes a heartfelt plea to the people of Assam to do what they can to safeguard their wildlife so that the animals can feel comfortable living alongside humans.
6. Why does the author make an appeal to the scholars of Assam to study the state’s songs and poems?
Answer: According to the author, Assamese music and literature are rich in both meaning and interest. Songs sung by the boys of Assam are ones whose lyrics you really should learn. The writer is pleading with Assamese academics to study the state’s musical heritage and take note of its poetry.
The majority of high school males, the author argues, are more interested in listening to jazz from Hollywood than in their own culture. The majority of the Assamese hill tribes’ myths, folktales, poems, and songs have never been committed to paper, the author notes.
7. Verrier Elwin argues that we should introduce and promote wood carving classes in schools. Why?
Answer: The author was enthralled by the intricate Assam wood carving. Beautiful Maos and Marams are a common sight in the homes of Manipur’s Thangkhul people. The Angamis craft magnificent village gates; the Konyaks decorate their morungs; the Phoms are masters at creating images and pipes, and other tribes are adept at decorating drinking mugs and making toys. There are some of these that have an uncommonly stunning vitality and elegance. We can’t afford to lose it. The number of schools in Assam dedicated to fostering the art of woodcarving is currently quite low. Therefore, wood carving should be emphasised in schools, as Verrier Elwin has argued.
About the author: A graduate of Oxford University with a degree in English, Henry Verrier Holman Elwn moved to Pune, India in 1927 to become a part of the Anglican Order known as Christa Seva Sangha (Maharashtra). Elwin started his work with the forest-dwelling tribals of India after he had served the church for a few years and been involved in the national movement as an associate of Gandhi, who treated him like a son. In 1946, he was appointed as Deputy Director of the Anthropological Survey of India in Kolkata, and he spent the next decade living and working among them as a friend and a helper. Elwin served as the Governor of Assam’s advisor on tribal issues in the ’50s. Elwin argued passionately for the reservation policy to protect the native people. He was a prolific author and an accomplished photographer. From the 1950s until the day he passed away on February 22, 1964, Elwin called the Northeastern region of India home. In Shillong, he applied for and was granted Indian citizenship. The President of India presented him with the Padma Bhushan award for exceptional service in 1961, and in 1965, after his death, his autobiography, The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin, won the Sahitya Academy Award.
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