Memories of Childhood: AHSEC Class 12 English notes, answers

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Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the chapter Memories of Childhood of the Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 12 English supplementary reader (Vistas) textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.

memories of childhood
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Summary (The Cutting of My Long Hair by Zitkala-Sa): The Cutting of My Long Hair is an autobiographical excerpt from the childhood of Zitkala-Sa, born Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Native American woman who was sent to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, a school that reformed natives into modern Americans, like other children her age. The children struggled to adjust to their new surroundings, having to abandon their tribal beliefs, cultures, customs, and languages. They were even forced to cut their hair, which they equated with mourning. This passage describes the author’s horror at having her hair cut as an unbearable ordeal for a spirit that was already lamenting the loss of freedom.

Zitkala-Sa remembers her first day at school. It was time for breakfast. They were marched to the table amid clattering sounds. She was conscious of her strange, tight-fitting clothes and looked around for familiar faces. Simple actions like standing, sitting, and eating at the sound of a bell were a challenge for this eight-year-old Indian American. To make matters worse, a friend informed her that their hair would be cut, which was almost sacred to them and was only cut as a sign of mourning or cowardice! She resolved to oppose it in any way she could.

The little girl took refuge under a bed in an empty room where she heard voices and footsteps looking for her. She was discovered and apprehended despite kicking and scratching. Her hair was eventually cut, and she cried; she yearned for her mother’s comforting arms, but in vain.

(We too are Human Beings by Bama): Bama, a Tamil Dalit woman, wrote the autobiographical piece called ‘We Too Are Human Beings.’ This passage recounts her first open experience with untouchability and her outrage at the treatment meted out to the ‘untouchable society’, of which she was a member, by the so-called ‘upper caste.’

She starts by explaining how she gets from school to home. The distance could be covered in ten minutes, but she took more than half an hour to absorb and enjoy the market activities. Street performers, temple goers, shops, street lights, almond trees, and other activities drew her attention. She was amused one day to see an elder from her society carrying a small packet by its strings, taking care not to touch it in any way. She followed him and saw him hand the packet to the landlord, who retrieved vadais from it and ate them.

She told her brother, Annan, about the incident, and he explained that it was not funny because it was the practice of untouchability: the landlord was from the upper caste, and he would be polluted if he touched or was touched by a Dalit. Bama’s mind exploded with rage. How could such humiliation befall such an important senior member of her community? Were they not human beings to be stripped of all honour, dignity, and respect? She needed a way out, and her brother showed her how. He told her that education was the only way to achieve equality. She took the advice seriously and studied so hard that she was first in class, and as a result, many people became her friends despite her so-called “low caste.”

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Textual questions and answers

1. The two accounts that you read above are based in two distant cultures. What is the commonality of the theme found in both of them?

Answer: ‘Memories of Childhood’ tells the autobiographical stories of two women from different cultures. However, both of them share a common theme: it is about a prejudiced society and the system’s discrimination and oppression.

The first account is from a late-nineteenth-century American Indian. Christians denied Native Americans in America basic human dignity and respect. They were ‘marginalised’ and forced to follow Christian customs and traditions. The author was a young girl who faced religious and racial prejudice, but unlike others, she had the courage to fight for her rights, which she did.

The second account is from an Indian Tamil girl who was discriminated against because of her caste. She recalls a time in her childhood when she was told she was “untouchable” because she was born into a particular community. The caste system was so deeply ingrained in Indian society that people from the so-called lower castes had to remind the world that ‘We, too, are human beings…’

The common theme is the discrimination and oppression experienced by these women from distant and different cultures at the hands of supposedly superior castes or cultures. Both fight and struggle against exploitation and racial prejudices, as well as for underprivileged empowerment.

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3. Bama’s experience is that of a victim of the caste system. What kind of discrimination does Zitkala-Sa’s experience depict? What are their responses to their respective situations?

Answer: Zitkala-experience Sa’s exemplifies racial and cultural discrimination. Christian missionaries persecuted Native Americans in America. Whites imposed their culture and values on indigenous communities, robbing them of their culture, heritage, and, most importantly, pride. White-skinned teachers humiliated and emotionally tortured her at a missionary school. Her hair was shingled, which symbolised a coward in her culture. She resisted and rebelled, but she was physically outmatched.

Despite the fact that both girls were victims of discrimination, they never let their oppressors crush their spirit. They were unafraid and worked tirelessly to combat society’s ills. They used their pen to criticise the system that allowed such oppression to occur. Zitkala-Sa’s works were critical of dogma, and her life as a Native American woman was dedicated to combating the evils of subjugation and cruelty. Bama’s works illuminate the plight of victims of caste and racial prejudice.

Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions

1. In the incident of hair-cutting at the missionary school, a child’s trauma is painfully revealed. Comment.

Answer: Judewin, who did not speak much English, told Zitkala-Sa that she overheard the pale-faced woman talking about cutting their long hair. Because their mothers had taught them that only unskilled warriors captured by the enemy had their hair shingled, this information terrified Zitkala-Sa. Mourners wore short hair, and cowards wore shingled hair among their people. Despite Judewin’s encouragement to submit, the narrator chooses to resist oppression. She vanished and crawled underneath a bed in the darkness of a room. Everyone began looking for her, and footsteps began to approach the bed. She was dragged out, but she fought back with ferocious scratching and clawing. She was then escorted downstairs and secured in a chair. As she cried for her mother, her long and beautiful hair was mercilessly cropped off. There was no one there to console her. She was humiliated and traumatised, and she had no choice but to live as one of many small animals herded by a herder.

2. Why was Zitkala-Sa so unhappy in the dining room?

Answer: It was the first day of school for Zitkala-Sa. A small bell rang as they entered the dining room. She took out her chair and sat down. She realised she was the only one sitting there. The second bell rang just as she was about to rise, and everyone was seated. A man’s voice could be heard from one end of the room, and everyone looked down at their plates. She noticed a pale-faced woman staring at her. When the third bell rang, everyone took out their knife and fork and began eating. The author began to cry because she was terrified and perplexed.

3. What was Judewin’s dreadful warning to Zitkala-Sa?

Answer: Judewin, who spoke little English, claimed she overheard the pale-faced woman discussing cutting their long hair. This information terrified Zitkala-Sa because their mothers had taught them that only unskilled warriors captured by the enemy had their hair shingled. Short hair was worn by mourners and shingled hair by cowards among their people.

4. …for now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder. Who am “I” in this situation? What was it that made her feel that way?

Answer: The narrator is Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, an American Indian woman who went by the pen name Zitkala-Sa. This was her reaction when, against her wishes and despite her protests, the Christian missionaries cut off her hair as an oppressive measure. She had endured severe humiliation since the day she was taken from her mother. She had been thrown around like a wooden puppet. In her grief over her shingled hair, she cried out for her mother, but there was no one to console her. She realised that her life would now be like one of the many small animals led by a herder.

5. Discuss Bama’s innocent pleasures from her perspective.

Answer: Bama’s walk home from school was so enjoyable that she extended the ten-minute walk to nearly thirty minutes. She was entertained by the performing monkey, the snake-charmer, the man who cycled nonstop for days on the spinning wheels. The Maariyaata temple, its magnificent bells, and the offerings made during festivals captivated her. Nothing escaped her attention. She came to see the political rally, the street play, the puppet show, or the spectacular stunt performance. Even mundane activities, such as the waiter cooling coffee or people chopping onions, drew her attention, and she was always late getting home.

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16. What was Zitkala-initial Sa’s response when her hair was cut?

Answer: When her hair was cut, Zitkala-Sa immediately experienced intense agony and felt like an animal being led by a herder.

17. Why did Annan not find Bama’s tale amusing?

Answer: Bama’s tale did not delight Annan since he did not think it humorous. He understood the man’s motivation for slinging the package. The reason was that the man was from a lower caste and was not supposed to touch the food packet that the landlord, who belonged to an upper caste, would consume.

18. When did Bama first encounter untouchability?

Answer: When Bara observed an elderly resident of their street carrying a packet of vadais by its string without touching it and handing it to the landlord with a respectful bow, she realised she was untouchable. Until her brother explained that it was because they belonged to a lower caste and weren’t supposed to touch food meant for upper caste individuals, she considered it to be quite humorous. She discovered that upper caste people view lower caste people as untouchable as a result.

19. Why did Bama experience extreme sadness and rage?

Answer: When Bama learned from her brother why the elderly person from their neighbourhood held the vadais package by its string, she was terribly unhappy. She detested the concept of untouchability as a whole. She was so incensed and enraged that she wanted to physically contact those despicable vadais.

20. What did Annan tell the narrator about his community in the chapter Memories of Childhood?

Answer: When Bama told the landlord about the amusing incident involving an elderly person from their street holding a packet of vadais by its string, he responded that there was nothing amusing about it because they belonged to a lower caste and so shouldn’t touch them. They would get filthy if they did. The man was carrying the packet by its string for this reason.

21. How did her older brother, Annan’s statements influence the narrator?

Answer: The remarks of Bama’s brother Annan served as inspiration for the story’s narrator. He claimed that because they were raised in a lesser caste, they were never treated with honour, respect, or decency. He implied that the only way they could escape these humiliations was to work hard and advance academically. They would only give them their proper respect if they could outperform these members of the upper caste in academics. She was so motivated by these remarks to study hard and consistently place top in her class.

22. Describe Zitbala Sa’s futile attempts to prevent having her hair cut. She wanted to save her hair, but why?

Answer: Zitkala-Sa learned from her friend Judewin that their long, heavy hair would be shingled on the very first day in the country of apples. In their neighbourhood, only mourners had short hair, and cowards wore it shagged. She, therefore, did not want to give in to such an insult as her friend Judewin did. She silently and covertly climbed the stairs in an effort to salvage her hair before hiding beneath a bed in a huge vacant room. But she was quickly discovered and pulled from under the bed. She kicked and scratched frantically as she struggled to avoid being carried downstairs. But it was in vain because she was firmly restrained in a chair. Until the icy scissors’ blades touched the back of her neck, she was sobbing and shaking her head. Her long hair shingled like a coward’s, making her feel like a defenceless animal being driven by a herder.

23. What sights did Bama notice on his way home from school that were noteworthy?

Answer: Bama used to gently stroll home from school while taking in the market and street scenes that were constantly changing. She was occasionally drawn to the performing monkey and occasionally to the snake of the snake-charmers. She had a wide range of attractions, including a biker who pedalled nonstop for three days, a street drama, a puppet show, and a stunt performance called “no magic, no miracle.” She was drawn to the Maariyaata Temple’s enormous bell, the Pongal offerings prepared before the temple, the dried fish booths next to the Gandhi monument, and other stalls and similar objects. She even paused to see how political parties set up their meeting spaces or gipsy selling needles or other items while holding his lemur captive in a cage. She also enjoyed watching a coffee shop server chill coffee or some folks slice onions in odd ways. She was on her way home when she stopped at all these attractions, delaying her arrival.

24. How did the amusing occurrence Bama witnessed on the way home suddenly change into a tragic one?

Answer: When Bama was returning from school one day, she noticed a threshing floor next to her neighbourhood where the landlord was perched on a piece of sack to observe the activity. She observed an elderly resident of her own neighbourhood leaving the bazaar with a packet of Vadai, or green banana bhajji, held by its string. He immediately went to the landlord and presented the parcel while bowing reverently. The landlord unwrapped the package and started munching on the Vadais.

She told her older brother, Annan, about the episode since she thought it was rather funny. He told her that by carrying the package in that way, the man was in no way amusing. The man was forbidden from touching the landlord or the meal he consumed since he belonged to a lower caste. It would be tainted if he did. She was incredibly saddened when she heard it. She was so furious at the same time that she immediately wanted to touch those miserable Vadais.

25. Compare and contrast the tales told by Bama and Zitkala-Sa.

Answer: In “Memories of Childhood,” two women from marginalised communities look back on their childhoods and consider how they relate to mainstream culture. They share two autobiographical experiences from their lives. A Red Indian woman provides the first tale, and a modern Tamil Nadu dalit woman provides the second.

Both Zitkala-Sa and Bama’s stories are based on their respective characters’ experiences as children; except that, they are not very comparable. While Zitkala-Sa appears to be the outcome of a difference in racial viewpoint, Bama’s experience is that of a victim of a terrible caste system. Her mother taught her that only mourners wear short hair and cowards wear shingled hair, so she complains and struggles against having her long, thick hair cut. There is not a single indication of a racial undertone or discrimination in her recounting of the incident that led to the cutting of her long hair.

However, Bama’s account captures her sense of resistance and rage against India’s long-standing caste system and untouchability. She has seen how the upper caste landowner degrades even the elders of their society. They are forbidden from touching upper caste individuals or the food they consume since their contact pollutes everything.

26. Write about the ways in which Zitkala-and Sa’s Bama’s narratives depict discrimination.

Answer: In her short narrative “The Cutting of My Long Hair,” Zitkala-Sa attempted to portray white people as being responsible for the racial prejudice that American Indians had experienced over the past century. In her neighbourhood, only mourners and cowards sport short hair and shingled hair, respectively. She naturally views having her long hair chopped without her permission as humiliating. But she is powerless. She has fought and struggled in vain to keep her hair. However, Bama’s account documents her sense of protest against the abhorrent untouchability and caste system that prevailed in India up until the last century. She describes how even elderly people from lower castes have experienced utter humiliation. Lower caste members are not permitted to contact upper caste members or the food they consume. She had observed a senior member of her caste carrying vadais for the landlord from the upper caste while holding it by the string of the package and avoiding contact. She has learned from her brother that education is the sole means of combating this social ill. She has been motivated by this advice to work hard in her studies and to keep up the struggle against the oppressive caste system.

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