Fragrance of the Gods

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Here you’ll find a short summary of NBSE Class 10 alternative English chapter ‘The Fragrance of Gods’ by Toshi Langu and questions and answers.

Fragrance of the gods
Image source: Thomas Tucker / Unsplash

SUMMARY: Toshi Langu recollects the adventures he had in this mini-memoir about his carefree childhood days in a village on the |apukong Range. Toshi’s home was located amidst a jungle, where he and his friends spent most of their time playing. They climbed trees and swung from branch to branch, ate fruits and nuts and behaved more like apes than children. The sighting of a vehicle was a rare event that the children excitedly waited for every day. The news of any vehicle passing by would spread like wildfire through the village. All the children would come rushing, fighting to get to the vehicle in time. They would chase after it at top speed, trying desperately to inhale the smoke released by it. They named this smell, the ‘fragrance of the gods’. Having grown up in a place without any machines, the smell of the vehicle exhaust was alien and yet delightful to them. Toshi gets very nostalgic as he recounts these adventures. He also remembers how he and his friends were always almost naked, dirty and hungry. But that was the way they loved to live-wild and free. Looking back, Toshi wonders how any of the tar chasers’ still live to tell the tale. It is a miracle considering their food, their habits and the risks they took. He concludes that there must have been an angel looking after them.

I. Choose the correct option.

1. What is ‘monkey mail’?

Answer: c. Village children passing messages to each other.

2. Why was having a short cut to the main road from the village advantageous?

Answer: d. The children could get from the village to the passing vehicle faster.

3. Why had Toshi never heard of Kohima?

Answer: d. It was rare that anyone went to Kohima or came from there to the village.

4. There we grew up more like civilized apes… What is the literary device used here?

Answer: b. Simile

5. I can only say that there was an Angel’ taking care of us. What does this sentence tell us about Toshi?

Answer: c. He believes in God.

II. Read the lines and answer the questions that follow:

1. They were driven by giant ape-like men with red faces.

a. Who are the men Toshi is talking about?
b. Why were they driving through Toshi’s village?
c. Why were their faces red?

Answer: a. The men Toshi is talking about were American soldiers who passed by his village during the war.

b. They were driving through Toshi’s village because they were soldiers and fighting in a war.

c. According to the author, their faces were red either because people at that time roamed around half-naked and thus the soldiers were blushing or perhaps they got sunburns.

2. During such exploits, finding a patch of oil or fuel which had fallen through a leak in the vehicle was like hitting the jackpot!

a. Why was finding a patch of oil on the ground like winning the jackpot?
b. Why did the finder try to hide the oil?
c. What do you think of Toshi and his friends’ practice of sniffing fuel?

Answer: a. Finding a patch of oil on the ground was like winning a jackpot because it was seen as a source of ‘fragrance of the gods’ for the weeks to come which they loved to sniff.

b. The finder tried to hide the oil as it was revered as a prized possession and must be protected.

c. I think Toshi and his friends’ practice of sniffing fuel started as a form of curiosity because of the rarity of fuel and grew to become a form of addiction that they had no clue about.

III. Answer these questions briefly.

1. Why does Toshi call his village ‘remote’ and ‘backward’?

Answer: Toshi called his village ‘remote’ and ‘backward’ as according to him his village was far away from any civilization and jungles blanketed the entire region. They grew up more like civilized apes than human children spending more time in the wild outdoors than at homes. Further, when the Americans were trying to build a rocket and go to the moon, they were busy swinging from branch to branch, up in the trees, that too without any safety equipment.

2. What is the ‘fragrance of the gods’? Why were children in the village so eager to catch a whiff of it?

Answer: To the children, the exhaust of the vehicles that would pass their villages was known as ‘fragrance of the gods’.

The children were eager to catch a whiff of it because their village was so remote that a vehicle passing by the village was a rare occasion and that naturally created a curiosity among the children. So they would chase the vehicles and tried to absorb themselves in the remnants of the vehicles which was the exhaust. The exhaust for them was something new, precious and rare. The children also perhaps had gotten addicted to the exhaust and thus they were so eager to get a whiff of it.

3. I can only say that there was an ‘Angel’ taking care of us. Why are Toshi and his friends lucky to be alive?

Answer: Toshi and his friends are lucky to be alive considering the food they ate and the malnourished bodies they possessed, the dirt they lived in, the animal-like habits and lifestyle they had, the games they played and the risks they took were simply overwhelming! Influenza, tetanus, dysentery, hepatitis or accidents could have wiped them out but they didn’t. That’s why Toshi remarked that an ‘Angel’ was taking care of them as they were still alive despite all the odds.

IV. Answer the questions

1. Toshi compares his childhood to the happenings at an ape enclosure in a zoo. What does he mean by this? What literary device is he using here?

Answer: Toshi compares his childhood to the happenings at an ape enclosure in a zoo to draw a picture of the surrounding he grew up in. Though the comparison may appear a bit exaggerated, he is but able to paint a vivid picture with this. By comparing his childhood to the happenings at an ape enclosure in a zoo, he means that they spent their childhood in the wilderness, taking risks, exploring the forest, climbing trees, swinging from branches, eating wild fruits and nuts and monkeying around unlike other children of their age.

The literary device that he is using here is a metaphor.

2. What are the great ‘kari adventures’? Why do you think the girls never took part in them?

Answer: The great ‘kari adventure’ for the children wear to chase the passing by motor vehicles, which were rare occasions, and get a whiff of their exhaust. Whenever the children would hear the sound of an approaching motor vehicle, they would take a shortcut and reach the spot where they could catch the vehicle. The older boys frequently caught up with the vehicle but the smaller ones were still running down the short cut long after the vehicle had gone past. Those who reach the spot early, they would be jostling with each other for a vantage point and the moment the vehicle passed them, they would be running behind the vehicle while inhaling smoke emitted by the vehicle. For them, it was the ‘fragrance of the gods’. Having raced till the village or beyond with the vehicle, they would just drop flat on the ground with exhaustion and deoxygenation.

The girls had no place in such adventures because like any other patriarchal society girls were confined within the household chores most of the time.

3. I am a child of the fifties. What decade were you born in? What are some of the major events that took place then that have shaped your life?

Answer: Not necessary for examinations.

Click here for notes of other chapters of NBSE Class 10 Alt. English


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