‘My Childhood’ tells us about Prof. Abdul Kalam’s childhood. He is one of the world’s greatest scientists. His father’s name was Jainulabdeen. His mother’s name was Ashiamma. He was boom in 1931 at Rameswaram. His parents were neither much educated nor rich. Yet they were very generous and kind. Many outsiders ate with the family everyday.
Abdul Kalam had three brothers and one sister. They lived in their old ancestral house. It was a large pucca house. It was on the Mosque Street in Rameswaram.
Abdul Kalam was only eight years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939. There was suddenly a great demand for tamarind seeds. Abdul Kalam would collect these seeds and sell them in the market. His cousin Samsuddin distributed newspapers. He employed Abdul Kalam as a helping hand. In this way, the child Abdul earned his first wages.
Abdul Kalam’s parents highly influenced him. Some of his friends and teachers also influenced him. He was in the fifth standard at Rameswaram Elementary School. A new teacher came to the class. Abdul was sitting with his close friend Ramanadha Sastry in the front row. The new teacher could not tolerate a Hindu priest’s son sitting with a Muslim boy. He asked Abdul to sit on the back bench.
He was very sad and so was Ramanadha Sastry. Abdul found Sastry weeping as he went to the last row. This made a lasting impression on Abdul. Later Ramanadha Sastrjr’s father called the teacher. He asked him not to spread the poison of social separation among the children. The teacher felt sorry for the same.
Abdul’s science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer was a high-caste Brahmin. His wife was very conservative. But he did his best to break social barriers. One day he invited Abdul to his home for a meal. His wife refused to serve Abdul in her kitchen. ThenSivasubramania served Abdul with his own hands. He sat down beside him to eat his meal. The teacher invited Abdul to come again the next weekend. He went to his house next week. His wife took Abdul inside the kitchen. She served him food with her own hands.
From his father, Abdul inherited honesty and self-discipline. Abdul grew up. He asked his father’s permission to study at Ramanathapuram. His father allowed him to do so. He consoled his wife who had grown emotional.
Abdul Kalam’s father referred to Khalil Gibran, the Persian philosopher. He told her that her children were not hers. They were the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They came through her and not from her. She might give them her love. But their thoughts were theirs.
Textual Questions and Answers
Q1. Where was Abdul Kalam’s house?
Ans:- Abdul Kalam’s house was on Mosque Street in Rameswaram in the former state of Madras (now Tamil Nadu).
Q2. What do you think Dinamani is the name of? Give a reason for your answer.
Ans:- Dinamani is the name of a newspaper.
Kalam mentions that he attempted to trace the events of the Second World War in the headlines in Dinamani indicating that it is a newspaper.
Q3. Who were Abdul Kalam’s school friends? What did they later become?
Ans:- Abdul Kalam had three close school friends. They were- Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakashan.
Ramanadha later became the high priest of Rameswaram temple, Aravindan went into the business of arranging transport for visiting pilgrims and Sivaprakashan became a catering contractor for the Southern Railways.
Q4. How did Abdul Kalam earn his first wages?
Ans:- Abdul Kalam earned his first wages by helping his cousin Samsuddin to catch the bundles of newspaper from trains during the time of World War-II.
Q5. Had he earned any money before that? In what way?
Ans:- Yes, he had earned money before that.
When the Second World War broke out, these was a sudden demand for the tamarind seeds. Abdul Kalam collected these seeds and sold them to a provision store. Thus he earned one anna each day.
Q6. How does the author describe
i. His father.
Ans:- Abdul Kalam describes his father, Jainulabedeen neither much formal education nor much wealth but possessing great innate wisdom and a true generosity of spirit. His father was self-disciplined, honest, and austere and he avoided all inessential luxuries.
i. His mother.
Ans:- Abdul Kalam describes his mother, Ashiamma, as a generous woman and ideal helpmate to his father. She fed many people every day, including many outsiders. She was a kind hearted lady having faith in goodness.
Ans:- Abdul Kalam describes himself as a short boy with rather undistinguished looks, born to tall and handsome parents. He inherited honesty and self-discipline from his father; and a faith in goodness and deep kindness from his mother.
Q7. What characteristics does he say he inherited from his parents?
Ans:- He inherited honesty and self-discipline from his father; and a faith in goodness and deep kindness from his mother.
Q8. Why did Abdul Kalam want to leave Rameswaram?
Ans:- Abdul Kalam wanted to leave Rameswaram for higher studies.
Q9. What did his father say to this?
Ans:- His father said that he knew Kalam had to go away to grow, just like a seagull flies across the sun, alone and without a nest. Quoting Khalil Gibran, he told Kalam’s mother that their son were not theirs but were of life‘s longing for itself. They had come through their parents but not from them. They could be given love but their thoughts would be their own.
Q10. What do you think his words mean? Why do you think he spoke those words?
Ans:- Abdul Kalam’s father meant that to grow and develop on his own as an individual, Kalam had to go out of the shadow of his father, and would have to leave the comforts of his home to find his own way in the world. He consoled his wife that each child was an individual in his own right and developed and grew with his own thoughts.
He spoke these words to console himself and his wife when Kalam decided to leave home and go out for further studies.