Memories of Childhood
By- Zitkala-Sa and Bama
- Two women—marginalized communities, caste and racial discrimination — made to feel lesser than mainstream culture — a deep sense of alienation — seed to rebellion sowed in early life — the injustice of any form does not escape the notice of children/compulsory physical and social conformation breaks the spirit.
- Who was `Zitkala Sa’? Pen-name of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin—American Indian in a late 19th century—suffered racial discrimination.
- Who was Bama? Pen-name of Tamil Dalit woman—Faustima Mary Fatima Rani—suffered neglect, pain, poverty, oppression by higher castes in India.
- The cutting of my long hair.
Zitkala-Sa’s first day in school, cold, snowfall, students wore stiff shoes and tightly fitting clothes, small girls wore sleeved aprons and shingled hair — meals eaten by procedure/ formula, (a) 1st bell — chairs drawn from under table, (b) 2nd bell — all sat, (c) 3rd bell —began eating — a warning, friend had heard of cutting their long hair, had heard unskilled warriors — shingled their enemy’s hair, in her community, shingled hair was worn by cowards and short hair by mourners.
Struggle In Vain
Crept upstairs in the 3-bedded large curtained room, crawled under the bed, dragged out and hair shingled, felt helpless and miserable, like an animal driven by a herder.
We too are human beings — in 3rd class not heard about untouchability openly but felt, experienced and humiliated.
Bama’s usual routine while returning from School
Took ten minutes to reach home, watched fanners threshing, entertaining novelties —oddities in streets, performing monkeys; snake charmer, cyclist, Maarymata temple and bell ringing, wild lemur in cages, selling needles, clay beads and instruments for cleaning ears mundane tasks like waiters cooling coffee, people cutting onion, one day saw elderly main carrying vadai/green banana bhajji, holding by string, not touching it, bowed low and extended packet to landlord which amused Bama and narrated to brother who revealed painful fact about their community being discriminated against — once brother on his way from library, followed by landlord’s man who asked where he stayed to show his caste.
Bama is angry:
Rebellious attitude exhibited — brother urged her to study, make progress and overcome discrimination, Bama did well and became popular and earned honour and respect.