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Memories of Childhood
By- Zitkala-Sa and Bama
Short and Simple Summary of the lesson in English– (Memories of Childhood)/ Summary in simple Words/ Critical appreciation of the lesson – (Memories of Childhood)
PART-I: The Cutting of My Long Hair’
The first part deals with the account of Gertrude Simmons, an American Indian, who fought against the prejudices of the society against American Indians. She vividly describes her experiences on her first day at the Carlisle Indian School. The customs and rules of the place were strange and new to her. She was forced to wear tight-fitting clothes and discard her soft mocassins. All this was considered undignified in her culture. At breakfast, she was embarrassed as she did not know the routine of the place. When she came to know from her friend, Judewin, who knew a little English, that they were planning to cut her hair, she protested by hiding under the bed, even though she knew it was futile. In her culture, cowards and mourners wore shingled hair.When she was caught, she resisted by kicking and scratching. She could do nothing when they tied her in a chair and cut off her hair. But her spirit could not be suppressed. She felt like an animal driven by a herder.
PART-II: ‘We Too Are Humans’
The second part is an excerpt from the autobiography `Karukku’ by Bama – a Tamil Dalit. She was in her third grade when she becomes aware of the indignities that the lower caste people face. It took Bama ten minutes to reach home after school but she would dawdle along, watching all the entertaining novelties and oddities in the streets. She would gaze at the shops and the bazaar enjoying the street scenes and so she would take at least an hour to reach home. One day, Barra saw an elderly man of her street carrying a packet of Tadais’ by the strings and walking in a peculiar manner, holding the parcel away from his body. Bama found his manner of carrying the parcel very funny. Later, her brother explained to her that the incident was not at all funny as she had initially thought, but very pathetic. The people from the lower caste were treated as untouchables. The higher caste people believed that if the lower caste people touched the parcel it would be polluted. That’s why the elder was carrying it in that manner. This provoked and angered Bama. The lower caste people had to work for the higher caste and bow their heads. Her spirit revolted against this injustice. She felt terribly sad and agitated. She could not understand this inhuman treatment. Her brother Annan told her that she could do away with these indignities if she worked hard. Bama studied and stood first in her class. Many people became her friends.
Summary (2) :
The Cuffing of My Long Hair
The story begins with the introduction of the Carlisle Indian school. The narrator describes her first day at school. It was very cold and unpleasant as there was a lot of snow around. The entire extract deals with Zitkala-Sa’s shingling of hair. When she came to this school, she found it a strange place where everything seemed to be mechanical. A very loud and metallic bell rang for breakfast. There was an annoying clatter of feet on the entire bare floor. She is unnerved because of so much noise.
Here she finds that all the girls start marching to the dining room after hearing the bell. They have supervised II a pale-faced woman. Small girls wore aprons and had shingled hair. The girls were dressed in clinging clothes. The breakfast was served and eaten very mechanically. There was a bell to stand, another to sit, next to pray and after that another to start the breakfast. All this was totally new for the narrator.
Her friend Judewin warned her that the pale-faced woman was talking about the cutting off her long hair. The narrator did not want her hair to be shingled because, in her community, Shingling of hair was considered as inauspicious and undignified. Only the traitors or the mourners had their hair shingled. Though her friend told her that they would have to submit as others were stronger, the narrator decided to struggle and not to submit. She creeps upstairs unnoticed and hid under the bed in a dark corner. But finally, she was discovered and dragged out. She scratched and kicked but was forcibly taken downstairs and was tied fast to a chair. Her thick braids were cut off. And with this, she lost her spirits. She realised the indignities suffered by her after she was separated from her mother. She was tossed here and there like a wooden puppet and felt humiliated like a coward. She was treated like an animal and no one came to comfort her.
We Too Are Human Beings
In this story, Bama narrates the experiences of a young Dalit school girl in a south Indian village. The narrator had never heard of untouchability being talked about openly by anyone but she felt, experienced and was humiliated by what she saw. While coming back from school, she used to spend a lot of time watching all the fun and games, entertaining novelties, oddities, shops in the bazaar on the way. She used to watch performing monkeys, a man pedalling for days, the activities at Maariyaata temple, the statue of Gandhiji, the sweets and snacks, hunter gipsy and wild lemurs in cages. She used to hear the political parties giving speeches, saw the puppet show, street plays, coffee shops, fruit trees and peddlers selling fruits, snacks, halwa and iced lollies.
While on the way, she saw an interesting scene outside the landlord’s house. Here a threshing floor was set up with the landlord watching the proceedings. Some people were driving cattle for threshing the corn. She saw an elder of her community carrying a big packet in a funny manner which made her laugh. He gave this packet which contained vadais to the landlord without touching it and the landlord opened the packet and ate the vadais.
Bama narrates this incident to her brother with all the comic details. But to her surprise, her brother is not amused. The narrator is told that the landlord was of upper caste and their touch would pollute the food. This made the narrator sad and angry and felt outraged at the exploitation. She condemns it as a curse against humanity. She strongly believed that their community should boycott and refuse to do petty errands. She came to know that despite being so educated, her brother was questioned about his caste. All the Dalits used to live together in a separate place away from the upper class.
Annan, her brother, told the narrator that they are not respected or given dignity due to their community.
He said that education is the only way to gain respect. The narrator was advised to work hard and learn. She obeyed her brother with great determination and studied hard. She stood first in her class. Many people tried to befriend her.
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