Memories of Childhood – Important Questions

In “Memories of Childhood”, there are two autobiographical extracts from the writings of two different female writers. They look back on their childhood and think about their relationship with mainstream culture.

Important Question and Answers

Q. Why did Bama reach home late after school?

Ans. Bama spent time watching games and other entertaining sights, which came along the way. She enjoyed herself looking at the shops and bazaar, at the novelties and oddities. All this made Bama reach home late after school.

Q. Which words of her brother made a deep impression on Bama?

Ans. After hearing from Bama what happened on her way home, Bama’s elder brother told her that although people do not get to decide the family they are born into, they can outwit the indignities inflicted upon them if they are well read and successful. This left a deep impression on her.

Q. Why was Zitkala-Sa in tears on the first day in the land of apples? OR At the dining table why did Zitkala-Sa begin to cry when others started eating?

Ans. Zitkala-Sa felt quite uncomfortable at the dining table. She was not used to eating by formula i.e., wait for the sound of the bell to commence eating. Moreover, the noise and the bedlam of languages and the Matron continuously staring at her, all of it disturbed her. Zitkala-Sa felt embarrassed and out of place. This is why she began to cry at the dining table when others started eating.

Q. What is common between Zitkala-Sa and Bama?

Ans. Both Zitkala-Sa and Bama came from marginalised communities. In their childhood, both women had to face discrimination on the basis of race and caste respectively. Miffed by the social injustice since they were young, they protested against it. They both became writers when they grew up and used their education to fight against discrimination.

Q. Why did Zitkala-Sa resist the shingling of her hair?

Ans. Zitkala-Sa resisted the shingling of her hair because in her culture, long hair was valued. In her culture, it was only the warriors captured by the enemy, cowards and mourners who wore their hair shingled or short.

Q. What were the articles in the stalls and shops that fascinated Bama on her way back from school?

Ans. The articles in the stalls and shops, which fascinated Bama on her way back home from school included dried fish stall by the statue of Gandhi, the sweet stall, the stall selling fried snacks. Other than that the hunter gypsy with his lemur, selling needles, clay beads and instruments to clean out the ears; the way each waiter cooled the coffee, people sitting in front to the shops, chopping onions, etc. all this attracted Bama.

Q. What did Zitkala-Sa feel when her long hair was cut?

Ans. When Zitkala-Sa’s long hair was cut, she felt indignant and helpless like a puppet. She felt as if she was an animal driven by a herder and hoped her mother was there to comfort her. After her hair was cut, Zitkala-Sa felt as if she had lost her spirit.

Q. What advice did Annan offer Bama?

Ans. Annan advised Bama to throw away indignities and study hard and make progress. He said to her, “study with care and learn all you can. If you are always ahead in your lessons, people will come to you on their own accord and attach themselves to you. Work hard.”

Q. What did Judewin tell Zitkala-Sa? How did she react to it?

Ans. Judewin was a friend of Zitkala-Sa. She understood some words of English. She had overheard the white woman telling that they would cut her long and heavy hair. She said that Zitkala-Sa would have to agree to it. At first Zitkala-Sa was distraught by the idea of shingling of her hair. But soon after, she decided to rebel against those who tried to cut her hair; she wasn’t going to give in without a fight.

Q. Why did the landlord’s man ask Bama’s brother, on which street he lived? What was the significance?

Ans. The landlord’s men asked Bama’s brother, on which street he lived because the man could not make out Bama’s brother’s caste from his name. Knowing the street name would give away the caste as each street was occupied by a particular caste.

Q. Why was Zitakala-Sa terrified when Judewin told her that her hair would be cut short?

Ans. When Judewin told her that her hair would be cut short, Zitkala-Sa was terrified because cutting hair short was against her custom. Short hair was a sign of mourning, cowardice and defeat. Long hair, on the other and was a symbol of bravery.

Q. What frantic efforts did Zitkala-Sa make to save her hair from being cut?

Ans. Zitkala-Sa tried all that she could do to save her hair from being cut. When she heard that her hair were going to be chopped off she ran upstairs into a room where the windows were covered with dark coloured curtains. She hid herself under a bed, but was caught. She cried and resisted with all her might and kept shaking her head all the while her hair was being cut. She lost spirit when she heard the scissors grow off one of her thick braids.

Q. How did Zitkala-Sa’s first day in the land of apples begin?

Ans. It was a bitter-cold day. The snow still covered the ground. A large bell rang for breakfast. The peace of the morning was disturbed by the annoying clatter of shoes, constant clash of harsh noises and an undercurrent of many voices murmuring in an unknown language.

Q. According to Zitkala-Sa what does ‘eating by formula’ mean?

Ans. On the very first day, in the city of apples, Zitkala-Sa came across ‘eating by formula’, which was the fixed procedure for breakfast. Once everyone was in the dining room, the sound of the first bell indicated all pupils to pull out their chairs. At the second bell, all had to sit down. At the far end of the dining hall, a man said the prayer and the pupils bowed their heads finally, at sound of the third bell, everyone started eating with forks and knives. This made her feel out of place and overwhelmed her.

Q. What activities did Bama witness on her way back home from school? OR Why did Bama stroll in the market place instead of hurrying back home? Describe the sights she enjoyed seeing there.

Ans. On her way back home from school, Bama witnessed many activities, which truly caught her attention. Instead of hurrying back home, Bama she strolled through the bazaar. She saw many fun activities and games. She saw a monkey performing, a snake charmer putting his snake on display, a cyclist who had been cycling for three days non-stop. When the narrator walked past the Maariyata Temple she saw the huge bell tower. She saw Pongal offerings being prepared. She even heard the politician’s speech. As she walked a little further, she saw the dried fish stall near Gandhi statue. The narrator was amazed to see the Narikkuravan hunter gypsies with a wild Lemur in a cage. She enjoyed her walk back home from school.

Q. It may take a long time for oppression to be resisted, but the seeds of rebellion are sowed early in life. How did Zitkala-Sa face oppression as a child and how did she overcome it?

Ans. Zitkala-Sa’s experience in ‘Memories of Childhood’ is that of a victim of the racial discrimination. Zitkala-Sa is a native American girl sent to a convent school, where she is treated badly at the hands of white people who consider themselves a superior race. Zitkala-Sa has to abide by many rules and regulations, which overwhelm her on the very first day of her school. She, along with others, is made to ‘eat by formula’ and it distresses her. It is the cutting of her long hair, which makes her hysterical. In her community, only mourners and cowards wear their hair short. So, when it is her turn to get her hair shingled, she decides, she is not going to submit without a struggle. When she is dragged out from under the bed and carried downstairs, she resists by kicking and scratching wildly. She fights getting her hair cut by shaking her head while her hair is being shingled. Later, Zitkala-Sa goes on to become a powerful writer and uses this power to voice her opinion and fight oppression by the so-called superior race.

Q. Untouchability is not only a crime, it is inhuman too. Why and how did Bama decide to fight against it?

Ans. Bama saw one of the elders from her village coming down the street holding a small packet of vadai meant to be given to the landlord. The aged man was being careful not to touch it; he held the packet by its string. An amused Bama, narrated the incident to her older brother. He told her that the old man, being a dalit, was not allowed to touch the vadai brought for the landlord. Bama learnt from her brother that day, about the atrocities and discrimination meted out to the members of her community in the name of caste. He told her to study hard and learn as much as possible; people would come to her on their own. Bama did exactly what her Annan had urged her to do. She studied well and became a famous contemporary writer who raised her voice against the caste inequalities.

Q. ‘We too are Human Beings’ highlights high caste-low caste discrimination in society. How do low caste people suffer on account of this? What advice is given to Bama to overcome this problem?

Ans. In ‘We Too are Human Beings,’ Bama highlights the high caste-low caste discrimination prevailing in the society. The high caste people have a firm social standing and enjoy every benefit they can derive because of it. On the other hand, having been segregated and marginalised, the low caste people have to suffer in every walk of their life. The have to face prejudices and social stigma of being born in a low caste community. Whether a child or an adult, man or woman belonging to the backward sections of the society, has to suffer humiliation in some way or the other. In her childhood when Bama felt the indignation caused by learning about untouchability and discrimination, her elder brother advised her to work hard and learn as much as possible because only education can uplift her. It would help her in establishing an identify and thus, a position in the society.

Q. How did the scene she saw in the market place change Bama’s life?

Ans. Bama was in school when she first came to know of the social discrimination faced by the people of her community. On her way back home from school she saw an elderly man carrying a small packet containing some eatables; he was holding it by its strings and not at all touching it. She found it funny at first but, soon, was shocked to know from her brother that it was a form of discrimination the people of their community had to face because they were Dalits.

Q. Zitkala-Sa’s experience in ‘Memories of Childhood is that of a victim of the racial discrimination. What kind of discrimination does Bama’s experience depict? What are their responses to their respective situations?

Ans. Zitkala-Sa’s experience in ‘Memories of Childhood’ is that of a victim of the racial discrimination. Bama, on the other hand, experienced discrimination on the basis of her caste. Zitkala-Sa is a native American girl sent to a convent school, where she is treated badly at the hands of white people who consider themselves a superior race. Zitkala-Sa has to abide by many rules and regulations, which overwhelm her on the very first day of her school. She, along with others, is made to ‘eat by formula’ and it distresses her. It is the cutting of her long hair, which makes her hysterical. In her community, only mourners and cowards wear their hair short. So, when it is her turn to get her hair shingled, she decides, she is not going to submit without a struggle. When she is dragged out from under the bed and carried downstairs, she resists by kicking and scratching wildly. She fights getting hair cut by shaking her head. A slightly different, but equally disturbing struggle, Bama has had already seen, felt, experienced and been humiliated by what untouchability is/was. The discrimination, in the beginning, is not quite evident to Bama until she sees an elder member of her community carry a packet of eatables by a string for a man of upper caste. It is from her older brother that she comes to know about the ill-treatment meted out to the Dalits by the members of the upper castes. This information terribly saddened and infuriates Bama as she feels that such discrimination is unfair and unjustified. Even after facing discrimination in their respective lives, Bama and Zitkala-Sa both became powerful writers and used this power to voice their opinion and fight oppression by the so called superior caste or race.

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