Prose - 5


          -- By A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Name of the characters :-

  1. APJ Abdul kalam ( The main character of the autobiography)

  1. Jainulabdeen (Father of  Abdul Kalam)

  1. Ashiamma (Mother of Abdul Kalam)

  1. Jallaluddin  (Brother in law of Abdul Kalam)

  1. Samsuddin  (Cousin of Abdul Kalam )

  1. Ramanadha Shastry, Aravindan and Shivaprakasan (Friends of  Abdul Kalam )

  1. Pakshi Lakshmana Shastry ( Father of Ramanadha Shastry)

  1. Sivasubramania Iyer (Science teacher of Abdul Kalam)


 The chapter “My Childhood”  is an extract of the autobiography, “Wings of Fire” writte by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who was the eleventh president as well as a great scientist of our country whose projects in space, defence and nuclear technology guided india into the twenty first century.  In this extract, he speaks about his childhood,  relatives,  friends and the atmosphere of his surroundings.  He tells that he was born in a middle class tamil family in the island town of Rameswaram. It was situated in the Madras state.

                At first, he speaks about his father who was neither well educated nor much wealthier, but yet he was very kind hearted and wise person. He used to avoid all luxuries for all his family members but all the necessary things were provided to all. His mother was an ideal helpmate of his father. Overall he had a very secure childhood. 

                  During the second world war, when suddenly the demand of tamarind seeds increased, Kalam started to collect and sell the seeds in the market and earned his first income. When the town was affected by the war he was provided a job by his cousin Samsuddin to catch the bundles of the newspapers with him on the Rameswaram road thrown out from the moving train. And by this work he got his first wages. Kalam says that he along with his brother and sister was inherited honesty and self discipline from his father and faith in goodness and deep kindness from his mother. He had three good friends from orthodox hindu brahmin families. Among them Ramanadha Shastry became the priest of the Rameswaram temple, Aravindan started a  business in transport for visiting pilgrims and Sivaprakassan became a catering contractor in the railways.

               He writes further that despite being from a muslim family, they used to arrange boats for carrying idols of lord Rama. Further he speaks about two stories which proved the social discrimination as well as the attempt of some to remove such situations. First when a hindu teacher sent him from first row to last because Kalam was muslim. But that teacher was scolded a lot by the priest of that town for this activity and second when his science teacher invited him for having a meal in his house,  the wife of the teacher at first refused to serve him because he was a muslim boy but next week when he was again invited , the mindset of his teacher’s wife had changed and she served him with her own hands. After the second world war when he asked his father for permission to go to the district headquarter for further education, his father not only allowed him to go but also convinced his mother that our children  may have different thoughts than that of us.




Find Dhanuskodi and Rameswaram on the map. What language(s) do you think are spoken there? What languages do you think the author, his family, his friends and his teachers spoke with one another ?

Answer: (please do this activity on your own , and after that you can seek help from here. )

According to me, Tamil and English languages were being spoken there. The author, his family and his friends spoke almost in Tamil with each other while  his teachers probably spoke in English and Tamil  with the students.

I.Answer these questions in one or two sentences each.

Q.1. Where was Abdul Kalam’s house?

Answers :

Abdul Kalam’s house was on the Mosque Street in Rameswaram in the former Madras State.

Q.2. What do you think Dinamani is the name of? Give a reason for your answer.


Dinamani could be the name of a newspaper in which  Abdul Kalam was trying to trace the stories of the Second World War.

Q.3. Who were Abdul Kalam’s school friends? What did they later become?


Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. Ramanadha Sastry were the three school friends of  Abdul Kalam. Ramanadha Sastry took the priesthood of the Rameswaram temple from his father. Aravindan went into the business of arranging transport for visiting pilgrims and Sivaprakasan became a catering contractor for the Southern Railways.

Q.4. How did Abdul Kalam earn his first wages?


During the Second World War, the newspapers were bundled and thrown out of a moving train on the Rameswaram road. Abdul Kalam's cousin Samsuddin needed a helping hand to catch the bundles. And by helping his cousin he earned his first wages.

Q.5. Had he earned any money before that? In what way?


Yes, he had earned a sum of one anna as a day's collection before he started helping his cousin. When the Second World War broke out, there was a sudden demand for tamarind seeds in the market. He used to collect the seeds and sell them to a provision shop on Mosque Street. 

II.Answer each of these questions in a short paragraph (about 30 words).

Q.1. How does the author describe: (i) his father, (ii) his mother, (iii) himself?


1. (i) Kalam’s father, Jainulabdeen had neither much formal education 9 much wealth. He used to avoid all essential Comforts And luxuries however all necessities were provided for in terms of food medicine or clothes.

(ii)  Kalam’s mother, Ashiamma was a very kind lady.  She  fed many outsider people everyday .

(iii) The author describes himself as a short boy with undistinguished looks, who had a secure childhood, both materially and emotionally. He was self disciplined and kind, like his parents.

Q.2. What characteristics does he say he inherited from his parents?


The author says that he inherited honesty and self-discipline from his father, and faith in goodness and  kindness from his mother.

III. Discuss these questions in class with your teacher and then write down your answers in two or three paragraphs each.

Q.1. “On the whole, the small society of Rameswaram was very rigid in terms of the segregation of different social groups,” says the author.

(i) Which social groups does he mention? Were these groups easily identifiable (for example, by the way they dressed)?

(ii) Were they aware only of their differences or did they also naturally share friendships and experiences? (Think of the bedtime stories in Kalam’s house; of who his friends were; and of what used to take place in the pond near his house.)

(iii) The author speaks both of people who were very aware of the differences among them and those who tried to bridge these differences. Can you identify such people in the text?

(iv) Narrate two incidents that show how differences can be created, and also how they can be resolved. How can people change their attitudes?


1. (i) The author mentions the two major religious groups of India—Hindus and Muslims—as the social groups predominant in Rameswaram.

Yes, these groups were easily identifiable. They could be distinguished by their dressing sense and the place they lived in. Abdul Kalam wore a cap, which marked him as a Muslim.  He lived on Mosque Street. While  his friends, Ramanadha Sastry, wore the sacred thread as he belonged to an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family.

(ii) Yes, they naturally shared friendships and experiences. Abdul Kalam was a Muslim while his friends were from  Hindu Brahmin families. However, they were always best friends.  During the annual Shri Sita Rama Kalyanam ceremony, Abdul Kalam’s family arranged  boats for carrying idols of the Lord from the temple to the marriage site. The events from the Ramayana and from the life of the Prophet were the bedtime stories his mother and grandmother would tell the children of their family. 

(iii) Kalam mentions two people who were very aware of the differences among the two religious groups. One of them was the new teacher of their school, who did not let them (Abdul Kalam and his Hindu friends) sit together.

The second person was the wife of Sivasubramania Iyer (Abdul Kalam’s science teacher). She was very conservative about religion and did not want Kalam to eat in her  Hindu kitchen.


Lakshmana Sastry (Ramanadha’s father) and Sivasubramania Iyer (his science teacher) tried to bridge these differences.

(iv) When Kalam was in the 5th standard, a new teacher came to his school. The teacher was a bigot and could not tolerate Kalam, who was a Muslim, to sit with Ramanandha Sastry the priest’s son. Thus, he changed Kalam's seat. This broke the heart of the two Friends. When Ramanadha Sastry’s father came to know about it, he rebuked the teacher for spreading communal intolerance in the minds of innocent children. The teacher apologized and regretted his bad behaviour.

In another incident, Kalam’s science teacher, Sivasubramania Iyer, invited Kalam for a meal to his house. But his conservative wife refused to serve a Muslim in her pure Hindu kitchen. Then his teacher  Iyer, served kalam himself and even invited him for another meal next weekend. Iyer believed that once a person has decided to change the system, such problems have to be resolved. However, on Kalam's next visit, Iyer’s wife’s views had changed. She took Kalam inside her kitchen and served him food with her own hands.

Hence, attitudes can change if we take initiative to resolve the differences.

Q.2. (i) Why did Abdul Kalam want to leave Rameswaram?

(ii) What did his father say to this?

(iii) What do you think his words mean? Why do you think he spoke those words?


2. (i) Kalam wanted to leave Rameswaram for higher studies. He wanted to study at the district headquarters in Ramanathapuram.

(ii) After giving his consent to Kalam for pursuing his higher studies in Ramanathapuram, Kalam’s father said that he knew Kalam had to go away to “grow” and follow his dreams.

He gave the analogy of a seagull that flies across the sun alone, without a nest. He then quoted Khalil Gibran to Kalam’s mother, saying that their children were not their own. They were the “sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself”. They “come through” their parents, “but not from” them. Parents may give love to their children, but not their “thoughts”, as children have “their own thoughts”.

(iii) The words he spoke reveal his viewpoint. He believed that at some point of time, children will leave their home and parents, to follow their dreams and to grow as an individual. As his father said to him about  a seagull flying away alone and finding its own food and nest, children will leave their parents to make their own life and family. Parents can give love to their children. They cannot give them their thoughts. The children have their own thoughts.

He spoke these words to comfort Kalam’s mother, who was sad and did not want to let Kalam leave Rameswaram. 

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