Summary and Explanation of My Childhood (Character Sketch and Quick Revision Notes)

Character Sketches from My Childhood

Kalam’s parents: Kalam’s parents, Jainulabdeen and Ashiarruna, were tall and good looking. Though they did not have abundant resources, both of them were very generous and fed a lot of outsiders along with their own family members. Practising the values of honesty and self-discipline, they led a simple life which did not have any place for inessential comforts or luxuries. However, Kalam’s father made sure that all basic necessities were provided for. He was very liberal and didn’t believe in thrusting his thoughts on his children. He had a secular approach and contributed fully during the celebration of Hindu festivals like Shri Sita Rama’s Kalyanam ceremony. Kalam’s mother was ideal support to her husband. She had faith in goodness and was a very kindhearted woman.

Abdul Kalam: A boy of ordinary looks, Abdul Kalam had many sterling qualities right from his childhood. He had immense affection and respect for his parents. He inherited the values of honesty and self-discipline from his father and faith in goodness and deep kindness from his mother. Kalam was an enterprising and a hard-working child. He collected tamarind seeds, when they were in demand, and sold them to earn small yet significant amounts. Very confident of himself, he did every piece of work assigned to him with full dedication. He helped his cousin to catch bundles from the running trains when the train-halt at Rameswaram was suspended during the Second World War. He was also a sensitive child and learnt valuable lessons from his experiences. He learnt early in life that caste-based segregation is a poison that must not be allowed to thrive. Kalam was also progressive and took the decision at the right time to leave his hometown to study further and grow in life.

Sivasubramania Iyer: An orthodox Brahmin, Sivasubramania Iyer, was Kalam’s science teacher in school. He was a very tolerant and broad-minded person. He was a rebel who wished to bring about a transformation in society and was mentally prepared to confront hindrances during this process. He faced challenges even from his own family when his wife refused to serve food to Kalam who had been invited by Iyer himself. But, without losing faith in his belief that caste and religion do not segregate people, he served the child himself. Thus, he reformed his wife not by force but by setting an example. Iyer was also a dedicated teacher who established a good rapport with his students. He encouraged and inspired them as he taught and spent long hours with them.

Summary of My Childhood

Abdul Kalam was born in a middle class Muslim family in Rameshwaram. He had three brothers and one sister. His father was a generous and wise man. His mother was a hospitable lady. They lived in an ancestral house on Mosque Street. His father lived a simple life but provided all necessities to children. His parents were neither much educated nor rich. Yet were generous and kind. Many outsiders ate with the family every day. Kalam inherited the qualities of honesty and self - discipline from his parents.

Kalam was only 8 years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Then there was great demand for tamarind seeds. Abdul used to collect those seeds and sell them in the market His cousin Shamsuddin distributed newspapers and employed him as a helping hand. This way he earned his first wages. He inherited faith in goodness and kindness from his parents.

Kalam's family respected all religions. They took part in the Hindu festivals. His mother and grandmother told stories from the Ramayana and the life of the Prophet to the children at bed time. Kalam had three friends- Ramanandha Sastry, the son of a high priest of the Rameshwaram temple Aravindam and Sivaprakasan. They had different religious backgrounds and upbringing. They never felt any difference among themselves. They adopted different pmfessions when they grew up.

One day when Abdul was in 5th standard at the Rameshwaram Elementary School, a new teacher came to their class. He used to wear a cap, it set him apart as a Muslim Kalam always sat in the front row-next to Ramanandha Sastry, but the teacher could not tolerate a Hindu Priest's son sitting with a Muslim boy. Kalam was asked to sit on the back bench. Both the friends felt very sad and told their parents about the incident after school. Ramanandha's father called the teacher and told him not to spread the poison of communal hatred and social inequality in the minds of innocent children. He told the teacher to either apologize or leave the school and city. The teacher apologized and reformed himself.

Once Abdul's science teacher invited him to dinner at his home. His wife refused to serve Kalam dinner in her kitchen as she believed in religious segregation. The teacher himself served him food and sat beside him to eat his own meal His wife observed from behind the door and did not fund any change in Abdul's behaviour. After dinner, the teacher again invited him to join them next weekend. This time the wife served food inside the kitchen with her own hands. The second world war ended, Kalam asked his father to permit him to go to Ramanthapuram to study. His father knew that Kalam would have to go away to grow up and so he permitted him. He told his hesitant wife that they should give their children their love but not force their thoughts on them.

Quick Revision Notes

  • My Childhood” is an extract taken from the autobiographical book, ‘Wings of Fire’ by A.P.J.Abdul Kalam. Here Dr. Kalam who is one of the greatest scientists of India and also the 14th President of India gives an account of his childhood days. 
  • His journey from a middle-class family in Rameswaram to the President’s house has not been a soomth ride. He worked hard and faced all the challenges of life. 
  • This great scientist and the missile man of India was born in a middle class muslim family in 1931 in the island town of Rameswaram, Tamilnadu. 
  • In his childhood he was greatly influenced by his parents, his teachers and his friends. His father, Jainulabdeen, was not much educated but he was very generous and kind person. 
  • He was not rich but provided a secure childhood to Abdul and his brothers and sisters. Abdul inherited honesty and self discipline from his father and faith in goodness and deep kindness from his mother.
  • Kalam earned his first wages by working as a helping hand to his cousin, Samsuddin, who distributed newspapers in Rameswaram.
  • In his childhood he had three close friends- Ramanadha Sastry,Aravindam and Sivaprakashan. Once when he was in fifth standard, a new teacher asked him not to sit in the front row along with the high caste Brahmin boys. Abdul found Ramanadha Sastry weeping as he went to the last row. This made a lasting impression on Abdul.
  • Abdul was also greatly influenced by his science teacher, Sivasubramania Iyer. He learnt the lesson of breaking social barriers from him. Iyer invited him to his home for a meal.
  • His wife was an orthodox Brahmin who refused to serve food to a muslim boy in her so called ritually pure kitchen. 
  • Iyer served him with his own hand and sat down beside him to eat his meal. He convinced his wife to serve meal with her own hands and thus was successful in changing the conservative attitude of his wife.
  • For higher education he sought permission from his father to leave Rameswaram and study at the district headquartes in Ramanathapuram. 
  • He said, “Abdul! I know you have to go away to grow. Does the seagull not fly across the sun, alone and without a nest?” To his hesitant mother, quoting Khalil Gibran, he said, “Your children are not your children. 
  • They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts.”
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