Thinking about the Text

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

(i) He mentions two social groups of Rameshwaram – orthodox Brahmins and Muslims. Yes, these groups were easily identifiable. For example, by the way they dressed; Kalam wore a cap which marked him as a Muslim. Ramanadha Sastry wore a seared thread which marked him a Hindu.

(ii) No, they were not only aware of their differences but also they naturally shared friendships and experiences.
Kalam’s mother and grandmother would tell the children of his family bedtime stories about the events from the Ramayana and from the life of the prophet. During the Shri Sita Rama Kalyanam ceremony, his family used to arrange boats with a special platform for carrying idols of the Lord from the temple to the marriage site, situated in the middle of the pond called Rama Tirtha which was near his house.

(iii) The people who were very aware of the differences among them, were the young teacher who joined the Rameshwaram elementary school and came to teach Kalam’s class, the fifth standard; and his science teacher’s conservative wife who refused to serve Kalam in her ritually pull kitchen. Those who tried to bridge these differences were Kalam’s science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer who invited, served and dined with him to break social barriers so that people could mingle easily; and Lakshmana Sastry who conveyed the strong sense of conviction to the new young teacher to reform him.

(iv) The first incident to show that how differences can be created is that when the new young teacher found a Muslim student sitting beside a Hindu student, he asked Kalam to sit in the last raw. His friend Ramanadha Sastry was heartbreaken. They informed their respective parents Lakshmana Sastry summoned the teacher and conveyed the strong sense of conviction which ultimately reformed him.
The other incident shows that how differences can be resolved. The author’s science teacher, Sivasubramania Iyer, though an orthodox Brahmin with a very conservative tried to bridge these differences.
People can change their attitudes by observing no difference in the way of Hindu’s and a Muslim’s eating of meals, drinking of water and cleaning of the floor.