English CBSE Class 10 NCERT First Flight Chapter 2 Nelson Mandela Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words



TENTH May dawned bright and clear. For the past few days I had been pleasantly besieged by dignitaries and world leaders who were coming to pay their respects before the inauguration. The inauguration would be the largest gathering ever of international leaders on South African soil.


Word Meaning
Dawned Began,
Besieged Closely surrounded
Dignitary Important Person, VIP
Gathering Meeting, Assembly


Tenth May morning had good sunshine and the sky was clear. I was happy to be surrounded by dignitaries and world leader since last few days. [Means that so many people had come to meet me]. They were coming to meet me before the inauguration. During inauguration ever highest number of international leaders would come to South Africa. [Inauguration is the day Nelson Mandela was sworn in as President of South Africa. It is 10th May 1994]



The ceremonies took place in the lovely sandstone amphitheatre formed by the Union Buildings in Pretoria.


Word Meaning
Amphitheatre Big indoor or outdoor stadium
Took place Conducted, Occurred
Sandstone Type of stone
Pretoria Capital of South Africa
Union Buildings Office of President of South Africa


The ceremonies were conducted in a beautiful stadium made of sandstone. The amphitheater was built between Union Buildings in Pretoria.

For decades this had been the seat of white supremacy, and now it was the site of a rainbow gathering of different colours and nations for the installation of South Africa’s first democratic, non-racial government.


Word Meaning
Decade Ten years
Site Place
Supremacy Being powerful, Authority
Race Group of people of similar colour of skin
Non-racial Without considering colour of skin


For several sets of ten years, the amphitheater has been considered as the seat of supremacy of white people. Today people of different colours and nations have assembled. Therefore it is looking like a rainbow. [Rainbow gathering also means a temporary gathering of people for a short duration] They have come here on the occasion of first democratic and non-racial government of South Africa.



On that lovely autumn day I was accompanied by my daughter Zenani. On the podium, Mr. de Klerk was first sworn in as second deputy president. Then Thabo Mbeki was sworn in as first deputy president.


Word Meaning
Lovely Pleasant
Accompany To be with
Podium Platform


On that pleasant day of autumn, my daughter Zenani was with me. From the platform, first Mr. de Klerk took oath as second deputy president. Then Thabo Mbeki took oath as the first deputy president.

When it was my turn, I pledged to obey and uphold the Constitution and to devote myself to the wellbeing of the Republic and its people. To the assembled guests and the watching world, I said:


Word Meaning
Pledged Promised
Uphold Maintain, Respect
Devote To work whole heartedly


Then it was my turn to take oath. I promised to obey and respect the Constitution and to devote myself for the benefit of the Country and its people. I said following to the world watching the ceremony and to the guests who had come there –

Today, all of us do, by our presence here… confer glory and hope to newborn liberty. Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.


Word Meaning
Confer Give to, Award to
Glory Honour, Fame
Liberty Freedom
Disaster Event that results in great damage
Humanity Mankind


By being present here, we all are giving honour and hope to newly born freedom. From the previous long experience of extraordinary destruction of mankind, a new society should emerge. This new society should be such that mankind is proud of it.

We, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil.


Word Meaning
Outlaws Person banned from society
Rare Unique, Uncommon
Host Who receives guest
On our soil In our country
Privilege Advantage, Honour


Till recent past, we were banned from society. But today we have the unique honour of receiving guests from nations of the world in our country.

We thank all of our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession with the people of our country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity.


Word Meaning
Distinguished Famous, Respectable,
Take possession with Share, Celebrate
Dignity Honour, Respect


We thank all our respected guests for coming to our country to share and celebrate with people our country. After all this (democratic government in South Africa) is victory of justice and peace for the respect of whole humankind across the world.

We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.


Word Meaning
Emancipation Freedom, Liberty
Bondage Slavery, Being slave
Liberate To make free
Deprivation Non-availability, Not having something
Discrimination Inequality, Unfairness


Finally we have achieved our political freedom. [Means we can select our own government]. We promise to free our people from slavery of poverty, non-availability of essential facilities, suffering, gender and other inequalities. These have been continuing since a long time.

Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!


Word Meaning
Oppression Injustice, Exploitation
Reign To rule, To govern
Sun will never set It will never end, Something permanent
Glorious Famous, Big


In this beautiful land of South Africa nobody will ever do injustice or cruelty to another person. [Means that all people will be considered equal]. This big glorious achievement will always be shining. [This achievement is permanent]. Freedom shall be the rule of the country. Let God give his blessings to South Africa.

A few moments later we all lifted our eyes in awe as a spectacular array of South African jets, helicopters and troop carriers roared in perfect formation over the Union Buildings.


Word Meaning
Awe Wonder, Amazement
Array Series
Spectacular Fantastic
Jets Planes
Formation Arrangement


After few moments we all looked in the sky in amazement. We saw a fantastic series of South African fighter planes, helicopters and planes for carrying soldiers. These were flying in perfect arrangement in the sky over Union Buildings. Sound of these planes and helicopter was thundering the sky. [sound was very loud]

It was not only a display of pinpoint precision and military force, but a demonstration of the military’s loyalty to democracy, to a new government that had been freely and fairly elected.


Word Meaning
Display Exhibition, Show
Pinpoint Exact
Precision Accuracy
Freely and fairly Without pressure and in right way


This was not the show of exact accuracy and military power. It was to show that military is loyal to democracy and to the new government. The government that has been freely and fairly elected.

Only moments before, the highest generals of the South African defence force and police, their chests bedecked with ribbons and medals from days gone by, saluted me and pledged their loyalty.


Word Meaning
Generals Officers
Bedecked Decorated
Days gone by Earlier period of time


Before that air show, highest officers of South African defence forces and of police saluted me and promised their loyalty. Their chests were decorated with ribbons and medal they had won earlier.

I was not unmindful of the fact that not so many years before they would not have saluted but arrested me. Finally a chevron of Impala jets left a smoke trail of the black, red, green, blue and gold of the new South African flag.


Word Meaning
Unmindful Unaware
Chevron V shaped formation
Trail Line


I was aware of the fact that many years before they did not salute me. During those days they would have arrested me. Finally jets in V formation flew. Because of their colourful smoke lines were made in the sky. Their smoke were of black, red, green, blue and golden colours. These are the colours of national flag of South Africa.

The day was symbolised for me by the playing of our two national anthems, and the vision of whites singing ‘Nkosi Sikelel –iAfrika’ and blacks singing ‘Die Stem’, the old anthem of the Republic.


Word Meaning
Symbolised for me Became memorable for me


The day became memorable for me because our both the national anthems were played. The white people sang ‘Nkosi Sikelel –iAfrika’. And black people sang ‘Die Stem’, which is the old national anthem of the country.

[During earlier period of white rule, South Africa had ‘Nkosi Sikelel –iAfrika’ as their national anthem. Blacks did not accept this. They declared ‘Die Stem’ as their national anthem. After end of apartheid rule these two national anthems used to be sung at every occasion. In 1997 these two were combined with other lines to make one national anthem for South Africa.]

Although that day neither group knew the lyrics of the anthem they once despised, they would soon know the words by heart.


Word Meaning
Lyrics Wordings
Despised Hated
Know by heart Memorise


That day any of the groups (whites and blacks) did not know wordings of anthem of another group. They had hated the anthem of another group. I was sure that soon they would memorise words of both anthems.

On the day of the inauguration, I was overwhelmed with a sense of history. In the first decade of the twentieth century, a few years after the bitter Anglo-Boer war and before my own birth, the white-skinned peoples of South Africa patched up their differences and erected a system of racial domination against the dark-skinned peoples of their own land.


Word Meaning
Overwhelmed Affected, Impressed
Bitter war Fierce war, Severe war
Patched up Became friends
Domination Supremacy


On the day of the inauguration, history of South Africa came to my mind. I was deeply affected by the history. After many years, war between people of England and Boer (a white community in South Africa) ended. This had happened before Nelson Mandela was born. In the first 10 years of twentieth century (1900 to 1910) people from these two communities of white people became friends. They organized a system so that white people will have supremacy over black people of their own country of South Africa.

The structure they created formed the basis of one of the harshest, most inhumane, societies the world has ever known.


Word Meaning
Harshest Most cruel
Inhumane Without human values


The system created by these two white communities resulted into one of the most cruel society in the world. This system did not care for human values.

Now, in the last decade of the twentieth century, and my own eighth decade as a man, that system had been overturned forever and replaced by one that recognised the rights and freedoms of all peoples, regardless of the colour of their skin.


Word Meaning
Overturned Changed, Withdrawn
Regardless of Without considering, Irrespective of


Now in the last decade of twentieth century (1990 to 2000), and during eighth decade (80 to 90) of my age, this system has been changed forever. The new system will provide rights and freedom to every person without considering colour of their skin.

That day had come about through the unimaginable sacrifices of thousands of my people, people whose suffering and courage can never be counted or repaid.


Word Meaning
Unimaginable Beyond imagination, Great


This day of change has come because of great sacrifice of thousands of my people. Their great suffering and courage can never be understood or repaid.

I felt that day, as I have on so many other days that I was simply the sum of all those African patriots who had gone before me. That long and noble line ended and now began again with me. I was pained that I was not able to thank them and that they were not able to see what their sacrifices had wrought.


Word Meaning
Sum of all those Representative of them
Patriotic One who loves his country, Nationalist
Line Chain of ancestors and family
Pained Became sad
Wrought Emerged,


Similar to other days, that day also I felt that I was merely a representative of those patriot people of Africa who had died earlier. Those ancestors have died. And a new chain of family has started from people of this era. I was sad because I could not thank them. And they are not able to witness the change that has come because of their sacrifice.

The policy of apartheid created a deep and lasting wound in my country and my people. All of us will spend many years, if not generations, recovering from that profound hurt.


Word Meaning
Deep and lasting Big and permanent
Profound Very big, Great
Hurt Injury, Damage


The policy of apartheid created a big and permanent damage to my country and my people. We will need to spend many years, if not generations, to recover from that great damage.

But the decades of oppression and brutality had another, unintended, effect, and that was that it produced the Oliver Tambos, the Walter Sisulus, the Chief Luthulis, the Yusuf Dadoos, the Bram Fischers, the Robert Sobukwes of our time — men of such extraordinary courage, wisdom and generosity that their like may never be known again.


Word Meaning
Oppression Injustice, Exploitation
Brutality Cruelty
Unintended Unplanned, Undesirable
Generosity Kindness


But long period of injustice and cruelty had another unplanned (by the white community) effect. The effect was that many people of extraordinary courage, wisdom and kindness emerged. [Names of such prominent people are mentioned in the text.] Such people can never be born again.

Perhaps it requires such depths of oppression to create such heights of character. My country is rich in the minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil, but I have always known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than the purest diamonds.


Word Meaning
Characters Persons, Personality
Beneath Below
Finer and truer Better and more valuable


Probably such a large injustice is necessary for emergence of such great persons. My country has vast amount of minerals and gems below the surface of its ground. But our greatest wealth is people of my country. I always believe that people of my country are better and more valuable than the purest diamonds.

It is from these comrades in the struggle that I learned the meaning of courage. Time and again, I have seen men and women risk and give their lives for an idea.


Word Meaning
Comrades Colleagues
Time and again Repeatedly, Many times


In the struggle for equality, I have understood meaning of courage from these colleagues. Many times I have seen that men and women had sacrificed their life for an idea or a cause.

I have seen men stand up to attacks and torture without breaking, showing a strength and resilience that defies the imagination.


Word Meaning
Stand up to Oppose and fight
Resilience Tolerance, Toughness
Breaking Accepting defeat
Defies imagination Beyond imagination


I have seen men oppose and fight against attacks and torture without withdrawing or accepting defeat. They show strength, toughness and tolerance that is beyond imagination.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.


Word Meaning
Triumph Victory, Win
Conquer Win, Overcome


I have understood that courage is not the absence of fear but it is the victory over fear. A brave person is the not the one who is not afraid but the one who overcomes his fear.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Nobody at his birth knows to hate people because of colour of skin or background or religion. People learn these things afterwards. If they can learn to hate, we can teach them to love each other. Because love can be understood more easily than to hate.

Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.


Word Meaning
Grimmest Most difficult
Pushed to limits Beyond normal tolerance
Glimmer Ray of hope, Shine
Reassure To give confidence
Keep going To continue to make efforts
Extinguish To end or destroy


During the most difficult times I and my colleagues were tortured beyond our normal tolerance level. Even during that time, I used to see a hope of humanity in eyes of one of the guards. Probably it used be just for a second. But it gave me some confidence and I continued my efforts. Good nature of a person is just like a flame that one can hide but it can never be destroyed.

In life, every man has twin obligations — obligations to his family, to his parents, to his wife and children; and he has an obligation to his people, his community, his country.


Word Meaning
Twin Two things at a time
Obligation Responsibility


Every person has two responsibility. The first responsibility is towards family. The family consists of his parents, his wife and his children. The second responsibility is towards people of his country, his people and his community.

In a civil and humane society, each man is able to fulfil those obligations according to his own inclinations and abilities. But in a country like South Africa, it was almost impossible for a man of my birth and colour to fulfil both of those obligations.


Word Meaning
Civil Cultured, Democratic
Humane Of human values
Inclination Choice


In a democratic society that believes in human values, every person can fulfill both obligations. He can do so according to his choice and abilities. But in the country of South Africa, people of my age and my colour could not fulfill these responsibilities. It was impossible.

In South Africa, a man of colour who attempted to live as a human being was punished and isolated. In South Africa, a man who tried to fulfil his duty to his people was inevitably ripped from his family and his home and was forced to live a life apart, a twilight existence of secrecy and rebellion.


Word Meaning
Isolated Arrested
Inevitably Certainly
Ripped Separated
Twilight existence Gradually die
Rebellion One who revolts


In South Africa if a black person tried to live as a normal human being, he was punished and arrested. In South Africa if a black person tried to fulfil his duty towards his community he would certainly be separated from his family and his home. He would be considered a rebellion and no information about him would be given to his family. He would ultimately die.

I did not in the beginning choose to place my people above my family, but in attempting to serve my people, I found that I was prevented from fulfilling my obligations as a son, a brother, a father and a husband.

Initially I did not select to consider people of my community above my family. But later when I started to help my people, I was stopped from fulfilling my responsibilities of a son, brother, father and husband.

I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free — free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of slow-moving bulls.


Word Meaning
Hunger Strong desire
Roast Cook by putting in fire
Mealie Corn


I did not have a strong desire to gain freedom during my childhood. I was a free person to do anything during my childhood. I was free to run around the field near our hut. I was free to swim in a river that was going through our village. I had the freedom to roast corn in the open sky. I was free to ride on the strong back of bulls which moved slowly.

As long as I obeyed my father and abided by the customs of my tribe, I was not troubled by the laws of man or God.


Word Meaning
Abided Followed, Adhered,
Customs Traditions, Conventions


Till I obeyed my father and followed traditions of my community, I did not have trouble from people, law or God.

It was only when I began to learn that my boyhood freedom was an illusion, when I discovered as a young man that my freedom had already been taken from me, that I began to hunger for it.


Word Meaning
Illusion Fantasy, Deception


But later I understood that freedom of my childhood was merely a deception. When I became a young person, I came to know that my freedom had already been taken away. Then I started feeling a strong desire to gain freedom.

At first, as a student, I wanted freedom only for myself, the transitory freedoms of being able to stay out at night, read what I pleased and go where I chose.


Word Meaning
Transitory Temporary, Occasional
Pleased Liked


Initially, as a student, I wanted freedom only for myself. The occasional freedom to go out of my house during night, to read what I liked and to go where I wanted to go.

Later, as a young man in Johannesburg, I yearned for the basic and honourable freedoms of achieving my potential, of earning my keep, of marrying and having a family — the freedom not to be obstructed in a lawful life.


Word Meaning
Yearn Strongly desire, Intense feeling
Potential Future, Ability
My keep Money required for living


When I became young I started living in Johannesburg. I strongly wanted to have some simple and honuorable freedoms. I wanted the freedom to achieve my potential and to earn money for living. I wanted the freedom to marry and have a family. I wanted the freedom that nobody should obstruct me when I was following all the laws.

But then I slowly saw that not only was I not free, but my brothers and sisters were not free. I saw that it was not just my freedom that was curtailed, but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did.


Word Meaning
Curtailed Restricted, Limited


But gradually I understood that I was not free. My brothers and sisters were also not free. Not only my freedom was restricted but the freedom of every black person was restricted. [He was black. So everybody who looked like him means every black person]

That is when I joined the African National Congress, and that is when the hunger for my own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people.

After realizing this, I joined African National Congress. Then the desire for my own freedom got converted into the larger desire for freedom of every one of my community.

It was this desire for the freedom of my people to live their lives with dignity and self-respect that animated my life, that transformed a frightened young man into a bold one, that drove a law-abiding attorney to become a criminal, that turned a family-loving husband into a man without a home, that forced a life-loving man to live like a monk.


Word Meaning
Animated my life Became goal of my life
Transformed Changed
Frightened Afraid, Scared
Attorney Lawyer
Law abiding Follower of law
Forced Compelled


The desire of achieving freedom for my people to live their life with honour and self-respect became goal of my life. This changed me from a scared person into a bold person. From a lawful lawyer I changed to a criminal, from a family loving husband into a homeless man. This compelled a person who loved his life to live like a monk.

I am no more virtuous or self-sacrificing than the next man, but I found that I could not even enjoy the poor and limited freedoms I was allowed when I knew my people were not free.


Word Meaning
Virtuous Expert, Genius


I am not better or a self-sacrificing person than any other ordinary person. But I could not enjoy the limited freedom allowed to me because I knew that my people did not have freedom.

Freedom is indivisible; the chains on anyone of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.


Word Meaning
Chains Restrictions


Freedom cannot be given to only some people. Restrictions on any one of my people were restrictions on every one of my people. And I considered restriction on all my people as restrictions on me.

I knew that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrowmindedness.


Word Meaning
Oppressor One who does injustice
Oppressed One who suffers injustice, Sufferer
Prejudice Wrong thinking
Narrowmindedness Not ready to consider other opinions, Intolerance


I knew that same as oppressed needs to gain freedom, the oppressor also needs to become free in his mind. A person who takes away freedom of another person is himself a prisoner of hate. He has locked himself behind wrong thinking and his own thoughts.

I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.


Word Meaning
Robbed of Taken away, Snatched


I do not have freedom if I take away freedom of somebody else. This is certainly similar to not being free when my own freedom is taken away. The oppressor and oppressed both are without human values.




He stalks in his vivid stripes

The few steps of his cage,

On pads of velvet quiet,

In his quiet rage.


Word Meaning
Stalks Walks
Vivid Bright, Fascinating, Clear
Stripes Lines
Velvet Type of soft cloth
Quiet Silent
Rage Anger
Poetic Devices
He stalks Personification
in his vivid stripes Assonance
on pads of velvet Metaphor
stalks in his vivid stripes Consonance
Quiet rage Oxymoron


The poet has used ‘he’ in the poem for the tiger who is in the cage of a zoo.

The tiger has bright stripes on his body. He walks in cage. But he can take only a few steps because space in his cage is limited. The pads in his feet are soft like velvet so his walking does not produce any sound. He is angry but silent.

He should be lurking in shadow,

Sliding through long grass

Near the water hole

Where plump deer pass.


Word Meaning
Lurking Hiding to attack
Sliding Moving slowly
Water hole Source of water like a stream
Plump Fat
Poetic Devices
plump deer pass Alliteration


He should be in a jungle, hiding in a shadow to hunt for a prey. He should be moving in long grass so that he is not easily seen. He should be hiding near a source of water (like a river or a lake) where fat deer come to drink water.

He should be snarling around houses

At the jungle’s edge,

Baring his white fangs, his claws,

Terrorising the village!


Word Meaning
Snarling Growling
Baring Showing
Fangs Teeth
Terrorise To frighten
Claws Nails of animal or bird
Poetic Devices
snarling around houses Onomatopoeia
around houses Assonance
baring his white fangs his claws Assonance
his white fangs his claws Consonance
his white fangs his claws Repetition


He should be in the jungle and snarling around houses situated at the edge of the jungle. While snarling he would show his white teeth and claws. This would frighten the villagers.

But he’s locked in a concrete cell,

His strength behind bars,

Stalking the length of his cage,

Ignoring visitors.


Word Meaning
Cell A small room
Behind bars In prison, Arrested, Restricted
Poetic Devices
he’s locked Personification
his strength behind bars Consonance
behind bars Alliteration


But the tiger is locked in small room made of concrete. His strength is arrested. [He cannot use his strength]. He walks within available space of his cage. He ignores all the visitors. [He does not look at visitors]

He hears the last voice at night,

The patrolling cars,

And stares with his brilliant eyes

At the brilliant stars.


Word Meaning
Patrolling cars Vehicle used for taking rounds
Stare Look intently
Brilliant Shining
Poetic Devices
he hears Alliteration
with his brilliant eyes Assonance


The tiger in the cage hears last voice in the night. [When visitors are gone, there is no sound of people] In the night he hears the sound of vehicle of zoo that come to take round of the zoo. Through the gate of his cage he looks at the shining star through his shining eyes. [He is feeling bad that he is not free]

Detailed Explanation

The poet is trying to compare condition of a tiger kept in zoo with a tiger who lives in jungle. The tiger in zoo is just like being in a prison. While the tiger in a jungle has freedom.

Poet says that the tiger kept in a zoo in not happy. His movements are highly limited. He is very sad. He cannot express his anger.

If the tiger would have been in jungle he would have lived his natural life. He would have hunted animals by himself. He would have frightened people. But in the cage he cannot hunt. Nobody is afraid of him. The tiger does not like this condition.

Since the tiger is kept in a cage he is not able to use his strength. In his sadness he walks in the cage. He does not look at his surroundings and visitors.

When all the visitors are gone there is no sound around him except that of patrolling cars. From cage of the gate he looks at the shining star. He yearns for his freedom. He would have enjoyed the nature if he were in the jungle.

Poet wants to give the message that it is un-natural to keep animals in the zoo. Poet is against keeping animals the zoo.


Important Links
Nelson Mandela – Textbook Q&A Nelson Mandela – Extra Q&A
Two Stories about Flying – Explanation A Letter to God – Explanation
Two Stories about Flying – Textbook Q&A A Letter to God – Textbook Q&A
Two Stories about Flying – Extra Q&A A Letter to God – Extra Q&A
Re-arrange Exercises Error Finding Exercises
Active-Passive Rules Gap Filling Exercises
Passages Direct-Indirect Speech Rules
Story Writing Tips Letter Writing



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