English CBSE Class 12 NCERT Vistas Chapter 8 Memories of Childhood Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words



I. The Cutting of My Long Hair

The first day in the land of apples was a bitter-cold one; for the snow still covered the ground, and the trees were bare.

Word Meaning
Land of Apples Area where apples are grown in abundance
Land of Apples Place that has restriction
Bare Without snow

Author (Zitkala-Sa) says that the place (boarding school) had so many restriction. She felt very cold because there was snow on the ground. Snow on tress had melted. She had some bitter experiences on the very first day.

A large bell rang for breakfast, its loud metallic voice crashing through the belfry overhead and into our sensitive ears.

Word Meaning
Belfry Place where bell is installed
Sensitive Easily affected

A large bell started ringing. The bell was installed on the upper floor. Its loud voice of metal came from the place where bell was installed. The sound was very loud for our soft ears.



The annoying clatter of shoes on bare floors gave us no peace.

Word Meaning
Clatter Sound of objects striking against each other
Bare floor Floor without carpet

There was sound of footsteps on the floor. [Many people were walking] The floor did not have carpet so the sound was a bit loud. It was a disturbing sound. [Zitkala has been sent to new place to stay]

The constant clash of harsh noises, with an undercurrent of many voices murmuring an unknown tongue, made a bedlam within which I was securely tied. And though my spirit tore itself in struggling for its lost freedom, all was useless.

Word Meaning
Undercurrent In the background
Unknown tongue Unknown language
Bedlam Confusion, Disturbance
Murmuring Low voices, Whispering
My spirit tore itself I tried my best

Many harsh voices were being spoken together. In the background many people were speaking a language not known to me. [Here ‘me’ refers to Zitkala ]. I could not move away from confusion and disturbance created by these voices. I tried my best to regain my freedom but the struggle was useless.

A paleface woman, with white hair, came up after us. We were placed in a line of girls who were marching into the dining room. These were Indian girls, in stiff shoes and closely clinging dresses.

Word Meaning
Paleface woman White woman
Come up To walk, To move towards
Stiff shoes Hard shoes
Closely clinging dresses Tight fitting clothes

A white woman who had white hair was walking behind us. We all were asked to walk in a line to the dining room. All other girls were Indian girls. Their shoes were hard. They were wearing tight fitting clothes.



The small girls wore sleeved aprons and shingled hair. As I walked noiselessly in my soft moccasins, I felt like sinking to the floor, for my blanket had been stripped from my shoulders.

Word Meaning
Shingled hair Boy cut hair, Short hair
Moccasins Shoes with soft sole
Sinking to the floor Feel ashamed
Blanket Dupatta, Scarf
Stripped Removed

The small girls were wearing an apron which had long sleeves. Their hairs were cut in the style of boy’s hair. Zitkala was wearing her moccasins, so her steps were not making any noise. She was feeling ashamed because her scarf was removed from her shoulders.

I looked hard at the Indian girls, who seemed not to care that they were even more immodestly dressed than I, in their tightly fitting clothes. While we marched in, the boys entered at an opposite door.

Word Meaning
Immodest Indecent

I stared at the Indian girls. They were not bothered that their dress of tight fitting clothes looked  more indecent that my dress.. While we marched into the dining room, the boys came from the opposite side door.

I watched for the three young braves who came in our party. I spied them in the rear ranks, looking as uncomfortable as I felt. A small bell was tapped, and each of the pupils drew a chair from under the table.

Word Meaning
Young braves Young boys
Rear ranks Back rows
Drew Pulled

I looked at the three young boys who had come to the dining room. They were standing in the back rows. I secretly looked at them and noticed that they were also equally uncomfortable. A bell was tapped. Each pupil pulled a chair from under the table.



Supposing this act meant they were to be seated, I pulled out mine and at once slipped into it from one side. But when I turned my head, I saw that I was the only one seated, and all the rest at our table remained standing.

I imagined that after pulling the chair everybody would sit in the chair. So I pulled my chair and immediately sat on it. But when I looked around, I noticed that I was the only person sitting. Everybody else at my table were still standing.

Just as I began to rise, looking shyly around to see how chairs were to be used, a second bell was sounded. All were seated at last, and I had to crawl back into my chair again.

Word Meaning
Shyly Nervously
Crawl Move slowly

I started getting up from my chair. I nervously looked at others to understand how chairs were to be used. Then a second bell rang. Now everybody sat on chairs. Slowly I also got back to my chair and sat.

I heard a man’s voice at one end of the hall, and I looked around to see him. But all the others hung their heads over their plates.

I heard voice of a man. He was standing at one end of the hall. I turned to look at him. But all other pupils bent their heads to look at their plates.



As I glanced at the long chain of tables, I caught the eyes of a paleface woman upon me. Immediately I dropped my eyes, wondering why I was so keenly watched by the strange woman.

Word Meaning
Glanced Looked
Caught the eyes Made eye contact
Dropped my eyes Looked away, Looked down
Wondering Not understanding
Keenly Carefully

When I looked around, I observed that there were many rows of tables. I made an eye contact with a white woman. Immediately I moved my eyes away from her eyes. I did not understand why an unknown woman was so carefully watching me.

The man ceased his mutterings, and then a third bell was tapped. Every one picked up his knife and fork and began eating. I began crying instead, for by this time I was afraid to venture anything more.

Word Meaning
Mutterings Whispers, Words not understood
Venture To understand, To do

The man stopped whatever he was whispering. A third bell was sounded. Everyone picked knife and fork and started eating. But Zitkala started crying. Because now she did not want to understand or do anything more.

But this eating by formula was not the hardest trial in that first day. Late in the morning, my friend Judewin gave me a terrible warning. Judewin knew a few words of English; and she had overheard the paleface woman talk about cutting our long, heavy hair.

Word Meaning
Overhear To hear without knowledge of speaker

But these rules of eating were not the toughest thing to happen on the first day at the school. Before noon time, her friend Judewin gave Zitkala a horrible information. Judewin knew some words of English. She had heard the white woman talking about cutting our long and thick hair.

Our mothers had taught us that only unskilled warriors who were captured had their hair shingled by the enemy. Among our people, short hair was worn by mourners, and shingled hair by cowards!

We had understood from our mothers that sometimes an enemy would capture an unskilled or coward soldier. Then they would trim hair of the captured soldier. In the community of Zitkala, hair were cut very short when somebody died in their family. And only cowards had their hair trimmed.



We discussed our fate some moments, and when Judewin said, “We have to submit, because they are strong,” I rebelled. “No, I will not submit! I will struggle first!” I answered.

Word Meaning
Fate Destiny, Luck
Rebel To revolted, To oppose
Struggle To make effort

The two friends Zitkala and Judewin talked about their destiny for some time. Then Judewin said they will have to accept their orders because those people are powerful. I decided to oppose. I said that I would not accept. I will first make an effort to not to accept.

I watched my chance, and when no one noticed, I disappeared. I crept up the stairs as quietly as I could in my squeaking shoes, — my moccasins had been exchanged for shoes.

Word Meaning
Chance Opportunity
Squeak To make a shrill voice

I waited for an opportunity. When no one was looking at me, I hid myself. My moccasins were already taken away and I was given shoes to wear. These shoes made sound while I walked. I silently walked up the stair case. As silently as my squeaking shoes allowed.

Along the hall I passed, without knowing whither I was going. Turning aside to an open door, I found a large room with three white beds in it.

Word Meaning
Whither Where
Turn aside to To move towards

Then I crossed the hall. I did not know where I was going. I moved towards a door in the hall. Through this door I entered into a large room. This room had three white beds in it.



The windows were covered with dark green curtains, which made the room very dim. Thankful that no one was there, I directed my steps toward the corner farthest from the door.

Word Meaning
Dim Having less light
Farthest At the greatest distance

Dark green curtains were put on windows of this room. Therefore this room had less light. I felt happy that no one was in the room. I moved to corner which had greatest distance from the door.

On my hands and knees I crawled under the bed, and huddled myself in the dark corner. From my hiding place I peered out, shuddering with fear whenever I heard footsteps nearby.

Word Meaning
Huddle Lie with hands and legs close to body
Peer Stare, To look intently
Shuddering Shivering, Trembling

I crawled on my hands and knees. I went under the bed. I put my hands and legs close to my body and lay under the bed. From there I was staring outside. I would start trembling because of fear when sounds of footsteps were close to me.

Though in the hall loud voices were calling my name, and I knew that even Judewin was searching for me, I did not open my mouth to answer.

In the hall many people were calling my name loudly. Judewin was also searching for me. But I did not open my mouth to answer anyone’s call.

Then the steps were quickened and the voices became excited. The sounds came nearer and nearer. Women and girls entered the room.

After sometime it appeared that people were moving quickly. The voices were more anxious. The sounds of steps and of people started coming nearer to Zitkala. Many women and girls entered the room where Zitkala was hiding.



I held my breath and watched them open closet doors and peep behind large trunks. Someone threw up the curtains, and the room was filled with sudden light.

Word Meaning
Closet Almira
Trunks Boxes

Zitkala started breathing slowly. She saw that they opened doors of almira. They looked behind trunks. Somebody raised the curtains up. The room was suddenly full of light.

What caused them to stoop and look under the bed I do not know. I remember being dragged out, though I resisted by kicking and scratching wildly.

Word Meaning
Stoop To bend down
Wildly Vigorously

They bent down and looked under the bed. I do not why they did so. Zitkala was pulled out. She resisted being pulled out. She started kicking her legs and started scratching vigourously.

Inspite of myself, I was carried downstairs and tied fast in a chair.

Word Meaning
Inspite of myself Against my wish
Downstairs Lower floor
Tied fast Tied tightly

Against my wish, I was carried to the lower floor. I was tightly tied in a chair.

I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit.

Word Meaning
Gnaw off Cut slowly
Spirit Courage

I cried loudly. I was shaking my head while crying. Then I felt blades of scissors on back of neck. I stopped crying. I heard the sound of scissors. It had slowly cut one of my braids. Then I lost my courage.

Since the day I was taken from my mother I had suffered extreme indignities. People had stared at me. I had been tossed about in the air like a wooden puppet.

Word Meaning
Indignities Insults, Humiliations

I had suffered extreme insults since I moved away from my mother. People started staring at me. [Meaning they scolded her]. They gave her orders without considering her own desire. [Meaning others were ordering her what to do and how to behave]

And now my long hair was shingled like a coward’s! In my anguish I moaned for my mother, but no one came to comfort me.

Word Meaning
Anguish Grief, Torture, Sadness
Moaned Called in a low painful voice
Comfort To console, To support

Now my hair were also trimmed just like that of a coward. In my sadness I slowly called my mother. But nobody came to support me.

Not a soul reasoned quietly with me, as my own mother used to do; for now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder.

Word Meaning
Not a soul Nobody
Reasoned quietly Talked peacefully
Herder One who keeps animals

My mother used to talk to me peacefully. Only my mother used to talk to me in this fashion. But here not even one person talked to me without shouting at me. Because I was considered one of many small animals and the herder used to order.

II. We Too are Human Beings

When I was studying in the third class, I hadn’t yet heard people speak openly of untouchability. But I had already seen, felt, experienced and been humiliated by what it is.

During the days I was studying in third standard, people did not openly talk about untouchability. But I had already seen it, felt it, experienced it. I was humiliated by untouchability at that age itself.

I was walking home from school one day, an old bag hanging from my shoulder. It was actually possible to walk the distance in ten minutes. But usually it would take me thirty minutes at the very least to reach home.

Word Meaning
At the very least Minimum

I was walking back from the school. I had an old bag hanging from my shoulder. It was possible to walk from school to home in ten minutes. Normally I used to take minimum thirty minutes to reach home.

It would take me from half an hour to an hour to dawdle along, watching all the fun and games that were going on, all the entertaining novelties and oddities is the streets, the shops and the bazaar.

Word Meaning
Dawdle To walk slowly
Entertaining Interesting
Novelties New, Unique
Oddities Strange, Peculiar

But I used to take between half an hour to one hour to slowly walk to home. I used to watch all the funny things and games on the streets. I used to look at every interesting thing new or peculiar in the shops and bazars.

The performing monkey; the snake which the snakecharmer kept in its box and displayed from time to time;

The monkey jumping and walking according to orders of its master. The snakecharmer kept snake in a box. He displayed it from time to time

the cyclist who had not got off his bike for three days, and who kept pedalling as hard as he could from break of day; the rupee notes that were pinned on to his shirt to spur him on;

Word Meaning
Break of the day Start of the day
Spur on To motivate, To encourage

the cyclist who had not got down from his cycle for three days and he was riding the cycle since start of the day, rupee notes pinned on his shirt by some onlookers motivated him

the spinning wheels; the Maariyaata temple, the huge bell hanging there; the pongal offerings being cooked in front of the temple; the dried fish stall by the statue of Gandhi;

Word Meaning
Offering Prasaad
Stall Small shop
Pongal A festival

the moving wheel; the huge bell in the Maariyaata temple, the ‘prasaad’ being cooked in front of the temple ; the shop of dry fish near statue of Gandhi;

the sweet stall, the stall selling fried snacks, and all the other shops next to each other; the street light always demonstrating how it could change from blue to violet;

the shop selling sweets, the shop selling fried snacks and all other shops adjacent to each other; the street light showing its colour change from blue to violet

the narikkuravan huntergypsy with his wild lemur in cages, selling needles, clay beads and instruments for cleaning out the ears —

Word Meaning
Narikkuravan A community in Tamil Nadu
Huntergypsies Nomadic hunters
Lemur Type of monkey

The huntergypsy from narikkuravan community used to have wild lemur in cages. They used to sell needles, clay beads and instruments to clean ears.

Oh, I could go on and on. Each thing would pull me to a stand-still and not allow me to go any further.

I can continue telling about things that interested me on my way. Each such thing attracted me to stand there and I was not able to move any further.

At times, people from various political parties would arrive, put up a stage and harangue us through their mikes.

Word Meaning
At times Some times
Put up To make , To install
Harangue To trouble by giving lengthy lecture

Sometimes people from political parties would make a stage and trouble us by give lengthy speeches through mikes

Then there might be a street play, or a puppet show, or a “no magic, no miracle” stunt performance. All these would happen from time to time. But almost certainly there would be some entertainment or other going on.

Word Meaning
No magic no miracle Real
Time to time Occasionally, Not regularly

Sometimes there would be street plays or a puppet show. There would also be some performances of real stunt. These would not happen together but would irregularly occur. However there would always be some entertainment show on the way to my home.

Even otherwise, there were the coffee clubs in the bazaar: the way each waiter cooled the coffee, lifting a tumbler high up and pouring its contents into a tumbler held in his other hand.

Word Meaning
Even otherwise Even when that does not happen
Tumbler Type of small container

When these were not occurring, the coffee shops in the bazaar presented an interesting thing. Each waiter cooled coffee in a peculiar way. He lifted one tumbler high in one hand and poured into another tumbler held low in another hand.

Or the way some people sat in front of the shops chopping up onion, their eyes turned elsewhere so that they would not smart.

Word Meaning
Chop Cut into small pieces
Would not smart Would cause pain

Some people sat in front of some shops. They would be cutting onion into small pieces. They looked in another direction otherwise the activity would cause pain in their eyes.

Or the almond tree growing there and its fruit which was occasionally blown down by the wind. All these sights taken together would tether my legs and stop me from going home.

Word Meaning
Blown down Fell down due to wind
Sights Scenes
Tethered Tied, Restricted

There were some almond trees on the way. Sometimes, due to wind, its fruit would fall down on the earth. All these scenes tied stopped my legs and prevented me from going home.

And then, according to the season, there would be mango, cucumber, sugar-cane, sweet-potato, palm-shoots, gram, palm-syrup and palm-fruit, guavas and jack-fruit.

Every day I would see people selling sweet and savoury fried snacks, payasam, halva, boiled tamarind seeds and iced lollies.

Word Meaning
Savoury Delicious, Tasty

According to season stalls would be selling different fruits, vegetables and grains. Every day many people would be selling sweets, delicious fried snacks and other items.

Gazing at all this, one day, I came to my street, my bag slung over my shoulder.

Looking all these items and stalls, one day I reached the street of my house. My school bag was hung on my shoulder.

At the opposite corner, though, a threshing floor had been set up, and the landlord watched the proceedings, seated on a piece of sacking spread over a stone ledge.

Word Meaning
Threshing Process of removing grains
Proceedings Activities
Sacking A type of rough cloth
Ledge An extended piece

At the other end of the street, a threshing floor had been made. A small piece of rough cloth was spread on a stone. The landlord was sitting on this stone.

Our people were hard at work, driving cattle in pairs, round and round, to tread out the grain from the straw.

People of our community were doing hard work. They were driving cattle in circles. These cattle were moving in pairs on the crop (straw). The process was to take out grain from the straw.

The animals were muzzled so that they wouldn’t help themselves to the straw. I stood for a while there, watching the fun.

Word Meaning
Muzzle To cover mouth and nose of animal
For a while For some time

Mouth of animals were covered so that they would not eat the straw. I stood there for some time and watched the process.

Just then, an elder of our street came along from the direction of the bazaar. The manner in which he was walking along made me want to double up.

Word Meaning
Just then Immediately after that
Double up Laugh a lot

Immediately after that, I saw that one elder person was coming from the direction of market. The way he walked was very funny. I wanted to laugh a lot.

I wanted to shriek with laughter at the sight of such a big man carrying a small packet in that fashion. I guessed there was something like vadai or green banana bhajji in the packet, because the wrapping paper was stained with oil.

Word Meaning
Shriek Shout
Shriek with laughter Laugh loudly
Vadai Type of cooked vegetable
Bhaji Type of cooked vegetable
Stain Mark, Spot

When I saw a grown up person carrying such a small packet in that manner, I wanted to laugh loudly. I guessed that he was carrying ‘vadai’ or green banana ‘bhaji’ because the paper wrapping had stains of oil.

He came along, holding out the packet by its string, without touching it. I stood there thinking to myself, if he holds it like that, won’t the package come undone, and the vadais fall out?

Word Meaning
String Thread, Thin rope
Package come undone Packet opened

The paper wrapping had strings attached to it. The man was holding those strings while walking. He was not touching the package. I thought if the person holds strings in that fashion, the package may open and ‘vadai’ may fall down.

The elder went straight up to the landlord, bowed low and extended the packet towards him, cupping the hand that held the string with his other hand. The landlord opened the parcel and began to eat the vadais.

That elder man went to the landlord. He bent low and extended the packet toward landlord. While doing so, he held the strings with both hands. The landlord opened the packet and started eating ‘vadais’

After I had watched all this, at last I went home. My elder brother was there. I told him the story in all its comic detail.

Word Meaning
Comic Funny

After watching this funny incident on the way, finally I reached home. My elder brother was at home. I narrated the complete funny incident in details.

I fell about with laughter at the memory of a big man, and an elder at that, making such a game out of carrying the parcel. But Annan was not amused.

Word Meaning
Fall about with laughter Laugh without stopping
Amused Happy

I was not able to stop my laughter about the scene. An elderly and also a big man was carrying the parcel in such a funny manner. But Annan (name of brother) was not happy to listen to my narration.

Annan told me the man wasn’t being funny when he carried the package like that. He said everybody believed that they were upper caste and therefore must not touch us.

Annan told me that the man was not acting funny while carrying the package. Annan told me that every other person believed that they were from upper caste. Therefore they should not touch us.

If they did, they would be polluted. That’s why he had to carry the package by its string. When I heard this, I didn’t want to laugh any more, and I felt terribly sad.

They thought that if they touched us, they will become dirty. Because of this reason the man was carrying the package holding it by strings. He was not allowed to touch the package. After listening to this reason, I did not want to laugh. I felt very sad.

How could they believe that it was disgusting if one of us held that package in his hands, even though the vadai had been wrapped first in a banana leaf, and then parcelled in paper?

Word Meaning
Disgusting Objectionable, Offensive

How could anyone think that it was objectionable if any of us touched the package? Vadia were wrapped first in banana leaf and then wrapped in a paper. How our hand can make it dirty.

I felt so provoked and angry that I wanted to touch those wretched vadais myself straightaway. Why should we have to fetch and carry for these people, I wondered.

Word Meaning
Provoked Agitated, Upset
Wretched Miserable, Dirty, Ugly
Straightaway Right now

I was very upset and angry. I wanted to touch those dirty vadais right now. I thought why do we need to bring and carry things for those so called upper caste people?

Such an important elder of ours goes meekly to the shops to fetch snacks and hands them over reverently, bowing and shrinking, to this fellow who just sits there and stuffs them into his mouth.

Word Meaning
Meekly Submissively, Without protest
Reverently With great respect
Shrinking Fearing
Stuffs into mouth Puts into mouth

Narrator continues to think.

Such an elderly and important person our community submissively goes to shop to bring snack. He gives these to landlords with great respect and fear. He has to bow and move back. All this is done for a person who only sits there and puts these vadais into his mouth.

The thought of it infuriated me. How was it that these fellows thought so much of themselves?

Word Meaning
Infuriated Angered

Narrator continues to think.

The thought about the situation made me very angry. Why these persons were thinking so high about themselves.

Because they had scraped four coins together, did that mean they must lose all human feelings? But we too are human beings.

Word Meaning
Scraped four coins together Earned enough money

Narrator continues to think.

Because they have earned enough money [They are rich], they cannot lose all the feelings of being a human. We are also human beings.

Our people should never run these petty errands for these fellows. We should work in their fields, take home our wages, and leave it at that.

Word Meaning
Run petty errands To do minor works
Wages Salary

Narrator continues to think.

People of our community should not do such minor jobs for these persons. We should work in their fields. Earn our salary and come back to our home. We should not do anything beyond that.

My elder brother, who was studying at a university, had come home for the holidays. He would often go to the library in our neighbouring village in order to borrow books.

Word Meaning
Often Frequently, Many times

My elder brother was studying in a University. He had come home during his holidays. He used to frequently go to a neighbouing village to borrow books from a library.

He was on his way home one day, walking along the banks of the irrigation tank. One of the landlord’s men came up behind him. He thought my Annan looked unfamiliar, and so he asked, “Who are you, appa, what’s your name?”

Word Meaning
Bank Edge, Embankment
Familiar Known

One day he was walking along the edge of irrigation tank. He was coming back to home. Some persons of landlord came to him. Annan was not known to them. So one of them asked my brother to tell his name.

Annan told him his name. Immediately the other man asked, “Thambi, on which street do you live?” The point of this was that if he knew on which street we lived, he would know our caste too.

Word Meaning
Thambi Brother

Annan told his name. Immediately another man asked where did he live? He asked this question for a specific reason. If he knew which side of village we lived, he will know our caste. [They wanted to know our caste]

Annan told me all these things. And he added, “Because we are born into this community, we are never given any honour or dignity or respect; we are stripped of all that.

Word Meaning
Stripped of Taken away

Annan narrated this conversation to me. He told me that we were born in this community. So we are not given any honour, dignity or respect. All these things are taken away from us.

But if we study and make progress, we can throw away these indignities. So study with care, learn all you can.

Word Meaning
Indignity Humiliation, Insult
Throw away Get rid of , Remove

But if we study and make progress, we can remove these insults from our life. So please study carefully and learn as much as you can.

If you are always ahead in your lessons, people will come to you of their own accord and attach themselves to you. Work hard and learn.”

If you are always ahead in your studies, people will come to you. They will become your friends. So please work hard and learn.

The words that Annan spoke to me that day made a very deep impression on me. And I studied hard, with all my breath and being, in a frenzy almost. As Annan had urged, I stood first in my class. And because of that, many people became my friends.

Word Meaning
Frenzy Fully motivated, To make full efforts
Urged Strongly advised

Advice of Annan made a deep impact on me. I studied very hard with all my attention. I was almost fully devoted to my study. As per strong advice of Annan, I secured first rank in my class. Because of that many people became my friends.



Important Links
Memories of Childhood – Textbook Q&A Memories of Childhood – Extra Q&A
Evans Tries An O-Level – Explanation The Third Level – Explanation
Evans Tries An O-Level – Textbook Q&A The Third Level – Textbook Q&A
Evans Tries An O-Level – Extra Q&A The Third Level – Extra Q&A
Passages Note Making
Letter Writing Notice Writing
Advertisement Writing Article Writing
Report Writing



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