(Explanation, Meaning of Difficult Words)

Author – APJ Abdul Kalam


This lesson is taken from the book “Wings of Fire’ written by APJ Abdul Kalam

Word Meaning
Island town A town situated on an  island
Erstwhile Former

I was born in a family that lived in Tamil Nadu state of India. We used to live in a town Rameswaram. Our state was formerly known as Madras.



Word Meaning
Formal Education Education in a school or college
Despite In spite of
Innate Since birth, Natural
Generosity Kindness

Name of my father was Jainulabdeen. He had not gone to the school for a long time. He was also not a rich person. In spite of these disadvantages, he was a wise person by his nature. Probably he had the wisdom since his birth. He was a very kind person as well.



Word Meaning
Ideal Perfect
Helpmate A person who helps
Recall Remember
Fed Gave food
Far more Many more

My mother was a perfect help to my father. Her name was Ashiamma. I do not remember to how many people she gave food every day. But I am sure that number of outsiders eating in our house was large. They were more than the total members of our family.



Word Meaning
Rather Relatively,
Undistinguished looks Normal appearance, Not very good looking
Ancestral house House built by forefather

My parents had many children. I was one of them. I was short. Relatively I was not very good looking. My parents were tall and handsome. Our family used to live in a house that was constructed by our forefathers. The house was constructed in the middle of nineteenth century. Author wants to say that it was an old house.



Word Meaning
Fairly large Quite big though not very big
Austere Simple, Strict
Inessential Not required

Our house was a pucca house. It was not very large but quite big house. It was constructed using limestone and bricks. It was situated on the Mosque Street of Rameswaram. My father believed in simple living. So he never bought any things that was not required essentially. Anything that could be considered a comfort or luxury was not available in our house.



Word Meaning
Necessities Requirements
Provided for Made available, Arranged
Secure Safe
Materially Facilities

But everything that was necessary for a decent living was made available to us. We had enough food and clothes. Whenever anybody was sick, he was given proper medicines. Actually I had a very safe and nice childhood. I had all facilities and good emotional support from family members.



Word Meaning
Broke out Started
Erupted Started or occurred suddenly

The Second World War started in 1939. I was 8 years old at that time. Suddenly the demand of tamarind seeds became very high in the market. I could never understand the reason for the increased demand.



Word Meaning
Fetch Bring
Princely sum A high amount of money

I used to collect tamarind seeds. I used to sell those to a provision shop located on Mosque Street. I used to collect seeds every day. I used to sell my one day collection of seeds for one anna. During those days one anna was a very high amount for me.



Word Meaning
Later Afterwards
Trace Find out, Read
Isolated Remote, Cut off

Name of my brother-in-law was Jallaluddin. He used to tell me some stories about the Second World War. I used to try to read more about those stories in a newspaper. Name of the newspaper was Dinamani. Our village was  in a remote area. Therefore we were not affected by the War.



Word Meaning
Allied Forces One group of nations fighting World War II together
State of emergency Condition of emergency
Casualty Victim, Effect
Suspension Temporarily end , Defer
Halt Stoppage

Very soon India was compelled to join the group of Allied Forces to fight the War. After that a situation of emergency was declared in India. The stoppage of train at Rameswaram station was temporarily deferred. It was the first effect of the declaration of emergency.  



Now the train did not stop at Rameswaram. Therefore a bundle of newspapers used to be made. This bundle of newspapers used to be thrown from moving train at Rameswaram Road station. This station was between Rameswaram and Dhanuskodi stations. Name of my cousin was Samsuddin. He used to distribute newspapers in our town. He needed somebody to help him to collect bundles of newspapers. It was so natural for him to select me for this job.



Word Meaning
Wages Salary
Surge Increase
Pride Feeling of being proud, Happiness, Dignity

Thus Samsuddin gave me first salary of my life. Even after fifty years I can feel that I was very happy to receive my first salary. For the first time I had become owner of my own money.




Word Meaning
Inherited Receive from forefathers
Characteristics Qualities
socio-economic environment Social and economic conditions
figures of authority People who have authority

Every child receives some qualities from forefathers. The social and economic condition also provides some training to the child. The emotional support the child gets during his childhood affects him. The people of authority within the family try to train the child in their unique way.



I received qualities of honesty and self-discipline from my father. My mother gave me qualities of being good to all and to be kind to all. My three brothers and sister also received these qualities.



Word Meaning
Orthodox Traditional
Upbringing Moral training given by parents

During my childhood I had three close friends. Their names were Ramanadha Sastry, Aravindan and Sivaprakasan. All the three were from the traditional Hindu Brahmin families. During our childhood we did not feel any difference because our religions were different. We did not feel any difference in the moral values our parents taught us.



Word Meaning
High Priest Main Priest
Took over Assumed, Became
Pilgrims Visitors coming for religious purpose
Catering Providing food

Actually father of Ramanadha Sastry was the main priest of Rameswaram temple. After death of his father, Ramanadha Sastry became the main priest of the Rameswarm temple. Arvindan started his business of arranging transport for the pilgrims who used to come to Rameswaram. Sivaprakasan became a contractor in Southern Railways for providing food to passengers.



Word Meaning
Shri Sita Rama Kalyanam ceremony Marriage ceremony of Ram and Sita

Every year the occasion of marriage of Ram and Sita was celebrated in our town. Our family used to arrange boats to carry idol of Lord Ram from the temple to the site of marriage. This site was in the middle of a pond. Name of the pond was Ram Tirhta. This pond was near our house.



Word Meaning
High Priest Main Priest

My mother and grandmother used to tell us stories while we were trying to go to sleep. These stories were told to every child of our family. They used to tell us stories from Ramayana. They would also tell stories from the life of Prophet Mohammad.



Word Meaning
Sacred thread Pious thread worn around the neck, Janeu

This incident occurred when I was studying in fifth standard. I was studying in Rameswaram Elementary School. I used to sit in the front row next to Ramanadha Sastry. I used to wear a white cap. So I could be easily identified as Muslim. That day a new teacher came to our class.



Word Meaning
Could not stomach Could not tolerate

The new teacher could not tolerate that a Muslim boy and a son of a Hindu Priest should sit together. The new teacher believed that priests had a higher place in society. So he asked me to sit at the back bench. I felt very sad. Ramanadha Sastry was also very sad.



Word Meaning
Utterly Completely
Downcast Sad, Disappointed
Lasting impression Permanent impression

Ramanadha Sastry was completely disappointed when I was shifting to the last row of the class. He started weeping. This has left a permanent impression on my mind. Friendship of author and his friend was very sound.



Word Meaning
Summoned Called
Communal Relating to different communities
Intolerance Not able to tolerate, Unwillingness to accept

After the school we both went to our respective houses. We narrated the incident to our parents. Lakshmana Sastry was father of my friend. He called the teacher to his house. That time we were also present there. Lakshmana Sastry told the teacher that he should not teach the social inequality to children. He should not spread the wrong message of communal intolerance in the minds of innocent children.



Word Meaning
Bluntly Directly, Straight forwardly
Quit Leave, Resign
Regret To feel sorry
Conviction Strong belief,
Ultimately Finally
Reformed Improved, Changed

Lakshmana Sastry directly told the teacher that either he should apologise for his wrong behaviour or he should leave the school. The teacher said sorry for his wrong behaviour. The strong belief of Lakshmana Sastry for equality, changed opinion of the young teacher forever.



Word Meaning
Rigid Firm, Fixed
Segregation Separation
Orthodox Traditional
Conservative Old fashioned, Unchanging
Rebel One who thinks differently, One who revolts

Overall the small society was very firm about division or separation among various social groups. They followed certain practices strictly. But my science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer had different thoughts. He belonged to a traditional Brahmin family.  His wife possessed old fashioned thoughts. Still he thought very differently.



Word Meaning
Break Remove
Barriers Restrictions
Mingle Mix, Socialise
On par Equal

My science teacher made his best efforts to remove the restrictions created by the society. He wanted that people from different backgrounds should socialize with each other. He used to teach me for many hours. He motivated me to develop myself further. He wanted that I should become equal to highly educated people of the big cities.



Word Meaning
Meal Food
Horrified Shocked, Full of horror
Dine To eat food
Ritually Religiously

One day my science teacher invited me to his house to take food. His wife was shocked that a Muslim boy would have food at her house. She thought that her kitchen was pure as per religion. She refused to allow me to enter in her kitchen. She even refused to serve me food. 



Word Meaning
Perturbed Disturbed, Bothered, Upset
Beside Near

My science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer was not disturbed. He did not get angry with his wife. He served me food with his own hands. He sat near me and we both ate food together. His wife was watching us. She was standing behind the door of the kitchen.



Word Meaning
Wondered Thought
Weekend Last days of week

I was thinking if she could find any difference in the way I ate rice or I drank water or in the way I cleaned the floor. When I was leaving the house, my science teacher invited me again to his house on the next weekend.



Word Meaning
Hesitation Unwillingness
Confront Tackle, Encounter

He could observe that I was not ready to accept his invitation. He asked me not to get upset about incident of that day. He told me that once you decide to change something, some problems and resistance would have to be tackled. Next week I went to his house. This time his wife allowed me to sit inside the kitchen. She gave me food with her own hands.



Word Meaning
Imminent Very near, About to happen
Unprecedented Unmatched, That had never occurred before
Optimism Being hopeful

Then the Second World War was over. India was about to attain its freedom. Gandhiji had declared that future of India would be built by Indians. The whole country was full of hope. Indian had never been so hopeful. I requested my father to allow me to leave Rameswaram. I wanted to study at Ramanathapuram. It was the headquarters of our district.



Word Meaning
Thinking aloud Express thoughts as soon as these occurred
Seagull Type of bird that lives near sea shore

He told me without giving any thoughts to what he was saying. Meaning that it was an instant reply. He told me that he was aware that I had to go for my own development. Seagulls also fly alone in the sky leaving their homes. When they fly away their nest is not ready. They make their own home later. They make their own destiny. The same way I should also make my own destiny.



Word Meaning
Hesitant Unwilling
Longing Desire

My mother was not ready to give me permission to move to another town. My father explained her the saying of Khalil Gibran. He had said that your children are not your children forever. They are sons and daughters of what Life wants them to become. They have their own expectations from Life. They are born through their parents but they may not follow the thoughts of their parents. You should not impose your thoughts on them. Because they have their own thoughts.


[an extract from Wings of Fire]





Poet – James Kirkup

In this poem, poet wants to advocate that all the people living on this earth are similar. Their needs are similar. Their emotions are similar. So people should be considered as residents of this universe rather than residents of a country.


Word Meaning
Strange Different
Beneath Below
Lie Live
Poetic Devices
no men are strange, no countries foreign Repetition
Beneath all uniforms, a single body breathes Alliteration
Beneath all uniforms Metaphor, Uniform refers to soldiers
Like ours: the land our brothers walk upon Simile
Is earth like this Simile

Poet says that all people living on this earth are similar. They are not different. Therefore they should not be considered foreigner by any country. Though the uniform worn by soldiers are different but the people in every uniform is similar. Just like we walk on land, every other person walks on the earth. The earth is same for all the people living on it. We all die in similar way.   So we should promote the feeling of brotherhood in the world.



Word Meaning
Fed To get food
Harvest Crop, Grains
Starv’d (starved) Hungry because not getting food
Poetic Devices
aware of sun and air and water, Repetition
aware of sun and air and water, Alliteration
by war’s long winter starv’d. Alliteration
Their hands are ours, and in their lines we read Repetition

‘They’ means people of other countries.

People of other countries experience the same sun, air and water. Things provided by nature is same for everybody. They also do farming and reap harvest. It fills their bellies. During war and extreme winter season they also face shortage of food. Many times people starve during such time. Their bodies are similar to that of ours. They also read and study as we do. They also do hard work as we all do.

Poet is once again expressing that all people throughout the world are similar. They have similar experiences.



Poetic Devices
Eyes like ours that wake Simile
Or sleep, and strength that can be won Alliteration

Poet wants to remind us that everybody sees with their eyes. They also wake up by opening their eyes. And when they sleep their eyes close. They have a great strength that can be won by expressing love and affection. They also show love and affection. In every country life is similar. Everybody in this world can recognize their friends. Everybody can understand what others want to express.

Poet is once again expressing that people are similar. Their habits are similar. Their understanding is similar. They express themselves in a similar fashion. If we can recognize the similarity and understand it, we all can leave peacefully.



Word Meaning
Dispossess Disown,
Betray To cheat, Deceive
Condemn To criticise
Take arms against To fight
Poetic Devices
Let us remember, whenever we are told Alliteration
we who take arms against each other Alliteration

Poet wants to remind us that whenever we hate people of other countries, we deceive ourselves. We disown our own existence. We criticize ourselves. We should have brotherly attitude towards each other. Whenever we fight against any other country, we also suffer a lot. Thus we should avoid wars.



Word Meaning
Defile Pollute, Make impure
Outrage Anger

Poet wants to remind us that when we fight against each other we pollute the earth and the Mother Nature. During war lot of fire and destruction is caused. It appears as if everything in this world has become angry. Lot of dust is generated which pollutes the air. The air belongs to everyone living on this planet.

Poet once again says that all people living on this earth are similar. They are not different. Therefore they should not be considered foreigner by any country.




Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!