3. The Second World War broke out in 1939, when I was eight years old. For reasons I have never been able to understand, a sudden demand for tamarind seeds erupted in the market. I used to collect the seeds and sell them to a provision shop on Mosque Street. A day’s collection would fetch me the princely sum of one anna. My brother-in-law Jallaluddin would tell me stories about the War which I would later attempt to trace in the headlines in Dinamani. Our area, being isolated, was completely unaffected by the War. But soon India was forced to join the Allied Forces and something like a state of emergency was declared. The first casualty came in the form of the suspension of the train halt at Rameswaram station. The newspapers now had to be bundled and thrown out from the moving train on the Rameswaram Road between Rameswaram and Dhanuskodi. That forced my cousin Samsuddin, who distributed newspapers in Rameswarm, to look for a helping hand to catch the bundles and, as if naturally, I filled the slot. Samsuddin helped me earn my first wages. Half a century later, I can still feel the surge of pride in earning my own money for the first time.
Kalam recounts the time when he was eight years old, living in Rameswaram. It was \(1939\), and the second World War had just broken out. During the war, India was colonised by the British. Most other countries were controlled or ruled by the English. Britain took its stand with the Allied Powers, which included the US, Soviet Union, France etc. Therefore India had no choice but to take the same stance. There was a huge demand for tamarind seeds during the time. Although Kalam did not understand the reason as a child, tamarind seeds were used as an agent for textiles such as jute and cotton. It was also grounded and used as fuel in cars and trucks during the war. As there was a necessity for a lot of vehicles during the war, it fetched good prices in the market.
Tamrind seeds
Kalam used to collect these seeds as they lived in a place that was surrounded by trees. He collected to sell them to a provisional store in Mosque street, which in turn sold it to customers in bulk quantities putting together all the seeds collected by different people. One day's collection would fetch him one anna. Annas used to be copper paisas, which were equal to 1⁄16 of a rupee in the British period. Kalam's brother-in-law Jallaluddin, was a huge influence on him, as he narrated what was happening in the World outside during the war. Since Kalam was only eight, he was not very fluent in reading, so he tried to gain more information from the headlines of Dinamani newspaper.
Rameswaram was less affected in terms of military casualties, But the first problem hit when the British stopped the halt of the train at Rameswaram railway station. Usually, newspapers came in this train to be distributed. Since there was no stop, newspapers were bundled and thrown out slowly for the peddlers to collect them and sell. It was thrown on the Rameswaram road between Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. Kalam's cousin Shamsuddin was one of the distributors of newspapers in the town and employed Kalam to catch the newspapers that were thrown out of the train. Kalam still looks back at this incident with a lot of pride as this was the first time he earned his own money.
Meaning of difficult words:
EruptTo break out suddenly
Provision shopA shop where basic necessities are sold
CasualtyProblems involving injuries or death
Brother-in-lawSomeone who has married one's sister
DinamaniA Tamil newspaper
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. My Childhood - APJ Abdul Kalam (pp.68-79). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.