9. One day, he invited me to his home for a meal. His wife was horrified at the idea of a Muslim boy being invited to dine in her ritually pure kitchen. She refused to serve me in her kitchen. Sivasubramania Iyer was not perturbed, nor did he get angry with his wife, but instead, served me with his own hands and sat down beside me to eat his meal. His wife watched us from behind the kitchen door. I wondered whether she had observed any difference in the way I ate rice, drank water or cleaned the floor after the meal. When I was leaving his house, Sivasubramania Iyer invited me to join him for dinner again the next weekend. Observing my hesitation, he told me not to get upset, saying, “Once you decide to change the system, such problems have to be confronted.” When I visited his house the next week, Sivasubramania Iyer’s wife took me inside her kitchen and served me food with her own hands.
10. Then the Second World War was over and India’s freedom was imminent. “Indians will build their own India,” declared Gandhiji. The whole country was filled with an unprecedented optimism. I asked my father for permission to leave Rameswaram and study at the district headquarters in
11. He told me as if thinking aloud, “Abul ! I know you have to go away to grow. Does the seagull not fly across the sun, alone and without a nest?” He quoted Khalil Gibran to my hesitant mother, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts.”
Kalam recounts a very interesting incident from his life. His science teacher Subramanium Iyer was a rebel who did not stick to the unnecessary practices the society holds or believes in. Once he took Kalam to have lunch with him, to his home. His wife being a very conservative woman, did not like it. She did not want people from other castes or communities to set foot in her kitchen or home where she did pujas and worshipped her deity. People follow these beliefs without even having any purpose. All humans are born equal and this statement was emphasised by Kalam's teacher as he went into the kitchen, served food by himself, and sat next to Kalam to have his meal with him. He did not shout at his wife in front of the child. Kalam wondered why people held certain prejudices against a particular community. He wondered if there was anything different about his way of eating, drinking water or cleaning up after eating. Every human acts the same, eats the same, and there is no reason for one to treat them separately.
The next time his teacher called him for dinner, Kalam was sceptical. But when he went to the house, his teacher had made his wife understand that her way of thinking was offensive. This time she herself took him in and served food. His teacher also makes Kalam understand that these are issues that can only be diminished slowly. Rather than complaining about how one is suppressed, one has to achieve great heights and prove people wrong. Once one decides to change the system, one has to confront these problems.
After the Second World War got over, the British had planned to give independence to India. People like Gandhi and Nehru propagated that Indians will build their own and new India. So there were many opportunities available in India, in big cities, and Kalam wanted to move and study in the district headquarters at that time. His father was a very understanding man as he believes that parents should not/cannot control their children's lives. He compares the moving of his son to explore to a seagull that travels across the sun alone. He quotes from the most famous Urdu poet Khalil Gibran which says that parents do not own their children, that they are just mediums to bring in a new life that has to serve its purpose in the World. Parents have to nurture and love them. But as they grow up, they have all the right to decide or choose their lives. The quote reads as “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts.”
Seagulls flying across the Sun
Meaning of difficult words:
|Hesitant||Refraining from doing something|
|Ritual||Religious actions performed|
|Unprecedented||Events that happen without expecting|
|Confront||To face something|
|Imminent||Something about to happen|
|Seagull||A large bird that lives near oceans|
|Perturbed||Getting Disturbed or being agitated about something|
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.