My Childhood

Chapter Summary

The story narrates the life of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam from his childhood memories and early life. This autobiographical account of the childhood of Dr Kalam embodies the themes of prejudice, harmony, change and tradition. The story further outlines the backgrounds and contexts that allowed Dr Kalam to become a successful scientist and the President of India. The story properly catches the tropes of the childhood of Dr Kalam starting from his upbringing to his friend circle, his siblings along with the influence of his parents in his life. In simple words, My Childhood is a statement of events that had a significant impact on the life of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and showcased the events that made him into the successful man he became in his lifetime.

President's Secretariat (GODL-India), GODL-India

<>, via Wikimedia Commons

About Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s Childhood

Abdul Kalam was born into a middle-class Tamil family in Rameshwaram, in the erstwhile Madras State. Dinamani was the local newspaper available in the areas where Abdul Kalam grew up in his early life. After the second world war broke out in 1939, Kalam’s brother-inlaw Jalaluddin told him stories about the war which he later searched in the articles of Dinamani. The author also outlined that their area was unharmed and isolated from the fatality of the war but there was a state of emergency issued in the area.

Abdul Kalam’s School Friends

In school, Abdul Kalam had three close friends who made his childhood memories for him. His closest friends in school were Ramanadha Sastry, Sivaprakasan and Aravindan. Ramanadha Sastry was the only son of Pakshi Lakshmana Sastry, the high priest of the Rameswaram temple. Later in his life, Ramanadha took over his father’s place and became the head priest of the temple. Aravindan later got involved in the transport arrangement business where he arranged transportation for pilgrims who visited Rameswaram. Finally, Sivaprakasan started a catering business and later became a catering contractor for the Southern railways.

Kalam’s First Income

Abdul Kalam earned his first wages by becoming the helping hand of his cousin Samsuddin in his work of distributing newspapers in the local areas. Samsuddin helped the author to earn his first wages which allowed the author to feel pride even after a century. That was the time when he felt the pride of earning his own money for the first time ever.

Author’s Parents

The author described that his father had neither much wealth nor formal education but he possessed a true generosity of spirit and an innate wisdom. His mother, on the other hand, was a humanitarian who fed many people daily. He also added that his father was an honest and disciplined individual and his mother possessed deep faith in God along with deep kindness and goodness. Therefore, the author developed some of his effective qualities from his father and mother during his early life.

What characteristics did he inherit from his parents?

According to Abdul Kalam, despite being a common person, his father possessed a deep innate wisdom and a connection to spirituality. His mother, on the other hand, was an example of generosity and kindness for him. His father helped the author develop selfdiscipline, which helped him further in his life. From his father, he learned how to be honest and disciplined and from his mother, he learned how to be kind to others. The deep kindness that he developed from his mother, made Abdul Kalam a gem of a person in his future life.

About the Place Rameswaram

The author mentioned in his autobiography that the segregation of social groups was poignant in the small society of Rameswaram. The social distinction was sheerly present in the ‘society of Rameswaram. The author also mentioned that his science teacher, Sivasubramania Iyer did his best in terms of breaking the religious barriers of the society of Rameswaram. He showed how people from different social and religious backgrounds − can mingle easily with each other without thinking about the social constraints.

Why did Abdul Kalam want to leave Rameswaram? What did his father say to this?

Abdul Kalam wanted to pursue his further education in the district headquarters in Ramanathapuram and for that reason, he wanted to leave Rameswaram. After he asked his father for seeking permission from him for leaving the place, his father said that he knew one day, Kalam has to go away for growing further. He also said that even seagulls have to fly alone across the sun, without a nest in order to cover the destination, they wanted to cover in their lifetimes.

Narrate two incidents that show how differences can be created, and also how they can be resolved.

The first incident took place in the house of the author’s science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer. One day, he invited Abdul Kalam to his home for a meal despite knowing the fact that his wife was deeply religious and was horrified with the idea of a Muslim boy having lunch in the house. That day, Mr Iyer served food to Abdul Kalam with his own hands and invited him another time to have lunch with them . The next time when Kalam went to their place, Mr Iyer’s wife invited Kalam to her ritually pure kitchen and served him with his own hands.

Another incident took place when Abdul Kalam and Ramanadha Sastry sat together on a bench and the teacher separated them, based on their religious barrier. Abdul Kalam was instructed to sit in the last row whereas Sastry was left in the first row, After this incident took place, Pakshi Lakshmana Sastry, the high priest of the Rameswaram Temple called the teacher among everyone and instructed him not to plant any poison of religious barrier among the kids. From these events, it can be derived that with a little bit of rationality and humanity, one can think beyond religious barriers and change their attitude toward people.


Q1. Where was the newspaper thrown for collecting and distributing them in the localities?

Ans. The newspaper was thrown off at the Rameshwaram station through a moving train. The author collected them along with his cousin Samsuddin, who distributed newspapers in the local area.

Q2. From which religious background do the three friends of the author come?

Ans. All these boys were from orthodox Hindu Brahmin families of Rameswaram. Despite that factor, they never felt the religious barrier between them.

Q3. Who did Abdul Kalam’s father quote to his mother when Kalam, asked for his persimmon to leave Rameswaram?

Ans. Abdul Kalam’s father quoted Khalil Gibran to his mother, when Kalam, asked for their permission to leave Rameswaram. He said that after a pint of time, the children become the sons and daughters of Life ongoing for itself.