Memories of Childhood Vistas English class 12 NCERT Summary and Question answers

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Memories of Childhood

The chapter consists of two autobiographical episode of two women belonging to marginalized communities who goes back to their memory lane remembering their childhood and their encounter with mainstream culture.

  • The Cutting of My Long Hair (Zitkala-Sa)
  • We Too are Human Beings (Bama)

I. The Cutting of My Long Hair by Zitkala-Sa

It begins with a young girl( the author) ,who was a part of a group of Native American children, arrived at a boarding school in the midst of winter. The ringing of a large bell signaled the beginning of breakfast, and the girl and her fellow students were led into the dining room. The girls wore tightly fitting dresses, and the boys looked uncomfortable in their attire as well. As they entered, the pupils took seats at the table, and the girl, unsure of the customs, sat down before the others. When a second bell was rung, the rest of the students took their seats, and the girl had to get back into her chair. During the meal, a man spoke at one end of the hall, but all the students kept their heads down. A third bell was rung, and the students began eating. The girl, however, was overwhelmed by the unfamiliar surroundings , she couldn’t help herself and cried.

Eating formula was the first trial of the day, which is not the hardest part of the day. Later, her friend Judewin gives them a warning that the paleface woman is planning to cut their long hair. Among the protagonist’s people, having short hair is a sign of mourning and having shingled hair is a sign of cowardice. The protagonist refuses to submit and rebels, hiding under a bed in a dimly lit room. People search for the protagonist, but they do not come out of hiding. Eventually, they are found, dragged out, and tied to a chair where their hair is cut. This experience, along with the other indignities they have faced since being taken from their mother, causes the protagonist to feel great anguish. They cry out for their mother, but no one comes to comfort them and they feel like just another animal being driven by a herder.

II. We Too are Human Beings by Bama

The author describes her experience of growing up and witnessing the reality of untouchability in India. She recall a specific memory from her childhood of walking home from school, which would often take longer than it should because of all the sights, sounds, and experiences that caught her attention along the way. The author details the various street performers, shops, and other distractions that would cause her to stop and linger on their walk home. She describes the coffee clubs in the bazaar and the way the waiters would pour coffee, the onion choppers, the almond tree, and the various fruits and snacks being sold. All of these sights and activities would often hold the speaker’s attention.

The author came across a threshing floor in his street where the landlord was watching the workers driving cattle to tread the grain from the straw. The animals were muzzled to prevent them from eating the straw. The author then saw an elder from the street carrying a small packet of food, walking in a manner that made the author want to laugh. The elder went straight to the landlord and extended the packet without touching it, cupping the hand that held the string with his other hand. The landlord opened the parcel and began to eat the food. When the author got home, he told the story to his elder brother, who laughed, but then explained that the man was not being funny but was actually upper caste and believed that touching the lower caste would pollute him. That’s why he had to carry the packet by its string.

She feels sad and angry after understanding the reasons behind the elder’s actions when carrying a parcel of vadais. The elder must carry the parcel without touching it because of the belief that the upper caste people would be polluted if they came in contact with someone from a lower caste. This made her feel provoked and she wonders why they have to fetch and carry for these people. The elder brother, who is studying at a university, shares his own experience of being discriminated based on his caste and encourages the narrator to study hard and make progress so that they can throw away these indignities. These words made a deep impression on the author and she studies hard with all his might and stood first in her class. And because

of that, many people became her friends.

NCERT solutions

Reading with Insight

1. The two accounts that you read above are based in two distant cultures. What is the commonality of theme found in both of them?


The commonality between the two accounts is how the people who are in power supress the weaker section, harass them. The first part is about the racial prejudice and discrimination against Native Americans ,the author recalls her memory at Carlisle Indian school. Where she faced the severe racism by the Europeans.

And in the second part, there is this caste system, upper caste and lower caste; practice of untouchability by upper caste towards lower caste in India.

Although both the accounts are from the different cultures. But they both showed all the sufferings that the authors had faced in mainstream culture. Zitkala’s hair was chopped at the behest of Europeans because they see themselves as superior to the Native American. And in the other context Bama suffered from untouchability as she was belonged from lower caste. She had seen that lower caste people were not even allowed to touch people who belonged from upper castes.

2. It may take a long time for oppression to be resisted, but the seeds of rebellion are sowed early in life. Do you agree that injustice in any form cannot escape being noticed even by children?


 In this chapter the idea of oppression and resistance is explored through the lens of personal experiences and recollections. the story of Zitkala-sa and Bama suggest that despite the fact that it may take a long time for oppression to be resisted, the seeds of rebellion are often sown in childhood. Children have a unique perspective on the world, and they can often recognize injustice and unfairness even when others do not.

3. Bama’s experience is that of a victim of the caste system. What kind of discrimination does Zitkala-Sa’s experience depict? What are their responses to their respective situations?


Zitkala-sa was the victim of racial prejudice. Her experience depicts the discrimination faced by Native American Indians. She writes about the traumatic experience of being taken away from her family and sent to a boarding school where she faced cultural assimilation and loss of her identity. While on the other hand Bama’s experience depicts the discrimination faced by Dalits or the lower-caste individuals in India. She describes the hardships faced by Dalits in accessing basic necessities like water and facing social exclusion.

In response to their respective situations, Bama becomes a Dalit activist and fights for the rights of the marginalized community. Zitkala-Sa, on the other hand, becomes an advocate for the rights of Native American Indians and works towards preserving their culture and traditions.

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