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Memories of Childhood – Zitkala Sa, Bama

Two people recall their childhood when they were made victims of social inequalities. Zitkala Sa was a Red Indian. She was admitted in the Carlisle Indian School run by the British. The school authorities imposed a lot of rules on the students, some for the students’ good and some to show the British superiority and some for fun.

But Zitkala could not agree with all this; she could not think of allowing her long hair to be cut. She didn’t like to wear the short skirts, stiff shoes, uniforms… But she had to. When the authorities attempted to cut her hair short, Zitkala ran away and hid under a bed. But she had to submit. They tied her to a chair and cut her hair. Another custom that she didn’t agree to was the ceremonial eating which she calls ‘eating by formula.’ The basic human way of eating doesn’t involve any rules. Eat when you are hungry is the natural way. But the British superiority wanted the people here to dance to their senseless tunes. There were bells to take the chair out, sit on the chair, pray to God, take a spoon, take a fork… Zitkala did not know of these rules. When the first bell sounded she thought it was time to eat. She sat down and initiated eating for her great shame.

Similar was the case with Bama, an Indian writer from Tamilnadu. She too was a human being but the richer and privileged society didn’t consider her so. She was a happy girl but once she witnessed a scene of discrimination. A much respected elder of her society was once made the victim of untouchable ity. This infuriated her. She wanted to react. She knew the only weapon to fight ostracism was acquiring equal status through education. Zitkala Sa, the Red Indian

 
1. What do you know about Carlisle Indian School?
Carlisle Indian School was a school run by the British to educate the Red Indians and the British students. It had strict rules and regulations for all students. The students had to wear uniforms, girls had to wear short hair and skirts and tight shoes. The eating style also was different there. There were bells before eating. There was a prayer before eating.

2. How was Zitkala Sa different from the other native American students? Zitkala Sa was a native American girl. She had great love for her tradition and culture. She was proud of her beliefs. She held closer to her heart these beliefs and felt hurt when the rest of the girls followed the foreign culture without any hesitation.

3. What does Zitkala Sa mean by, ‘this eating by formula? When Zitkala Sa was admitted in the Carlisle Indian School, she faced a number of rules the students had to follow. One of them was the manner of eating. There were three bells to be tapped before the students were allowed to start eating. Being a natural being, Zitkala Sa could not digest the meaning of these polished manners which were alien to her culture.

4. What was that the school authorities had failed to recognize in Zitkala Sa? The British authorities of the Carlisle Indian School were colonists and therefore could not understand the feelings of the people they ruled over. They believed that it was their duty to impart their civilization to the uncivilized native Americans but failed to understand their attachment to their own culture and traditions.

5. Why was Sa against the idea of cutting her long hair?
Zitkala Sa’s mother had taught her that shingled hair was worn by mourners, cowards, and unskilled warriors caught in war. She had a great deal of love for her traditions and her hair. For her the hair meant much closer to her culture. To save her identity, to uphold her civilization and pride Sa fought against the attempts of the authorities to cut her hair.

6. Bring out the extreme orthodox, blind racial beliefs that Zitkala Sa had held close to her heart.

7. In which way did Zitkala Sa deserve the shame of getting her hair shingled?

Bama, an Indian writer

1. How was Bama’s...
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