Discuss these questions in class with your teacher and then write down your answer in two or three paragraphs each.

"On the whole, the small society of Rameswaram was very rigid in terms of the segregation of different social groups," says the author.

(i) Which social groups does he mention? Were these groups easily identifiable (for example, by the way they dressed)?

(ii) Were they aware only of their differences or did they also naturally share friendships and experiences? (Think of the bedtime stories in Kalam's house; of who his friends were; and of what used to take place in the pond near his house.)

(iii) The author speaks both of people who were very aware of the differences among them and those who tried to bridge these differences. Can you identify such people in the text?

(iv) Narrate two incidents that show how differences can be created, and also how they can be resolved. How can people change their attitudes?

(i) He mentions two social groups of Rameswaram i.e. Orthodox Brahmins and Muslims. Yes, these groups were easily identifiable from the way they dressed; Kalam wore a cap which marked him a Muslim whereas his friend, Ramanadha Sastry wore a sacred thread which marked him a Hindu.

(ii) Though they were aware of their caste differences, yet shared the natural bound of friendships and experiences.

Kalam’s mother and grandmother often told the children of the family about the events from the Ramayana and from the life of the Prophet as bedtime stories. In addition, during the Shri Sita Rama Kalyanam ceremony, his family used to arrange boats with a special platform for carrying idols of the Lord from the temple to the marriage site, situated in the middle of the pond called Rama Tirtha which was near his house

(iii) The people who were aware of the differences among them, were the young teacher who joined the Rameswaram Elementary School and came to teach Kalam’s class (the fifth standard) and his science teacher’s conservative wife who refused to serve Kalam in her ritually pure kitchen.

Those who tried to bridge these differences were Kalam’s science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer who invited, served and dined with him to the social barriers that the society proposed and Lakshmana Sastry who summoned the teacher and conveyed the strong sense of conviction to the young teacher to bring about reform.

(iv)The incident that shows how differences can be treated is when the new young teacher came to teach Kalam’s class. On finding a Muslim student sitting beside a Hindu student, he immediately asked Kalam to leave the front row and sit back in the last row. However, Lakshmana Sastry resolved the differences by persuading the teacher about not spreading the poison of social inequality and communal intolerance in innocent minds. The second incident where differences could be seen was when Kalam’s science teacher Sivasubramania Iyer’s wife showcased a hostile reaction towards Kalam when it came to serving him from her ritually pure kitchen. Likewise, the situation was resolved when Kalam’s science teacher invited him again to his house.

Both these incidents throw light on the ideas of equality and tolerance which eventually helped in reforming the attitude of people who staunchly believed in segregation of different social groups in society. This shows that a change can be brought in society when one is prepared to face the consequences with utmost courage.