Children at Work Class 8 English Summary, Meanings, Question Answers

CBSE Class 8 English Lesson “Children at Work” from Supplementary Reader “It So Happened”. The study material here includes a summary, word meanings part wise and question answers of Intext ‘Comprehension Checks’ and textbook exercise questions. Click here for more Class 8 English study materials.


Velu, an 11-year-old boy, ran away from home without a ticket and boarded a train to Chennai. He was exhausted, hungry, and afraid when he arrived at the train station. He sat on a bench and saw a girl around his age approach him. She asked his name and told him that he wouldn’t get food sitting there. She was a ragpicker and offered to show him where to find food.

Velu followed the girl to a garbage bin behind a wedding hall. She picked up a crushed banana and offered it to him, which he ate reluctantly. The girl’s name was Jaya, and she explained that she and other children like her collected paper, plastic, and glass from garbage bins and sold them to a factory. Velu agreed to help her, even though he didn’t want to dig through garbage. He knew he had to do something to survive.

Jaya and Velu walked to a row of huts made of metal sheets, tyres, bricks, wood, and plastic. Jaya explained that these were the homes of the ragpickers. She gave Velu a pair of old shoes and a sack, and showed him how to collect recyclable materials. Velu was hesitant at first, but he knew he had to do this if he wanted to survive in Chennai.

The two of them worked together until it was dark. They filled their sacks with recyclable materials and sold them to Jaggu, a man who bought them from the ragpickers. Velu earned enough money to buy some food, and he and Jaya went back to their huts. Velu was exhausted, but he was also relieved to have found a place to stay and a way to earn money. He knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but he was determined to make a new life for himself in Chennai.

Word Meanings

Part I

pulled in entered the station and stopped
wobbly  shaking or unsteady
bundlea group of things tied together
bumping intohitting
fairan event or gathering where people buy and sell goods or livestock, or where there are amusements and games
miserablevery unhappy and depressed
exhausted  very tired
peanutsa type of nut that grows in pods
jaggerya type of brown sugar made from sugarcane
unreserved compartment  a general compartment in a train
ticket collectora person who checks train tickets
rough  harsh, impolite and indecent
baniana long, loose-fitting shirt worn by men in India
stiff  not combed, rough and harsh losing softness and flexibility
sack  bag
stuffing  fill in by forcing something
stupidlyin a stupid and silly way
snatch awaytake by force
grimacefacial expression showing pain or disgust
glumlyin a sad or unhappy way
disappearingbecoming invisible or lost to sight
make up my mind (idiom)to decide what to do
Anyway  even so; nevertheless

Part II

Caught upcame along, reached or joined someone or something after pursuing or following them
Leavinggoing away or departing from a particular place
Stationa place where trains or buses stop to allow passengers to get on or off
Smoke and dustparticles or debris suspended in the air, typically caused by burning or construction
Making his head spinCausing dizziness or disorientation
HesitatingPausing or delaying due to uncertainty or indecision
DraggedPulled forcefully or with effort
ChutneyA condiment or sauce made from fruits, vegetables, or herbs, often spicy or tangy in flavour
Central StationA major transportation hub or terminal
Huge signboardsLarge display boards with information or advertisements
peeped overlooked over
TamilA Dravidian language spoken in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu
Central JailA prison facility under the jurisdiction of the central government
Counting barsBeing imprisoned or incarcerated
ThingsObjects or items
ShyFeeling timid or hesitant
Blasted downShone intensely or strongly
TarA dark, thick, and sticky substance used in road construction
Bare feetFeet without any covering or shoes
Soaked with sweatDrenched or heavily perspiring due to physical exertion
ShadeArea protected from direct sunlight
GroomThe male partner in a marriage ceremony
BrideThe female partner in a marriage ceremony
Staregaze, look intently or fixedly at something
Flower garlandA decorative wreath made of flowers
Taped ribboned with tape, attached or secured with adhesive tape
OverflownFilled to capacity or beyond
RubbishTrash or waste materials
Rotten smellFoul or decomposed odour
SquashySoft or mushy in texture
LeftoversRemaining or uneaten food from a previous meal
DistasteA feeling of dislike or aversion
HeroTerm used to address someone in a brave or impressive manner
CheyAn exclamation used to express disgust or disapproval
Gulped downSwallowed quickly or eagerly
HopesA slang term indicating disappointment or disbelief
HeroineA female hero or main character in a story
AiyA term used to address someone in Tamil, similar to “hey” or “hey you.”
FollowingGoing after or pursuing someone or something
Stick toRemain close or attached to

Part III

TriplicaneA neighbourhood or area
Buckingham CanalA man-made waterway in Chennai, India
PuddlesSmall pools of water
CrookedlyIn a bent or uneven manner
Fall any momentLikely to collapse or topple soon
StrangeUnusual or unfamiliar
Palm leavesLeaves of palm trees, commonly used as a roofing material
DumpedPlaced or dropped forcefully or carelessly
WeedingRemoving unwanted plants or weeds from an area
GrazeAllowing animals to feed on grass or vegetation in a specific area
FarmsAreas of land used for agricultural purposes
RagpickersPeople who collect and sort through discarded materials, such as rags, paper, and plastic, for recycling or resale
Rubbish binsContainers for disposing of waste or garbage
AyyeA Tamil term used to express frustration or annoyance
BlockheadA term used to refer to someone who is foolish or unintelligent
Jam Bazaar JagguA character or person who buys collected recyclable materials
PoseTo stand or remain in a particular position
Better jobA more desirable or suitable employment opportunity
Scratched his headA gesture indicating confusion or contemplation
SighedExhaled audibly, often expressing a feeling of resignation or disappointment

Intext Question Answers

Comprehension Check (Page 9)

Q. 1. Velu stood on the platform but he felt “as if he was still on a moving train.” Why?

Ans. Velu felt “as if he was still on a moving train” because he had been wandering around for hours before finally boarding a train to Chennai. He was tired, hungry, and physically exhausted, causing his legs to shake unsteadily. After traveling for so long, he still had the sensation of movement, making him feel like he was still on a train.

Q. 2. What made Velu feel miserable?

Ans. Velu felt miserable due to several reasons. Firstly, he had run away from his village two days ago, leaving him physically and emotionally drained. Secondly, he had gone without proper food for the past two days, surviving only on a few peanuts and a piece of jaggery. Lastly, the noise and chaos at the platform added to his misery, overwhelming his senses.

Q. 3. (i) Velu travelled without a ticket. Why?

Ans. Velu travelled without a ticket because he did not have any money to purchase one. His financial situation was dire, leaving him with no means to afford a train ticket.

(ii) How did he escape the ticket collector’s notice?

Ans. Velu managed to escape the ticket collector’s notice because he was traveling in an unreserved compartment. In such compartments, tickets are not required, and passengers can board without having to show a ticket.

Q. 4. Why had Velu run away from home?

Ans. Velu ran away from home because he could no longer endure his father’s physical abuse. His father would spend all the money that Velu and his sisters earned on alcohol, leaving them in a difficult and oppressive situation. Unable to bear the beatings any longer, Velu made the decision to escape his home.

Q. 5. Why did he decide to follow the ‘strange’ girl?

Ans. Velu decided to follow the ‘strange’ girl because he was lost and disoriented. He had no knowledge of his surroundings and no idea where to go. Seeing the girl as a potential guide or source of help, Velu chose to follow her as he had no other options available to him at the time.

Comprehension Check (Page 13)

Q. 1. Can Velu read Tamil and English? How do you know?

Ans. Velu is unable to read English, but it is evident that he can read Tamil. This is indicated when he reads the Tamil sign for “Central Jail.”

Q. 2. “If you are not careful, you will soon be counting bars there,” the girl said.
(i) What is she referring to?

Ans. She is referring to the “Central Jail.”

(ii) What does she mean when she says “If you are not careful ………” (She says something a little later which means the same. Find that sentence).

Ans. She means that if Velu is not cautious and careful, he may end up being caught and imprisoned in the “Central Jail.” The other sentence that conveys the same meaning is, “You don’t have to do anything. Just don’t get caught, that’s all.”

Q. 3. (i) Where did the girl lead Velu to?

Ans. The girl led Velu to a place behind the hall where there was a large garbage bin filled with rubbish.

(ii) What did they get to eat?

Ans. They found and ate bananas and vada.

Q. 4. What work did she do? Think of a one-word answer.

Ans. Ragpicker.

Comprehension Check (Page 15)

Q. 1. (i) What material are the ‘strange huts made out of’?

Ans. The ‘strange huts’ are made out of various materials such as metal sheets, tires, bricks, wood, and plastic.

(ii) Why does Velu find them strange?

Ans. Velu finds them strange because these huts are constructed using unconventional materials, and they appear to be unstable and crooked, giving the impression that they could collapse at any moment.

Q. 2. What sort of things did Jaya and children like her collect, and what did they do with those things?

Ans. Jaya and children like her collect items such as paper, plastic, and glass. They gather these materials to sell them to a person named Jaggu in Jam Bazaar. Jaggu then sells these collected items to a factory.

Q. 3. Is Velu happy or unhappy to find work? Give a reason for your answer.

Ans. Velu is initially not happy to find work, but he accepts it because he has no other choice. Given his circumstances, finding any kind of work seems acceptable to him until he can secure a better job. He tries to find contentment in the situation he is in, even though he may not be genuinely happy about it.

Textbook Exercise Question Answers

Discuss the following questions in small groups. Write their answers afterwards.

1. Is Velu a smart boy? Which instances in the text show that he is or isn’t?

Ans. Velu is portrayed as a smart boy in the story. Several instances in the text indicate his intelligence and resourcefulness. Here are some examples:

  • “In his bundle, he carried a shirt, a towel, and a comb.” This shows that Velu is prepared and organized, taking essential items with him.
  • “Anyway, I have no idea where to go. He jumped up and ran after her.” This demonstrates Velu’s quick thinking and ability to adapt to new situations.
  • “He hadn’t run away and come to this new place to dig through garbage bins.” Velu’s statement reflects his determination and refusal to settle for a life of scavenging.
  • “Velu read the Tamil sign, Central Jail.” This shows that Velu is literate and capable of reading and understanding written language.

These instances suggest that Velu possesses intelligence, resourcefulness, adaptability, and literacy, all of which contribute to his characterization as a smart boy.

2. Do you think Jaya is a brave and sensitive child with a sense of humour? Find instances of her courage, kind nature and humour in the text.

Ans. Yes, Jaya is depicted as a brave and sensitive child with a sense of humour. The story provides several instances that highlight these qualities:

  • Courage: “What do you think you’re doing? Grazing cows? If you stand around in the middle of the road like that, you’ll be chutney!” Jaya shows bravery by speaking up and warning Velu about the potential dangers of his actions.
  • Kind Nature: “Chey! What do you think I am? A dog? I only take untouched food. Here, some more, catch!” Jaya shares her food with Velu, displaying her generosity and concern for his well-being.
  • Humour: “If you’re not careful, you’ll soon be counting bars there.” Jaya’s statement about counting bars in reference to the Central Jail sign shows her ability to find humour in a difficult situation.
  • Humour: “So you’ve been following me around without even knowing my name. Jaya.” Jaya’s playful response to Velu’s actions adds a touch of humour to their interaction.

These instances showcase Jaya’s courage, kind nature, and sense of humour, contributing to her characterization as a brave and sensitive child.

3. What one throws away as waste may be valuable to others. Do you find this sentence meaningful in the context of this story? How?

Ans. Yes, the sentence “What one throws away as waste may be valuable to others” is highly relevant and meaningful in the context of this story. The story highlights the harsh reality that children like Velu and Jaya survive by searching through garbage bins for food and other items.

The sentence emphasizes the idea that while something may be considered waste or discarded by one person, it can hold immense value for others who are in need. Velu and Jaya’s reliance on leftovers from the garbage bins exemplifies how they find sustenance and even nourishing food in what others consider as waste.

The story underscores the socioeconomic disparities and the desperate circumstances faced by some individuals, where discarded items become a lifeline for survival. This notion adds depth and significance to the statement that what may be considered waste to one person can be valuable and crucial for others in dire situations.

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