‘Lost Spring’ by Anees Jung Word Meanings and Explanation Class 12 English: Get here the word meanings and summary explanations paragraph wise. Click here for other study Materials for Class 12 English.
Lost Spring Word Meanings & Explanation
‘Sometimes I find a Rupee in the garbage’
1. “Why do you do this?” I ask Saheb whom I encounter every morning scrounging for gold in the garbage dumps of my neighbourhood. Saheb left his home long ago. Set amidst the green fields of Dhaka, his home is not even a distant memory. There were many storms that swept away their fields and homes, his mother tells him. That’s why they left, looking for gold in the big city where he now lives. “I have nothing else to do,” he mutters, looking away. “Go to school,” I say glibly, realising immediately how hollow the advice must sound. “There is no school in my neighbourhood. When they build one, I will go.” “If I start a school, will you come?” I ask, half-joking. “Yes,” he says, smiling broadly.
- scrounging: searching or looking for something desperately, often with the implication of finding things in a less conventional or dignified manner.
- garbage dumps: areas where waste, rubbish, or discarded items are disposed of.
- encounter: meet or come across someone unexpectedly.
- left his home: in this context, it means he abandoned or departed from his home.
- Set amidst the green fields: located in the middle of the lush, green agricultural lands.
- distant memory: a memory that is fading away or becoming less clear over time.
- swept away: here, it refers to the idea that the storms destroyed or carried away their fields and homes.
- looking for gold: pursuing better opportunities or trying to find something valuable (metaphorical use, not literal gold).
- big city: a large urban area with more opportunities and resources.
- mutters: speaks quietly or under one’s breath, often expressing discontent or dissatisfaction.
- Go to school: attend an educational institution for learning.
- glibly: speaking in a smooth, casual, and superficial manner, often without much thought or depth.
- hollow: lacking sincerity or depth; empty in meaning.
- advice: suggestions or recommendations given to someone to guide their actions or decisions.
- neighbourhood: the area or community where one lives.
- build one: refers to constructing a school.
- half-joking: not entirely serious, but not completely joking either.
- smiling broadly: smiling widely and with genuine happiness.
In this passage, the main themes revolve around poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and the interaction between the narrator and Saheb. The narrator encounters Saheb, who searches for valuable items in garbage dumps due to the challenges his family faced. The narrator offers the suggestion of going to school, but Saheb explains the absence of a school in his area. The narrator then playfully suggests starting a school, and Saheb responds positively. The passage highlights the harsh reality of limited opportunities and the potential impact of even a small gesture like starting a school.
2. A few days later I see him running up to me. “Is your school ready?” “It takes longer to build a school,” I say, embarrassed at having made a promise that was not meant. But promises like mine abound in every corner of his bleak world. After months of knowing him, I ask him his name. “Saheb-e-Alam,” he announces. He does not know what it means. If he knew its meaning — lord of the universe — he would have a hard time believing it. Unaware of what his name represents, he roams the streets with his friends, an army of barefoot boys who appear like the morning birds and disappear at noon. Over the months, I have come to recognise each of them. “Why aren’t you wearing chappals?” I ask one. “My mother did not bring them down from the shelf,” he answers simply. “Even if she did he will throw them off,” adds another who is wearing shoes that do not match. When I comment on it, he shuffles his feet and says nothing. “I want shoes,” says a third boy who has never owned a pair all his life. Travelling across the country I have seen children walking barefoot, in cities, on village roads. It is not lack of money but a tradition to stay barefoot, is one explanation. I wonder if this is only an excuse to explain away a perpetual state of poverty.
- running up to me: approaching quickly, usually towards the speaker.
- It takes longer to build a school: it’s a statement acknowledging that creating a school requires more time and effort than initially thought.
- embarrassed: feeling self-conscious, uncomfortable, or ashamed.
- promises like mine abound: similar promises are common or widespread.
- bleak: grim, desolate, lacking hope or positivity.
- Saheb-e-Alam: a name which translates to “lord of the universe” in Arabic/Persian. A name with a significant and grand meaning.
- roams the streets: wanders or moves around the streets aimlessly.
- an army of barefoot boys: a group of boys who don’t wear shoes.
- morning birds: a metaphorical description of the boys, suggesting their youthful energy and presence in the morning.
- disappear at noon: they go away or are less visible by midday.
- bringing something down from the shelf: taking something from a higher storage place to a lower level for use.
- throw them off: remove or discard the footwear, possibly due to discomfort or preference.
- shuffles his feet: moves his feet around, often suggesting discomfort or nervousness.
- comment on: make remarks about, discuss or mention.
- a pair all his life: here, it refers to a pair of shoes.
- Travelling across the country: moving around various places within the nation.
- walking barefoot: not wearing any shoes.
- tradition to stay barefoot: cultural or customary practice of not wearing shoes.
- explain away: attempt to rationalize or justify.
- perpetual state of poverty: an ongoing condition of being poor.
In this passage, the narrator continues to interact with Saheb and his friends. Saheb asks about the promised school, and the narrator realizes that building a school is a more complex process than initially thought. The passage also explores the lives of these children, their names, their barefoot lifestyle, and their casual, yet profound, conversations about footwear. The children’s circumstances reflect a cycle of poverty, and the narrator contemplates whether the tradition of staying barefoot is a genuine cultural practice or a way of explaining their ongoing impoverished state.
3. I remember a story a man from Udipi once told me. As a young boy he would go to school past an old temple, where his father was a priest. He would stop briefly at the temple and pray for a pair of shoes. Thirty years later I visited his town and the temple, which was now drowned in an air of desolation. In the backyard, where lived the new priest, there were red and white plastic chairs. A young boy dressed in a grey uniform, wearing socks and shoes, arrived panting and threw his school bag on a folding bed. Looking at the boy, I remembered the prayer another boy had made to the goddess when he had finally got a pair of shoes, “Let me never lose them.” The goddess had granted his prayer. Young boys like the son of the priest now wore shoes. But many others like the ragpickers in my neighbourhood remain shoeless.
- Udipi: a town in Karnataka, India, known for its temple and cuisine.
- old temple: a place of worship that has been around for a long time.
- priest: a person who performs religious duties and rituals.
- briefly: for a short period of time.
- pray for: make a request through a religious act of communication with a higher power.
- pair of shoes: two shoes worn together.
- drowned in an air of desolation: overwhelmed by a sense of emptiness and sadness.
- backyard: the area at the rear of a building, often open and used for various purposes.
- red and white plastic chairs: chairs made of plastic, colored in red and white.
- grey uniform: clothing worn by students of the same school, typically of a gray color.
- socks and shoes: both pieces of clothing worn on the feet, with socks being worn inside the shoes.
- arrived panting: came breathlessly, possibly after running or exertion.
- threw his school bag on a folding bed: placed his school bag onto a bed that can be folded when not in use.
- prayer: a communication with a deity or higher power, often to request something.
- goddess: a female deity, often associated with supernatural or divine qualities.
- Let me never lose them: a request to keep the acquired shoes permanently.
- granted his prayer: fulfilled his request.
- ragpickers: individuals who collect and sort through discarded items, often in search of recyclable materials.
- neighbourhood: the area or community where one lives.
- remain shoeless: continue to be without shoes.
In this passage, the narrator recalls a story from Udipi, where a man used to pray for a pair of shoes at an old temple on his way to school. Years later, when the narrator revisits the town, the temple is in a state of desolation. The new priest’s son, dressed in a school uniform with socks and shoes, contrasts with the memory of the man’s prayer for shoes. This story highlights the change in circumstances over time, as some children now have access to shoes, while others, like the ragpickers in the narrator’s neighborhood, continue to be without them. The passage underscores the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities.
4. My acquaintance with the barefoot ragpickers leads me to Seemapuri, a place on the periphery of Delhi yet miles away from it, metaphorically. Those who live here are squatters who came from Bangladesh back in 1971. Saheb’s family is among them. Seemapuri was then a wilderness. It still is, but it is no longer empty. In structures of mud, with roofs of tin and tarpaulin, devoid of sewage, drainage or running water, live 10,000 ragpickers. They have lived here for more than thirty years without an identity, without permits but with ration cards that get their names on voters’ lists and enable them to buy grain. Food is more important for survival than an identity. “If at the end of the day we can feed our families and go to bed without an aching stomach, we would rather live here than in the fields that gave us no grain,” say a group of women in tattered saris when I ask them why they left their beautiful land of green fields and rivers. Wherever they find food, they pitch their tents that become transit homes. Children grow up in them, becoming partners in survival. And survival in Seemapuri means rag-picking. Through the years, it has acquired the proportions of a fine art. Garbage to them is gold. It is their daily bread, a roof over their heads, even if it is a leaking roof. But for a child it is even more.
- acquaintance: a person known to one, but not necessarily a close friend.
- barefoot ragpickers: individuals who collect discarded items for a living and are without shoes.
- Seemapuri: a location on the outskirts of Delhi, India.
- periphery: the outer edges or boundaries of an area.
- metaphorically: in a symbolic or figurative manner, not to be taken literally.
- squatters: people who settle on unoccupied land without legal ownership or permission.
- Bangladesh: a country in South Asia, neighbouring India.
- wilderness: an uncultivated, uninhabited, and wild area.
- structures of mud: houses made from mud or clay.
- roofs of tin and tarpaulin: roofs made of metal sheets (tin) and durable waterproof fabric.
- devoid of: lacking, not having.
- sewage, drainage or running water: lacking proper sanitation and plumbing facilities.
- ration cards: government-issued cards that allow individuals to purchase subsidized food and essential commodities.
- voters’ lists: lists of eligible voters in an area.
- enable them to buy grain: allow them to purchase basic food supplies.
- tattered saris: worn-out, torn traditional garments worn by women in South Asia.
- beautiful land of green fields and rivers: a description of the rural area the women came from.
- pitch their tents: set up temporary shelters.
- transit homes: temporary living spaces used as a stopover during their movements.
- partners in survival: children who contribute to the family’s survival through their actions.
- proportions of a fine art: it has become a highly developed and skilled activity.
- Garbage to them is gold: discarded items are valuable to them, as they can find resources and sustenance from them.
- daily bread: metaphorically, means basic sustenance or livelihood.
- a leaking roof: a roof that allows water to enter when it rains, indicating poor living conditions.
- survival in Seemapuri means rag-picking: collecting discarded items for a living is crucial for survival in this area.
In this passage, the narrator discusses the situation in Seemapuri, a squatter settlement on the outskirts of Delhi, inhabited by ragpickers who came from Bangladesh. The conditions are harsh, with makeshift housing and a lack of basic amenities. However, the residents prioritize access to food over having a formal identity. The passage highlights the resourcefulness of the people, especially the women, who have turned rag-picking into a skillful means of survival. While garbage may be considered worthless by many, for the ragpickers, it’s a means of sustenance. The passage underscores the difficult circumstances and the resilience of the people living in Seemapuri.
5. “I sometimes find a rupee, even a ten-rupee note,” Saheb says, his eyes lighting up. When you can find a silver coin in a heap of garbage, you don’t stop scrounging, for there is hope of finding more. It seems that for children, garbage has a meaning different from what it means to their parents. For the children it is wrapped in wonder, for the elders it is a means of survival. One winter morning I see Saheb standing by the fenced gate of the neighbourhood club, watching two young men dressed in white, playing tennis. “I like the game,” he hums, content to watch it standing behind the fence. “I go inside when no one is around,” he admits. “The gatekeeper lets me use the swing.” Saheb too is wearing tennis shoes that look strange over his discoloured shirt and shorts. “Someone gave them to me,” he says in the manner of an explanation. The fact that they are discarded shoes of some rich boy, who perhaps refused to wear them because of a hole in one of them, does not bother him. For one who has walked barefoot, even shoes with a hole is a dream come true. But the game he is watching so intently is out of his reach.
- rupee: the currency unit of India.
- ten-rupee note: a currency bill worth ten rupees.
- eyes lighting up: a figurative expression indicating excitement or enthusiasm.
- silver coin: a coin made of silver, often used as currency.
- heap of garbage: a large pile of discarded items or waste.
- don’t stop scrounging: continue searching diligently, often in unconventional places.
- hope of finding more: the expectation of discovering additional valuable items.
- wrapped in wonder: surrounded by a feeling of amazement or curiosity.
- means of survival: a way to stay alive and meet basic needs.
- fenced gate: a gate enclosed within a fence or boundary.
- neighbourhood club: a local social or recreational facility.
- dressed in white: wearing white clothing.
- playing tennis: engaging in the sport of tennis.
- I like the game, content to watch it standing behind the fence: Saheb enjoys watching the game and is satisfied with observing from a distance.
- gatekeeper: a person responsible for controlling access to a certain area.
- swing: a type of playground equipment where a seat is suspended by ropes, often used by children.
- tennis shoes: footwear designed for playing tennis or sports.
- discarded shoes: shoes that have been thrown away or no longer used.
- manner of an explanation: he’s explaining it in a matter-of-fact or straightforward way.
- rich boy: a wealthy young person.
- hole in one of them: a gap or opening in the shoe, making it unusable for some people.
- dream come true: something desired that has become a reality.
- game he is watching so intently is out of his reach: the tennis game he’s observing is not something he can participate in.
This passage discusses Saheb’s perspective on finding money and valuable items in garbage and his fascination with certain aspects of a more privileged lifestyle. While Saheb finds excitement and wonder in the possibility of finding valuable items in garbage heaps, he also observes a tennis game that represents a world beyond his reach. The passage illustrates the contrast between the joy and curiosity of childhood and the stark reality of survival for the ragpickers.
Explanation of ‘It seems that for children, garbage has a meaning different from what it means to their parents.‘
The author, here, reflects on the contrasting perspectives of children and their parents regarding garbage:
- “It seems that for children, garbage has a meaning different from what it means to their parents.”
- This line suggests that children and adults perceive garbage differently.
- “For the children it is wrapped in wonder, for the elders it is a means of survival.”
- Here, the author explains the distinct attitudes:
- “Wrapped in wonder”: Children view garbage with curiosity and fascination. They might find discarded items like coins or other small treasures, turning the act of searching through garbage into a sort of adventure or game. It represents an opportunity for unexpected discoveries and possibilities.
- “Means of survival”: In contrast, parents and other adults scrounge through garbage out of necessity. They rely on what they find to make a living, finding usable items to sell or reuse, thereby ensuring their basic needs such as food and shelter are met.
It highlights the disparity between the innocent curiosity of children and the grim reality faced by their parents, who are compelled to search through garbage as a means of survival. While children might find wonder in the discarded items, the parents are driven by the urgent need to find valuable items for their livelihood. The passage underscores the different perspectives shaped by age, innocence, and necessity in the face of challenging circumstances.
6. This morning, Saheb is on his way to the milk booth. In his hand is a steel canister. “I now work in a tea stall down the road,” he says, pointing in the distance. “I am paid 800 rupees and all my meals.” Does he like the job? I ask. His face, I see, has lost the carefree look. The steel canister seems heavier than the plastic bag he would carry so lightly over his shoulder. The bag was his. The canister belongs to the man who owns the tea shop. Saheb is no longer his own master!
“I want to drive a car”
“I want to drive a car” Mukesh insists on being his own master. “I will be a motor mechanic,” he announces. “Do you know anything about cars?” I ask. “I will learn to drive a car,” he answers, looking straight into my eyes. His dream looms like a mirage amidst the dust of streets that fill his town Firozabad, famous for its bangles. Every other family in Firozabad is engaged in making bangles. It is the centre of India’s glass-blowing industry where families have spent generations working around furnaces, welding glass, making bangles for all the women in the land it seems.
- milk booth: a small shop or stall where milk is sold.
- steel canister: a container made of steel, often used for carrying liquids.
- tea stall: a small shop or stand that sells tea.
- pointing in the distance: indicating a direction with one’s finger towards a far-off place.
- paid 800 rupees and all my meals: he receives a wage of 800 rupees and his meals are provided.
- lost the carefree look: he no longer appears carefree or relaxed.
- plastic bag he would carry so lightly over his shoulder: a bag made of plastic that he used to carry easily on his shoulder.
- belongs to the man who owns the tea shop: the canister is the property of the tea shop owner.
- no longer his own master: he’s no longer completely in control of his own decisions and actions.
- insists on being his own master: strongly desires to be independent and in control of his own life.
- motor mechanic: someone who repairs and maintains vehicles, especially cars.
- looking straight into my eyes: making direct eye contact.
- dream looms like a mirage amidst the dust of streets: his dream seems distant and uncertain, like an illusion, amid the challenges of his surroundings.
- Firozabad: a city in India known for its glass industry, particularly bangles.
- centre of India’s glass-blowing industry: a major hub for glass-blowing, a process of shaping molten glass into various objects.
- working around furnaces, welding glass: engaging in the production of glass items using heat and fusion techniques.
- making bangles for all the women in the land it seems: creating bangles, traditional accessories worn by women, seemingly for a wide range of customers.
In this passage, the narrator interacts with Saheb and Mukesh, two individuals striving for better opportunities. Saheb now works at a tea stall and carries a steel canister, symbolizing his changed circumstances. Mukesh aspires to be a motor mechanic and dreams of driving a car. Both of them represent the desire for independence and mastery over their lives. The passage also introduces Firozabad, known for its glass industry, where families have traditionally crafted glass items like bangles. This industry shapes the lives of many families, and the passage illustrates the contrast between individual dreams and the influence of traditional occupations in certain regions.
7. Mukesh’s family is among them. None of them know that it is illegal for children like him to work in the glass furnaces with high temperatures, in dingy cells without air and light; that the law, if enforced, could get him and all those 20,000 children out of the hot furnaces where they slog their daylight hours, often losing the brightness of their eyes. Mukesh’s eyes beam as he volunteers to take me home, which he proudly says is being rebuilt. We walk down stinking lanes choked with garbage, past homes that remain hovels with crumbling walls, wobbly doors, no windows, crowded with families of humans and animals coexisting in a primeval state. He stops at the door of one such house, bangs a wobbly iron door with his foot, and pushes it open. We enter a half-built shack. In one part of it, thatched with dead grass, is a firewood stove over which sits a large vessel of sizzling spinach leaves. On the ground, in large aluminium platters, are more chopped vegetables. A frail young woman is cooking the evening meal for the whole family. Through eyes filled with smoke she smiles. She is the wife of Mukesh’s elder brother. Not much older in years, she has begun to command respect as the bahu, the daughter-in-law of the house, already in charge of three men — her husband, Mukesh and their father. When the older man enters, she gently withdraws behind the broken wall and brings her veil closer to her face. As custom demands, daughters-in-law must veil their faces before male elders. In this case the elder is an impoverished bangle maker. Despite long years of hard labour, first as a tailor, then a bangle maker, he has failed to renovate a house, send his two sons to school. All he has managed to do is teach them what he knows — the art of making bangles.
- glass furnaces: ovens used for melting and shaping glass.
- dingy cells: cramped and poorly lit spaces.
- if enforced: if the law were to be put into action or applied.
- slog their daylight hours: work exhaustively during the daytime.
- losing the brightness of their eyes: becoming physically and emotionally affected due to strenuous work.
- beaming: shining brightly, showing enthusiasm or happiness.
- volunteers to take me home: offers to show the narrator their home.
- crumbling walls: walls in a state of disrepair and falling apart.
- wobbly doors: doors that are unsteady or shaky.
- primeval state: a very basic, primitive condition.
- bangs a wobbly iron door with his foot: knocks on the door with his foot to create a sound.
- pushes it open: opens the door after pushing it.
- thatched with dead grass: covered with a roof made of dried grass.
- sizzling spinach leaves: spinach leaves being cooked with a sizzling sound.
- chopped vegetables: vegetables that have been cut into smaller pieces.
- frail young woman: a thin and delicate young woman.
- cooking the evening meal: preparing the dinner.
- firewood stove: a stove that uses firewood as fuel.
- large aluminium platters: big trays made of aluminum.
- gently withdraws behind the broken wall: moves slowly back, retreating behind a damaged wall.
- brings her veil closer to her face: adjusts her veil to cover more of her face.
- daughters-in-law must veil their faces before male elders: tradition dictates that daughters-in-law should cover their faces in front of older male family members.
- impoverty bangle maker: a bangle maker who is poor.
- renovate a house: repair and improve a house.
- teach them what he knows — the art of making bangles: instruct them in the skills he possesses, which is making bangles.
In this passage, the narrator talks about Mukesh’s family, who live in challenging conditions due to the glass-blowing industry. Despite the illegality of child labor in high-temperature glass furnaces, children like Mukesh work there. Mukesh proudly shows the narrator his home, which is in poor condition. The passage highlights the poverty and hardships faced by Mukesh’s family, including his brother’s wife who is responsible for household tasks and family management. The elder bangle maker’s efforts to teach his sons his trade reflects the cycle of skills and limited opportunities in this environment. The passage reveals the challenges and customs prevalent in their community.
8. “It is his karam, his destiny,” says Mukesh’s grandmother, who has watched her own husband go blind with the dust from polishing the glass of bangles. “Can a god-given lineage ever be broken?” she implies. Born in the caste of bangle makers, they have seen nothing but bangles — in the house, in the yard, in every other house, every other yard, every street in Firozabad. Spirals of bangles — sunny gold, paddy green, royal blue, pink, purple, every colour born out of the seven colours of the rainbow — lie in mounds in unkempt yards, are piled on four-wheeled handcarts, pushed by young men along the narrow lanes of the shanty town. And in dark hutments, next to lines of flames of flickering oil lamps, sit boys and girls with their fathers and mothers, welding pieces of coloured glass into circles of bangles. Their eyes are more adjusted to the dark than to the light outside. That is why they often end up losing their eyesight before they become adults.
- karam: karma, destiny, or the result of one’s actions.
- destiny: predetermined fate or future.
- go blind with the dust from polishing the glass of bangles: become visually impaired due to the dust generated while working with glass bangles.
- god-given lineage: a lineage or family heritage believed to be bestowed by a higher power or fate.
- caste of bangle makers: a social group or class that specializes in making bangles.
- Spirals of bangles: circular forms of decorative accessories.
- sunny gold, paddy green, royal blue, pink, purple: descriptions of different colors of bangles, each color named after its characteristic shade.
- seven colours of the rainbow: a reference to the traditional seven colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet—seen in a rainbow.
- unkempt yards: untidy or poorly maintained open spaces.
- four-wheeled handcarts: carts with four wheels used for transporting goods.
- shanty town: an area characterized by makeshift and often substandard housing.
- dark hutments: small, poorly lit dwellings.
- lines of flames of flickering oil lamps: rows of oil lamps producing unsteady, wavering flames.
- welding pieces of coloured glass into circles of bangles: fusing colored glass fragments to create circular bangle shapes.
- eyes are more adjusted to the dark than to the light outside: their vision is better adapted to low light conditions due to their work environment.
- end up losing their eyesight before they become adults: often experience vision problems that lead to blindness before reaching adulthood.
In this passage, Mukesh’s grandmother reflects on their family’s traditional lineage in the bangle-making caste. The passage describes the abundance of bangles in Firozabad and how they are made, from the piles of colorful spirals to the young workers crafting them in dimly lit environments. The inherent challenges of their work lead to vision problems and blindness at a young age. The passage underlines the deep-seated nature of their trade, which has been handed down through generations despite its difficult consequences for their health and well-being.
Explanation of ‘“It is his karam, his destiny,” says Mukesh’s grandmother, who has watched her own husband go blind with the dust from polishing the glass of bangles. “Can a god-given lineage ever be broken?” she implies.‘
Mukesh’s grandmother uses the phrase “It is his karam, his destiny” to explain Mukesh’s situation. Here’s a breakdown of the statement:
- “It is his karam, his destiny”: The term “karam” refers to destiny or fate in the context of Hindu philosophy and belief. According to this worldview, a person’s destiny is predetermined by their actions and karma from previous lives. In this context, Mukesh’s grandmother is suggesting that his current circumstances, working in the glass industry like his family members, are his fate and predetermined destiny. It implies that his occupation and life path are beyond his control and are determined by divine or cosmic forces.
- “Can a god-given lineage ever be broken?”: Mukesh’s grandmother further implies that their family’s occupation, passed down through generations, is a divine lineage or heritage given by God. She questions whether such a lineage can ever be broken, indicating a belief in the continuity of their family’s traditional occupation, despite its challenges and hardships. The statement reflects the deep-rooted beliefs in fate, tradition, and the inescapable nature of one’s predetermined path in life.
In summary, the grandmother’s statement emphasizes the acceptance of Mukesh’s fate and family heritage, highlighting the belief in destiny and the enduring nature of their traditional occupation as bangle makers. It underscores the idea that their circumstances are beyond their control and are part of a larger divine plan, as per their cultural and religious beliefs.
9. Savita, a young girl in a drab pink dress, sits alongside an elderly woman, soldering pieces of glass. As her hands move mechanically like the tongs of a machine, I wonder if she knows the sanctity of the bangles she helps make. It symbolises an Indian woman’s suhaag, auspiciousness in marriage. It will dawn on her suddenly one day when her head is draped with a red veil, her hands dyed red with henna, and red bangles rolled onto her wrists. She will then become a bride. Like the old woman beside her who became one many years ago. She still has bangles on her wrist, but no light in her eyes. “Ek waqt ser bhar khana bhi nahin khaya,” she says, in a voice drained of joy. She has not enjoyed even one full meal in her entire lifetime — that’s what she has reaped! Her husband, an old man with a flowing beard, says, “I know nothing except bangles. All I have done is make a house for the family to live in.” Hearing him, one wonders if he has achieved what many have failed in their lifetime. He has a roof over his head!
- drab pink dress: a dull or unattractive shade of pink clothing.
- soldering pieces of glass: joining glass fragments using melted material.
- mechanically like the tongs of a machine: performing the action automatically and without conscious thought.
- sanctity of the bangles: the sacredness or significance of the bangles.
- symbolises an Indian woman’s suhaag, auspiciousness in marriage: represents the concept of marital happiness and prosperity for Indian women.
- dawn on her suddenly: she will realize or understand suddenly.
- draped with a red veil: covered with a red-colored cloth.
- hands dyed red with henna: hands colored with a traditional reddish-brown dye.
- red bangles rolled onto her wrists: red-colored bracelets put on her wrists.
- become a bride: get married.
- bangles on her wrist, but no light in her eyes: she wears bangles, but her eyes lack brightness or happiness.
- Ek waqt ser bhar khana bhi nahin khaya: “At one point, I haven’t even had a full meal.”
- voice drained of joy: a voice lacking happiness or enthusiasm.
- not enjoyed even one full meal in her entire lifetime: she hasn’t had the opportunity to fully enjoy a meal in her entire life.
- reaped: in this context, it means “earned” or “received as a result.”
- flowing beard: a beard that grows long and hangs down.
- roof over his head: a place to live, shelter.
In this passage, the narrator describes the young girl, Savita, and an elderly woman working together on making bangles. The narrator ponders if Savita understands the cultural and symbolic significance of the bangles she helps create. The bangles symbolize a woman’s marital happiness and auspiciousness in marriage. The passage contrasts the experience of the older woman, who has lived a life without much enjoyment or fulfillment, and her husband, who finds contentment in providing a home for the family. The passage delves into the traditional roles and expectations associated with marriage and family, as well as the complexity of finding satisfaction in life.
10. The cry of not having money to do anything except carry on the business of making bangles, not even enough to eat, rings in every home. The young men echo the lament of their elders. Little has moved with time, it seems, in Firozabad. Years of mind-numbing toil have killed all initiative and the ability to dream. “Why not organise yourselves into a cooperative?” I ask a group of young men who have fallen into the vicious circle of middlemen who trapped their fathers and forefathers. “Even if we get organised, we are the ones who will be hauled up by the police, beaten and dragged to jail for doing something illegal,” they say. There is no leader among them, no one who could help them see things differently. Their fathers are as tired as they are. They talk endlessly in a spiral that moves from poverty to apathy to greed and to injustice.
- carry on the business of making bangles: continue with the occupation of bangle making.
- rings in every home: the cry or complaint is heard in every household.
- lament: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.
- echo the lament of their elders: express the same grief as their older generations.
- Little has moved with time, it seems, in Firozabad: there has been little progress or change over time in Firozabad.
- mind-numbing toil: exhausting and monotonous work that numbs the mind.
- initiative: the ability to take action and make decisions.
- ability to dream: capacity to imagine and aspire to a better future.
- organise yourselves into a cooperative: form a cooperative organization.
- vicious circle: a situation where a problem or negative situation leads to further problems, creating a cycle.
- middlemen: intermediaries who come between the producers and consumers.
- trapped their fathers and forefathers: ensnared the previous generations.
- hauled up by the police, beaten and dragged to jail: arrested, physically abused, and taken to jail by the police.
- doing something illegal: engaging in actions against the law.
- see things differently: perceive or understand situations from a different perspective.
- There is no leader among them: there isn’t anyone in the group who assumes a leadership role.
- tired as they are: equally exhausted and worn out.
- endlessly in a spiral: repeatedly discussing in a circular manner.
- moves from poverty to apathy to greed and to injustice: transitions from discussing poverty to apathy (lack of interest), then to greed and finally to injustice.
In this passage, the narrator describes the challenges faced by the bangle makers in Firozabad. The cry of financial struggles echoes in every home, and both young and old generations share the same sentiment. Despite the passing of time, little progress is evident in the lives of these artisans. The narrator suggests organizing into a cooperative to address their challenges, but the young men express skepticism due to fear of legal repercussions. The lack of leadership and the exhaustion experienced by both the current and older generations contribute to a cycle of discussions that touch on issues of poverty, apathy, greed, and injustice. The passage highlights the systemic challenges and lack of agency that the bangle makers face.
11. Listening to them, I see two distinct worlds— one of the family, caught in a web of poverty, burdened by the stigma of caste in which they are born; the other a vicious circle of the sahukars, the middlemen, the policemen, the keepers of law, the bureaucrats and the politicians. Together they have imposed the baggage on the child that he cannot put down. Before he is aware, he accepts it as naturally as his father. To do anything else would mean to dare. And daring is not part of his growing up. When I sense a flash of it in Mukesh I am cheered. “I want to be a motor mechanic,’ he repeats. He will go to a garage and learn. But the garage is a long way from his home. “I will walk,” he insists. “Do you also dream of flying a plane?” He is suddenly silent. “No,” he says, staring at the ground. In his small murmur there is an embarrassment that has not yet turned into regret. He is content to dream of cars that he sees hurtling down the streets of his town. Few airplanes fly over Firozabad.
- two distinct worlds: two clearly different environments or situations.
- web of poverty: a complex and challenging situation of poverty.
- burdened by the stigma of caste: oppressed by the negative perception associated with their social caste.
- vicious circle: a cycle of negative events or influences.
- sahukars: moneylenders or wealthy individuals who often take advantage of those in financial need.
- middlemen: intermediaries who stand between producers and consumers, sometimes exploiting both.
- keepers of law: individuals responsible for enforcing laws, such as the police.
- bureaucrats: government officials responsible for administration and implementing policies.
- politicians: individuals in positions of political power.
- imposed the baggage: forced the burdens or challenges onto them.
- dare: to challenge or go against something.
- daring is not part of his growing up: the culture and circumstances discourage taking risks or challenging the norm.
- flash of it in Mukesh: a brief moment or glimpse of this attitude in Mukesh.
- motor mechanic: someone who repairs and maintains vehicles.
- garage: a place where vehicles are repaired and maintained.
- long way from his home: a significant distance from where he lives.
- staring at the ground: looking down at the floor, often indicating hesitation or embarrassment.
- embarrassment that has not yet turned into regret: feeling self-conscious or uneasy about something without fully regretting it yet.
- content to dream of cars: satisfied with the aspiration of becoming a motor mechanic and working with cars.
- hurtling down the streets: moving quickly along the streets.
- few airplanes fly over Firozabad: not many airplanes are seen flying in the sky above Firozabad.
In this passage, the narrator reflects on the distinct worlds of the bangle-making families and the system that surrounds them, which includes sahukars, middlemen, police, bureaucrats, and politicians. The passage discusses how the burdens of poverty and societal constraints are passed down from one generation to another. The narrator observes that daring to challenge these circumstances is rare due to the lack of opportunity and the weight of tradition. Mukesh’s desire to become a motor mechanic stands out as a glimmer of hope in a system that discourages ambition. However, the passage also reveals how the dream is confined to what is locally accessible and achievable, as evidenced by Mukesh’s contentment with the idea of working with cars. The limited aspirations reflect the constrained environment they live in.