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Punishment in the Kindergarten – Kamala Das

Today the world is a little more my own.
No need to remember the pain
A blue-frocked woman caused, throwing
Words at me like pots and pans, to drain
That honey-coloured day of peace.
‘Why don’t you join the others, what
A peculiar child you are! ‘

Meaning
  • Today the world is a little more my own – ?
  • No need to remember – ?
  • A blue-frocked woman – The poet’s teacher at the primary school (probably a Catholic nun)
  • Throwing words at me like pots and pans – Speak rashly; shout at someone.
  • Drain – Remove; cause to lose something.
  • Honey-coloured day – A sweet day
  • Peace – A calm state of the mind.
  • Peculiar – Exceptional; different from the rest of the group.
Questions & Answers
  1. Who had caused pain to the poet?
    A woman, probably the poet’s teacher at the lower school, had caused pain to the poet.
  2. Why does the poet say that ‘there is no need to remember the day?’
  3. Why did the blue-frocked woman get angry with the poet?
    The blue-frocked woman got angry with the poet because the poet didn’t join the other children who played together. The poet was not like the other children. She was peculiar. The teacher wanted all the children to be together.
  4. Explain, “throwing words at me like pots and pans?”
  5. How does the poet describe the happiness she had on that day before it was drained by the blue-frocked woman?

On the lawn, in clusters, sat my
schoolmates sipping
Sugarcane, they turned and laughed;
Children are funny things, they laugh
In mirth at others’ tears, I buried
My face in the sun-warmed hedge
And smelt the flowers and the pain.

Meaning
  • Lawns – Grass
  • Clusters – Groups
  • Mirth – Amusement
  • Buried – Hid
Questions & Answers
  1. What did the children do when the poet was scolded by the teacher?
  2. Why does the poet say that children are funny things?
    Children are funny things because they are not able to understand the depth of a sad soul. When people cry in pain, children usually laugh at them. It is not because they make fun of the sufferings of people. It is because there is no pain in their world. For them there is only happiness in the world.
  3. Does the poet mean that she was not childish at that time? Support your answer.
    Yes, I think the poet didn’t consider her childish. She was different from the other children because she was a different, ‘peculiar’ child. The world was her school, not the crammed classroom or the little park where they went for picnic.
  4. What did the poet do when the children laughed at her?
  5. What did the poet smell when she buried her face in the sun-warmed hedge?

The words are muffled now, the laughing
Faces only a blur. The years have
Sped along, stopping briefly
At beloved halts and moving
Sadly on. My mind has found
An adult peace. No need to remember
That picnic day when I lay hidden
By a hedge, watching the steel-white sun
Standing lonely in the sky.

Meaning
  • Muffled – silent; silenced
  • Years have sped along – Many years have passed 
  • Briefly
  • Beloved halts
  • Adult peace
  • Steel white sun – The shining sun
Questions & Answers
  1. What words have become muffled?
    The rash words of the blue-frocked woman and the laughter of the other children have become muffled.
  2. How did the poet’s life and world change since that picnic day?
    1. The shouting of the blue-frocked woman was not heard any more.
    2. The laughter of the children became mute.
    3. The laughing faces of the children also faded.
  3. What does the poet mean by ‘beloved halts?’ Why were they beloved?
    Beloved halts are the points in the poet’s life as she grew up. These halts included happy marriages and sad deaths among others. They were beloved for the poet because those were occasions on which the poet lost or found her beloved ones.
  4. How is an adult’s peace different from a child’s peace?
  5. What could the poet have felt when she saw the lonely sun in the sky?

What do you think?

Eliza – My Fair Lady – Pygmalion – George Bernard Shaw

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