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Class 4 :: English Literature :: The Two Questions - A traditional story in dramatic form (Cambridge Connection English)

  The Two Questions - A traditional story in dramatic form (Cambridge Connection English)

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Dear Mrs Naidu

 by Mathangi Subramaniam

Start Here

Think about each of the following statements and mark them on a scale of 1(if you strongly disagree) to 5 (if you strongly agree).

1. Writing letters to people is better than texting them/sending emails. [2]

2. I enjoy receiving letters to others. [4]

3. I enjoy writing letters to others. [3]

4. I often write letters to family and friends. [2]

5. I would love to write letters to famous personalities. [5]


Read and answer

1. Choose the correct answers.

a. Why had Sarojini's Amma allowed her to write to a stranger?

i. It was a school assignment. [✓]

ii. Sarojini had begged her Amma to let her. [ ]

iii. Sarojini had not really asked her. [ ]

b. How was Annie Miss different from other teachers?

i. She said it was time for students to be serious about studies. [ ]

ii. She encouraged the students to ask questions. [ ]

iii. She thought school shouldn't be about memorizing things. [✓]

c. What inspired Sarojini to write to Mrs Naidu?

i. She had read a book about Mrs Naidu's childhood. [✓]

ii. She didn't have any other options. [ ]

iii. She had read an article about the Indian Independence movement. [ ]

2. Why does Sarojini say that she would not have been able to fight against the Britishers?

= Sarojini says that she would not have been able to fight against the Britishers because they had lots of spies and detectives and things that India did not have.

3. Why had Sarojini Naidu locked herself in a room for a whole day?

= Sarojini Naidu locked herself in a room for a whole day because she disagreed with her parents who wanted her to speak English instead of Bengali.

Reference to context

4.  "She says memorizing things and saying them back makes you a parrot, not a person. She says she wants us to grow our brains and our hearts."

a. Who is 'she' in these lines?

= 'She' is the new teacher Annie Miss of the school of the little girl who is writing this letter to Sarojini Naidu.

b. Does Sarojini seem to agree with the opinion that memorizing things makes you a parrot?

= Sarojini does not seem to agree with the opinion that memorizing things makes us a parrot. She wanted to ask how their hearts would help them pass their exams and college and get a job and buy a house with a proper roof and maybe even a garden, which were all the reasons why they go to school. But she did not ask because her teacher might not like her cross questions.

c. What do you understand by growing one's heart?

= I think growing our hearts means to be more mature to imagine and take proper decisions.

5. "(I'm sorry if that was rude, but I've never written to a dead deceased passed on historical person before, so I don't really know the polite way to say that you are dead it.)"

a. Who is writing these lines? Whom are the lines addressed to?

= A 12-year-old girl is writing these lines.

The lines are addressed to Sarojini Naidu.

b. What is the writer referring to when she says "that was rude"?

= The writer is referring to the fact that she and Sarojini Naidu don't have much in common. For one thing, she is alive and Sarojini Naidu is dead. The way she expresses the fact of Sarojini being dead is rude.

c. What can you say about the writer based on the way she has rewritten her words?

= Based on the way the writer has rewritten her words, I can say that she has immense respect and adore for Sarojini Naidu. She is inspired by her a lot. She is trying to convey her feelings for her through her writings.

6. "I don't know if this is true or just a story, but if I had a house with more than one room, there are plenty of times, I would've locked myself behind a closed door."

a. Which 'story' is being referred to here?

= The writer has been read a book about the life of Sarojini Naidu. The book says that Sarojini's parents wanted her to speak English instead of Bengali. It says she locked herself in a room for a whole day because she disagreed with them. She didn't come down for for lunch. This 'story' is being referred to here.

b. What can we understand about Sarojini's life at home from this sentence?

= From this sentence, we can imagine that like all other women of the medieval India, Sarojini was also not free from the rules of family and society. She did not have the freedom of taking the decision of her own life.

Reflect and answer

7. What have you learnt about Sarojini's view of adults? What does it say about her life?

= According to Sarojini, adults let children do anything if only its a school assignment. She also says that adults don't like children to question them. She further says that adults don't understand anything at all, but act like they do.

It says that Sarojini does not have an affluent life. She belongs to a poor family. She does not have freedom to do anything. She had limitations in her activities. She has grudges in her mind. She wants to lock herself like Mrs. Naidu if she had many rooms like her.

8. After reading the lesson, would you say that Sarojini and Mrs Naidu might have more in common than just their name? Why or why not?

= After reading the lesson, initially I would say that Sarojini and Mrs Naidu might not have more in common than just their name. First of all, Sarojini is alive but Mrs Naidu is dead. 

Secondly, at the age of twelve, Mrs Naidu wrote a thousands of lines long English poem. Sarojini can not write that many lines in any language.

Mrs Naidu topped the Madras University matriculation exam when she was twelve. Sarojini topped their class five exams, but she doesn't think that she could top a college exam.

Mrs Naidu fought for India's freedom and won. Sarojini never fought for anything. She was not even sure of winning the battle against the Britishers if she had to do it.

Mrs Naidu lived in a huge house with a lot of rooms and maids. Sarojini has only one room and her mother does all the household chores.

Sarojini has read the part about Mrs Naidu's childhood of the book about the life of the same. She thinks that the part makes her like Mrs Naidu. They feel the same about the attitude of the adults. They don't understand anything at all, but act like they do. At this point they are somehow the same.

9. Read these  statements from the lesson and answer the questions that follow.

a. "Amma says I'm not allowed to speak to strangers."

Do you agree with Amma's advice?

= I am partially agree with Amma's advice but not completely. Amma is worried about child's safety. So it is right to not to speak to strangers. On the other hand, if we don't talk to strangers, we can not know whether they need our help or they help us. We can not know the people as well as the world. Children are not always immature or stupid. They know how to be safe.

b. "If you ever want adults to let you do something, just tell them it is a school assignment."

Do you agree with Sarojini's view here?

= I partly agree with Sarojini. Most of the parents limit the activities of their children. They give freedom only its about school or school related things. But, their are many parents who know which are good and which are bad for their children. So, they would not allow it if its of school or not. So, this trick is not always fruitful.

c. "Annie Miss says she doesn't think school should be about memorizing things and saying them back."

Do you agree with Annie Miss?

= I agree with Annie Miss. But there are many things which we have to memorize only. Like the rules of grammar, the multiplication tables etc. We have to try both memorizing and understanding things.

d. "... our English Miss says they (detective novels) are useless rags."

Do you agree with Sarojini's English teacher?

= I do not agree with Sarojini's English teacher. Detective novels are other genre of literature. They are the stimuli of our imagination and presence of mind. They inspire us to be adventurous and be careful in all aspect of life.

e. "It (the book) says you locked yourself in a room for a whole day because you disagreed with them (Sarojini Naidu's parents)."

Do you also agree that Mrs Naidu's actions were brave?

= Yes, I think Mrs Naidu's actions were brave at that age while women were ignored like animals. They did not have liberty. They did not have the right to be literate.

Think about how you might frequently disagree with the adults around you. They may have different views, they may not understand your emotions, and you may not understand the things they say and do. Is there a way to talk about certain issues in a calm manner to bridge this gap?

= There always will be a generation gap between the adults and the children. They would think right what they do. We think it wrong. They have their way of thinking. We have the new way of thinking. So obviously there is a way to talk about certain issues in a calm manner to bridge this gap. We have to accept a middle path to stay in a peaceful co-existence. We have to accept new ideas holding the old experiences.

About the Author :

Mathangi Subramanian is an Indian writer and educator, whose works of non-fiction have been published in famous newspapers like The Washington Post, Quartz, The Hindu and The Wire among many others. Her first novel, Dear Mrs Naidu, bagged the South Asia Book Award in 2016. Mathangi's short stories have also received great acclaim and prizes across categories.

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