A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream – Act 1 Scene 2

Summary.. A Mid Summer Night’s Dream Act 1 Scene 2

In the build-up to the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, the air in Athens is festive. Citizens are agog in excitement, just the same way the lovers in the palace are. In another corner of Athens, away from Theseus’s palace, a few commoners have thought of a novel idea to contribute to the festivities by enacting a play befitting to the occasion. They have assembled at the house of Peter Quince to rehearse a play that would be staged as part of the grand celebrations.
Quince, a carpenter, has taken the initiative to make preparations for staging the play. He calls the folks to attention. The weaver Nick Bottom, a chatterbox by nature, interjects unnecessarily. He is a busybody and can’t restrain himself. He has an opinion and a suggestion to offer at every step.
Quince brief the armature actors about the play. The name of the play was to be: The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisb. The story is based on two lovers, who find their romance hindered by the animosity of their parents. The lovers manage to speak to each other at night through a hole in the wall.
In the play, a lion appears from nowhere and springs on Thisbe one night. Her attire gets shredded to pieces. But, she manages to flee. Pyramus discovers the tattered dress, and concludes that his beloved Thisbe has not survived the lion attack. Devastated and unable to bear the shock, he takes his own life. Later, Thisbe finds Pyramus’s blood-stained corpse, and decides to kill herself out of grief.
Quince starts to name the actors and their roles. their parts:
Bottom is to play Pyramus
Francis Flute, Thisbe
Robin Starveling, Thisbe’s mother
Tom Snout, Pyramus’s father
Quince himself, Thisbe’s father and
Snug, the Lion.
As Quince announces the roles the parts, Bottom starts his ill-conceived comments, claiming for himself the roles of Thisbe, and the Lion. He said he had a feminine voice that made him eminently suitable to be Thisbe. Quite laughably, he said roar like a lion and that qualifies him to play the Lion’s role. Quince pleads with him to forgo all these claims and settle for the role of Pyramus. ‘Quince was handsome, so he was cut out for being Pyramus,’ reasoned Quince.
Snug wondered if he had a voice as loud and coarse as that of a lion. He sulked to play the lion. Quince coaxed him to agree, as he didn’t have to utter a word because lion do not speak. Lions growl and roar, and do not speak. This assurance, however, had an unintended consequence. Those present there feared that a lion’s roar on stage could set off a panic among the elite ladies in the front rows. That would be disastrous as such ill-conceived plot could result in the stage artists being sent to the gallows as punishment. Fraying the nerves of the wealthy and the powerful was too risky, thought they.
Bottom has a solution for this. He says he could tone down his roar to make it sound like a melodious song. That would not frighten anyone. Quince persists with his suggestion that Baottom could only play Pyramus, not the Lion. The group of farmers end their consultation there agreeing to meet in the woods the following night. Rehearsal could start then.


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Mental Healthcare in Pakistan

Mental Health Care in Pakistan

Mentally ill people do not get a fair deal in Pakistan mainly due to lack of adequate modern facilities. Regrettably, this subject is a taboo for the vast sections of the poor masses who never discuss it openly. This makes the treatment of mentally deranged people all the more difficult.
Affluent patients can afford going to mental hospitals where they receive scientific treatment. The poor patients, already rendered incapable of any gainful employment, prove to be a burden on their families. Naturally, the caretakers’ resources are stretched to the extreme in trying to get them treated. Such patients and their families have little recourse to anything else other than hoping for a miracle to happen that could enable the hapless patients to find their feet again.
Safia Bibi, hailing from Gujranwala, is one such woman whose young able-bodied son is afflicted by this debilitating illness. Already she has run out of resources and options to turn round her son. Already at the end of the tether, she has fallen back on hope. She has come with her son Ahmad (20) to the centuries-old Sufi shrine in rural Punjab hoping that the shrine’s healing power rid Ahmad of the disease.
Safia has a pensive look in her face, and Ahmad stares vacantly at her. An iron chain binds his ankle to a tree so that he can’t flee or cause trouble to others. The mother looks searchingly at Ahmad’s face as she puts some food into his mouth. Signs of misery caused by years of battling with poverty, and her son’s doom are writ large on her face.
She bemoans her fate narrating how Ahmad used to run away from home to wander aimlessly in the alleys. Soon, he became a target of street boys who pelted stones at Ahmad for childish fun. Her eyes welled up as she lamented her fare. Grief compounded by poverty gnawed at her relentlessly.
Quite close to her lies an old man chained and made immobile. He struggles to break free, but, obviously, he can’t. He groans and grunts as his wife looks on pitifully.
Dozens of such unfortunate families have poured into the shrine. They all lie like lumps on the sprawling floor of the shrine. Each has his own story to tell, but all have their cups of woes full. The floor looks to be in a shambles with heaps of clothes and sick people all over the place.
In a society where mentally ill people are subject of much derision, the shrine offers the last haven. Some are indeed healed, some are not that fortunate. A few of such incurable patients are abandoned by their family members who simply walk away abandoning the patient to his fate.
Atta Mohammud is the custodian of the shrine. His job is to chain the patients to pin them down. He provides some frugal meal to the inmates. For his work, he wins accolades, but faces a lot of criticism for the basic living conditions there ion the shrine. He takes both with equanimity, saying wryly that with his limited resources he can provide only this much.
Mental illness is not incorrigible. It can be cured by trained psychiatrists, but Pakistan has too few of them to cater to the teeming mentally ill people.
Life in the shrine is not all that dreary all the time. Some patients erupt to Qawwali singing and dancing. The iron chain in their ankles can’t chain their spirits. But such gaiety is illusory, at best. The shrine will continue to beckon those who need its succour.

Civi Service essay — Post-URI National Mood

Post-Uri national mood

Bruised by the Uri attack, Prime minister Modi has been mulling over possible non-military options to convey to Pakistan India’s extreme anger over the incursion. MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status for Pakistan is almost going to be withdrawn. Sharing river waters with Pakistan as per the Indus Water Treaty is no longer a pleasant idea. PM Modi has been holding confabulations to see if the treaty can be abrogated, and water flow be stemmed to hurt Pakistan.
His intentions are writ large on his remarks that “Blood and Water cannot flow together.” However, it seems certain that India will honour the IWT for now. Instead, the Centre intends to make full and optimal use of India’s share of waters as per the Treaty. Curiously, India has not been doing so, till now. Abrogating the IWT is a fraught and pungent option that would have serious ramifications. Holding of the inter-ministerial meeting on IWT options at this point was, therefore, not going to be useful.
In his Kozikode message, Modi had given a statesman type call to the Pakistanis to jointly fight poverty, with India. It was a positive message, but talking loudly about cancellation of the IWT was not. It has to be borne in mind that the World Bank had midwife the IWT of 1960. The treaty that outlines the way the water of the five rivers are to be shared by India and Pakistan has stood firm, despite the wars the two nations fought in 1965 and 1971, and the continual flare-ups along the LOC. India would find itself in the wrong side of law if it reneges on the treaty. Global condemnation would follow.
In what way India can make use of its balance share of the water of the five rivers is not clear. Only some parts of Jammu and Kashmir can be irrigated better with the water. For holding back the excess unused water now flowing into Pakistan, dams would have to be built. It could take years. Most international funding institutions and banks will frown upon such a plan that would surely impact environment.
Now it appears that the frenzied media coverage of the Prime minister’s ‘review’ of the IWT was anything but a damp squib. Such an ill-co0nceived move and the hype created about it later have damaged the credibility of the PM. Regrettably, the media storm continues apace, and do not show sign of slowing down. The pros and cons of going back on the Treaty are not seeing the much-needed dispassionate analysis. Instead, we hear a lot of irrational but potentially dangerous jingoism. The need of the hour is a cool head and a cool nerve. Revoking the MFN status will hardly ruffle Pakistan, given the low volume of bilateral trade.
Pre-empting Uri and Pathankot style attacks needs a whole gamut of strategies – strategic, intelligence and political. Discussing these matters in public reduces their efficacy. India’s strategic restraint in the past against cross-border terrorism has helped the country build its image as a dependable, stable and responsible country. This approach must not be abandoned. After all, India and Pakistan will have to return to peace, one day.

ICSE English literature Class 7 — The Flower School

The Flower School
Introduction ..
Rabindanath Tagore is the iconic Bengali writer who brought India its first (only, so far) Nobal Prize in Literature. Through the innocent eyes of a school-going child, the poet captures the thrill and excitement of the blossoming of flowers with the onset of rains. The childlike description of the seasonal appearance and departure of flowers on and from the face of the earth touches everyone’s heart. A child’s fascination with flowers, her dread of the school, and love for her mother are depicted in this short poem with remarkable vividness. This is why this small poem has such time-less abiding appeal.

Explanation … When storm clouds burst and rains begin to fall from the sky in June, moisture-laden winds from the east brush past the bushes with great speed. A shrill sound emanates from the bamboo bushes.
A huge carpet of yellow-coloured tiny flowers seem to descend down on the grass, as the seasonal flowers erupt with astounding glee.
Prior to appearing on the grasses, the tiny flowers seem to go underground to finish their home tasks. Only after they finish the tasks, they venture to come to the open. Just as a child is pulled up for coming to class with incomplete homework, the same way do not dare to prematurely blossom on the earth. Such likening of the wild flowers with school going youngsters is nothing but a figment of imagination conjured up by the poet, but it is so apt and enjoyable.
The rains arrival brings the respite from studies. The flowers come out to the open with frenzied excitement, the same way students welcome the start of the holidays.
As the winds sway the trees, the branches rub against one another and the leaves flutter filling the air with strange sounds.
The clouds roar with vigour and flowers of myriad hues make their appearance in unison.
The child is bewildered to see all these. He imagines that the abode of the flowers is in the starry sky, and they come to the earth on short annual sojourns.
In his innocence, the child perceives that the flowers are keen to go back to their homes. The flowers’ mothers are there in the sky and they can not remain away from their mothers for too long. So, they come, but go back hurriedly.
The child’s innocence is so endearing.

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Odisha State Board English — The Cancer Fight – from Hiroshima to Huston

The cancer fight, from Hiroshima to Nagasaki
Think it out 1…
1. The atomic bomb explosion by the U.S. on Hiroshima in 1945 and the deadly aftermath of radiation exposure made it a part of the world history.
2. The three traumatic events of Ritsuko’s childhood were the death of almost half of her relatives including her father & Sadako Sasaki, her closest friend, and finally, the fact that she grew up in the shadows of the killer radiation unleashed by the bomb explosion.
3. Ritusko was devastated by the tragic loss of her near and dear ones. At the same time, she became determined to understand and fight cancer.
4. Dr Komaki’s specialization is proton-based radiation therapy.
5. She is famous for her extensive research in the safe and most effective proton radiation beam therapy.
6. For oncologists, the effective proton radiation beam therapy is the safest yet the most effective way of therapy available today.
7. Komaki prefers university over private institutions when it comes to her work and research as she firmly believes that pioneering cancer treatment work is done very efficiently and rigorously in a university. Private clinics and hospitals lack the manpower and organization to vet the patients and conduct and monitor treatment on patients.
8. Dr. Komaki likes to teach as she is keen on propagating her new ideas and findings among many more number of cancer doctors.
9. Komaki is a dedicated and pioneering cancer doctor. She is keen to find ways to alleviate the sufferings of cancer patients. For a person of such missionary zeal, money is much less than conducting path-breaking research.
10. Her mission in life is to develop new and effective means to cure cancer and pass on her skills to as many new doctors as possible, so that doomed cancer patients get a new lease of life.
11. “She no longer fears it”- means that she no longer fears the deadly disease of cancer.
12. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, & photon therapy were used for treating cancer before proton therapy got added to the cancer surgeon’s array of tools for treatment of the disease
13. Initially, Komaki learnt that surgery was the only recourse for both the doctors and patients to combat cancer. She came to know about the efficacy of radiation later.
14. In the U.S., she came to learn about the revolutionary proton therapy.
15. She learnt that localized radiation treatment was less harmful than the chemotherapy. She also realized that it was un-focused nature radiation that caused so much collateral damage to the patient’s body.
16. Komaki and her husband started proton therapy in the Anderson Cancer Center by pushing the same unit they had in Houston.
17. The advent of proton therapy happened in 1954.
18. Komaki’s expertise on proton therapy holds immense promise for future of cancer cure and research. It would prove to be a giant stride to alleviate the sufferings of and even cure cancer patients.


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Odisha State Board English ..London in Minus Four

London in minus fours

Think it out 1
Answer 1.. .. Gandhi represented the voice of large sections of Indians. His charm and personality made him eminently qualified to represent India in the Round Table Conference. So, he was chosen as the sole representative of Congress in the London Conference.
Answer2 . .. Gandhi made his way into the hearts of the poor Londoners by his jovial nature and his disarming modesty. During his morning strolls, he charmed everyone whom he encountered on the way through his smiles and greetings. Even the children were attracted to him. At times, Gandhi used to call on people at their homes. The rapport he built with the British endeared him to one and all.


Think it out 2
Answer 1 .. .. To the journalists question about his scanty dress, Gandhi replied saying that they wore ‘plus-fours’, where as he wore‘minus-fours’.
Answer 2 ….Gandhiji wore his usual frugal dress even while going to meet the King. He wore a loincloth, sandals, and a shawl. His dollar watch hung from his waist.
Answer 3. ..Gandhi had a ready repartee who asked him if he was properly dressed for his meeting with the King. Gandhi quipped that the King had enough clothes on his body for both of them.

Answer 4 ..Gandhiji enjoyed himself in London by meeting many famous personalities like Lord lrwen, David Lloyd Geroge, Marshal Smuts, Bernard Shaw. He also had some public meetings. However, Winston Churchill refused to see him.

Answer 5 ..Gandhiji’s idea was to completely severe all links of India with the British colonial authority. However, he was not in favour of cutting off relations with the Britain. To this end, he wanted India to remain in the Commonwealth as a free nation rubbing shoulders with the British government in equal terms.

Answer 6 .. By ‘creative independence’, Gandhi visualized a free India. Freedom had to foster love, friendship, work, progress, prosperity, unity, and security for the independent people. Freedom for namesake was not what Gandhi wanted.

Think it out 3 – In London in Minus Fours

Answer 1. Gandhij’s qualities like charm, frankness, humility, and accessibility turned his opponents into his friends.

Answer 2 ..Gandhi remained steadfast on his noble principles. He never allowed jealousy, vengeance or rivalry to creep into his mind. He was fair and honest with both friend and foe alike. His life was open and transparent. He readily apologized for the smallest discourtesy to anyone. Thus, he won many friends even among those whom he criticized.

Answer 3 ..Mahatma Gandi’s work outside the Round Table Conference was to convince the people about the genuineness of India’s sorrows and her craving for freedom.

Answer 4 ..The second Round Table conference failed as Lord Reading stubbornly refused to give any tangible relief to India with regard to the demand for freedom. Lord Reading reiterated that Britain would continue to colonize India.

Answer 5 ..Mr. Gandhi built a rapport with the Scotland detectives by treating them equally and in the friendliest way. He visited their homes. He didn’t maintain any distance with them during public appearances. On returning to India, he sent them two watches as his personal presents.


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Odisha State Board – The Golden Touch by Nethaniel Hawthrone.


Model answers

Think it out 1..
1. King Midas had fabulous wealth, with an insatiable obsession with gold. He loved his daughter Marygold and would lavish gold on her as a symbol of love. The King derived great satisfaction from his possession of a gold crown.
2. Upon seeing the golden light of the sun, he wished if it could turn everything into gold.
3. He considered the roses grown in her garden as too mundane and ordinary. They didn’t enthuse him a bit. He wished his garden had roses of gold.
4. As his favourite pastime, he would walk to hid hidden store where gold coins were kept. Then he would count them one by one. The jingle of the coins pleased him a lot. At times, he would hold a gold bar, and start imagining gold cups and plates.
5. The stranger made his appearance inside his top-secret treasure room as soon as the first rays of the Sun came in. The king was baffled to see him. He had a soft smile in his face.
6. The King had concluded that the stranger had magical powers. On hearing his query about his want, the king asked him about ways to hasten his amassing of gold. Quite foolishly, the king wanted the power to transform everything he touched to gold.
7. In order to fulfil the wishes of King Midas, the stranger assured him that he would get his golden touch as soon as the sun rose the next day.


The golden touch – Think it out 2
1. Quite early in the morning, the king discovered that his desire for the golden touch had been fulfilled when a piece of cloth near him turned into gold upon his touch.
2. On touch, the king’s spectacles turned to gold making it useless as a device for vision. However, the king was not unduly perturbed. The golden touch was far more beneficial than a pair of glasses, he construed.
3. Marygold’s complaint about the red roses was that they had lost both their beauty and sweet scent.
4. The king consoled his daughter by saying that the golden roses were worth much more than the real ones. So, she needn’t be so distraught at the conversion,’ the king reasoned with her.
5. The king couldn’t enjoy his delicious breakfast as it all turned into gold as soon as he tried to eat.
6. When Midas kissed his dear daughter Marygold, she turned into gold. Her sweet little face turned into yellowish gold. She remained frozen in her new Avarar.


The Golden Touch – Think it out 3…
1. The king had rejoiced at his newly-acquired ‘golden touch’ till he touched his dear daughter Marygold. When she froze to a golden, lifeless girl, the king was devastated. He quickly realized his folly and concluded that the ‘golden touch’ was a useless gift.
2. The king was filled with remorse for so blindly pursuing gold. He realized that all the ordinary worldly things were more useful than gold. When he asked the stranger to revoke the gift, the latter commented like this.
3. In order to get rid of the golden touch the stranger advised the king to wash himself in the river at the end of his garden and to sprinkle water from the same river over anything to change them to their default state.
4. As soon as King Midas sprinkled water on Marygold, she sprang back to life.
5. The story is nothing more than a comic, because no such thing can ever happen. All these happened because of the foolishness of King Midas.

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Odisha State Board – English literature -Standing up for Yourself by Yevgeny Yevtoshenko

STANDING UP FOR YOURSELF by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Answers to short questions…

Think it out 1..
The writer is an adult while he narrates his childhood experiences.
The narrator did not have a happy childhood. After his parents divorced, he was left to fend for himself. He lived virtually in the streets, and his education was in tatters.
He had no contact with his father after his parents were divorced. His father working in far-off Kazakhstan never wrote him a letter.
The narrator’s mother, who used to be a geologist, resigned from her job. She became a singer giving concerts for soldiers.
The statement, “My education was left to the streets’ implies that he had no access to a decent education. Instead, he spent his time in the streets exposed to the coarseness and criminality of street kids.
In my opinion the best lesson the street taught him was to overcome his fear of those mightier than him.


Think it out 2..
1. Scars from daily fights and constant battle with the odds of streets had robbed him his childlike innocent look. He had big and broad shoulders which made him look so much older than his age of 16.
2. He had two or three younger accomplices who acted as his aides in his criminal assaults on innocent passers-by. They hung around Red and helped him in looting the victims.
3. Red wore a cap that was swept backwards. His hair in the front fell out of the cap.
4. Perhaps, he purposely dressed and walked so menacingly, so that he could instill fear in others.
5. The lieutenants were his comrades who formed the gang. In order to show their solidarity with Red, they too wore their caps in similar manner.
6. A dog is the pet that follows its master as loyally as the lieutenants followed Red.
7. Red used to accost a pedestrian, utter the word ‘money’. His lieutenants then subdued the victim by force and empty his pocket of any cash.
8. He resorted to intimidation and force to counter anyone who came in his way. If necessary, he would use his knuckle-duster to do bodily harm to the stranger.
9. Yes, initially he was. He said, “Everyone was afraid of Red. So was I.” Later, he overcame his fear through determination.


Think it out 3..
1. In order to overcome his fear of Red, the narrator wrote a poem about him.
2. The people in the street were thrilled by the poem’s sarcasm.
3. By triumphant hatred, it means that the poem had the desired effect of irking Red, the bully everyone disliked. They rejoiced at the annoyance of Red.
4. Red sneered at the narrator saying that he writes the verses & asked if they rhyme.
5. In his first encounter with Red, the narrator got badly injured as he was struck on his head by Red’s knuckle duster.
6. No, the narrator says this cynically.
7. For narrator, overcoming the fear of Red was more difficult.
8. In the second encounter, the narrator didn’t even dare to go in front of Red & felt too ashamed because of this.


Think it out 4..
1. In order to be stronger, the narrator trained with parallel bars and weight that made his muscles stronger. He also practiced a Japanese method of wrestling called ju-jitsu from a book. This technique enabled a person to effectively take on another much stronger foe.
2. The narrator got a textbook on ju-jitsu by forsaking a week’s ration entitlement towards the cost.
3. Before his final encounter with Red, the narrator trained for three weeks. He practiced the new method with two boys.
4. The final encounter took place in the community yard where the narrator lived. Red was engrossed in playing vingt-et-un with his friends by sitting on the lawn.
5. The narrator had decided to confront Red frontally. The narrator went up to Red & defiantly kicked and scattered the cards he was playing with.
6. Red was surprised by the audacity and belligerence of the narrator. He sprang to his feet to counter the narrator.
7. The narrator lunged forward and gave Red a hard blow which left him seething in pain.
8. Clearly, Red found the narrator too skilled and strong to counter. He had to drop his knuckle-duster when the narrator squeezed his wrist.
9. During his last encounter with Red, the narrator learned that he need not fear a person way too stronger than him. The stronger adversary can be neutralized by suitable fighting skill.
10. The narrator prepared himself to be a poet.
11. True: Courage means conquering fear. Timidity before a stronger foe only emboldens him. So, the right approach is to take him head on.

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ICSE -English Literature — Cabuliwallah

The Cabuliwallah [ The Fruitseller from Kabul ]
Rabindranath Tagore

My five years’ old daughter Mini cannot live without chattering. I really believe that in all her life she has not wasted a minute in silence. Her mother is often vexed at this, and would stop her prattle, but I would not. To see Mini quiet is unnatural, and I cannot bear it long. And so my own talk with her is always lively. One morning, for instance, when I was in the midst of the seventeenth chapter of my new novel, my little Mini stole into the room, and putting her hand into mine, said: “Father! Ramdayal the door-keeper calls a crow a krow! He doesn’t know anything, does he?” Before I could explain to her the differences of language in this world, she was embarked on the full tide of another subject. “What do you think, Father? Bhola says there is an elephant in the clouds, blowing water out of his trunk, and that is why it rains!” And then, darting off anew, while I sat still making ready some reply to this last saying, “Father! what relation is Mother to you?”

In different words .. My little 5-year-old daughter Mini is, no doubt, a chatterbox. Her inquisitiveness about worldly things is limitless, but her patience to hear out the reply is equally limited. She darts in and out of my room, and shoots questions that bear the mark of her childlike simplicity. Staying quiet is not in her grain. Listlessness is alien to her nature. One morning, when I was deeply engrossed in my thought about a plot of my novel, she tiptoed into my room and fired her questions in rapid succession. Why did Dindayal call a crow a ‘ krow’, and was Bhola’s contention that an elephant in the cloud poured rains on earth not an absurd idea? Finally, Mini wanted to know how her mother was related to me! I knew her innate exuberance makes her so agile. So, seeing her quiet saddens me, although her mother finds her ebullience somewhat annoying.

“My dear little sister in the law!” I murmured involuntarily to myself, but with a grave face contrived to answer: “Go and play with Bhola, Mini! I am busy!”

The window of my room overlooks the road. The child had seated herself at my feet near my table, and was playing softly, drumming on her knees. I was hard at work on my seventeenth chapter, where Protrap Singh, the hero, had just caught Kanchanlata, the heroine, in his arms, and was about to escape with her by the third story window of the castle, when all of a sudden Mini left her play, and ran to the window, crying, “A Cabuliwallah! a Cabuliwallah!” Sure enough in the street below was a Cabuliwallah, passing slowly along. He wore the loose soiled clothing of his people, with a tall turban; there was a bag on his back, and he carried boxes of grapes in his hand.
In different words … The question about my relationship with Mini’s mother caught me unaware. She was too young to understand marital matters. To skirt the question I thought of saying ‘My little sister in law’. But, I chose to ward off the embarrassment by asking Mini, rather sternly, to go and play with Bhola.
Mini sat there near my feet playing something on her own. I was lost in my thought trying to figure out how Proptap Singh, with her beloved Kanchanlata in her arms, was trying to flee the castle from the third storey. Suddenly, Mini sprang to her feet shouting ‘ Cabuliwalah, Cabuliwalah’. Through the window that gave a clear view of the road, she had actually seen one walking on the road. The man was attired in baggy, soiled clothes, with a huge turban on the head. A bag hung from his shoulders. He looked so different, so quintessentially Afghan. He held some packets of grapes in his hand.

I cannot tell what were my daughter’s feelings at the sight of this man, but she began to call him loudly. “Ah!” I thought, “he will come in, and my seventeenth chapter will never be finished!” At which exact moment the Cabuliwallah turned, and looked up at the child. When she saw this, overcome by terror, she fled to her mother’s protection, and disappeared. She had a blind belief that inside the bag, which the big man carried, there were perhaps two or three other children like herself. The pedlar meanwhile entered my doorway, and greeted me with a smiling face.

So precarious was the position of my hero and my heroine, that my first impulse was to stop and buy something, since the man had been called. I made some small purchases, and a conversation began about Abdurrahman, the Russians, she English, and the Frontier Policy.
In different words … My daughter appeared intrigued, possibly. I knew she would call him, and that would disrupt my continuing with the story. True to my apprehension, the strange-looking Cabuliwallah looked at Mini, as if to size her up. He terrified my child for sure for she scampered to the safety of her mother into the inner chambers of the house. Mini had imagined that the stranger had two or three hidden in the bag. That thought drove great fear into her. In the meanwhile, the Cabuliwallah came in and greeted me with a customary smile.
I had planned to bring the encounter to a quick end by buying something and letting him leave early, so that I could proceed with my writing. I bought some small quantity, but somehow a conversation ensued. We started talking about Abdurrahaman, the Russians, and the Frontier Policy.

As he was about to leave, he asked: “And where is the little girl, sir?”

And I, thinking that Mini must get rid of her false fear, had her brought out.

She stood by my chair, and looked at the Cabuliwallah and his bag. He offered her nuts and raisins, but she would not be tempted, and only clung the closer to me, with all her doubts increased.

This was their first meeting.

One morning, however, not many days later, as I was leaving the house, I was startled to find Mini, seated on a bench near the door, laughing and talking, with the great Cabuliwallah at her feet. In all her life, it appeared; my small daughter had never found so patient a listener, save her father. And already the corner of her little sari was stuffed with almonds and raisins, the gift of her visitor, “Why did you give her those?” I said, and taking out an eight-anna bit, I handed it to him. The man accepted the money without demur, and slipped it into his pocket.

Alas, on my return an hour later, I found the unfortunate coin had made twice its own worth of trouble! For the Cabuliwallah had given it to Mini, and her mother catching sight of the bright round object, had pounced on the child with: “Where did you get that eight-anna bit? ”

“The Cabuliwallah gave it me,” said Mini cheerfully.

“The Cabuliwallah gave it you!” cried her mother much shocked. “Oh, Mini! how could you take it from him?”

I, entering at the moment, saved her from impending disaster, and proceeded to make my own inquiries.

It was not the first or second time, I found, that the two had met. The Cabuliwallah had overcome the child’s first terror by a judicious bribery of nuts and almonds, and the two were now great friends.

They had many quaint jokes, which afforded them much amusement. Seated in front of him, looking down on his gigantic frame in all her tiny dignity, Mini would ripple her face with laughter, and begin: “O Cabuliwallah, Cabuliwallah, what have you got in your bag?”

And he would reply, in the nasal accents of the mountaineer: “An elephant!” Not much cause for merriment, perhaps; but how they both enjoyed the witticism! And for me, this child’s talk with a grown-up man had always in it something strangely fascinating.

Then the Cabuliwallah, not to be behindhand, would take his turn: “Well, little one, and when are you going to the father-in-law’s house?”

Now most small Bengali maidens have heard long ago about the father-in-law’s house; but we, being a little new-fangled, had kept these things from our child, and Mini at this question must have been a trifle bewildered. But she would not show it, and with ready tact replied: “Are you going there?”

In different words … As the Cabuliwallah lifted his large frame to leave, he inquired about Mini. I thought my daughter must get rid of her irrational fear of a fellow human being. I called her to my presence. The visitor wanted to befriend her by offering her raisin and nuts. But, she remained indifferent to the gesture of the stranger. Instead, she clung to me harder, determined to remain at a safe distance from him. The meeting ended with Mini’s suspicion of him not the least lessened.

One morning I was taken aback to see my daughter sitting on the bench with the tall, lanky bearded visitor seated near her feet. The duo seemed to be in great mood. The initial sulking had been replaced by bonhomie. He appeared to have unusual patience for her endless chatter. I found some raisin and nuts tied to the end of my daughter’s little saree. I frowned to see this and decided to give an eight-anna coin to him. He took it and slipped it into his pocket.

When I returned an hour later, the innocuous eight-anna coin seemed to have kicked up a fiasco. Apparently, the Cabuliwallah had given back the coin to her, and she had flaunted the ‘gift’ to her mother. She was aghast to discover that her little daughter had accepted money from an unknown man from a ‘foreign’ land. She was screaming in disapproval.

I stepped in to sort out the ugly situation. To my bewilderment, I found from Mini that the duo had met several times before, and the clever Cabuliwalah had made her way to her heart through gifts of raisin and nut on each encounter. Now, the two were friends. The rapport was real. It seems the Cabuliwalah had no dearth of jokes that Mini relished. She would ask him, what he had in his bag. He would reply saying he had an elephant!

The bond between the tiny girl and the tall old bearded Cabuliwalah was as fascinating as it was intriguing.

At times, he would ask her when was she going to her father-in-law’s house. My conservative household kept such matters from her. She could hardly understand the import of his question. She would throw the question back at her and ask him when he was going to his in-law’s house.

Amongst men of the Cabuliwallah’s class, however, it is well known that the words father-in-law’s house have a double meaning. It is a euphemism for jail, the place where we are well cared for, at no expense to ourselves. In this sense would the sturdy pedlar take my daughter’s question. “Ah,” he would say, shaking his fist at an invisible policeman, “I will thrash my father-in-law!” Hearing this, and picturing the poor discomfited relative, Mini would go off into peals of laughter, in which her formidable friend would join.

These were autumn mornings, the very time of year when kings of old went forth to conquest; and I, never stirring from my little corner in Calcutta, would let my mind wander over the whole world. At the very name of another country, my heart would go out to it, and at the sight of a foreigner in the streets, I would fall to weaving a network of dreams, –the mountains, the glens, and the forests of his distant home, with his cottage in its setting, and the free and independent life of far-away wilds. Perhaps the scenes of travel conjure themselves up before me, and pass and repass in my imagination all the more vividly, because I lead such a vegetable existence, that a call to travel would fall upon me like a thunderbolt. In the presence of this Cabuliwallah, I was immediately transported to the foot of arid mountain peaks, with narrow little defiles twisting in and out amongst their towering heights. I could see the string of camels bearing the merchandise, and the company of turbaned merchants, carrying some of their queer old firearms, and some of their spears, journeying downward towards the plains. I could see–but at some such point Mini’s mother would intervene, imploring me to “beware of that man.”

In different words .. For the poor and the alien class to which the Cabuliwalah belonged, finding oneself in the wrong side of the law was not very uncommon. Very often such offenders go to jail during which time they got free food, dress and shelter, same as what one gets in the father-in-law’s house. The ignominy of incarceration hardly matters. For the Cabuliwalah’s class, the word ‘father-in-law’ is often used as synonym for captivity in prison.

The Cabuliwalah lighted up on being asked when he would visit his in-law’s home. He gesticulated showing his powerful fist and punching it against an imaginary policeman. Mini didn’t understand why he roared with such wrath, but she would nonetheless enjoy the theatrics of the Cabuliwalah. He would join her with peels of laughter.

It was autumn. This is the time of the year when kings in olden days used to go on their military campaigns. I was, however, confined to my home in Calcutta letting my mind wander all over the world. The sight of a foreigner in the street rekindles my fascination with the land of his origin. I conjure up visions of the landscape, its mountains, rivers and the dwellings where nomads live. The sight of the Cabuliwallah seemed to take me to his land of rocky mountains, narrow winding mountain passes, camels moving slowly with their loads of merchandize, turbaned merchants armed with antique-looking rifles. To interrupt my thought chain, comes Mini’s mother urging me to keep the Cabuliwalah at arm’s length.

Mini’s mother is unfortunately a very timid lady. Whenever she hears a noise in the street, or sees people coming towards the house, she always jumps to the conclusion that they are either thieves, or drunkards, or snakes, or tigers, or malaria or cockroaches, or caterpillars, or an English sailor. Even after all these years of experience, she is not able to overcome her terror. So she was full of doubts about the Cabuliwallah, and used to beg me to keep a watchful eye on him.

I tried to laugh her fear gently away, but then she would turn round on me seriously, and ask me solemn questions.

Were children never kidnapped?

Was it, then, not true that there was slavery in Cabul?

Was it so very absurd that this big man should be able to carry off a tiny child?

I urged that, though not impossible, it was highly improbable. But this was not enough, and her dread persisted. As it was indefinite, however, it did not seem right to forbid the man the house, and the intimacy went on unchecked.

Once a year in the middle of January Rahmun, the Cabuliwallah, was in the habit of returning to his country, and as the time approached he would be very busy, going from house to house collecting his debts. This year, however, he could always find time to come and see Mini. It would have seemed to an outsider that there was some conspiracy between the two, for when he could not come in the morning, he would appear in the evening.

Even to me it was a little startling now and then, in the corner of a dark room, suddenly to surprise this tall, loose-garmented, much bebagged man; but when Mini would run in smiling, with her, “O! Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” and the two friends, so far apart in age, would subside into their old laughter and their old jokes, I felt reassured.

One morning, a few days before he had made up his mind to go, I was correcting my proof sheets in my study. It was chilly weather. Through the window the rays of the sun touched my feet, and the slight warmth was very welcome. It was almost eight o’clock, and the early pedestrians were returning home, with their heads covered. All at once, I heard an uproar in the street, and, looking out, saw Rahmun being led away bound between two policemen, and behind them a crowd of curious boys. There were blood-stains on the clothes of the Cabuliwallah, and one of the policemen carried a knife. Hurrying out, I stopped them, and enquired what it all meant. Partly from one, partly from another, I gathered that a certain neighbour had owed the pedlar something for a Rampuri shawl, but had falsely denied having bought it, and that in the course of the quarrel, Rahmun had struck him. Now in the heat of his excitement, the prisoner began calling his enemy all sorts of names, when suddenly in a verandah of my house appeared my little Mini, with her usual exclamation: “O Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” Rahmun’s face lighted up as he turned to her. He had no bag under his arm today, so she could not discuss the elephant with him. She at once therefore proceeded to the next question: “Are you going to the father-in-law’s house?” Rahmun laughed and said: “Just where I am going, little one!” Then seeing that the reply did not amuse the child, he held up his fettered hands. ” Ali,” he said, ” I would have thrashed that old father-in-law, but my hands are bound!”

On a charge of murderous assault, Rahmun was sentenced to some years’ imprisonment.

In different words .. Mini’s mother is a meek and fearful person. She gets unduly apprehensive on seeing any sort of commotion outside our home. She concludes that something ominous is going to happen. From thieves to drunkards to tigers to caterpillars, she imagines endless types of dangers coming to our doorstep. So many years in our house has somehow not rid her of such irrational fear. From the beginning, she has been wary of the Cabuliwallah and has beseeched me to keep a strict eye on him.

No amount of patient persuasion succeeded to convince her that there was little reason to suspect the Cabuliwallah of having any hostile intent. She would counter me by asking if kidnapping of children was not common or there were no slaves languishing in Cabul. She would argue that anything was possible for the burly Cabuliwallah, and our Mini was an easy target for him.

Despite my pleadings, she never could drive the fear of the Cabuliwallah from her mind.

Around mid January each year, the Cabuliwallah used to make his long journey back home. It was a hectic time for him as he got busy collecting his dues. Despite his busy schedule, he comes to our house daily to see Mini. If he can not make it in the morning, he comes in the evening. Such acquaintance did cause some doubts, but Mini’s spontaneous pleasure on seeing him did dispel my fears. It was strange how the old, boorish-looking, large-framed man from a distant land, and our tiny Mini have developed such an emotional bond.

One morning, I was correcting the proofs of my writing. Cabuliwallah’s time to return home was drawing near. It was chilly outside, and the warmth of the early Sun light was so comforting. People walked on the road with their heads covered.

I was a bit taken aback to hear the sound of a ruction from my neighbourhood. I saw two policemen taking away the handcuffed Cabuliwallah. A bunch of boys followed the trio in great curiosity. Later it emerged that a neighbour had failed to pay off the debt to Rahmun, the Cabuliwallah. It had caused an altercation between the two that turned ugly as the impatient lender, Rahmun, turned on the borrower with his knife. The police man had seized the knife and there were blood stains on Rahmun’s clothes. I saw all these with great horror when I came out to see what had caused the raucous.

Our Mini appeared on the verandah. Seeing Rahmun, she carried out in her childlike zeal, ‘O, Cabuliwallah, Cabuliwallah, are you going to your father-in-law’s house?” The unruffled Rahmun smiled beamingly and replied that he was indeed going there. He held up his handcuffed hand, so that Mini could see it. In his characteristic defiant way, he declared that he would have thrashed his father-in-law if the handcuff had not been there.

After trial, Rahmun went to jail for a few years.

Time passed away, and he was not remembered. The accustomed work in the accustomed place was ours, and the thought of the once-free mountaineer spending his years in prison seldom or never occurred to us. Even my light-hearted Mini, I am ashamed to say, forgot her old friend. New companions filled her life. As she grew older, she spent more of her time with girls. So much time indeed did she spend with them that she came no more, as she used to do, to her father’s room. I was scarcely on speaking terms with her.

Years had passed away. It was once more autumn and we had made arrangements for our Mini’s marriage. It was to take place during the Puja Holidays. With Durga returning to Kailas, the light of our home also was to depart to her husband’s house, and leave her father’s in the shadow.

In other words .. As days, weeks and months went by, Cabuliwallah’s memory faded off. Few among us seldom bothered to imagine what the tall gutsy mountain tribesman must be doing inside the four walls of the jail. Mini was no exception. She grew up, spending most of her time with other girls of her age. The childlike innocence that used to filmy heart deserted her. She hardly came to my chamber to have a chit chat.

It was autumn. Mini’s marriage was on the cards. We had made the usual arrangements for her marriage, scheduled for the Pujah holidays. She would go to her husband’s home leaving us forlorn and heart-broken.

The morning was bright. After the rains, there was a sense of ablution in the air, and the sun-rays looked like pure gold. So bright were they that they gave a beautiful radiance even to the sordid brick walls of our Calcutta lanes. Since early dawn to-day the wedding-pipes had been sounding, and at each beat my own heart throbbed. The wail of the tune, Bhairavi, seemed to intensify my pain at the approaching separation. My Mini was to be married to-night.

From early morning noise and bustle had pervaded the house. In the courtyard the canopy had to be slung on its bamboo poles; the chandeliers with their tinkling sound must be hung in each room and verandah. There was no end of hurry and excitement. I was sitting in my study, looking through the accounts, when some one entered, saluting respectfully, and stood before me. It was Rahmun the Cabuliwallah. At first I did not recognise him. He had no bag, nor the long hair, nor the same vigour that he used to have. But he smiled, and I knew him again.

In other words .. The Sun rays in the morning were golden and radiant. The air was fresh and the ambience was enlivening. Even the old walls of the nearby lanes seemed to spring back to life when the sunlight fell on them.  The drums and the wedding pipes sang the tunes befitting for festive occasion. I somehow felt somewhat nervous. The Bhairavo tune played by the band made me gloomy. I knew Mini would leave us for good that night.

The samiana came up in the courtyard. A strange hustle and bustle gripped the household. I was in my study looking into the expenditures and the budget when I could sense that a visitor had come in. It was the same old Rahmun the Cabuliwallah. He bowed respectfully and stood near me. Bereft of his beard, bag and other paraphernalia, he was barely recognizable. The years in prison had made him look haggard and old. He smiled.

“When did you come, Rahmun?” I asked him.

“Last evening,” he said, “I was released from jail.”

The words struck harsh upon my ears. I had never before talked with one who had wounded his fellow, and my heart shrank within itself, when I realised this, for I felt that the day would have been better-omened had he not turned up.

“There are ceremonies going on,” I said, “and I am busy. Could you perhaps come another day?”

At once he turned to go; but as he reached the door he hesitated, and said: “May I not see the little one, sir, for a moment?” It was his belief that Mini was still the same. He had pictured her running to him as she used, calling “O Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!” He had imagined too that they would laugh and talk together, just as of old. In fact, in memory of former days he had brought, carefully wrapped up in paper, a few almonds and raisins and grapes, obtained somehow from a countryman, for his own little fund was dispersed.

I said again: “There is a ceremony in the house, and you will not be able to see any one to-day.”

In other words ... He had been released from jail the previous evening. For a moment I was flummoxed. N ex-convict, a criminal who had used his knife to fellow human being stood before me. It was so very un-settling. ‘What an ominous thing to happen in an auspicious day!’ I wondered.

I wanted to make him leave. I told him to come some other day as I said I was busy. He began to go, but turned around. He begged to see the ‘Little One’, implying Mini of the older years. He had imagined Mini to be the same sweet little one. Borrowing some money from a fellow country man, he had brought some almonds and raisins nicely wrapped in a paper. After serving the jail term, he had become penniless.

It was an awkward request. I told there was a festival in the house, so I couldn’t keep his request.

The man’s face fell. He looked wistfully at me for a moment, said “Good morning,” and went out. I felt a little sorry, and would have called him back, but I found he was returning of his own accord. He came close up to me holding out his offerings and said: “I brought these few things, sir, for the little one. Will you give them to her?”

I took them and was going to pay him, but he caught my hand and said: “You are very kind, sir! Keep me in your recollection. Do not offer me money!–You have a little girl, I too have one like her in my own home. I think of her, and bring fruits to your child, not to make a profit for myself.”

Saying this, he put his hand inside his big loose robe, and brought out a small and dirty piece of paper. With great care he unfolded this, and smoothed it out with both hands on my table. It bore the impression of a little band. Not a photograph. Not a drawing. The impression of an ink-smeared hand laid flat on the paper. This touch of his own little daughter had been always on his heart, as he had come year after year to Calcutta, to sell his wares in the streets.

In other words .. My refusal hit him hard. His face became downcast. He took a few steps, and then turned around with the gift packet for Mini in his hand. He begged me to give the packet to her.
When I started to pay him, he politely but firmly refused to take any money. He said that he had a similar young daughter at home, and it is her memory that makes him to see Mini happy.
Then, he proceeded to take out a small worn-out, but carefully preserved piece of paper from his deep pocket. With tender care he opened it. It had the impressions of the hand of a young child. He had preserved the impression as a token of love and longing for his little daughter.

Tears came to my eyes. I forgot that he was a poor Cabuli fruit-seller, while I was–but no, what was I more than he? He also was a father. That impression of the hand of his little Parbati in her distant mountain home reminded me of my own little Mini.

I sent for Mini immediately from the inner apartment. Many difficulties were raised, but I would not listen. Clad in the red silk of her wedding-day, with the sandal paste on her forehead, and adorned as a young bride, Mini came, and stood bashfully before me.

The Cabuliwallah looked a little staggered at the apparition. He could not revive their old friendship. At last he smiled and said: “Little one, are you going to your father-in-law’s house?”

But Mini now understood the meaning of the word “father-in-law,” and she
could not reply to him as of old. She flushed up at the question, and stood before him with her bride-like face turned down.

I remembered the day when the Cabuliwallah and my Mini had first met, and I felt sad. When she had gone, Rahmun heaved a deep sigh, and sat down on the floor. The idea had suddenly come to him that his daughter too must have grown in this long time, and that he would have to make friends with her anew. Assuredly he would not find her, as he used to know her. And besides, what might not have happened to her in these eight years?

The marriage-pipes sounded, and the mild autumn sun streamed round us. But Rahmun sat in the little Calcutta lane, and saw before him the barren mountains of Afghanistan.

I took out a bank-note, and gave it to him, saying: “Go back to your own daughter, Rahmun, in your own country, and may the happiness of your meeting bring good fortune to my child!”

Having made this present, I had to curtail some of the festivities. I could not have the electric lights I had intended, nor the military band, and the ladies of the house were despondent at it. But to me the wedding feast was all the brighter for the thought that in a distant land a long-lost father met again with his only child.

In other words … The Cabuliwallah’s words struck a raw nerve in my heart. My eyes welled up as I struggled to rein in my torrent of emotions.
I saw no difference in the love between the Cabuliwallah and his daughter Parbati, and my Mini and me. The barrier caused economic well being and social status between him and me vanished instantly.
I sent for Mini. I couldn’t refuse a grieving pining father. I brushed aside the fuss created by the womenfolk of my family to make Mini come. She was clad in a red silk Saree. She was decked up as a bride with sandal paste in her forehead. She appeared and stood self-consciously by my side.
The Cabuliwallah was not prepared to see Mini in this attire. Clearly, he was lost for words. It took a while for him to gather himself and say something. After a pause, he asked, “Little one, are you going to your father-in-law’s house?” Unlike the earlier years, Mini blushed at the question as she understood the loaded word ‘father-in-law’.
Memories of the duo’s first encounter and the blossoming of their friendship rushed through my mind. The Cabuliwallah heaved a sigh of relief and slumped on the floor. A huge weight seemed to have descended on his shoulders. He remembered that his daughter must have grown up like Mini has done. Eight years is a long period.
The drummers and the music party played their tunes. Rahmun was deeply engrossed in his thought. His grown up daughter, his countryside, and his commitment as father buffeted his mind relentlessly.
I knew why the Cabuliwallah had fallen silent. As I read his mind, empathy for him overwhelmed me. I took out a bank note and gave it to him. I asked him to rush to his country and discharge his duties as father to his grownup daughter.
The hand-out  to Rahmun forced me to dispense with the arrangement for the electric light and the military band. The austerity did not please the womenfolk, but I had no regrets. Instead the thought of the meeting of Rahmun with his daughter in distant Afghanistan filled my heart with great pleasure. I enjoyed the festivities of my house with much heightened spirit.


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CBSE Class 9 History –Nazism & Rise of Hitler

Nazism and the rise of Hitler

The Second World War started in September, 1939, and continued till for six years till September 1945. The Allies and the Axis powers were locked in a deadly combat that ended with the surrender of Germany and the death of Hitler. The Allies side was lead by the United States. Other important members in the Allies side were Great Britain, France, Poland, the Commonwealth nations under Britain, China and later joined by the Soviet Union. The Axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan.
The Germans and the Japanese had meted out extremely barbaric treatment to their enemies. The Jews came in for particular harsh treatment at the hand of Hitler. In Asia, the Japanese revelled in torturing and slaying their enemies, particularly the Chinese. Horrendous tales of torture and mass extermination of Jews by Hitler’s Nazi followers were routinely surfacing, but few in Germany raised their voice against it. Either they were numbed by Hitler’s mesmeric leadership to find fault with his persecution of the Jews, or were too afraid to vent their feelings for fear of reprisal by the Nazi hoodlums.
When the curtains came down finally on the war, and the guns fell silent, it was time to look back and introspect. Some did it out of moral compulsion; others did it out of fear of a revenge attack by the victorious Allied forces. Particularly for those Germans who had perpetrated the worst human rights abuses, the fear of being brought to book by Allied administrators appeared very real.

One such German was a doctor who lived with his wife and son in the vicinity of a forest. He knew the Allied would soon haunt him down and mercilessly punish him, and possibly his whole family. One day, he was discussing this imminent threat with his wife. He felt, he would either kill himself alone, or the whole family would commit mass suicide en masse. The twelve-year-old lying on his bed within the earshot heard this and was shocked. Next day, the whole family went to the nearby forest, sang and made merry. On returning home, the doctor shot himself in his head. The wife lost no time in burning out the clothes of her husband, apparently to hide the suicide act. For the young son, the gruesome killing of his father by his own hand was too devastating a scene to bear. He was shaken to the core. He feared that his mother would kill him too soon. So afraid was he that he stopped eating in his home for nine long years after that. This was in the Spring of 1945, and the boy’s name was Helmuth.
Helmuth must have realized later that his father had been a fanatic Nazi who idolized Hitler. As a true ‘patriot’, he must have committed atrocities of the worst kind against the hapless Jews. The moral revulsion and the fear of the Allies must have driven him to take his own life.
Hitler had one single goal. He had dreamed of making his fatherland the greatest and mightiest nation on earth. As the first step, he wanted to conquer the whole of Europe. Along the way, he perceived the Jews of Germany to be one of the main reasons for the misery and ignominy of his father land. So, he decided to annihilate that race. What seeded such a grotesque idea in his brain? Why did the Nazis follow him so blindly and perpetrated the worst genocide in human history? What was the motivation and the political motivation that triggered such a monstrous campaign of mass slaughter? It is essential to dissect this vulgar, jingoistic eruption of xenophobia.
After Hitler and his propaganda chief Goebbels committed suicide in the underground bunker to escape being taken to custody by the Allied commander, the War came to a formal end. Now came the time to retrospect and take remedial action. To bring to book the perpetrators of the many heinous crimes during the War, an International Court of Justice was constituted. It was to be based in Nuremberg in Germany. The Court was mandated to look into cases relating to War against Peace, War crimes and War against humanity.

Apart from starting a war, Hitler’s Germany stood accused of committing unthinkably cruel acts of punishment of specific ethnic groups. As the graphic details of the torture and mass murder of Jewish men, women and children emerged, the world seemed to be gripped with revulsion and horror. The situation cried for swift justice. The main actors of the genocide –the political leaders, the military officers and the remnants of the Nazi set-up had to be tried, and punished. With remarkable alacrity, the preparations for the trial got going. Some six million Jews, 200,000 Gypsies, one million Poles (citizens of Poland), and 70,000 Germans had been killed in the mad rush by the Nazi machinery to ‘cleanse’ the world of ‘unwanted’ people, and establish the supremacy of the German state. Even German citizens perceived to be physically and mentally unfit and those having different political views were sent to gallows. Nazi scientists and military men devised new methods to kill people ‘efficiently’ with the minimum hassles. Ruthlessness was aplenty: humanism had vanished from the German land. Killing centers like Auschwitz sprang up across Europe to cope with the flow of prisoners condemned to death.

After the trial, just about 11 top Nazi leaders were sentenced to death. Scores of other offenders were sent to jail for the rest of their lives. In hindsight, only a miniscule of the perpetrators could be called to account. The punishment, though symbolic, was tiny compared to the monumental genocidal crime committed by the Nazis.

.The question arises what made Hitler to launch such a strident and ultra-nationalistic military adventure? Did he have any compulsion to turn on his own Jewish and even German citizens with such savage anger?

Some historians ascribe Hitler’s urge for revenge to the ignominy heaped on Germany in the aftermath of the First World War. Perhaps, there is some truth in it.

Birth of the Weimer Republic –

The First World War (1914-18) had two feuding sides –Germany and the Austrian Empire in one side and England, France and Russia in the other. The latter group was known as the Allies. Germany entered the War as a mighty thriving nation.

Both sides had hoped for a quick victory over its enemy. However, such optimism was misplaced. Victory eluded the warring sides for a very long time. The war dragged on and on, causing untold misery through destruction of life and property in a massive scale.

In the early stages of the War, Germany virtually ran through the defences of France and Belgium giving them a false sense of invincibility. Germany’s victory march came to a grinding halt when America entered the War in 1917 to bolster the side of the Allies (England, France and Russia). The balance in the battlefield tilted decisively in favour of the Allies. By 1918, Germany and Austria were down on their knees, ready to give up with a plea for end of fighting.

Germany’s defeat caused great changes in the country’s political structure. The Emperor, who had ruled the country thus far and led it to the ruinous war, had to abdicate, and leave the scene for good. It fell on the shoulders of the parliamentary parties to pick up the pieces and create a structure to fill the political vacuum created by the Emperor’s exit. They convened the National Assembly. Its first meeting was held in Weimar. A democratic constitution was put in place. As per the terms of the Constitution, Germany became a federal structure. The Parliament, known as the Reichstag, had to have Deputies who had to be directly elected by the people. Every adult German including women had voting rights.

The Armistice Agreement & the Treaty of Versailles ..Faced with the prospects of imminent defeat, Germany asked for an immediate cessation all combat operations. The Americans, then leading the Allied side, agreed. Accordingly, an Armistice agreement was signed on November 11, 1918. On the same day guns fell silent on both sides. This Armistice Agreement later caused a lot of heartburn in Germany. The negotiator who signed the agreement on behalf of the Germans was later assassinated. This Agreement was followed by the Treaty of Versailles was the main peace treaty to formalize the end of World War I. It was signed on June 28, 1919.

The backlash ..  Sadly for the new-born democratic government, the beginning was not quite good. Post-war negotiations with the victorious Allies had to be conducted and terms of peace finalized. Both sides met in Versailles to conclude a formal treaty. As a defeated nation, Germany had little bargaining power vis-a-vis the victorious Allies side. The latter imposed strict and virtually punitive conditions in the peace treaty. There were unworkable conditions relating to payment of compensation and surrender of land by Germany. The Allied negotiators rammed the humiliating conditions down the throats of German negotiators. The Deputies were coerced to give the peace treaty the vital parliamentary approval.

For the battle-scarred, impoverished and defeated Germany, the ignominy was simply intolerable. The people frowned on the Deputies for having ceded so much to the Allies in the Versailles negotiations. Soon, the initial good will of the new parliament vanished. People seethed in anger against the parliament, calling the Armistice negotiators as ‘November criminals’, a derogatory term later exploited by Hitler’s propaganda machine. 

It is worth noting what Germany lost trying to comply with the Versailles Treaty.

  1. Germany lost most of its overseas colonies.
  2. With this went 10% of its population.
  3. Germany’s land mass got reduced by 15%.
  4. It lost 75% of its crucial iron ore reserves, and 26% of its coal deposits.
  5. These war-time reparations enriched France, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania at a tremendous cost to Germany.
  6. Germany was demilitarized to pre-empt any future military adventure.
  7. The War-Guilt clause pinned the ‘sinner’ tag on Germany, making it the offender and destroyer of peace. The onus fell on Germany to make good all the war-time losses suffered by the Allies. In monetary terms, it worked out to a staggering 6 billion pound sterling.
  8. The Allied armies exercised their control on Rhineland – the region that was so resource-rich and important for German economy. This occupation continued for much of the 1920s.

Most Germans perceived the Versailles Treaty’s terms too suffocating to bear. They vented their anger on the nascent Weimar Republic.

The Effects of the War …

The WW2 drained Europe of its life and soul. By the time the War ended, the continent was in ruins, devoid of its life, vitality and soul. The Weimar Republic (Germany in its new Avatar) bore the brunt of the War’s aftershocks. It had a huge bill to pay to the Allies. There was no escape from the crippling reparation payments. Germany was down on its knees having to meet the dues. For the folly of the erstwhile Emperor, the new Republic had to pay through the nose. The financial load was back-breaking.

Germany’s internal politics was divided. Catholics, Socialists and Democrats stood by the new Republic, where as conservative nationalists had no patience with their young government.  The wise peacemakers who had signed the Armistice were publicly derided as ‘November Criminals’. The chauvinistic mindset fueled by the exploitative terms of the Versailles Treaty shaped the political mindset in Germany. Indignation and an urge to avenge the humiliation at the hands of the Allies was rife among the common people.

The legacy of the First World War ..

The First World War had inflicted severe pain, suffering and frustration to the soldiers of both sides. They spent hours and days in the muddy trenches of the battlefields, suffered casualties, saw rats feeding on friends’ corpses, with no visible end their agony. The battle had drawn on for months and years remorselessly. While the soldiers endured such severe suffering, the society became increasingly militarized. Common folks saw wars as necessary for national pride. In the media, fighting for the country was glorified and laying one’s lives in war was considered a very honourable sacrifice. Such collective fascination for army fueled military adventurism. People seemed to prefer to be ruled by strong dictators. Democracy appeared to be a soft, slow and ineffective form of government. Clearly, love for iron-hand rule under a dictator grew with the fanatical glorification of the life in trenches. Europe was sliding, dangerously.

Political Radicalism and Economic Crises ..

Just when Weimer Republic was coming into existence, two separate political movements of momentous importance were gripping Germany and Russia. These movements were

  1. Sparticist League in Germany
  2. Bolshevik Revolution in Russia

Sparticist League ..  Spartacist League is an American name that drew inspiration from the Spartacus League of Weimar Republic in Germany. The Spartacus League was a communist movement that came into existence in Germany during World War I. The League was named after Spartacus, the legendary leader campaigner who masterminded the largest slave rebellion of the Roman Republic. The idea of slavery is anathema to Marxists, who abhor this repressive practice for its shameful disregard for human dignity and freedom. Spartacus League (Sparticist League) was the brainchild of social activists like Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and a few others. In a nutshell, Sparticist League spearheaded Communist political philosophy in Germany.

Bolshevik Revolution .. Russia had reeled under the repressive Tsarist rule for centuries. Poverty, and general backwardness made the Russians lag behind their European counterparts. The entry of Russia in the First World War cost the country huge loss of money, men and material. People’s faith in the Tsar began to falter. They failed to appreciate why Russians had to make so much sacrifice simply because the Tsar wanted it. Shortage of food items made life miserable for the common people. Discontent and resentment against the ruler soared. Tsar no longer commanded reverence historically enjoyed by the dynasty. A violent political upheaval was in the offing.

Otherwise known as The October Revolution, or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a seizure of state power by a group of armed revolutionaries called Bolsheviks. It happened on October 25, 1917. It laid the foundation for communist rule in Russia under the leadership of Lenin.

We can see that the ideological moorings of the Spartacist League and the Bolshevik Revolution were almost identical.

The Bolshevik Revolution’s success in seizing power, and the coming into being of the Soviet Union had an electrifying on Europe, particularly in Germany. In matter of weeks, Russia, a symbol of weak governance and inequality became a role model for Germans looking for salvation from their wretched fate. Such shift towards authoritarianism disturbed many other Germans.

As a counter against this shift, Catholics, Democrats and Socialists met in Weimar to boost the authority of the sagging Weimar Republic. Their effort was successful at the beginning. Taking the help of war veterans, the Weimar Republic crushed the anti-government moves of the Spartacist League activists. These groups decided to dissolve the League, and formed the Communist Party of Germany.

The chasm between the Socialists and the Communists widened further. Although both groups to the ideas of Hitler, they could not join hands to form a common front against Hitler. Germany became a divided nation.

Economic crisis plunges Germany deeper in crisis …  By 1923, Germany’s economy went into a downward spiral. Inflation sky-rocketed, and goods became scare. Life became unbearable for the ordinary people.

Germany had taken huge loans for fighting the war. Repayment of these loans fell due. To make matters worse, war reparations as per the Versailles Treaty had to be paid. All these payments had to be made in gold. Germany’s gold reserves began to be depleted sharply.

Germany defaulted in its payment. France, as the debtor, refused to grant any moratorium. Instead, it occupied Ruhr, the thriving coal mines hub of Germany. The beleaguered, cash-starved Germany protested, but it fell in deaf ears. In desperation, Germany began to print notes copiously with scant regard to the catastrophic consequences such step could cause.  Inflation soared at astounding pace. The German currency fell almost every minute of the day, touching a few trillion marks for each U.S. dollar. With a worthless currency, Germany became a nation to be pitied, not treated with any respect. Germans walked with their head hung low.

Finally, America intervened through a rescue package called the Dawes Plan. The creditor nations were prevailed upon to stagger the repayments to give Germany a breathing space.

The Years of Depression follow……….

As America stepped in to inject some cash as short-term loans, the ailing German economy showed some signs of revival. This was between the years 1924-28. But, this little joy was short-lived. Wall Street Exchange crashed in 1929, triggering a panic sell-off of shares in America. This caused a severe turmoil, as the Stocks lost almost half of their worth. The U.S economy slipped into Depression.

German economy was battered by the unforeseen downturn in America. German industrial production plummeted by 40%. Unemployment soared. By 1932, six million jobs had been lost and the economy’s fall had begun to hit the average German very hard. Un employed men and women wandered in city streets soliciting work. Long queues were seen in front of Employment Exchanges.

Angst and fear gripped the middle and salaried class as their savings amounts’ net worth fell in tandem with the fall in the  value of the national currency. To earn a living, desperate people started to resort to petty crimes.

The middle class, once the backbone of the German society, began to get progressively impoverished. They feared soon they would be forced to do manual works to earn a living, or will simply be un-employed. This process of gradual decline of economic and social status of large sections of the population is called ‘proletaranisation’. Most middle class people feared they would soon be sucked into this category.

The Weimer Constitution had inherent weaknesses that made it weak to fend off dictatorial tendencies. Because of this, the Weimer Republic became a weak barrier to stop dictators from taking over the government.

What were the flaws of the Weimer Constitution …..

  1. The Constitution stipulated that Deputies would be chosen through a process of proportional representation. In other words, a party’s share of Deputy seats would be directly proportional to its vote share in the election. Since there were a number of political parties in Germany at that time, no party could win a decisively larger number of votes. As a result, its share of Deputy seats could never cross the half-way mark. This made coalition forming a prerequisite for forming a government.
  2. The other infirmity was the Article 48 of the Constitution. It enabled the President to declare emergency, suspend civil rights and rule by decree.

Instability of government became the order of the day. Cabinets were formed and dissolved in quick succession. In just about two and half years, 20 cabinets were formed and dissolved. The provision of Article 48 was invoked quite frequently by the President.  People lost confidence in the system and were greatly frustrated.

Hitler’s rise to power …

[To be continued]

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