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Standing up for yourself
by Yevgeny yevtushenko

Unit- I

In 41, I was living alone in an empty flat in a quiet Moscow street…

     My parents were divorced and my father was somewhere in Kazakhstan with his new wife and their two children. I seldom received letters from him.

     My mother was at the front. She had given up her work as a geologist to become a singer and was giving concerts for the troops.

     My education was left to the street. The street taught me to swear, smoke, spit, elegantly though my teeth, and to keep my fists at the ready – a habit which I have to his day.

 The street taught me not to be afraid of anything or anyone – this is another habit I have kept.

 I realized that what mattered in the struggle for life was to overcome my fear of those who were stronger.

front-           place where two armies are fighting in a war
concert-       musical entertainment, usually given in a public ball
elegantly-    showing a good sense of style

Think it out

          1. Is the narrator a child or an adult narrating his childhood experiences?
          2. Does the narrator have happy experiences in his childhood? Why/ why not?
          3. What was his relationship with his father?
          4. how did his mother spend her time?
          5. What does ‘My education was left to the street’ mean here?
          6. What wee the two habits that remained with him all his life?
          7. What in your opinion was the best lesson that the street taught to the narrator?

    Unit- II

    The Text
    The ruler of our street… was a boy of about sixteen who was nicknamed Red.

    Red was big and broad-shouldered beyond his years.

    Red walked masterfully up and down our street, legs wide and with a slightly rolling gait, like a seaman on his deck.

              Form under his cap, its peak always at the back of his head, his forelock tumbled down in a fiery cascade, and, out of his round pock-marked face, green eyes, like a cat’s, sparkled with scorn for everything and everyone. Two or three lieutenants in peaked caps back to front like Red’s, tripped at his heels.

              Red could stop any boy and say impressively the one word ‘money’. His lieutenants would turn out the boy’s pockets, and if he resisted they beat him up hard.

    Everyone was afraid of Red. So was I. I knew he carried a carried a heavy metal knuckle-duster in his pocket.

         masterfully                   not caring for others
         rolling                          a side-to-side movement
         gait                               manner of walking
         deck                             the floor of a ship
         tripped                         walked with quick light steps
         knuckle-duster             mental covering for the knuckles, for attack or defence                           

    Think it out

            1. What made Red look older than the really was?
            2. How did he roam in the streets?
            3. How did he dress himself?
            4. Did he intentionally dress and walk in the manner described?
            5. Why did his lieutenants also wear their caps back to front?
            6. What pet animal comes to your mind when you read the expression ‘tripped at his heels’?
            7. What was his way of forcing money out of other boys?
            8. How did he rule the street?
            9. Was the narrator afraid of Red? Quote the sentence from the text in support of your answer.

      Unit- III

      The Text

                I wanted to conquer my fear of Red. So I wrote a poem about him. This was my first piece of journalism in verse. By the next day, the whole street knew it by heat and exulted with triumphant hatred.
                One morning on my way to school, I suddenly came upon Red and his lieutenants. His eyes seemed to bore through me . “Ah, the poet,” he drawled, smiling crookedly. “So you write verses. Do they rhyme?”
               Red’s hand darted into his pocket and came out armed with its knuckle-duster; it flashed like lighting and struck my head. I fell down streaming with blood and lost consciousness. This was my first remuneration as a poet. I spent several days in bed. When I went out, with my head still bandaged, I again saw Red. I struggled with myself but also and took to my heels. At hoe, I rolled on my bed, biting my pillow and pounding it in shame and impotent fury at my cowardice. I made up my mind to vanquish it at whatever cost.

      exulted-             showed great joy and excitement
      triumphant-       showing great joy or satisfaction
      bore through-    to state in a way that makes somebody feel uncomfortable
      drawl                to say something slowly with longer vowel sounds
      impotent           futile anger
      vanquish          defeat completely

      Think it out
            1. What was the first thing the narrator did to overcome his fear of Red?
            2. How did the poem in the street respond to the poem?
            3. Explain the expression “triumphant hatred”.
            4. How did Red sneer the narrator?
            5. ‘What was the result of his first encounter with Red?
            6. ‘This was my first remuneration as a poet.’ – was the narrator happy with his reward as a poet?
            7. What was a more difficult situation for the narrator : to be injured by Red or to overcome his fear of Red when he saw Red after his injury?
            8. hat was the result of his second encounter with Red?

      Unit- IV

      The Text

                I went into training with parallel bars and weights. After every season, I would feel my muscles tray were getting bigger, but slowly. Then I remembered some thing I had read in book about a miraculous Japanese method of wrestling which gave an advantage to the weak over the strong. I exchanged a week’s ration card for a textbook on ju-jitsu.

                For three weeks, I stayed at home, practising with two other boys. Then I went out.

               Red was sitting on the lawn in our yard, playing vingt-et-un with his lieutenants. He was absorbed in the game.

                Fear was still deep in me, urging me to go back. But I want up to the players and kicked and scattered the cards.

                Red looked up. surprised at my impudence after my recent flight.

                He got up slowly. “You looking for more ?” he asked menacingly.

              As before, his hand dived into his pocket for the knuckle-duster. But I made a quick jabbing movement and Red, howling with pain, rolled on the ground. Bewildered, he got up and came at me swinging his head furiously from side to side like a maddened bull.

                I caught his wrist and squeezed slowly, as I had read in the book, until the knuckle-duster dropped from his limp fingers. Nursing his hand, Red fell down again. He was sobbing and smearing the tears over his pock-marked face with his grubby fist.
                 That day Red ceased to be the monarch of our street.

                 And from that day on, I knew for certain that one need not fear the strong. All one needs is to know the way to beat them. For every strong man there is a special ju-jitsu.

                What I also learned on this occasion was that, to be a poet, I had not only to write poems, but know to stand them.

      parallel-             a pair of parallel bars on posts for gymnastic exercises
      session-             single meeting (for a particular purpose)
      miraculous-       most remarkable, like a miracle
      ju-jitsu               Japanese art of self defence
      vingt-et-un         a card game
      absorbed            entirely occupied, giving one’s full attention to
      impudence         utter disrespect or rudeness
      menacingly        in a threatening manner
      bewildered         puzzled, confused

      Think it out
            1. How did the narrator train himself to grow stronger?
            2. How did he get a textbook on ju-jitsu?
            3. How long did he train himself before the final encounter with Red?
            4. Where did the final encounter take place? What was Red doing then?
            5. How did the narrator attack Red?
            6. How did Red react to the narrator’s attack?
            7. How did the narrator tackle Red?
            8. How did Red suffer at the hands of the narrator?

            9. What lesson did the narrator learn during his encounter with a bully like Red?
            10. What career did the narrator prepare himself for?
           11. Which of these do you think is true: courage means not having fear at all or courage means conquering fear? Justify your choice.



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