Comprehension Exercise – 2

Comprehension Exercise – 2

Creative Writing – 27

Read the following passage and answer the short questions given under the passage.

This passage has been taken from HuffPost India

Illah Kanchaiah is a renowned Indian Dalit intellectual whose book are taught in Columbia University.

A young Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd once came across a book on Isaiah Berlin in the Osmania University library and picked it up because the name was Isaiah Berlin. He was surprised because he had never found names that sounded like his own on the covers of books. In class, he was constantly made to feel like he was not as respectable as the other students because of his name. But that was going to change now.

“I looked at the name once again. I felt as if I were Isaiah, not Ilaiah.”

I like to imagine that this is the moment Kancha Ilaiah became a writer. When Gabriel Garcia Marquez read the first line of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, he almost fell off the bed because he had no idea writers were allowed to write like that (“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin”). Marquez says he became a writer that day—that first line was like a permission for him to start writing.

For Dalit and Bahujan people who have never thought of themselves as writers, a permission like that can rescue them in ways that aren’t easy to understand.

“That day in my notebook, I wrote my name in full in the form that Isaiah’s name figured: Ilaiah Kancha, not just Ilaiah K. It sounded new. I jumped up and down amidst the book racks—a worthless name like mine is very much like that of a world-famous historian and philosopher.”

There are many such moments in Kancha Ilaiah’s memoir, From a Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual, that are powerful to anyone looking to sustain a life of reading and writing.

If finding Isaiah’s name released Ilaiah in some form, his mother was released from something similar when she decided that she was willing to risk Saraswathi’s wrath by sending both her sons to school.


1. Why did Illiah Kancha find the book named Isaiah Berlin intriguing?
2. How did the book affect Illiah Kancha’s perception about himself?
3. How was Gabriel Garcia Marquez affected when he read the first line of Kafka’s Metamorphosis?
4. How and why did Illiah Kancha change the way he wrote his name? What effect it had on his mind?
5. How did Illiah Kancha’s mother feel when she sent her two sons to school?


1. Illah Kancha justifiably felt he lived in the fringes of the society, and his existence was inconsequential. With such low self-esteem, he could never imagine that there could be a book with a name similar to his.

2. The book instantly dispelled Iilliah Kancha’s deep-rooted inferiority complex of being a lowly human being. It filled his heart with an electrifying surge of confidence that he was capable of stepping into the literary world on his own merit.

3. Gabriel Garcia Marquez read the first line of Kafka’s Metamorphosis’s book, he was so stupefied that he literally fell off his bed.

4. The discovery of the book titled ‘Isiah Berlin’ was the defining moment of Illiah Kanchiah’s life. He no longer felt ashamed about his unusual name. Instead, as a sign of assertiveness and defiance, he wrote his name in full as Illiah Kancha, instead of its shortened version Illiah K. He felt as if his place among his friends in the class had been resurrected.

5. Illiah Kancha’s mother had been sternly told she would incur the wrath of Lord Saraswati, the goddess of learning, if she dared to send her two sons to school. But, she was determined to ensure her children had access to education. She defied the warning and sent the two sons to school.

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