The Portrait of Lady – English – (NCERT Solutions for Class 11)

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TEXTBOOK  QUESTIONS  SOLVED

A. UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT

  1. The three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad.

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    Ans. The three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad are:
    (i) childhood — when he went to the village school and the grandmother helped him to get ready and went to school with him.
    (ii) boyhood — when he went to the city school in a bus. He shared a room with grandmother but she could no longer help him in his studies.
    (iii) early youth — when he went to the university and was given a room of his own. The common link of friendship was snapped.
  2. Three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school.

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    Ans. The three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school are:
    (i) She hated western science and learning.
    (ii) She was pained to know that there was no teaching of God and the scriptures there.
    (iii) She was allergic to music. She thought it was not meant for decent people and gentlefolk. It was the monopoly of prostitutes and beggars.
  3. Three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up.

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    Ans. The three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up are:
    (i) She lived alone in her room as she had accepted her loneliness quietly.
    (ii) She sat at her spinning wheel reciting prayers.
    (iii) In the afternoon, she would feed the sparrows for half an hour.
  4. The odd ways in which the author’s grandmother behaved just before she died.

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    Ans. Just before her death, the author’s grandmother refused to talk to them. Since she had omitted to pray the previous night while she was singing songs of homecoming and beating the drum, she was not going to waste any more time. She ignored their protests. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling beads.
  5. The way in which the sparrows expressed their sorrow when the author’s grandmother died.

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    Ans. Thousands of sparrows sat silently surrounding the dead body of the author’s grandmother. There was no chirruping. The author’s mother threw some crumbs of bread to them. They took no notice of them. As soon as the grandmother’s corpse was carried off, they flew away quietly. Thus the sparrows expressed their sorrow.

B. TALKING ABOUT THE TEXT

Talk to your partner about the following:

  1. The author’s grandmother was a religious person. What are the different ways in which we come to know this?

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    Ans. The author’s grandmother was a deeply religious lady. We come to know this through the different ways of her behaviour. She visited the temple every morning and read scriptures. At home she always mumbled inaudible prayer and kept telling the heads of rosary. She would repeat prayers in a sing-song manner while getting the writer ready for school. She hoped that he would learn it by heart. She didn’t like English school as there was no teaching of God and scriptures.
    Even while spinning at her spinning-wheel she would recite prayers. Perhaps it was only once that she forgot to say her prayers. It was on the evening prior to her death when she felt over excited while celebrating the arrival of her grandson with songs and beatings of drum. She continued praying and telling beads of her rosary till her last breath.
  2. Describe the changing relationship between the author and his grandmother. Did their feelings for each other change?

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    Ans. During his boyhood, the author was completely dependent on his grandmother. She was a part of his life. The turning point in their friendship came when they went to city. She could no longer accompany him to school as he went there by bus. They shared the same room but she could not help him in his studies. She would ask him what the teachers had taught. She did not believe in the things that were taught at school. She was distressed that there was no teaching about God and the scriptures. She felt offended that music was also being taught. She expressed her disapproval silently. After this she rarely talked to him When he went to university, he was given a room of his own. The common link of friendship was snapped.
    However their feelings for each other did not change. They still loved each other deeply. She went to see the author off at the railway station when he was going abroad for higher studies. She showed no emotion but kissed his forehead silently. The author valued this as perhaps the last sign of physical contact between them. When the author returned after five years, she received him at the station. She clasped him in her arms. In the evening she celebrated his homecoming by singing songs and beating an old drum.
  3. Would you agree that the author’s grandmother was a person strong in character? If yes, give instances that show this.

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    Ans. Yes, I agree that the author’s grandmother was a person strong in character. She was a strong woman with strong ‘beliefs. Although she was not formally educated, she was serious about the author’s education. She could not adjust herself to the western way of life, Science and English education. She hated music and disapproved of its teaching in school.
    She was a deeply religious lady. Her lips were always moving in a silent prayer. She was always telling the beads of her rosary. She went to temple daily and read the scriptures. She was distressed to know that there was no teaching about God and holy books at Khushwant’s new English school. She was a kind lady. She used to feed dogs in the village. In the city she took to feeding sparrows. Although old in years and weak in body, she had strength of mind. Just before her death, she refused to talk to the members of the family as
    she did not want to waste her time. She wanted to make up for the time last evening when she had not prayed to God. She lay peacefully in bed saying prayers and telling the beads of her rosary till she breathed her last.
  4. Have you known someone like the author’s grandmother? Do you feel the same sense of loss with regard to someone whom you have loved and lost?

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    Ans. Yes, I have known my grandfather, who loved me deeply and looked after me. He had served in the army before he retired as a colonel 20 years ago. When I was a school- going kid, he was still active and smart. He was fond of walking, jogging and playing outdoor games. He inspired us to get up early in the morning. He believed that a healthy mind lives in a healthy body. He used to give us good physical exercises followed by milk and nourishing food and then asked us to study for a while before going to school. In the afternoon, he would enquire what we had been taught at the school. He would help us in our home task and supervise our reading, writing and doing sums. He was gentle but firm. He laid stress on good habits and character building He passed away when I had gone abroad for higher studies. I miss him a lot. A sense of loss fills me whenever I see his portrait on the wall. But his cheerful looks remind me to take heart and fight the struggle of life.

C. THINKING ABOUT LANGUAGE

Talk to your partner about the following:

  1. Which language do you think the author and his grandmother used while talking to each other?

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    Ans. The author’s grandmother was not much educated. So, I think the author and his grandmother used to talk in their mother tongue—in this case Punjabi.
  2. Which language do you use to talk to elderly relatives in your family?

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    Ans. My elderly relatives are well versed in English and Hindi. I feel at home greeting them in English but like to converse with them freely in Hindi.
  3. What is the expression used in your language for a `dilapidated drum’?

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    Ans. The expression used in our language for a ‘dilapidated drum’ is phata-purana dhol’.
  4. Can you think of a song or poem in your language that talks of homecoming?

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    Ans. There are many folk songs and poems singing of the exploits of brave warriors. All these talk of their homecoming after winning a battle.

D. WORKING WITH WORDS

  1. Notice the following uses of the word ‘tell’ in the essay:
    1. Her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary.
    2. I would tell her English words and little things of Western Science and learning.
    3. At her age one could never tell.
    4. She told us that her end was near.
    Given below are four different senses of the word ‘tell’.
    Match the meaning to the uses listed above.
    (a) make something known to someone in spoken or written words
    (b) count while reciting
    (c) be sure
    (d) give information to somebody.

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    Ans. Phrases                                                                  Meaning
    1. telling the beads                                                      (b) count while reciting
    2. tell her                                                                       (d) give information to somebody
    3. one could never tell                                                (c) be sure
    4. told us                                                                       (a) make something known to
    someone in spoken or written words
  2. Notice the different senses of the word ‘take’:
    1. to take to something: to begin to do something as a habit.
    2. to take ill: suddenly become ill.
    Locate these phrases in the text and notice the way they are used.

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    Ans. In the text, these phrases are used as under:
    I. to take to: She took to feeding sparrows in the courtyard of our city house.
    2. take ill: The next morning she was taken ill.
  3.  The word ‘hobble’ means to walk with difficulty because the legs and feet are in bad condition.
    Tick the words in the box below that also refer to a manner of walking.

    haggle    shuffle    stride     ride   waddle
    wriggle   paddle    swagger   trudge   slog

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    Ans. The words referring to a manner of walking are: shuffle, stride, waddle, swagger, trudge, slog.
  4. Notice these expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context:
    ➢ the thought was almost revolting
    ➢ a veritable bedlam of chirrupings
    ➢ an expanse of pure white serenity
    ➢ frivolous rebukes
    ➢ a turning-point
    ➢ the sagging skins of the dilapidated drum
    ➢ accepted her seclusion with resignation

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    Ans.
    the thought was almost revolting: It was disgusting to think so.
    an expanse of pure white serenity: widespread clear and calm whiteness.
    a turning point: the time when an important change takes place.
    accepted her seclusion with resignation: calmly submitted to her loneliness.
    a veritable bedlam of chirrupings: real confusing noise caused by chirping.
    ➢ frivolous rebukes: light rebukes
    the sagging skins of the dilapidated drum: the loose skin of an old drum.

E. NOTICING FORM

 

  1. Notice the form of the verbs highlighted in these sentences:
    1. My grandmother was an old woman. She had been old and winked for the twenty years that I had known her. People said that she had once been young and pretty and had even had a husband, but that was hard to believe.
    2. When we both had finished we would walk back together.
    3. When I came hack she would ask me what the teacher had taught me.
    4. It was the first time since I had known her that she did not pray.
    5. The sun was setting and had lit her room and verandah with a golden light.
    These are examples of the past perfect forms of verbs. When
    we recount things in the distant past we use this form.
    Other examples for practice
    Notice the form of verbs highlighted in these sentences:
    1. We understood the poem only when the teacher had explained it twice.
    2. When the rain came, they had already reached their hotel.
    3. We had worked together on that project for six months before she left me.
    4. It was the first time since I had lived there that it began to snow.
    5. The full moon was in the sky and had scattered its soft light all around.

F. THINGS TO DO
Talk with your family members about elderly people who you have been intimately connected with and are not there with you now. Write a short description of someone you liked a great deal.

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Ans..                                                              My Grandmother

I lost my grandmother when I was twelve, but I still recollect her. She loved me affectionately and I liked her a great deal. She was quite old then, but she could move about with ease. I was her constant companion during her visits to temple, market, garden or to the houses of friends and relatives. Other members of the family would taunt me as granny’s watch dog. She was my shield. I ran to her arms when my father or mother would get angry or thrash me. I miss the bedtime stories she used to tell me. Those highly fanciful stories were full of deeds of bravery or adventure and end on a note of success. They inspired me to do noble deeds in life. She was equally careful about my health and studies. She would make me drink milk and eat fruit to maintain a sound physique. She was good at drawing and helped me in writing alphabets. She also gave ready-made solutions to all my problems. She would bless me whenever I got success in any field—studies, sports, song, poetic recitation, poster making or fancy dress competition. Sometimes I miss her a lot.

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