NCERT Solutions for Class 11th English The Portrait of Lady English Khushvant Singh
1. Notice these expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context.
- the thought was almost revolting
- an expanse of pure white serenity
- a turning-point
- accepted her seclusion with resignation
- a veritable bedlam of chirrupings
- frivolous rebukes
- the sagging skins of the dilapidated drum
1 the thought was almost revolting – It was difficult for the author to believe that grandmother was young and pretty once. The thought raised doubts in the mind of the author.
2 an expanse of pure white serenity – The phrase refers to the appearance of the grandmother who was wearing spotless white saree always. Just like the snow covered winter landscape, the grandmother also looks as white as snow because of the white colour of her saree along with her grey hair and pale face.
3 a turning-point – It refers to the time when an important change takes place. Here, it signifies the time when the author’s relationship with his grandmother changed drastically after they had moved to the city-house.
4 accepted her seclusion with resignation –The author’s grandmother patiently accepted her secluded life after she had gradually lost in touch with her grandson.
5 a veritable bedlam of chirruping – It refers to the noise and confusion produced by the sparrows with
their chirping while the grandmother was feeding them.
6 frivolous rebukes – It refers to the silly and amusing rebukes of the grandmother to the sparrows.
7 the sagging skins of the dilapidated drum – It means the unattractive and deteriorated condition of the drum.
Understanding the Text
1. Mention the three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad.
Answer The three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad are given below.
The author’s early childhood was the first phase. During this phase, he used to live with his grandmother in the village and the grandmother took care of him by waking him up, making him get ready and accompanying him to the school. Both of them shared a good friendship with each other.
The second phase was the time when the author and the grandmother moved to the city to live with author’s parents. This was a turning-point in their friendship because now they ‘saw less of each other’.
The third phase was the time the author joined University. He was given a room of his own and the common link of their friendship was broken. The grandmother turns to wheel-spinning and reciting prayers all day long. She accepts her seclusion with silence.
2. Mention three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school.
Answer : The author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school because of the following reasons:
(i) She could not help him with his lessons in English and science.
(ii) She was worried that there was no teaching of God and scriptures.
(iii) She was also disturbed with the idea of music lessons given at school as she considered music suitable only for the people with low dignity.
3.Mention three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up.
The three ways in which the author's grandmother spent her days after he grew up were by spinning wheel, reciting prayers and feeding the sparrows.
4. Mention the odd way in which the author’s grandmother behaved just before she died.
The grandmother told the family that her end was near. Since she had omitted to pray, she was not going to waste any more time talking to the family. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beads.
5. Mention the way in which the sparrows expressed their sorrow when the author’s grandmother died.
All over the verandah and in the grandmother’s room right up to where she lay dead thousands of sparrows sat scattered on the floor. There was no chirruping. Author’s mother threw some pieces of bread The sparrows took no notice of the bread. When they carried grandmother’s corpse they flew away quietly. Thus, the sparrows mourned her death and paid their silent tribute to her.
Talking about theText
1. The author’s grandmother was a religious person. What are the different ways in which we come to know this?
Answer The author’s grandmother was always busy with prayers. Her lips constantly moved in an inaudible prayer and one hand was busy in telling the beads of her rosary. She used to get up early in the morning and did her morning prayer in “a monotonous sing-song”. Everyday, she went along with the author to his school and while the narrator was studying she used to sit in a temple and read
scriptures. Later, she expressed her unhappiness that there was no religious teaching at the city-school. Before dying, she stopped talking to her family members and she lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beads. All this proves that the author’s grandmother was a religious person.
2. Describe the changing relationship between the author and his grandmother. Did their feelings for each other change?
Answer While living in the village the author and his grandmother were intimate friends. A turning point came in their relationship when they came to the city to live with author’s parents. When the author joined in the city-school the grandmother remained confined to home. She could not help him in studies. She was also unhappy about the kind of education being given to the author at the English school. The grandmother became disturbed as there was no teaching about God and scriptures in the new school. She reconciled herself with spinning and feeding the sparrows. When the narrator grew up, he went to university and then went abroad. Then the link of friendship between the author and his grandmother was broken. His grandmother accepted her seclusion with resignation. No, their feelings for each other did not change in spite of the distances growing between them.
3. Would you agree that the author’s grandmother was a person strong in character? If yes, give instances that show this.
Answer Yes, the author’s grandmother was a person strong in character. The following instances prove this.
She had her own thoughts about education. She considered the teaching of scriptures to be more fruitful than science and music. She was a happy and contented person in all circumstances. During the time of loneliness and seclusion, she took to wheel-spinning and feeding sparrows.
She appeared composed and did not display any emotion when the author decided to go abroad for studies. During the last few hours of her life, she stopped talking to everyone and prepared herself for a peaceful death reciting prayers and telling her beads.
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?
Answer The question demands a personal response. You can write about any relatives whom you have loved and lost. The following is a sample answer.
Yes, I knew someone like the author’s grandmother. It was my maternal grandmother who passed away
recently. I was extremely sad about the loss of her because I spent almost thirteen years of my life with her.
No, I have never known someone the way the author knew his grandmother. Therefore, I have never felt the sense of grief described in the story.
Thinking about the Language
1. Which language do you think the author and his grandmother used while talking to each other?
Answer The author and his grandmother might have used their mother-tongue for talking to each other. As the author, Khushwant Singh, belongs to Punjab, the language used by them must be Punjabi.
2. Which language do you use to talk to elderly relatives in your family?
Answer You can mention your mother tongue (It could be English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telgu, Bhojpuri etc.)
3. How would you say ‘a dilapidated drum’ in your language?
Answer You may find out the expression used in your mother tongue. (In Hindi it is ‘phata-hua dholak’.)
Working with Words
1. Notice the following usage of the word ‘tell’ in the text.
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 meanings to the uses listed above.
1. make something known to someone in spoken or written words
2. count while reciting
3. be sure
4. give information to somebody
1. Make something known to someone in spoken or written words: I would tell her English words and little things of western science and learning.
2. Count while reciting: Her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary.
3. Be sure: At her age, one could never tell.
4. Give information to somebody: She told us that her end was near.
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: to suddenly become ill Locate these phrases in the text and notice the way they are used.
Answer The instances where these phrases have been used in the story are given below.
1. “... she took to feeding sparrows in the courtyard of our city house”. This phrase refers to the daily routine that the author’s grandmother took up when they shifted to the city.
2. “The next morning she was taken ill.” It means that the author’s grandmother fell 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
The following words refer to a manner of walking:
For more study material for English please click here - English