The Portrait of a Lady
Answers for all the questions from the lesson ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ included in the CHSE +2 book ‘Invitation to English – 1’.
Think it out – 1
1. Why was it hard for the author to believe that his grandmother was once young and pretty?
Answer – His grandmother’s face was marked by wrinkles, loose hanging skin. Her voice was unsteady, and her lips quivered continuously. Her hair had turned completely grey. Seeing these, the author, then a young boy, couldn’t imagine that his grandmother could have been a very beautiful young woman during her youth.
2. How did the grandfather appear in his portrait?
Answer – His grandfather looked handsome, imposing and manly in his turban and loose-fitting clothes.
3. What sort of a person did he look in his portrait?
Answer – He looked like a young man full of masculine energy who would raise a big family with lots of children and grandchildren.
4. How does the author portray his grandmother?
Answer – The author saw his grandmother as a simple, unintelligent, and homely woman. She was a bit fat, bent to one side, and un-spoilt by the crookedness of human existence.
5. Why does he say, “the thought was almost revolting”?
Answer – His grandmother was both pretty and pious. She was unpretentious too. To be mother of so many children, and be submerged in the lust of life was not in her character.
6. The grandmother had a divine beauty. How does the author bring this out?
Answer – The grandmother had a serene and simple look. She exuded purity and peace. In the language of the author, she resembled the winter landscape of the mountains – clean and calm. This was the divine charm she wore.
Think it out – 2
1. What was the grandmother’s routine in the village?
Answer – She was the mentor and caretaker of the author. She would visit the village temple on her way to school, feed some stray dogs on the way, and escort him back.
2. How did the grandmother take care of the writer during his childhood? Was she a good companion of the writer in the village?
Answer – Her job was to wake the author, then a young boy, and make him ready for school. She escorted him there. Before that she said her prayers in a somewhat louder voice so that he could benefit from its spirituality. She made him feel loved, secure and comfortable, even without his parents being with him. She was his mentor and caretaker.
3. What lessons did the writer learn from the village priest ?
Answer – The priest taught the boy the alphabets and the morning prayer.
4. How did the grandmother spend her time at the temple?
Answer – She read the scriptures till the boy had finished the lessons under the priest.
5. Was she a religious person? How?
Answer – She was a religious person. She did her pujas sincerely, and fed the dogs out of her kindness.
Think it out – 3
1. Why didn’t the grandmother accompany the writer to school in the city?
Answer – The writer was growing up in age. His school changed. He went to a school in the city by bus, not on foot. There was no need of an escort, so the old lady didn’t go to the city with him.
2. Why couldn’t the grandmother help the writer with his lessons at the city school?
Answer – The writer was growing up, and his curriculum in school changed dramatically. The new subjects he learnt were Greek and Latin which were alien languages to his grandmother. So, she couldn’t help him with his lessons.
3. Why did the lessons at the English school distress the grandmother?
Answer – The school taught subjects that appeared so distant and irrelevant to the old lady brought up with traditional values. The school didn’t have scriptures in the syllabus. This horrified her, and she felt distressed.
4. Why was she disturbed about music lessons at the English school?
Answer – The curriculum in the school was adapted to the Western model. More worryingly for the old-fashioned grandmother, they taught music at school. The idea was repulsive to the old lady who perceived the music to be degrading and vulgar. This is the reason she was so distressed to hear about the school teaching Music.
5. What were the three ways in which the grandmother spent her days when the author went to University?
Answer – A spinning wheel was her companion from morning to evening. She spun, and recited her payers all through the day. In the evening, she would shred a few bread pieces, and strew them all around for big flock of little birds to feed on. This part of daily routine filled her heart.
6. What was the happiest time of the day for her?
Answer – Feeding bread pieces to the large flock of birds gave her real pleasure. They took liberty with her, sitting on her head and shoulders, but she relished the experience.
7. How did she accept her seclusion?
Answer – She accepted her fate with equanimity and resignation.
Think it out – 4
1. How did the grandmother see the author off at the railway station?
Answer – The parting was unusually quiet. The grandmother didn’t let her feelings overwhelm her. She remained quiet, lost in her prayers and her beads. She bore the torrent of emotions like a rock. When the time came to leave, she kissed the forehead of the author. It was a remarkable show of self-control.
2. How did she receive him when he came back home from abroad?
Answer – She held back her joy, choosing not to display it. She showed no jubilation, nor excitement. She came and hugged the author very warmly, but instead of saying anything, she kept to her silent prayers steadfastly. It was so very surprising.
3. What were her happiest moments on the first day of his arrival?
Answer – On that evening, she appeared to be more than happy to feed her sparrows. She lavished her affection on them, often chiding them playfully for their naughtiness.
4. How did she celebrate his return in the evening? Does her behaviour appear odd to you?
Answer – On the day the author arrived home, she took a break from her prayer. Instead, she gathered a few women from the neighborhood, and indulged in spirited singing of songs related to the theme of home-coming of warriors. The energy and the joy in her singing were astonishing. She continued to play the drum with her feeble arms. The gusto she exhibited was quite uncharacteristic of her. This was a bit odd for her frail mind and body.
5. How did she pass away?
Answer – The end came unannounced. She was very weak, and was made to lie down on the bed. She was telling her beads, very quietly, and suddenly, the lips stopped moving. She had departed from this world with no fanfare.
6. How did sparrows react when the author’s grandmother died?
Answer – The sparrows appeared at the appointed time as usual. But, they sensed something was amiss. Their long-time benefactor was not there to feed them. When the author’s mother gave away their food, they refused to partake it. Instead they flew off, perhaps heart-broken.
7. “Next morning the sweeper swept the bread crumbs into her dust bin.” What does this line imply?
Answer – This concluding line has philosophical undertones. The bread crumbs were thrown into the garbage. The end was tragic, and abrupt, but everything appeared so routine. Life in the world is like this. All joys, sorrows, love, affection, bond and attachment are transitory. They will pass one day, but life will go on.
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