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The Portrait of a Lady
By- Khushwant Singh
Important Long/ Detailed Answer Type Questions- to be answered in about 100 -150 words each Value based questions-
Long Answer Questions
1. Give a brief character—sketch of Khushwant Singh’s grandmother on the basis of the portrait of a Lady.
Ans. The writer’s grandmother was a very old woman. She was religious-minded and noble-hearted. In the house, she always carried a rosary in her hands. She kept telling the beads of the rosary and reciting prayers silently. She read holy books in the village temple. She would say her prayers while getting the child ready for school. She used to feed the dogs in the village and the sparrows in the city. She treated the author with the utmost affection. The author was sent abroad for five years for further studies. He thought that this might upset his grandmother, but she did not object and went to the railway station to see him off. When he returned after five years, she was there to welcome him. She was so happy that she collected the women in her neighbourhood and sang songs and beat the drum to celebrate his homecoming.
She was not formally educated. She had no knowledge of English and Science. But she was serious about the education of her grandson. She even helped him with his lessons in the village. But she was disturbed to know that music lessons were being given at the city school. It pained her to note that there was no teaching about God and holy books. She hated music. She belonged to the old generation.
2. Describe how the bond of friendship between the author and his grandmother grew strong and then weak with the passage of time.
Ans. The little boy and his old grandmother became best friends in the village. She gave him the morning bath and breakfast. She went with him to the temple school in the village and they came back home together in the afternoon.
But when the two moved to the city, their friendship suffered a crack. It was a turning point in their relationship. The author went to an English school in the city. He went by the school bus. So the grandmother could not accompany him anymore. Now he was being taught science, Maths and English; so she could not help him with his lessons. Moreover, when she heard that music lessons were also being given at school, she felt very disturbed as music had cheap associations for her. Now she saw less of him and withdrew herself. When he went to university, he got a room of his own. The common link of sharing the same room was also broken. She felt isolated. She took to plying the charkha
But her concern and affection for the writer were not affected. She gave him a send-off at the station, received him on coming home and celebrated his arrival with songs and beating the drum. She even forgot to pray that evening.
3. Draw a contrast of the lifestyle of the author’s grandmother in the village and in the city. What could be the reasons?
Ans. The author’s grandmother was a very old and gracious lady. She hobbled about in the house, one hand resting on her waist to balance herself. She carried a rosary in her other hand. The author could not believe that she had once been a child playing games or a young lady who was married and had children.
In the village, she took complete care of the author. She bathed the link boy in the morning, gave him breakfast. Prepared his wooden slate and inkpot for taking to school. She went with him to the temple school where he was taught the morning prayer and
The alphabet by the priest. She sat there and read the scriptures. While going back home both of them threw stale chapattis to the village dogs who followed them.
When the two were called to the city, there came a big change in her routine and also in her lifestyle. Her friendship with the author was almost broken. She felt isolated. She accepted it calmly. She made use of her time by reciting prayers, plying the charkha and feeding the sparrows in the afternoon. She loved doing that.
The reason for the weakening of the bonds of friendship between the two was that she could not go to school nor help him with his lessons, as now he went to an English school. She did not even approve of what was being taught at school. But her affection for her grandson was as strong as ever. She welcomed his homecoming with songs and music. Circumstances made all the difference as life in the village and in the city were very different.
4. Trace the interest of the old grandmother in the education of the author. Do you think her concern was misplaced?
Ans. The old grandmother had no formal education. But she was seriously concerned about the education of her grandson. She used to wash and plaster his wooden slate, get the school bag ready and go with him to the school. She even helped him with his lessons in the village. Even in the city, she would ask the boy what he had been taught at school. But she could not understand the English words and laws of science. She felt unhappy to know that there was no teaching about God and scriptures. She was shocked to know about music lessons being taught there. So she withdrew herself completely. She hated music because she thought it was the monopoly of harlots and beggars. The grandmother belonged to the old world order. So her concept of right education was different. Her mindset could not accept any change.
Her concern was misplaced because the author had already inculcated the moral values from her and now he was being taught English and Modern science for a progressive future. This education helped him a great deal in his career in later life.
5. What aspects of old people are highlighted in the chapter “The portrait of a Lady”?
Ans. Khushwant Singh’s story portrays the life of a grandmother who was trying to bring up her grandson in a country where the majority of the people were fighting to make it free from the British. They were still the rulers and as a result whatever they had brought with them, be it English education or English fashion, It was looked upon with doubt and distrust by most of the Indians. Khushwant Singh’s grandmother, being old and uneducated, could not reconcile to the thought of her grandson being taught all the modern subjects like Maths, science, new theories and music. She looked upon these subjects with distrust. Although she did not force her views on her family; she became a recluse. She lived in her own world, winning the wheel the whole day, praying and feeding the sparrows.
The writer says that if the old people are not able to understand or accept the changes which take place in society regarding education, thinking, lifestyle etc., they feel isolated. This gives way to a generation gap which can be bridged to some extent by proper understanding by the old as well as the young.
6. Describe the unique relationship of the grandmother with the dogs and the sparrows. Do you think itis believable and desirable?
Ans. The old grandmother had lived a secluded life in the village. She knew how to bring up and feed the children lovingly. She had no formal education. Yet with long practice, she had learnt to read scriptures. She wished her little grandson also to learn the morning prayers by heart.
The old lady had a unique relationship with the dogs in the village and the birds in the city. She carried stale chapattis for the village dogs. They waited for her as she left the temple. In the city, she befriended the sparrows by offering them the crumbs of bread in the afternoon. They became so friendly with her that they perched on her head and shoulders. She never shooed them away. That was the reason why the birds gathered in thousands to mourn her death. They sat quietly in the courtyard, took no notice of the bread pieces thrown to them, and flew away quietly after her dead body was taken for cremation. Yes, this relationship is believable because when people feel isolated even in a family, they find solace in the company of animals and birds. Grandmother loved feeding and playing with the sparrows and the feeling was reciprocated.