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The Portrait of a Lady
By- Khushwant Singh
Short and Simple Summary of the lesson in English– The Portrait of a Lady/ Summary in simple Words/ Critical appreciation of the lesson – The Portrait of a Lady
The author’s grandmother was an old woman. Her face was wrinkled all over. For twenty years the author had seen no change in her looks and behaviour. It was difficult to believe that she, too, had once been a playful child or a pretty young woman with a husband. Even the grandfather with his long white beard in a portrait looked at least a hundred years old. It was even disgusting to think that the grandmother had ever been young and pretty.
The old lady was short-statured and a little bent. She moved about in the house limping. She had silver locks and wore spotless white clothes. She looked like a winter landscape in the mountains. She always carried a rosary in her hands which she kept counting. Her lips were always moving quietly in prayer. She was a picture of peace and contentment.
When the author’s parents went to live in the city. They left him behind with the old lady. She used to get him ready for school. While she bathed and dressed the boy, she kept saying her morning prayer. She hoped that the child would get to know the prayer by heart. But the author listened to her chiefly because he loved her voice. With the wooden slate, an earthen Inkpot and a pen in the school bag, she went to school with the boy. She also always carried several stale chapattis for the village dogs. She threw those bread pieces to the dogs when they walked back home together.
The school was attached to a temple. While the children were seated in the verandah and taught the alphabet by the priest, the old lady sat inside the temple reading some holy books.
When both had finished, they would walk back home together. It was the first phase of the author’s togetherness with his grandmother.
When the parents were settled properly. They called the author and the old lady there. That was a turning point in their friendship, rather the second phase. She could no more accompany the boy to his English school. And there were no street dogs either. So the old lady started feeding the sparrows in the courtyard. As time passed. They saw less of each other. She often enquired what he was taught at school. The poor woman could not understand English words and the laws of science. So, She could not help him with his lessons.
But she was shocked to know that there was no religious or moral teaching at the school. Secondly, the children were given music lessons. She associated music only with beggars and prostitutes.
When the author went up to university, he got a separate room for his studies. His friendship link with her was broken. She accepted her isolation quietly. She used to ply her spinning wheel and recited her prayers. Only in the afternoon, she took a short break to sit in the verandah and feed the sparrows. Hundreds of birds became so friendly with her that they sat on her legs, shoulders and head. She smiled but never drove them away. That was the happiest hour of the day for her.
She did not look upset even when the author went abroad for further studies. She showed no sentiments when she saw him off at the railway station. The author did not expect to find her alive on his return. But she was there again to receive him. She looked extremely happy. That day she fed the birds longer. In the evening, She collected women from the neighbourhood, Got an old drum and sang for hours. She could not withstand so much strain. She was taken ill. She declared that her end was near. She refused to talk to any member of the family. And she died peacefully.
As per custom, her dead body was laid on the ground and covered with a red shroud. While others left her alone to arrange for the funeral, hundreds of birds gathered around her. But they all were in silent mourning. The author’s mother thought the birds were hungry; she threw pieces of bread to them. But the sparrows took no notice of the bread. When the dead body was carried off, the birds also flew away quietly. Next morning, the sweeper swept the bread pieces into the dustbin.