THE SNAKE AND THE MIRROR
By– Vaikom Muhammad Basheer
Read the extracts and answer the questions that follow.
EXTRACTS FOR COMPREHENSION
Read the following extracts and answer the questions that follow in one or two lines each.
I had my meal at the restaurant and returned to my room. I heard a noise from above as I opened the door. The sound was a familiar one.
(a) Who does ‘I’ refer to in this extract?
Ans: In this extract, ‘I’ refers to the homoeopath doctor who narrates his encounter with a snake.
(b) At what time did ‘I’ return to his room and from where?
Ans: The doctor returned to his room at ten o’clock at night after having a meal at a restaurant.
(c) When did ‘I’ hear a noise? What type of noise was it?
Ans: The doctor heard a noise when he entered his room. It was a familiar noise like that of the rats that lived in his room.
(d) Why does ‘I’ say that it was a familiar sound?
Ans: The doctor says that it was a familiar sound because there were many rats in his room and their constant squeaking had become familiar.
I went back into the room and sat down on the chair. I opened the box beneath the table and took out a book, the Materia Medica. I opened it at the table on which stood the lamp and a large mirror; a small comb lay beside the mirror.
(a) Who is the speaker here? Where was he before going back into the room?
Ans: The narrator, a homoeopathic doctor speaks these lines. He was in the veranda before coming back into the room.
(b) Why did he take out a book from the box?
Ans: He took out the book to while away some time reading it, as he could not sleep because it was hot and still, and there was no electricity in his room.
(c) What objects stood on the table?
Ans: A lamp and a large mirror stood on the table. A small comb lay beside the mirror.
(d) What did the speaker do after this? After this, the speaker looked into the mirror that stood on the table.
I was unmarried and I was a doctor. I felt I had to make my presence felt. I picked up the comb and ran it through my hair and adjusted the parting so that it looked straight and neat.
(a) Who is ‘I’ in this extract?
Ans: In this extract, ‘I’ is the homoeopathic doctor who recounts his encounter with a snake.
(b) Explain: ‘make my presence felt’.
Ans: ‘Make my presence felt’ means to make a noticeable influence or effect.
(c) Why did ‘I’ feel that he had to make his presence felt?
Ans: The doctor felt that he had to make his presence felt because he belonged to the prestigious profession of a doctor and he was still unmarried.
(d) What did ‘I’ do in order to make his presence felt?
Ans: In order to make his presence felt, he combed his hair carefully and adjusted the parting.
I got up, paced up and down the room. Then another lovely thought struck me. I would marry.
(a) Who is ‘I’ in these lines? Where did he get up from?
Ans: In these lines, ‘I’ is the homoeopathic doctor and he got up from his chair in his room.
(b) Which lovely thought struck him?
Ans: The lovely thought that struck him was that he should get married.
(c) When did this thought strike him?
Ans: This thought struck him when he looked at his reflection in the large mirror that stood on his table.
(d)What sort of lady did he wish to many? He wished to marry a rich, fat lady-doctor.
There was no time to do any such thing. The snake slithered along my shoulder and coiled around my left arm above the elbow.
(a) Who is describing this experience?
Ans: The homoeopathic doctor is describing this experience that he had when he encountered a snake.
(b) What did the speaker have no time for?
Ans: The speaker did not have time to save himself from the snake that had coiled around his left arm above the elbow.
(c) Where had the snake come from?
Ans: The snake had fallen from the roof of the doctor’s ill-equipped room.
(d) How did the speaker react to the snake’s presence?
Ans: The speaker became motionless and did not jump, tremble or cry out when the snake came so close to him.
There were no medicines in the room. I was but a poor, foolish and stupid doctor. I forgot my danger and smiled feebly at myself.
(a) Who is ‘I’ in these lines? Why did he need medicines?
Ans: In these lines, ‘I’ is the homoeopathic doctor. He needed medicines in case the snake bit him and injected him with its poison.
(b) Why did ‘I’ feel poor and stupid?
Ans: The doctor felt poor and stupid because he realised that he was a doctor, still he did not have medicines for an emergency like this.
(c) Why did ‘I’ smile feebly at himself?
Ans: The doctor smiled feebly at himself because he felt weak and helpless on finding himself face to face with a snake.
(d) What danger does ‘I’ refer to?
Ans: The doctor refers to the danger posed by a deadly snake that had wrapped itself on his arm and was slowly crushing it with force.
I was no mere image cut in granite. I was suddenly a man of flesh and blood. Still holding my breath I got up from the chair. I quietly went through the veranda. From there I leapt into the yard and ran for all I was worth.
(a) Who is ‘I’ in these lines? When had he felt like an “image cut in granite”?
Ans:‘I’ in these lines is the homoeopathic doctor who narrates his encounter with the snake.
He felt that he was an ‘image cut in granite’ when he found a snake coiled strongly around his forearm with its taut hood barely three or four inches away from his face. Gripped in fear he could neither move nor breathe properly.
(b) What is the meaning of ‘a man of flesh and blood’?
Ans: ‘A man of flesh and blood’ means a living person with human feelings, strengths and weaknesses.
(c) How was ‘I’ suddenly ‘a man of flesh and blood’?
Ans: When the snake let go of its hold on his arm, the doctor was able to come out of the state of shock which had made him numb like a stone. He regained his senses and faculties of body and mind.
(d) What did ‘I’ do as ‘a man of flesh and blood’?
Ans: When the doctor got over his numbing shock, he got up from his chair, quietly went through the veranda, leapt into the yard and ran with all his might.
The next morning at about eight-thirty I took my friend and one or two others to my room to move my things from there. But we found we had little to carry.
(a) Why did the doctor go back to his room in the morning?
Ans: The doctor went back to his room because the previous night he had to leave it suddenly because of a snake. He wanted to check whether everything in the room was intact and whether the snake had left.
(b) Why did the doctor want to move things from the room?
Ans: The doctor wanted to move things from the room because he was extremely terrified after his encounter with the snake. He could no longer live in a room that had no electricity, was infested with rats and visited by snakes.
(c) Why did the doctor and his friends go to his room the next day?
Ans: The doctor and his friends went to his room the next day to move his things from there.
(d) Why was there ‘little to carry’ from the room?
Ans: There was nothing left in the room except a dirty vest of the doctor. Everything had been stolen by someone. So, there was ‘little to carry’ from the room.