The Portrait of a Lady
(By: Khushwant Singh)
This chapter revolves around narrator’s memorable moments with his grandmother. He recounts the days which he had spent with his grandmother since his childhood. He sheds some light on the pious personality of his grandmother who would take pains to grow him up.
According to him, his grandmother was a religious lady who would spend her most of the time in reciting prayers and telling the beads of her rosary. He begins this chapter with the childhood memories when he was waken and dressed up by his grandmother for his school. She would get the narrator ready and take him to the school that was next to a temple. Moreover, she was a philanthropist who would carry stale chapattis for the stale dogs whom she encountered every day on the way to school. At the temple, she would read scriptures and waited for her grandson’s school to be over.
Then comes a turning point in the relationship when they both are called to city to settle there by the parents of the narrator. Now, the narrator starts going to a public school by a motor van where he learns about music, science and English which is not at all liked by his grandmother. She wants him to learn about scriptures only. She often gets offended when told by her grandson about the subjects he learns at school. On the other hand, the grandmother starts feeding the sparrow and spinning the wheel for killing her time.
After few years, the narrator decides to move on and to move to a university abroad. He thinks that his grandmother would be very emotional when she gets to know about this news. But the reverse happens at the airport. She kisses him on his forehead and bids his adieu without expressing anything. Now the grandmother resorts to feeding of sparrow with the bread crumbs every day and befriends them.
After five years, when the narrator returns, he finds his grandmother alive to his surprise. His grandmother clasps him in his hand and celebrates his homecoming with the women of the neighbourhood. She tires herself by overstraining and falls ill the next day. A doctor is called to examine but she makes it clear to everyone that is going to die soon. She also emphasizes on telling the beads of rosary and declines to talk to any of the family members. After a few hours, she dies as expected by her.
Sparrows come to mourn on the death of her and take no notice of the bread crumbs thrown by the narrator’s mother. They all fly away without picking up a single crumb.
Very Important Questions.
Q1. How did the grandmother spend her whole day?
Ans. The grandmother spent her whole day by getting her grandson ready for the school, making chapattis for him and dropping him to school. Besides, she always remained busy in reciting prayers and telling the beads of her rosary.
Q2. Why was the grandmother so disturbed when the narrator started going to the city school?
Ans. The grandmother was a religious lady who loved to read scriptures and tell the beads of the rosary. When her grandson told her about the subjects being taught at school, she felt offended and reacted strangely. According to her, music was a monopoly of harlots and beggars.
Q3. How did the sparrows express their sorrow when the author’s grandmother died?
Ans. Author’s grandmother was very fond of feeding sparrows with bread crumbs. When the grandmother died, the sparrows did not take notice of bread crumbs and flew away without eating them. In this way, they expressed their sorrow at her death.
Q4. How did the author’s grandmother behave just before her death?
Ans. The author’s grandmother had got a fair enough idea about her upcoming death. Therefore, she decided not to waste even a single second while talking to her relatives but reciting the prayers and telling the beads of her rosary. She gave a clear signal to her family that she was no longer interested in talking to them.
Q5. Would you agree that grandmother was a lady strong in character?
Ans. undoubtedly, the grandmother was a very strong lady in character. She struggled a lot throughout her life but never gave up. She brought the narrator up with even though she was alone and old and looked after her with proper love and care. Besides, nothing made her emotional whether it was departure of author to university or abroad or his homecoming after 5 years. All this clearly signifies that she was a strong woman.
Q6. Write a brief character sketch of the author’s grandmother.
Ans. Author’s grandmother was a very religious and independent woman. Her energy to walk with a hand on her waist and agility to perform all the tasks made her exuberant. She had a firm belief in God therefore she always remained busy in telling the beads of her rosary and reciting the prayers. Besides, she had a strong will power and ability to overcome her emotions at all the stages of her life. She was a philanthropist as well as an altruist who made stale chapattis every day for the stray dogs. She was a social butterfly who shared her joys and sorrows with all the neighbourhood women of the society. In nutshell, she was an impeccable woman with a lot of devotion and selfless attitude.
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