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CBSE Class -XI English Core
NCERT Solutions
HORNBILL Chapter-1
The Portrait of lady

Page No: 3

Question:Notice these expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context.
i) The thought was almost revolting
ii) An expanse of pure white serenity
iii) A turning-point
iv) Accepted her seclusion with resignation
v) A veritable bedlam of chirrupings
vi) Frivolous rebukes
vii) The sagging skins of the dilapidated drum

Answer : i) The thought was almost revolting – The thought that the author’s grandmother
was once young and pretty raises a doubt in the mind of the author. He finds it too hard to
believe as he had always seen her as an old lady.

(ii) An expanse of pure white serenity – It refers to the calm, peaceful and serene character
and the conduct of the author’s grandmother. She is compared to a peaceful winter
landscape in the mountains. She almost looked like a snow covered mountain in her silvery
hair and spotless white clothes.

(iii) A turning-point – It refers to the point where the author’s relationship with his
grandmother changes drastically after they move to the city-house.

(iv) Accepted her seclusion with resignation – This shows the author’s grandmother’s passive
submission to her secluded life after she gradually loses touch with her grandson.

(v) A veritable bedlam of chirruping – It refers to the noise, confusion and chaos caused by
the chirruping of the sparrows that scattered and perched around the author’s grandmother.
vi) Frivolous rebukes – It refers to the casual, non serious and light-hearted scoldings of the
grandmother to the sparrows.

(vii) The sagging skins of the dilapidated drum – It points to the shabby and deteriorated
condition of the drum.

Page No: 6 Understanding the Text

Question:Mention the three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before
he left the country to study abroad.

Answer : The three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left
the country to study abroad are given below.

1.The first phase was the period of the author’s early childhood. During this phase, he used to
live with his grandmother in the village. The grandmother used to take care of him from
waking him up and getting him ready to accompanying him to the school. Both shared a
good friendship with each other.

2.The second phase was the time when the author and the grandmother moved to the city to
live with author’s parents. This was a turning-point in their friendship because now they
‘saw less of each other’.

3.The third phase was the time the author joined University. He was given a room of his own
and the common link of their friendship was snapped. The grandmother turned to wheel-
spinning and reciting prayers all day long. She accepted her seclusion with silence.

Question:Mention three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started
going to the city school.

Answer : The author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school
because:
(i) She could not help him with his lessons in English, science. She didn’t believe in them.
(ii) No teaching of God and scriptures jn the author’s English medium school.
(iii) She was unhappy with the idea of music lessons being given at school. She considered
music suitable only for the people with low dignity.

Page No: 7

Question:Mention three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up.

Answer : The three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up
are by spinning wheel, reciting prayers and feeding the sparrows.

Question:Mention the odd way in which the author’s grandmother behaved just before she
died.

Answer : The grandmother told the family that her end was near. She told everyone that as
she had omitted to pray in the last phase of her life so she was not going to waste any more
time talking to them. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beads.

Question:Mention the way in which the sparrows expressed their sorrow when the author’s
grandmother died.

Answer : The sparrows and the grandmother had developed an intimate relationship so the
sparrows also mourned her death. When the grandmother died, thousands of sparrows
expressed their sorrow by sitting scattered in the verandah in mourning while grandmother’s dead-body lay there. They did not chirrup. Author’s mother threw some pieces of bread but they showed no interest in the bread crumbs. When they carried grandmother’s corpse off, they flew away quietly. Thus, the sparrows mourned her death and paid their silent tribute to the grand old lady in a very unique manner.

Talking about the Text

Question:The author’s grandmother was a religious person. What are the different ways in
which we come to know this?

Answer : The author’s grandmother was a religious lady with a kind heart. Her one hand
was always busy in telling the beads of her rosary. Her lips constantly moved in an inaudible
prayer. She used to get up early in the morning. She did her morning prayer in “a
monotonous sing-song”. Everyday, she went along with the author to his school and while
narrator studied she sat in a temple and read scriptures Later, in the city she was unhappy
that there was no religous teaching at school. Before dying, she stopped talking to her family
members and turned to prayers, and telling the beads.

Question:Describe the changing relationship between the author and his grandmother. Did
their feelings for each other change?

Answer : The changing circumstances did have a bearing on the relationship between the
author and his grandmother. The author and his grandmother lived as intimate friends in
the village. A turning point came in their relationship when they came to the city to live with the author’s parents. The author joined an English school in the city. She remained confined
to home as here she could not accompany him to the school. In the new English school she could not help him in studies. She did not like the kind of education being given to the author
at the English school. The grandmother became disturbed as there was no teaching about
God and scriptures in the new school. She reconciled herself with spinning and taking to feed the sparrows. When the narrator grew up, he went up to university. He was given his own
room. The common link of friendship between the author and his grandmother was
snapped. His grandmother accepted her seclusion with resignation.No, their feelings for each other did not change though distances grew between them.

Question:Would you agree that the author’s grandmother was a person strong in character? If
yes, give instances that show this.
Answer : Yes, the author’s grandmother was a person strong in character. The instances to
prove this are given below.

•The author’s grandmother was a person strong in character. She was a picture of
contentment but she had firm convictions about certain things in her life.

•She had her own thoughts about the learning at school. She considered the teaching of
scriptures to be more fruitful than science and music.

•In her phase of loneliness and seclusion, she took to wheel-spinning and feeding sparrows.
She appeared composed and did not display any emotion when the author decided to go
abroad for studies.

•Ignoring everyone who tried to stop her, she sang for several hours celebrating the home-
coming of her grandson.

•During the last few hours of her life, ignoring the protests of her family members, she
stopped talking to everyone and took to reciting prayers and telling her beads.

Question:Have you known someone like the author’s grandmother? Do you feel the same sense of loss with regard to someone whom you have loved and lost?

Answer : Yes, I knew someone like the author’s grandmother. It was my own grandmother
who passed away recently. The intense sense of loss is very heart-wrenching as I spent
almost fifteen years of my life with her.
OR
No, I have never known someone the way the author knew his grandmother. Thus, I have
never felt the sense of grief presented in the story.

Thinking about the Language

Question:Which language do you think the author and his grandmother used while talking to
each other?

Answer : The author and his grandmother might have used their mother-tongue to converse
with each other. As the author, Khushwant Singh, belonged to Punjab, the language used by
them might be Punjabi.

Question-Which language do you use to talk to elderly relatives in your family?

Answer : Your Mothertongue (Could be English, Hindi, Telgu, Bhojpuri etc.)

Question:How would you say ‘a dilapidated drum’ in your language?

Answer : Know your meaning in mothertongue (In Hindi it is ‘phata-hua dholak’.)

Working with Words

Question:Notice the following uses of the word ‘tell’ in the text.

Answer i). Her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary.
ii). I would tell her English words and little things of Western science and learning.
iii). At her age one could never tell.
iv). She told us that her end was near.

Question:Given below are four different senses of the word ‘tell’. Match the meanings to the
uses listed above.
i). make something known to someone in spoken or written words
ii). count while reciting
iii). be sure
iv). give information to somebody


Answer : i). Make something known to someone in spoken or written words: I would tell her
English words and little things of western science and learning.
ii). Count while reciting: Her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary.
iii). Be sure: At her age, one could never tell.
iv). Give information to somebody: She told us that her end was near.

Page No.8

Notice the different senses of word “take”

i). to take to something: to begin to do something as a habit
ii). to take ill: to suddenly become ill
Locate these phrases in the text and notice the way they are used.

Answer : The instances where these phrases have been used in the story are given below.
i). “… she took to feeding sparrows in the courtyard of our city house”.
This phrase refers to the daily activity that the author’s grandmother took up when they
shifted to the city.
ii). “The next morning she was taken ill.”
This phrase refers to the author’s grandmother’s sudden illness.

The word ‘hobble’ means to walk with difficulty because the legs and feet are in bad
condition. Tick the words in the box below that also refer to a manner of walking.

haggle  shuffle  stride  ride  waddle
wriggle  paddle  swagger  trudge  slog

Answer : The words that also refer to a manner of walking are:

  • shuffle
  • stride
  • waddle
  • paddle
  • swagger
  • trudge
  • slog

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