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Chapter 1- The Portrait of a Lady Interview Questions Answers

Question 1 :
The three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad.

Answer 1 :

The three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad were:
(a) Admiration and friendship – The author admired his grandmother and described her as the “winter landscape in the mountains, an expanse of pure white serenity breathing peace and contentment”. They were good friends. She woke him up in the morning and got him ready for school. She waited for him while he was in school and then walked him back.

(b) Growing distant – She could not accompany him to school as he went by the school bus. He was now in an English school, where they taught science. She could not understand English and did not believe in science. The fact that they were not taught about god made her unhappy. Khushwant Singh’s learning music in school made her unhappier as she felt it was not meant for gentle folk.

(c) Wide gulf – When he went to the university, he got a separate room and even the last link of a shared room was snapped. The grandmother kept to her spinning wheel, rarely talking to anyone.

Question 2 :
Three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school.

Answer 2 :

The three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school were:

  1. She did not believe in the things they taught at the English school.
  2. She was distressed that they were not taught about God and the scriptures.
  3. She was very disturbed about the fact that he was being given music lessons. To her, music was not the way of the gentle folk.

Question 3 :
Three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up.

Answer 3 :

The three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up were:

  1. She was resigned to her loneliness and did not interact much with the author.
  2. From sunrise to sunset she sat by her wheel, spinning and reciting prayers.
  3. In the afternoon, she relaxed for a while to feed the sparrows.

Question 4 :
The odd way in which the author’s grandmother behaved just before she died.

Answer 4 :

Unlike the doctors who believed that she would recover, the grandmother knew that her end was near. She said, since only a few hours before the close of the last chapter of her life she had omitted to pray, she was not going to waste any more time talking to them. She ignored their protests. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beads till her lips stopped moving and the rosary fell from her lifeless fingers.

Question 5 :
The way in which the sparrows expressed their sorrow when the author’s grandmother died.

Answer 5 :

When the grandmother died, thousands of sparrows collected and sat in the courtyard. There was no chirruping. When the author’s mother threw some bread for them, they took no notice of the bread. They were full of grief at her death and flew away quietly after the cremation. The breadcrumbs had to be swept away the next day.

Question 6 :
The author’s grandmother was a religious person. What are the different ways in which we come to know this?

Answer 6 :

The author recalls his grandmother as a very religious person. In his earliest memories he recalls her hobbling about the house telling the beads of her rosary. As she bathed him she said her morning prayer, hoping that he, too, would learn it. While he studied in school, she read scriptures inside the temple.

Once the author went to the university, and he and his grandmother drifted apart, she rarely left her spinning wheel to talk to anyone. From sunrise to sunset she sat by her wheel, spinning and reciting prayers. The author recalls that even during the last few hours she spent all her time praying.

Question 7 :
Describe the changing relationship between the author and his grandmother. Did their feelings for each other change?

Answer 7 :

When the author was a young boy, his parents shifted to the city leaving him with his grandmother. They were good friends and spent all their time together. She woke him up each morning, bathed him, dressed him, plastered his wooden slate, gave him breakfast and walked him to school. While he sat in the veranda learning, the grandmother sat inside the temple reading scriptures.

When they had both finished, they would walk back together. But once in the city, there was a turning point in their friendship. The only thing that remained unchanged was their common bedroom. She could not accompany him to school as he went by the school bus. He now went to an English school, where they taught science.
 
She could not understand English and did not believe in science. The fact that they were not taught about god made her unhappy. His learning music in school made her feel worse. When he went to the university, he got a separate room and this snapped off their ties even further.

This was not deliberate but the demands of the situation had this effect on their relationship. However, their feelings for each other never changed. When the writer was going abroad, she went to the railway station to see him off but did not speak a word, she only kissed his forehead. The writer cherished this as their last physical contact as he was going away for five years. But when he returned, she was still there and was delighted to see him back.

In the evening she, for whom music had lewd associations, collected women from the neighbourhood and beat the drum and sang for hours of the homecoming of the warriors. For the first time, she missed her prayers to celebrate the author’s homecoming. The next day, she developed a mild fever and died; it was almost as if she had been waiting for the author’s return.

Question 8 :
Would you agree that the author’s grandmother was a person strong in character? If yes, give instances that show this.

Answer 8 :

Khushwant Singh’s grandmother was a strong woman whom he loved and admired. When his parents went to the city, she took charge of him. In the city, although she disapproved of certain things that he was taught in school, she did not express it.

She had the inner strength to withdraw quietly. The writer also recalls, with pleasure, the moments when he was going abroad; she went to the railway station to see him off but did not talk or show any emotion.

Her lips moved in prayer and she kissed his forehead silently. The strength of her character was also evident during the last few days of her life. She knew that her end was near. She said that she was not going to waste any more time talking to anybody.

She ignored their protests and lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beads till the last moment. A peaceful pallor spread on her face and they knew that she was dead.

Question 9 :
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 9 :

The death of a grandparent is probably one of the worst things that can happen to you as a child. Facing death can be sad or frightening to anyone, but as a child, it seems all the more difficult to cope with all the pain, grief, and confusion. I experienced this as a child of six when I lost my grandfather. My parents, too, were undergoing a trauma but they were almost oblivious to my grief.

They did not realise that although I did not fully understand the finality of death, I felt miserable. I went through intense and confusing emotions. They felt I was too young to understand the finality of death. For me, first it was shock, then denial, as I couldn’t accept what had happened. Then I was angry, and finally sadness and depression engulfed me. I wanted to withdraw from the world, not wanting to see or speak to anyone, or do anything.

For days I wanted to look through his belongings. I would sit in his room for hours. Perhaps, subconsciously, it was my way of reaching out to him. There were times when I thought I would never enjoy life the same way again. Later, I learnt that this is a natural reaction after a loss. “Time is the best healer,” say people but I feel it only covers the -hurt. The loss of a dear one stays with you forever.

Question 10 :
Which language do you think the author and his grandmother used while talking to each other?

Answer 10 :

Punjabi – as the writer and his grandmother belonged to a Punjabi Sikh family. Moreover, they lived in a village.


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