NCERT Solutions for class 11th English Core Chapter 1 – The Portrait of a Lady


Understanding the text

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

Answer :

  • For the author, Khushwant Singh, his grandmother, like everybody’s grandmother, was an old woman who could never be young and pretty but was always beautiful. Her presence always exuded peace and contentment.
  • When the author’s parents went to live in the city and left him with his grandmother, she took utmost care of him right from waking him up in the morning, to getting him ready for the school, taking him to and bringing him back from the school. Both enjoyed an easy companionship.
  • The author’s parents asked for them to come to the city. This was the time when Khushwant Singh’s relationship with his grandmother changed. The author went to a city school and subsequently, to the university, and slowly the friendship between them weakned .

Question 2. Mention three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to school.

Answer :

  1. The lessons taught in the city school were in English and the topics such as little things of Western science, law of gravity etc were all beyond grandmother’s comprehension. She could not help her grandson with his lessons so, she was unhappy.
  2. She had no faith in the things that were taught in the English school and was distressed that there was no teaching about God and scriptures.
  3. She was very unhappy when she came to know that music lessons were taught in her grandson’s school. She always associated music with harlots and beggars and not with gentle folk.

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

Answer :

  1. The author’s grandmother rarely left her spinning wheel . From sunrise to sunset, she sat by her spinning wheel.
  2. While she sat by her spinning wheel, she recited her prayers and did not talk to anyone.
  3. In the afternoon, she relaxed for a while to feed the sparrows. While she sat on the verandah breaking the bread into little bits, hundreds of little birds collected surrounding her.

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

Answer : Just before the day the grandmother died, a change came upon her. She did not pray in the evening. She got an old drum and started singing for her grandson, which went on for hours. Next morning, she was taken ill. The doctor thought nothing of it but the grandmother thought differently.
She told everyone that her end was near and since her end was near, she would spend last of her living moments in prayer and would not waste her time in talking to anyone. She lay peacefully in bed praying and before anyone could suspect, her lips stopped moving. She passed away peacefully.

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

Answer : In the evening, when the author and his family members went where grandmother’s body was lying, they saw thousands of sparrows sitting scattered on the floor. There was no chirruping. The author’s mother offered some bread to them, but the sparrows took no notice. After the grandmother’s corpse was taken, the sparrows flew away quietly.

Talking about the text

Question 1. The author’s grandmother was a religious person. What are the different ways in which we come to know this?

Answer : Following are the ways in which we come to know that the author ’s grandmother was a religious person

  1. She hobbled about the house in a white saree, always carrying and telling the beads of her rosary.
  2. When the author was in the village with her, he would always find her saying morning prayer while she bathed and dressed him up.
  3. The grandmother would always go to the village school with her grandson because the school was attached to the temple. While the children were taught, the grandmother would sit inside the temple and read scriptures.
  4. She would always feed the animals (dogs in the village) and birds (sparrows in the city) because she thought it to be a part of religious rituals.
  5. The last moments of her life were spent in praying rather than talking to her family members.

Question 2. Describe the changing relationship between the author and his grandmother. Did their feeling for each other change ?

Answer : The author and his grandmother shared a relationship which was very strong. The author had a lot of respect and admiration for his grandmother and her love for the author was limitless. Earlier, they shared everything including the room. This closeness strengthened their bond. When the author was asked to shift to the city along with his grandmother to stay with his parents, their relationship underwent a change.
Their interaction became less as the author grew older. He moved to a foreign university for five years. Even though now the physical proximity was less, conversation lesser, but the basic foundation of their relationship was extremely strong. The grandmother kept a tenacious hold on to her life till her grandson returned from abroad. Only after seeing him, she breathed her last.

Question 3. Would you agree that the author’s grandmother was a strong person in character? If yes, give instances that show this.

Answer : The author’s grandmother, indeed, was a strong person in character. The following instances can reinstate the above statement

  1. The author compares his grandmother to the ‘winter lands cape in the mountains’, which breathes peace and contentment. Only a strong person exudes peace and comfort.
  2. The grandmother took absolute care of her grandson when he was left in her custody in the village. She took all the pains to give good education to him and instill values in him.
  3. When she realized that she was no longer required to assist her grandson, she accepted her ‘seclusion’ with resignation and learnt to pass her time in a way she liked the most. She did not impose her self on anyone.
  4. The author, while leaving abroad for further studies, thought that on his return, the grandmother would not be alive as she was very old. But, he undermined his grandmother’s resilience and strong will. Though she became very frail, she waited for her grandson to come back. After five years, the author returned. The grandmother celebrated his home-coming and next day passed away peacefully.

Question 4. 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 : My own grandfather was exactly like author’s grandmother.
I always used to search for words that could describe my grandfather and when I read ‘‘like the winter landscape in the mountains, an expanse of pure white serenity breathing peace and contentment’’, it seemed that the author had given words to my imagination for my grandfather’s description.
He was an epitome of patience, fortitude and courage. He was a source of inspiration not only to me but a host of others as well. He also died at a ripe age just like author’s grandmother. But there are some people whose loss is irreparable. The void left after my grandfather’s death can never be filled.

Working with words

Question 1. Given below are four different sense of the word ‘tell’. Match the meanings to the uses listed below.

Answer :

  1. Her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary. [count while reciting]
  2. I would tell her English words and little things of Western science and learning. [make something known to someone in spoken or written form]
  3. At her age, one could never tell . [be sure]
  4. She told us that her end was near. [give information to somebody]

Question 2. Notice the different senses of the word ‘take’.
1. to take something : to begin to do something as a habit.
2. to take ill : to suddenly become ill.
Locate these phrases in the text and notice the way they are used.

Answer :

  1. She took to feeding sparrows in the courtyard of our city house. Earlier she used to feel the dogs in the village and now she started feeding the sparrows in the city.
  2. The next morning she was taken ill. The previous evening, she sang songs for several hours and the next morning, she suddenly be came sick.

Question 3. 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 : These words are: Shuffle, stride, waddle, paddle, swagger , trudge, slog.

Things to do

Question 1. Talk with your family members about elderly people who have been intimately connected with and who are not there with you now. Write a short description of someone you liked a lot.
Note I have written this answer as a long answer which is a pattern of the question papers. Word limit 150 words.

Answer : Short Description of Someone You Liked a Lot
It is very ironic that we realize the importance of a person when he/she is not around. My grandfather was an idol not only for me but for a lot of other people also. Travelling down the memory lane, I am not able to find any corner of my life in which his presence goes unnoticed.
From the very beginning, my grandfather insisted only on one thing : Be honest to yourself. Do not be indifferent towards others. Always be assertive about your convictions and beliefs.
He had seen many ups and downs in life, but never lost his balance. He had the ability to adapt himself to any situation, good or bad . He extended a helping hand to one and all who wanted it.
His demise was not unexpected but when it happened, I felt as if I was struck by a thunderbolt. I cherish all that he has given to me and I am sure I will be able to face life with courage and strength.

Share this: