Here you will get a summary of the chapter THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY which is a chapter of class 11 English. In addition to that, you can also find NCRT Textual Question Answers along with some additional questions answers of the chapter THE PORTRAIT A LADY
SUMMARY: THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
The Author Remembers his Grandmother and Grandfather
The author recalls his grandmother as a very old lady. For the twenty years that the author had known his grandmother, he had found her old and wrinkled.
It was hard for him to believe that she had once been young and pretty and she had a husband. Khushwant Singh’s grandfather’s portrait hung on the wall of the drawing room. He wrote a big turban. His clothes were loose. He looked at least a hundred years old. Looking at his portrait once could not imagine him in his youth with his wife and children.
The Author’s Grandmother
The thought of the grandmother being young and pretty was almost revolting to him. She was short, fat and slightly bent in stature. Her face was a criss-cross of wrinkles. Her silvery white hair was scattered over his wrinkled face.
The author remembered her hobbling around the house in spotless white clothes with one hand resting on her waist to balance her stoop and the other hand busy counting the beads of her rosary. Her lips constantly moved in inaudible prayer.
To the author, she could never have been pretty, but she reflected a divine beauty. She was like the winter landscape in the mountains.
The Author’s Childhood with his Grandmother
The author and his grandmother were good friends. His parents left him to stay with her when they shifted to the city. In the village, his grandmother took care of all his needs. She was quite active and agile. She used to wake him up in the morning and get him ready for school.
She said her morning prayers in a sing-song manner white she bathed and dressed him in the hope that her grandson would learn them by heart. The author listened to the prayers because he loved her voice, but never bothered to learn them.
Then she would fetch his wooden slate which, she had already washed, the plastered it with yellow chalk. She would take an earthen inkpot and a reed pen and tie them in a bundle and hand it to author. After having a thick, stale chapatti with a little butter and sugar spread on it for breakfast, they used to leave for school. The author’s grandmother always accompanied him to the school as it was attached to the temple.
The Author at School
The priest taught children the alphabet and the Morning Prayer. The children sat in two rows in the verandah. They would sing the alphabet or the prayer in a chorus. While the author learnt his lesson at school, the grandmother would read scriptures in the adjoining temple. On their way back, they would feed stale chapattis to the dogs.
The Turning Point in the Relationship of Grandmother and the Author
The turning point came in their relationship when they moved to the city to stay with Khushwant Singh’s parents. In the city, the author went to an English school in a motor bus. The grandmother could not accompany him to the school. As there were no dogs in the streets, the grandmother took to feeding the sparrows.
As the years rolled by, they saw less of each other. In spite of her immense interest in his studies, she could not help him in his lessons as he was learning English, the law of gravity, Archimedes’ principle and many more such things which she could not understand, and this made her unhappy. Sometimes she would ask him what the teacher had taught him.
Grandmother Distressed and Disturbed
Grandmother didn’t believe in the things taught at the English school and was distressed to learn that there was no teaching about God and the scriptures in the school.
Moreover, she was very disturbed at the idea of music lessons being given at the English school. To her, music had lewd association and she considered music to be unsuitable for gentle folk.
The Common Link of Friendships gets snapped
The common link of friendship between the author and the grandmother was broken when the author went to the University and was given a room of his own. The grandmother accepted her loneliness and rarely spoke to anyone. All day long, she sat spinning the wheel and reciting her prayers.
Only in the afternoon she relaxed for a while to feed the sparrows. They perched on her shoulders and some even on her head but she never shooed them away. It used to be the happiest half-hour of the day for her.
The Author Leaves for Higher Studies
The author decided to go abroad for higher studies for five years. He was sure that his grandmother would be upset at his departure, but she was not even sentimental. She came to the railway station to see him off. She showed no emotion. She was absorbed in praying and counting the beads of her rosary. Silently she kissed his forehead. The author thought that perhaps it was the last sing of physical contact between them.
The Grandmother Celebrates the Author’s Return and Falls Sick
After five years, the author found his grandmother at the station when he returned. She held him in her arms. He found her more religious and more self-contained. He could hear her reciting prayers. Even that day, the happiest moment for her was feeding the sparrows herself. However, something strange happened to her in the evening.
For the first time ever, she did not pray. Instead, she collected the women of the neighborhood, got an old drum and started to sing songs of the homecoming of warriors. They tried to persuade her to stop to avoid overstraining herself. But she didn’t listen. She fell ill the next morning.
The grandmother was diagnosed with a mild fever by the doctor but she insisted that her end was near. She told everyone that she did not want to talk to anyone and would rather spend her last moments praying. She ignored everyone’s protests and started counting the beads in her rosary while praying.
After a short while, the author noticed that his grandmother’s lips stopped moving and the rosary fell from her lifeless fingers. She died a peaceful death. She was covered with a red shawl.
The Sparrows Mourn her Death
When the author and others came to take away the grandmother’s body, they met a strange sight. To mourn her death, a log of sparrows had surrounded the grandmother’s body. They were all silent. When the author’s mother offered the sparrows some bread, they refused to eat and quietly flew away after the grandmother’s body was carried away for the last rites.
- When the author, Khushwant Singh, was a little child, his parents left him in the village with his grandmother and went to live in the city.
- The author’s grandmother was an old lady. She was very religious. The author shared a very close bond with his grandmother. They became very good friends.
- The grandmother woke him up, dressed him and accompanied him to school. The school was attached to the temple. While the author was at school, the grandmother used to read the scriptures in the temple.
- When the author’s parents were well-settled, he and his grandmother also went to the city. It proved a turning point in their friendship.
- In the city, Khushwant Singh attended an English school and travelled in a motor bus. He learnt English words and topics of Western Science.
- The grandmother could no longer accompany him to his school nor help him in his studies. However, they shared the same room.
- When the author went to the University, he was given a separate room. Thus, the last link of their friendship was broken.
- The grandmother kept herself busy in her prayers and spinning the wheel. Her favorite part of the day was feeding the sparrows.
- When the author went abroad for higher studies, the grandmother came to see him off at the station but she showed no emotions and was not even sentimental.
- The author came back after five years and was received by his grandmother at the station. She was unchanged and did not look a day older.
- In the evening, the grandmother did not pray and instead collected the women of the neighborhood and celebrated her grandson’s homecoming.
- The grandmother fell ill the next day and she knew that her end was near.
- She stopped talking and closed her eyes. She was lost in her prayers and counting the beads of her rosary. Suddenly, the rosary fell down and her lips stopped moving. She was dead.
- Thousands of sparrows assembled in the room and sat quietly to mourn her death. They did not even eat the crumbs given by the author’s mother.
- After the grandmother’s body was taken for cremation, the sparrows flew away silently.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY: TEXTUAL AND ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS – ANSWERS
1. Mention three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad?
Ans. The three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother were –
- The author spent his childhood under the love and care of his grandmother when his parents went to live in the city. They were very close to each other and the grandmother went to school with him and looked after him all the time.
- The second phase of their relationship was when they were called to join his parents in the city. Though the grandmother and the author shared the same room yet there was a gap between them now. His grandmother no longer when to school with him and could not help in his studies.
- The third phase of their relationship was when the author went up to university. This broke the common link of friendship between them as they now live in separate rooms. The old lady rarely talked to her grandmother.
2.Mention Three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school.
Ans. Three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to city school were –
- First, as the author now studied English words, western science and learning, the grandmother could no longer help him with his lessons nor accompany him to school.
- Secondly, the grandmother was distressed to know that there was no teaching about God and the scriptures.
- Thirdly, the grandmother was disturbed to know that he was being taught music as for her music was a culture for lowly people.
3.Mention Three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up.
Ans. Three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up were –
- She spent most of her time at the spinning wheel and hardly spoke to anyone.
- She recited her prayers from sunrise to sunset sitting next to her spinning wheel.
- She spent the happiest hour in the afternoon by feeding the hundreds of sparrows in the verandah.
4. The odd way in which the author’s grandmother behaved just before she died.
Ans. (a) She collected the neighbourhood women, got an old drum and song of the home-coming of warriors in order to celebrate the return of her grandson.
(b) For the first time, she missed her prayers.
(c) She announced her impending death and lay down peacefully in bed, praying and telling her beads.
5.Mention the way in which the sparrows expressed their sorrow when the author’s grandmother died.
Ans. When the author’s grandmother died, the sparrows expressed their sorrow in the following ways –
- Thousands of sparrows gathered all over the verandah and in her room right upto where shy layed and sat scattered on the floor.
- The birds were not chirruping.
- They took no notice of the bread crumbs thrown to them by the author’s mother.
- The sparrows quietly flew away when the grandmother’s corpse was carried often.
6. Describe the changing relationship between the author and his grandmother. Did their feelings for each other change? [2012, 2015]
Ans. In the village the grandmother was the author’s constant friend. She used to wake him up and get ready for school. She accompanied him to his school and brought him back along with her. Besides taking every care of her, she helped him with his studies. But in the city he went to an English School and gradually his topics of conversation grew difficult, he began talking about law of gravity, Archimedes, the round shape of the earth etc. So, she could no longer help him in the studies and felt sad. She felt unhappy for the absence of religious teachings in that school. Most unpleasant for her was the music lessons which she hated. She almost stopped talking to him. But their feelings for each other never changed, the grandmother loved him equally and he too had the same regards for her.
7. Would you agree that the author’s grandmother was person strong in character? If yes, give instances that show this.
Ans. Yes the grandmother was a strong character. First, she was physically strong in spite of her old age, second she never sat idle, she span the wheel, recited prayers, fed the birds and may be did other things of her own. In the village she did everything for the author and took perfect care of him. Third, She was mentally strong, she never showed too much emotion or weakness; one reason for this was her faith in God. Again she was able to hold back her sadness when the author was going abroad, and even received him at the railway station after five years. She was duty bound and never missed her regular activities of life. She passed on this enthuusim and zeal to others also. Finally, we got to know from the evening prior to her death, that she could enjoy so well.
8. Have you known someone like the author’s grandmother? Do you feels the same sense of loss with regard to someone whom you have loved and lost? 
Ans. My paternal grandparents had died before my birth, but I was blessed with the love of my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was also almost like Khushwant Singh’s grandmother. He was a hardworking, punctual and diligent farmer who never spent a minute idle in his life. He was a strong and stout man, very tall and fair, he left for the fields early in the morning and even after the day’s work used to make things from bamboo like mats, baskets, containers for storing grains etc. and even nets for catching fish. He scolded his son (my uncle) who is a very lazy person and no way capable of working hard like his father. Even at the age of 75, my grandfather could climb coconut trees to fetch betel leaves. He was hurt if even a single grain was wasted while eating meals. This way he raised his big family very well and got his six daughters married as well. He passed away last year at 80 and I really miss his loving presence. I do feel his loss as I loved him dearly.
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWER
Very Short Type Questions
1. Name the writer of the prose piece entitled “The portrait of a lady”?
Ans. Khushwant Singh is the writer.
2. Name the person with whom the narrator spent his childhood in the village.
Ans. The narrator spent his childhood with his grandmother in the village.
3. Where did the narrator study when he was in the village?
Ans. The narrator studied in a school attached to a temple in the village.
4. Who accompanied him to school in the village?
Ans. The narrator’s grandmother accompanied him to school in the village.
5. Who taught the children in the village school?
Ans. The priest taught the children in the village school.
6. What was taught in the village school?
Ans. Alphabets and Morning Prayer were taught in the village school.
7. How did he go to school in the city?
Ans. He went to school in a motor bus in the city.
8. Which creatures created ‘a veritable bedlam of chirrupings’?
Ans. The sparrows created ‘a veritable bedlam of chirrupings’.
9. Where did the narrator go for pursue further studies?
Ans. The narrator went abroad to pursue further studies.
10. Which creatures came to mourn the death of the grandmother?
Ans. The sparrows came to mourn the death of the grandmother.
SHORT TYPE QUESTIONS
1. Give a short description of the narrator’s grandfather as he appeared in the portrait.
Ans. The narrator’s grandfather’s portrait which hung above the mantelpiece in the drawing-room depicted him as hundred years old. He had a long, white beard which covered the best part of his chest, and wore a big turban and loose-fitting clothes. He did not appear as one who had a wife or children, but as one who had lots and lots of grandchildren.
2. Why did the narrator not believe that his grandmother was once young and pretty?
Ans. It was hard to believe for the narrator that his grandmother was once young and pretty because he had always seen his grandmother’s face crisscross of wrinkles running from everywhere to everywhere. She had been looking at the same terribly old lady for the last twenty years.
3. What was the turning point in their friendship?
Ans. The turning point in the author’s friendship with his grandmother was their shift to the city. There, she could neither accompany him to school nor could help him with his studies as a result a gap developed between them. As time passes, they saw very little of each other.
4. Describe the grandmother’s feeding of the village dogs.
Ans. When they would walk back home together, the village dogs met them at the temple door. They followed them almost home. The grandmother would throw chapattis to them. The dogs would growl and fight with each other for the crumbs.
5. What was the grandmother’s opinion about the English school in the city?
Ans. The narrator’s grandmother had a very poor opinion about the English school in the city. She was quite sad and disappointed they didn’t teach anything about God and the scriptures at the school. Moreover, she did not like that music lessons were given in English school as she thinks it was not meant for gentle folks.
6. Why did the grandmother go to the school along with the narrator?
Ans. The narrator’s grandmother was a very loving and caring woman. When the narrator’s parents left him in her charge when they went to the city, she looked after him in every possible way. She not only looked after him even accompanied him to the school and stayed in the temple attached to the school till his school gets over. It was her love for her grandson that she cared for him so much.
7. What did the priest teach at the village school?
Ans. The priest taught alphabets and Morning Prayer at the village school. He made the children stand in rows on either side and they would sing the alphabets or the prayer in a chorus.
8. Why did the grandmother keep one hand on her waist?
Ans. The grandmother was very old. She was slightly bent in her physique. So she couldn’t stand and walk with her body in an upright position. She had to keep one of her two hands on her waist. She did so to balance her stoop.
9. What were her views on music?
Ans. The grandmother did not like the idea of music lessons being taught in English school. She was very upset and disturbed when she came to know about it as to her music had loud associations. It was the monopoly of harlots and beggars and was not meant for gentlefolk.
10. How did the narrator and his grandmother develop a deep-rooted friendship?
Ans. When the narrator was quite young, his parents moved to the city and left him in charge of his grandmother. He and his grandmother stayed back in the village where she was his constant companion. She looked after him, woke him up, and got him ready for school in the morning. She would give him breakfast and even accompany him to school which was attached to a temple and came back together. Thus, the narrator and his grandmother develop a deep-rooted friendship.
11. What did the priest teach at the village school?
Ans. The priest taught alphabets and Morning Prayer at the village school. He made the children stand in rows in either side and they would sing the alphabets or the prayer in a chorus.
12. How did the strong bond of friendship snap?
Ans. A gap developed between the narrator and his grandmother when they shifted to the city. Later when the narrator reached university, he was given a separate room of his own. This led to their separation and the bond of friendship that existed between them finally snapped.
13. What was the happiest hour of the day for the grandmother?
Ans. The happiest hour of the day for the grandmother in the city was when she took a break from the spinning wheel and feed the sparrows. Hundreds of these birds gather around her every afternoon as she threw bread crumbs to them.
14. Describe the grandmother’s feeding the sparrows?
Ans. When the narrator went up to university the grandmother was left alone. She spent her time by feeding the sparrows in the afternoon. She took a break from the spinning wheel, sat in the verandah, broke the crumbs of bread to them. Hundreds of birds gather around her and sat on her legs, shoulders, and even head. She only smiled and never shooed them away.
15. What was the reaction of the grandmother when the narrator decided to go abroad?
Ans. When the narrator decided to go abroad for further studies, the grandmother was not upset. She was not even sentimental. She kept silent and did not show her emotions. Her lips moved in prayer and her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary. Then she silently kissed his forehead before departing.
16. How did the grandmother celebrate the homecoming of the narrator from abroad?
Ans. The narrator’s grandmother gave a heroic welcome when he come back from abroad. Her excitement was seen in the way she fed the sparrows. In the evening she collected the women of her neighborhood, took an old drum, and kept singing for several hours to celebrate the homecoming of the narrator.
17. Did the narrator find any transformation in the appearance of his grandmother after he returned from abroad?
Ans. No, the narrator did not find any transformation in the appearance of his grandmother. She did not look a day older and still was the same religious lady reciting her prayer when she clasped the narrator in her arms.
18. What did she do while lying on the bed before her death?
Ans. Just before the grandmother died, she said that her end was near. She did not want to waste any more time talking to others. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beads. Her lips stopped moving and the rosary fell from her lifeless figures. There was peace on her face and the author and his family know that she was dead.
19. What is the difference between village school education and urban school education as brought out in the lesson ‘The Portrait of a Lady?
Ans. In the village school, the priest taught the alphabet and Morning Prayer. There were lessons on scriptures and prayers were recited in chorus near the temple. But in the Urban school, there were lessons in science and math. There were no lessons about God and scriptures. Moreover, music lessons were also imparted in an urban school.
You May Also Like:
My name is Santosh Kumar Sah. I am a CA-Finalist as well as a faculty at Dynamic Tutorials and Services. I reside in Tinsukia (ASSAM). I have more than 5 years of experience in teaching. I have written “Alternative English Guide Book for Class 12 -AHSEC” And ” English Guide Book For Class 12-AHSEC”.I love writing that is why i created this blog to help students by providing notes.