The portrait of a lady class 11 chapter 1 explanations summary word-meanings Questions and answers

The portrait of a lady by

(Khushwant singh)

khushwant singh
khushwant singh

class-11 the portrait of a lady

Table of contents

  1. Main points of the chapter
  2. Explanations
  3. word-meanings
  4. summary of the chapter
  5. Questions and answers

1.main points of the chapter

  1. the author’ s grandmother was a very old woman. she was so very old that it was difficult to imagine she could ever have been young and pretty or had even a husband . his grandfather, whose portrait hung in the drawing room, was already dead. he too looked very old so very old that he did not or children he looked as if he could only have lots and loss of grandchildren
  2. the author says that his grandmother” s face was a criss-cross of wrinkles she had silver locks. she had a stoop in her back. she had to keep one hand on her waist in order to keep her balance while moving about. she wore spotlessly white clothes . she always kept telling the beads of her rosary , and her lips constantly moved in a silent prayer.
  3. the author lived with his grandmother in the village . his parents had moved to the city every morning. the grandmother woke the author and prepared him for school. then after breakfast , both of them left for school. she carried some stale chapattis with her for the village dogs.
  4. the village school. was attached to a temple the priest taught the children the alphabet and the morning prayer. while the author studied in the verandah along with the other children. his grandmother sat inside reading the scriptures after. school , the two walked back home together they would feed the village dogs with the chapattis they had with them.
  5. the author was given a separate room in the house when he want up to a university now the grandmother spent most of her time at the spinning wheel. all the time she kept reciting her prayer . in the afternoon she threw little bits of bread to the sparrows who came in hundreds and sat around her. some even perched on her legs and shoulders it  used to be the happiest half-hour of the day for her,. oreover she hated many of the things he was taught in his new school thus. a great change came in their friendship , now she rarely talked to him
  6. the author went abroad for five years for further studies. grandmothers came to the railway station to see him off, she did not show any emotion her lips were constantly moving in prayer and her fingers were telling the beads of her rosary . she kissed the author” s forehead as the train left. 
  7. the author came back after five years, grandmother did not look a day older, she received the author affectionately. she fed the sparrow in the afternoon and in the evening she collected the woman of the neighbourhood . then she took an old drum and sang for many hours. it was the first time that author had not seen her say her evening prayer. 
  8. the next morning grandmother was taken ill . it was a mild fever , but she said that her end was near, she did not want to waste any time in talking to anybody . she started praying and telling her beads. even before. anybody could suspect, she was dead and the rosary fell from her lifeless finger.
  9. arrangement were made for grandmother, s funeral thousands of sparrows came and sat silently around grandmother dead body the author s mother threw some crumbs of bread to them but the birds took no notice of the bread. when grandmother dead body was carried off to be cremated , the sweeper swept the breadcrumbs into the dustbin.


my grandmother like everybody’s grandmothers was an old woman, she had been old and wrinkled for the twenty years that i had known her, people said that she had once been young and pretty and had even had a husband, but that was hard to believe , my grandfather’s portrait hung above the mantelpiece in the drawing-room he wore a big turban and loose-fitting clothes his long white beard covered the best part of his chest and he looked at least a hundred years old

he, did not look the sort of person who would have a wife or children, he looked as if he could only have lots and lots of grandchildren, as for ,my grandmother being young had pretty, the thought was almost revolting she often, told us of the games she used to play as a child that seemed quite absurd and undignified on her part and we treated it like the fables of the prophets she used to sell us,

class-11 the portrait of a lady

she had always been short and fat and slightly bent, her face was a criss-cross of winkles running from everywhere to everywhere, no we were certain she had always been as we had known her, old so terribly old that she could not have grown older, and had stayed at the same age for twenty years, she could never have been pretty, but she was always beautiful, she hobbled about the house in spotless white with one hand

resting on her waist to balance her stoop and the other telling the beads of her rosary, her silver locks were scattered untidily over her pale, puckered face, and her lips constantly moved in inaudible prayer, yes she beautiful, she was like the winter landscape in the mountains, an expanse of pure white serenity breathing peace and contentment.

my grandmother and I were good friends, my parents left me with her when they went to live in the city and we were constantly together she used to wake my up in the morning and get me ready for school she said her morning prayer in a monotonous singsong while she bathed and dressed me in the hope that I would listen and get to know it by heart I listened because I loved her voice but never bothered to learn it. then she would fetch my wooden slate which

she had already washed and plastered with yellow chalk, a tiny earthen ink-pot and a reed pen, tie them all in a bundle and hand it to me. after a breakfast of a thick, stale chapatti with a little butter and sugar spread on it, we went to school, she carried several stale chapattis with her for the village dogs,

my grandmother always went to school with me because the school was attached to the temple. the priest taught us the alphabet and the morning prayer. while the children set in rows on either side of the verandah. singing the alphabet or the prayer, in a chorus, my grandmother sat inside reading the scriptures, when we had both finished we would walk back together this time the village dogs would meet us at the temple door, they followed us to our home growling

and fighting with each other for the chapattis we threw to them, when ,my parents were comfortably settled in the city, they sent for us, that was a turning point in our friendship although we shared the same room, my grandmother no longer came to school with me I used to go an English school in a motor-bus there were no dogs, in the streets and she took to feeding sparrows in the counrtyard of our city house,

as the years rolled by we saw less of each other. for some time she continued to wake me up and get me ready for school when I came back she would ask me what the teacher and taught me I would tell her English words and little things, of western science and learning the law of gravity Archimedes principle the world being round etc, this made her unhappy. she could not help me with my lessons, she did not believe in the things they taught at the English school and was distressed that there was no teaching about god and the scriptures,

one day I announced that we were being given music lessons, she was very disturbed to her music had lewd associations, it was the monopoly of harlots and beggars and not meant for gentlefolk, she said nothing but her silence meant disapproval she rarely talked to me after that .

when I went up to university I was given a room of my own, the common link of friendship was snapped. my grandmother accepted her seclusion with resignation, she rarely left her spinning-wheel to talk anyone. from sunrise to sunset she sat by her wheel spinning and reciting prayers only in the afternoon she relaxed for a while to feed the sparrows while she sat in the verandah breaking the bread into little bits hundreds of little birds collected round her creating a veritable bedlam,

class-11 the portrait of a lady

of chirrupings some came and perched on her legs, others on her shoulders some even sat on her head. she smiled but never stood them away it used to be the happiest half-hour of the day for her, when I decided to go abroad for further studies I was sure my grandmother would be upset I would be away for five years, and at her

age one could never tell. but grandmother could. she was not even sentimental she came to leave me at the railway station but did not talk or show any emotion her lips moved in prayer. her mind was lost in prayer her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary silently she kissed my forehead, and when I left I cherished the moist imprint as perhaps the last sign of physical contact between us

. but that was not so. after five years I came back home and was met by her at the station she did not look a day older. she still had no time for words and while she clasped me in her arms I could hear her reciting her prayer. even on the first day of my arrival. her happiest moments were with her sparrows whom she fed longer and with frivolous rebukes.

In the evening a change came over her. she did not pray she collected the women of the neighbourhood. got and old drum and started to sign. for several hours she thumped the sagging skins of the dilapidated drum and sang of the home-coming of warriors we. had to persuade her to stop to avoid overstraining .that was the first time since I had known her that she did not pray. the next morning she was taken ill it was a mild fever and the doctor told us that it would go, but my grandmother thoughts differently. she told us that her end was near. she said that since only a few hours before the close of the first chapter of her life she had omitted to pray, she was not going to waste any more time

talking to us. we protested but she ignored our protests she lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beards, even before we could suspect, her lips stopped moving and the rosary fell from her lifeless fingers. a peaceful pallor spread on her face and we knew that she dead. we lifted her off the bed and as is customary. laid her on the ground and covered her with a red shroud. after a few hours of morning we left her alone to make arrangements for her funeral.

In the evening we went to her room with a crude stretcher to take her to be cremated. the sun was setting and had lit her room and verandah with a blaze of golden light. we stopped half-way in the courtyard all over the verandah and in her room right up to where she lay dead and stiff wrapped in the red shroud, thousands of sparrows sat scattered on the floor. there was no chirruping we felt sorry for the birds and my mother

fetched some bread for them, she break in into little crumbs, the way my grandmother used to, and threw it to them the sparrows took no notice of the bread when we carried my grandmother’s corpse off, they flew away quietly next morning the sweeper swept the breakcrumbs into the dustbin

class-11 the portrait of a lady

3 word-meanings:

  1. wrinkled–झुर्रियों
  2. mantelpiece–अऋगीठी
  3. revolting–घिनौना
  4. absurd–मूर्खतापूर्ण
  5. stoop–झुकाव
  6. rosary–माला
  7. puckered–सिकोड़ना
  8. bothered–तंग करना
  9. stale–बासी
  10. turning point-नए मोड़

4.summary of the chapter

khushwant singh drews here an interesting portrait of his grandmother. he present her as a tender , loving and deeply religious old lady. khushwant singh says that his grandmother was an old woman. she was so old and her face was so wrinkled that it was difficult to believe she could ever have been young and pretty , it appeared unbelievable when she had a little stoop in her back she could be seen telling the beads of her rosary all the time the author says , she was like the winter landscape in the mountains an expanse of pure white serentity breathing peace and contentment a picture of the author s grandmother hung on the wall. he appeared too old to believe that he ever had a wife . he appeared to have only lots and lots of grandchildren. 

behind in the village with his grandmother she would wake him in the morning and get him ready for school. as she bathed and dressed      khushwant singh was only a child at that time his parents had gone to live in the city , leaving him him, she would sing prayers. she hoped that in time khushwant singh would also come to learn it by heart, but he could never do so after a breakfast of a stale bread and butter. grandmother would accompany khushwant singh to the village school. she would carry some stale chapattis with her for the village dogs. the school was attached to a temple . while the children sat in the verandah singing the alphabet or the prayer in chorus , grandmother would read religious books in the temple. she would walk back home with khushwant singh when the school was over. on their way back they would throw chapattis to the village dogs. 

when his parents were well settled in the  city khushwant singh and his grandmother also went to live with them. khushwant singh joined an english-medium school . his grandmother didn” t like many things taught in this school . throught she still shared the same room with khushwant singh she could no longer help him in his lesson. she no longer went with him to his school . 

                 in due course khushwant singh went up to university . he was them given a room of his own, and thus the common link of friendship between them  now snapped completely . grandmother began to pass her time at the spinning wheel from sunrise to sunset . only in the afternoon did she relax a little when she fed sparrows with little bits of bread . the sparrows also seemed to feel quit at home in her company . some of the birds would sit on her shoulders, and even on her head 

5 Questions and answers

Question:1 grandmother had  always been short and fat and slightly bent: it this true?  

Ans:no it is not true . we are told that grandmother was once young and pretty. we are also told of the games she used to play as a child 

Question:2  what was hard to believe about the author” s grandmother ? why?

Ans: the author”s grandmother was terribly old. it was hard to believe that she had ever been young and pretty. it was also hard to believe that she had even a husband , 

Question:3 what was the grandmother; s routine when she lived together with the author in their village home?

Ans: the grandmother would wake the author in the morning she would bathe and dress him for school . she would give him breakfast and them accompany him to school . she would read scriptures in the village temple and walk back with the author after school. 

Question:4  mention three phases of the author’ s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad.

Ans: the first phases of their relationship is in the village grandmother takes care of all the needs of the authors. she wakes him up in the morning . she gets him ready for school she gives him breakfast to eat. she takes him to school. the school is attached to the village temple while the author is studying grandmother sits in the temple and reads scriptures. after school she brings the author back home. on her way , she feeds the village dogs.
the second phases of their relationship begins when the author joins an English school in the city. now she doesn’t go with him to school . the author goes to school in a motor-bus she can”t help him in his studies also
the third phases comes when she learns that  the author is learning music at school . she feels shocked . for her music is not meant for nice people. now she rarely talks to the author

Question:5 mention three reasons why the authors grandmother was disturbed when he started going to city school.

Ans: grandmother could no longer accompany the author to his school as she used to in the village now the author went in a motor-bus
she did not like the things the author was taught at school . she thought that children should be taught about god and scriptures. but there was no such thing in the english school where the author studied the biggest shock came to her when she learnt that author was learning music at school for her, music was not meant for gentle people, now she rarely talked to the author,     


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