1. What does Khushwant Singh describe in “The Portrait of a Lady’?

Ans:     In “The Portrait of a Lady’ Khushwant Singh draws a pen-picture of his grand-mother. He describes how he spent his childhood with her in the village. He also describe the changes that came in their relationship in the city. Ultimately, he describes the moving scene of her death.


  1. Give a pen-picture of the narrator’s grandfather as he appeared in the portrait.

Ans:     The narrator’s grandfather also looked like a hundred years old man in the portrait. He had a long white flowing beard. It came up to his chest. It looked as if he had lots and lots of grandchildren. Actually, he looked older than the grandmother.


  1. Explain :“Old, so terribly old that she could not have grown older, ….’

Ans:     The grandmother looked extremely old. She was fat and slightly bent. Her face was a criss-cross of wrinkles. She couldn’t have grown older any more. She looked the same terribly old lady for the last twenty years. The narrator had never seen her being young or pretty. She always looked ‘terribly old’.


  1. How could the grandmother be ‘beautiful’ without being ‘pretty’?

Ans:     The grandmother never appeared to be pretty. She was never an attractive woman physically. But she had a divine beauty in her. Her noble qualities gave her a spiritual beauty. So she could be ‘beautiful’ without being ‘pretty’.


  1. How did the grandmother appear like the ‘winter landscape in the mountains’.

Ans:     The grandmother always wore spotless white clothes. Her locks of hair also looked silver white. Her spotless white dress and silver white hair made her look like snowy mountains in winter. Actually, she appeared to be an expanse of spotless whiteness. She had a divine beauty.


  1. 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. The grandmother would throw chapattis to them. The dogs would growl and fight with each other for the crumbs.


  1. What was the turning point of their friendship?

Ans:     The narrator’s parents sent for them in the city. It was the turning point of their friendship. The city life and the English school made all the difference. She didn’t accompany him to his school. Nor could she help him in his studies. She didn’t like the new English school either. They saw less of each other now.


  1. Draw a comparison between the village school and the English school in the city.

Ans:     The village school was quite simple and small. It was attached to a temple. The priest himself acted as the teacher. He taught the alphabet and the morning prayer at the school. In comparison, the English school in the city provided a contrast. They gave instructions in English and taught modern science and music. They didn’t teach anything about God and the scriptures at the English school.


  1. How was the common link of their friendship broken?

Ans:     In the village they had a very intimate relationship. But a turning point came when they were sent for in the city. The narrator went up to University. Now he was given a room of his own. It made all the difference. The common link of their friendship was broken. They saw very less of each other now.


  1. How did the grandmother celebrate the homecoming of her grandson?

Ans:     The grandmother was really much excited and happy when the narrator returned from abroad. She came to the station to receive him. She took him in her arms. She was in a mood of celebration. She collected the women of the neighbourhood in the evening. She continued beating an old drum and sang for hours. She even forgot to pray.


  1. Describe in brief the pen-picture of the narrator’s grandmother high-lighting her noble qualities.

Ans:     The narrator’s grandmother was a true picture of love, affection and care. She had all those virtues which grandmothers generally have for their grandsons. She was highly religious, kind hearted but a conservative lady.

The grandmother presented a picture of peace and contentment. Her spotless white dress and her silver hair reflected her spiritual beauty. The grandmother was not physically very attractive. She had deep love and affection for her grandson. She got him ready for school. She accompanied him to his school, stayed there and came back home with him.

She was a very religious lady. She was always telling the beads of her rosary. She had compassion even for animals and birds. She fed the village dogs. She took to feeding the sparrows in the city. But the grandmother was a conservative lady. She didn’t like English language and science. She hated music. She associated music with prostitutes and beggars.


  1. Draw a contrast of the life the narrator’s grandmother spent in the village with the kind of life she led in the city. Particularly, highlight her concern for her grandson’s education.

Ans:     The grandmother was used to the life of the village. She got up early in the morning. She woke up her grandson and got him ready for school. She was very much concerned about the education of the narrator. She accompanied him to his school. She sat in the temple reading the scriptures. She was friendly even to the village dogs and fed them regularly.

The city life and its culture didn’t suit her. She was a religious lady. She was quite conservative in thinking. The English school, English language and science were foreign to her. Actually, she didn’t like them. She was upset to know that they did not teach about God and the scriptures at the city-school. She hated music. She didn’t like music lessons being given at the new school. She felt lonely when he went up to University and then abroad for five years. But she had accepted her loneliness silently.


  1. Describe the unique relationship of the grandmother with the sparrows. How did the sparrows mourn her death?

Ans:     The grandmother had love and compassion even for animals. In the village she fed the street dogs. In the city she took to feeding the sparrows. She would sit in the verandah. She would break the bread into small bits. She used to throw the crumbs to the sparrows. Hundreds of sparrows would gather around her. Some of them perched on her legs and shoulders. She never shooed them away. It was the happiest half-hour of the afternoon for her.

The sparrows paid their silent tribute on her death. They gathered around her dead body. They were in the mourning mood. They didn’t chirrup as usual. Nor did they take any notice of the crumbs of bread thrown to them. They flew away silently when her dead-body was carried off on a wooden stretcher   for cremation. In this way, they paid their silent love and tribute to the grand old lady.