Class 11 English Chapter 1 The Portrait of A Lady

Class 11 English Chapter 1 The Portrait of A Lady The answer to each chapter is provided in the list so that you can easily browse through different chapters Class 11 English Hornbill Chapter 1 The Portrait of A Lady, Class 11 English Hornbill Question Answer, HS 1st year English Notes and select needs one.

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Class 11 English Chapter 1 The Portrait of A Lady

Also, you can read the SCERT Class 11 English Chapter 1 The Portrait of A Lady book Notes online in these sections Solutions by Expert Teachers as per SCERT (CBSE) Book guidelines. These solutions are part of SCERT All Subject Solutions. Here we have given Assam Board Class 11 English Chapter 1 The Portrait of A Lady Solutions for All Subjects, You can practice these here.

The Portrait of A Lady

Chapter: 1




Notice these expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context.

the thought was almost revolting : As the author had always seen his grandmother with her criss-cross of wrinkles, visualising her as a pretty young girl was next to impossible. The whole description seemed almost distasteful and repulsive.

an expense of pure white serenity : This is a smile used to describe the author’s grandmother who always dressed herself in spotlessly white clothes. With the silver locks of hair over her pale face, her appearance made a picture of pure serenity like the winter landscape in the mountains.

a turning point: Turning point usually means a critical or decisive moment. It is always associated with change. Here, the shift from grandmother’s village to the city brought in a lot change in the friendship between the author and his grandmother. Life took a different turn from here which distanced the old lady from her grandson. 

accepted her seclusion with resignation: This happened when the author and his grandmother were given separate rooms. On reaching the University, he was given a room of his own in the house. This severed the common link of friendship. She could do nothing, but surrender to the loneliness and isolation. She had to accept it.

a veritable bedlam of chirrupings : This was the noise created by hundreds of sparrows that gathered around her as she threw them little crumbs of bread. Veritable means something that is actual or true and bedlam meas noise and chaos. It describes the atmosphere when the birds gathered in the evenings.

frivolous rebukes: Frivolous means something that is light minded or superficial. When the author returned home after five years, the old lady was very happy, but the expression of happiness was different. It was manifested in the way she fed the sparrows and the loving, light-hearted scolding given to them.  

the sagging skins of the dilapidated drum: This aptly describes the old drum that the author’s grandmother took out to sing with the neighbourhood ladies in order to celebrate his return. The drum was so old and in such a ruined state that the skin became loose and drooping. It was badly in need of repairs.



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

Ans. (a) The author’s childhood spent in the tender care of his grandmother when his parents moved into the city.

(b) The second phase was when they were called to join his parents in the city and he was sent by bus to an English medium school.

(c) The third phase was when they were given separate rooms which broke the common link of friendship between them. The old lady now rarely talked to her grandson.

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

Ans. (a) She could no longer help him with his lessons as he studied English words, western science and learning.

(b) She was distressed that there was no teaching about God and the scriptures.

(c) She was disturbed to know he was being taught music. According to her music was for a culture of the lowly people and not for their likes.

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

Ans. (a) She spent time at the spinning wheel.

(b) She recited her prayers and chanted on her rosary.

(c) She spent the happiest hours feeding hundreds of sparrows in the verandah.

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

Ans. (a) She collected the neighbourhood women, got an old drum and sang 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. The way in which the sparrows expressed their sorrow when the author’s grandmother died.

Ans. (a) Thousands of sparrows gathered all over the verandah and in her room right up to where she lay dead.

(b) They sat scattered but there was no chirruping.

(c) They took no notice of the bread crumbs thrown to them by the author’s mother.

(d) They quietly flew away when the corpse was lifted off.


Talk to your partner about the following :

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

Ans. Since his childhood, the author had always seen her chanting on her prayer garland. While she used to get him ready for school, she kept saying her morning prayers with the the hope that for he might memorise them by listening to it. She accompanied him to school because it was attached to the temple, so  that while he learnt the lessons, she could read the scriptures inside school, it Later, when the author was sent to an English school, it distressed her that there were no lessons on God and the scriptures. When she finally fell ill, she was sure that it was because she had not prayed the previous evening in the excitement of her grandson’s return. Despite everyone’s protests, she lay in her bed and peacefully prayed to her death. All these facts very clearly portray a devout and pious woman.

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

Ans. The earliest phase of their relationship was one of friendship and togetherness when he lived with her after his parents moved to the city. The first change came over when they too had to move to the city. Grandmother felt deprived of her grandson’s

company when she could no longer be a part of his school life. As he grew up, they saw less of each other everyday. In fact, she rarely talked to him anymore. Finally, the common link of friendship was broken when he was given a separate room in the house.

Yet, their inherent feelings for each other did not change. She went to the railway station to see him off when he left for higher studies. The author cherished the moist imprint of her kiss on his forehead. When he returned, her happiness, though subtly expressed, was seen in everything she did.

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

Ans. Yes, the author’s grandmother was a person strong in character. The strength in character of the old lady is seen in the fact that the author’s parents entrusted the entire responsibility of their son on her when they left for the city. She not only looked after his well-being, but also helped him in his studies. Later, when they went to live in the city, she highly disapproved of the English school where the author was sent. 

But, she found other ways to keep herself occupied in moments of loneliness. She never displayed her emotions or broke down into tears. At the railway station to see off her grandson, she just kept on praying and kissed him on his forehead. She had extreme faith in God and her prayers. That was perhaps the source of her indomitable strength. Even when she fell ill, she accepted it as her fate and calmly started to pray. Her face or behaviour never betrayed her emotions.

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 ?

Ans. My own grandmother was very much like the author’s grandmother. Though she never had to get me ready for school as my mother was always there, yet she always woke me up in the morning. She was a very pious lady and spent long hours in her puja room. It was she who instilled in me a deep faith in God. She was a widow and little conservative. She cooked her own food and always kept portions of that for me. Whenever she visited relatives and neighbours, she always took me along. However, as i grew up, I got busy with my work and studies and couldn’t spend much time with her.

Now that she is no more, i realise how important she was in my life. The moral and spiritual values she taught me, make me the person am today. It is hard to come across a person so simple, loving, caring, selfless and yet so strong in personality and character.


1.Which language do you think the author and his

grandmother used while talking to each other ?

2. Which language do you use to talk to elderly relatives in your family ?

3. How would you say ‘a dilapidated drum in your language ?

4. Can you think of a song or a poem in your language that talks of homecoming?

(Please note: Students will attempt to answer these questions with the help of their class teacher and refer to their respective mother tongue ]


I. Notice the following uses of the word ‘tell’ ín the text.

1. Her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary.

2. would tell her English words and little things cf Western science and learning.

3. At her age one could never tell.

4. She told us that her end was near.

Given below are four different senses of the word etr

Match the meanings to the uses listed above.

1. make something known to someone in spoken or written words

2. count while reciting

3. be sure

4.give information to somebody

Ans.1. Her fingers were busy telling the head of her rosary- Count while reciting.

2. I would tell her English words and little things western science and learning-make something known to someone in spoken or written words.

3. At her age one could never tell-be sure.

4. She told us that her end was near- give information to somebody.

II. Notice the different senses of the word ‘take’.

1. to take to something: to begin to do something as a habit

2. to take ilI : to suddenly become ili.

Locate these phrases in the text and notice the way they are used.

Ans. ‘There were no dogs in the streets and she took to feeding sparrows in the courtyard of our city house. 

Here, the author’s grandmother developed the habit of feeding sparrows in their city house as she could no longer feed the street dogs.

‘The next morning she was taken ill’.

The author’s grandmother suddenly fell ill in the morning due to excessive strain the previous evening.

III. 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


Haggle  shuffle  stride  ride  waddle  wriggle  paddle Swagger trudge slog

Shuffle – walk without lifting one’s feet clear of the ground.

Stride – walk with long steps.

Waddle – walk with short steps and a swaying movement.

Paddle – walk with bare feet in shallow water

Swagger – walk with excessive pride

Trudge – walk laboriously

Slog – walk hard and steadily


Notice the form of the verbs italicised in these sentences.

1. My grandmother 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.

2. When we both had finished we would walk back together.

3. When I came back she would ask me what the teacher had taught me.

4. It was the first time since I had known her that she did not pray.  

5. The sun was setting and had lit her room and verandah with a  golden light.

These are example of the nast perfect forms of verbs . 

When we recount things in the distant nast we use this form.


Talk with your family members about elderly people who you have been intimately connected with and who ara not there with you now. Write a short description of someone you liked a lot.

Ans. My Grandfather If I am asked about just one person I liked a lot and miss even more is definitely my grandfather. He was the liveliest person I have come across in my life till now. He was the oldest in years

but youngest in mind and spirit among all family members. He was always happy with life. We lived together and I have spent

many a memorable moment in his company. He was friendly even with my friends and used to play cricket with us when we were young. Whenever he returned home from his evening walks, I just had to dig my hands into his pockets and there would always be something for me. Later, whenever I brought something for him, he would be so excited that it would be proudly displayed to any guest who visited us. I sometimes wonder how

a person of his age could have so much zest in life! Be it eating out or watching bihu function, he was always enthusiastic. Every passerby, every shopkeeper and every person of the neighbourhood happened to be his companion.

His death, though at an old age, was an irreparable loss to us, especially in my life. The void and emptiness that I feel now can never be compensated by anyone.


LONG ANSWER TYPE (100-125 words)

1. Give a character sketch of the author’s grandmother highlighting her noble qualities.

Ans. The author’s grandmother was an epitome of love, affection and tenderness. She had that typical attachment which grandmothers generally have for their grandsons. She had a devout faith in God, was pious and conservative about tradition and spiritual values. Always dressed in spotlessly white clothes she presented a picture of peace and serenity.

She had deep love and affection for her grandson and looked after him and his studies while he was left in her charge. She did not consider it a burden, but instead enjoyed all the time spent with him. That is why when, in the city, she could no longer accompany him to school or take part in his studies, she was very upset.

She was compassionate towards birds and animals and feeding them was a great source of satisfaction for her. She was very strong in character and never made a public display of emotions. Throughout the narration, we have not come across a single instance where she had shed tears. Even her disapproval of any matter was expressed through silence.

She loved her grandson in her own special way though we see different phases of that relationship in the author’s journey from childhood to youth.

2. Describe the ‘turning point’ that came in the friendship of the author and his grandmother. How did it affect their friendship ?

Ans. The author lived with his grandmother in the village when his parents moved to the city. He was completely dependent on her and they became very close friends. She readied him in the morning and accompanied him to school. She sat there reading scriptures while he learnt his lessons. Later at home, she would often ask what he had been taught. But, there came a turning point in this friendship when the author’s parents sent

for them in the city. He was admitted to an English school where he went by bus. She could no longer accompany him nor could she take part in his studies. She highly disapproved of the things he was being taught in school, especially music lessons. She was depressed that he did not receive any teachings on God and the scriptures. She rarely talked to her grandson after that.

Ihen when he moved to another room in the house, the friendship just snapped. Their relationship became more formal as the distance grew with time.

3.Describe the unique relationship of the grandmother With the sparrows. How did the sparrows mourn her death ?

Ans. The grandmother was very compassionate towards birds and animals. While in the village she fed the street dogs, in the city they were replaced by sparrows. She would sit in the verandah break the bread into small pieces and throw the crumbs to the sparrows. Hundreds of sparrows would gather around her. Some of them even perched on her legs and shoulders. She never shooed them away. In fact, it was the happiest half-hour of the afternoon for her.

The sparrows paid a silent tribute on her death. They gathered all over the verandah and right up to the place where she lay. They did not chirrup nor take any notice of the bread crumbs thrown to them by the author’s mother. They quietly flew away when the dead body was carried off for cremation.

SHORT ANSWER TYPE (30-40 words)

1. What does the author describe in The Portrait of a Lady’ ?

Ans. Khushwant Singh, the author, draws a pen portrait of his grandmother. He elaborates on how he spent his childhood with her in the village and how changes developed in their relationship when they moved to the city. Finally, he describes the touching scene of her death.

2. Give a pen-picture of the narrator’s grandfather as he appears on the portrait.

Ans. The portrait depicted the author’s grandfather as being at least a hundred years old. He had a long, white beard 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.

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

Ans. Grandmother always wore spotlessly white clothes. Her hair was also silver white. Her whole appearance was like an expanse of pure white serenity like the snow of winter, and hence appeared like the mountainous winter landscape.

4. Why did grandmother accompany the narrator to his school ? What did she do there ?

Ans. She accompanied him to school as it was attached to a temple. She sat inside the temple reading scriptures while the children learnt their lessons. They came back home together when school was over.

5. What was the turning point in their friendship ?

Ans. The turning point was their shift to the city. A gap developed as she found herself distanced from her grandson’s life. She could neither accompany him to school nor could she help him with his studies. They saw very less of each other.

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

Ans. The city life had already taken its toll on their friendship. Later, when the narrator reached University level, he was given a separate room in the house. That breached the bond of friendship with his grandmother which existed in the early years of his life.

7. Why did the narrator think that the grandmother’s kiss was the last sign of physical contact between them ?

Ans. The narrator thought that the kiss was the last sign of physical contact between them because his grandmother was a very old lady. He feared she might not survive till his return after five years. He, thus cherished the moist imprint for a long time.

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

Ans. The author’s Grandmother went to receive him at the station. Her excitement was seen in the way she fed the sparrows. In the evening, she also collected the women of the neighbourhood, took an old drum and sang songs on the homecoming of warriors.

9. Which was the happiest moment of the day for grandmother ?

Ans. Her happiest moments were those spent in feeding the sparrows. Hundreds of these birds gathered around her every afternoon as she threw bread crumbs to them. She smiled but never shooed them away.

10.How did the sparrows mourn grandmother’s death?

Ans. The sparrows sat in thousands around her dead body, but not one made any noise. Nor did they pay any heed to the crumbs of  bread thrown to them. They quietly flew away when the dead body was carried off for cremation.

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