The Portrait of A Lady Question Answers Class XI English NCERT Solutions

The Portrait of A Lady Class 11 English Core Solutions: The post here gives you CBSE standard answers to textbook exercise questions of ‘The Portrait of A Lady’ published in the book ‘Hornbill’ for CBSE class 11 English Core students:

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‘The Portrait of A Lady’ Textbook Solutions

Understanding the text


1. The three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother before he left the country to study abroad. [DDE 2014]

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

(i) Childhood: Attending Village School with Grandmother’s Assistance During his childhood, he attended a village school where his grandmother would help him get ready and accompany him to school.

(ii) Boyhood: City School Commute and Independent Studies During his boyhood, he traveled to a city school by bus and shared a room with his grandmother. However, as he grew older, he had to study independently as his grandmother could no longer assist him.

(iii) Early Youth: University Life and Disconnected Friendships In his early youth, he began attending university and was provided with his own room. However, this newfound independence also meant that the common link of friendship was broken.

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

Ans. The three reasons why the author’s grandmother was disturbed when he started going to the city school are:

(i) Western science and learning were detestable to her.
(ii) It caused her distress to realize that God and the scriptures were not being taught there.
(iii) Music was intolerable to her. She believed it was only for prostitutes and beggars and not appropriate for respectable or genteel individuals.

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

Ans. The three ways in which the author’s grandmother spent her days after he grew up are:

(i) Having accepted her loneliness quietly, she lived alone in her room.

(ii) Reciting prayers, she sat at her spinning wheel.

(iii) Every afternoon, she would spend half an hour feeding the sparrows.

4. The odd ways in which the author’s grandmother behaved just before she died. [MSE 2008]

Ans. The author’s grandmother, prior to passing away, declined to converse with them. Having failed to pray the night before while singing songs of return and playing the drum, she saw no point in further delay. Despite their objections, she paid no attention to them and instead peacefully rested in bed, engaged in prayer and counting her beads.

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

Ans. Thousands of sparrows sat silently surrounding the dead body of the author’s grandmother. There was no chirruping. The author’s mother threw some crumbs of bread to them. They took no notice of them. As soon as the grandmother’s corpse was carried off, they flew away quietly. Thus, the sparrows expressed their sorrow.

Talking about the text

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? [KVS, 2016, 2007]

The author’s grandmother was a devoutly religious woman, as evidenced by her behavior. She made a daily visit to the temple and spent time reading scriptures. At home, she was constantly murmuring prayers and counting the beads of her rosary. She would sing prayers in a rhythmic tone while getting the writer ready for school, hoping that he would memorize them. She disapproved of English school because it did not include teachings about God and scriptures.

Even while spinning on her spinning-wheel, she recited prayers. Only once did she forget to say her prayers, which happened on the evening before her death when she became overexcited while celebrating the arrival of her grandson with songs and drumming. She continued praying and counting her rosary beads until her last breath.

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

Ans. During his childhood, the author was reliant on his grandmother who played an integral part in his life. Their relationship took a turn when they moved to the city, where she could no longer accompany him to school as he took the bus. Although they shared a room, she could not assist him with his studies and would inquire about what he had learned from his teachers. Disapproving of the teachings which omitted discussion of God and scripture, she was also displeased with the inclusion of music in the curriculum, though she expressed her discontent silently. As a result, their communication dwindled. When he went to university, he was given his own room and the bond they shared was broken.

Despite this, their affection for each other did not falter; they still cared for each other deeply. When the author left for higher studies abroad, his grandmother saw him off at the railway station and kissed his forehead without showing any emotion. He cherished this as a possible last physical interaction between them. Upon his return after five years, his grandmother greeted him at the station and embraced him tightly. In the evening, she celebrated his homecoming by singing songs and playing an old drum.

Another Answer:

The author’s childhood was heavily reliant on his grandmother, who played a significant role in his life. Their relationship changed when they moved to the city, and he began traveling to school on his own. Although they still shared a room, she could no longer assist him with his studies, only asking him what he had learned from his teachers. She held disapproving views of the school’s curriculum, particularly its lack of education on religion and scripture, and was offended by the inclusion of music. Consequently, their communication dwindled, and they rarely spoke.

As he progressed to university, the author was given a room of his own, causing their friendship to weaken further. Despite this, their mutual love remained unchanged. When the author left for higher studies abroad, his grandmother bid him farewell at the railway station, kissing his forehead in a silent expression of emotion. He cherished this gesture as the last physical connection they shared.

Upon his return five years later, his grandmother greeted him at the station with open arms, and they celebrated his homecoming by singing songs and playing an old drum in the evening.

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

Ans. It is a fact that she possessed a strong character, and was a religious individual with her own ideas about life. She embodied contentment and held the belief that the teachings of scripture held more value than that of science and music in regards to education.

During a period of solitude, rather than wallowing in despair, she turned to activities such as wheel spinning and feeding sparrows. She displayed a composed demeanour and did not reveal any emotion when the author chose to pursue studies abroad.

Upon the return of her grandson, she sang for numerous hours, disregarding the advice of others. During the final moments of her life, she disregarded the objections of her family and instead chose to recite prayers and engage in beadwork.

Another Answer:

Yes, it is a fact that she was strong in character.

  • She was religious and had certain ideas about life. She was a picture of contentment.
  • She had her own thoughts about learning at school. She considered the teaching of scriptures to be more fruitful than science and music.
  • In her phase of loneliness and seclusion, she took to wheel spinning and feeding sparrows rather than groaning or crying.
  • She appeared composed and didn’t display any emotion when the author decided to go abroad
  • for studies.
  • To celebrate the home-coming of her grandson, she sang for several hours without taking heed of
  • others’ advice.
  • During the last few hours of her life, ignoring the protests of her family members, she stopped
  • talking to everyone and took to reciting prayers and telling her beads.

Another Answer:

Of course, I agree with the assertion that the author’s grandmother was a woman of great character and strength. Despite lacking a formal education, she was highly invested in the author’s education and held firm beliefs. She struggled to adapt to Western culture, including science and English education, and was highly critical of music being taught in schools. Her deeply religious nature was evident in her continuous silent prayer and frequent use of rosary beads. Additionally, she regularly attended temple and read scripture, and was disappointed to learn that there was no religious education offered at Khushwant’s new English school.

Despite her strong convictions, the author’s grandmother was a kind woman who fed dogs in her village and sparrows in the city. Despite her advanced age and physical frailty, she possessed a resolute mind, even refusing to speak with her family shortly before her passing in order to pray and make up for missed prayers. She spent her final moments peacefully reciting prayers and counting her rosary beads while lying in bed.

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. Reading about Khushwant Singh’s grandmother reminded me of my own grandmother who was very dear to me. She was a lovely person, just like Khushwant Singh’s grandmother, and loved me unconditionally. My grandmother was also deeply religious and spent most of her time praying and serving the poor.

One thing that stood out about my grandmother was her love for animals, especially dogs. We had a dog in our house, and she would always make sure to feed him at the right time and give him lots of love and affection. Her bond with our dog was very special, and I could see the joy on her face whenever she spent time with him.

Sadly, my grandmother passed away two years ago, but the sense of loss is still very much with me. She was always there to help me with my homework and school projects, and she had a way of coming up with unique ideas that nobody else could think of. I miss her dearly and often wish she had lived longer so I could spend more time with her.

Despite her absence, I still feel her love and guidance in my life. She taught me so much about kindness, compassion, and generosity, and I strive to live by those values every day. I know that she is looking down on me from above and watching over me, and that thought brings me comfort in difficult times.

Thinking about language

1. Which language do you think the author and his grandmother used while talking to each other?

Ans. The author’s grandmother was not much educated. So, I think the author and his grandmother used to talk in their mother tongue—in this case Punjabi.

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

Ans. My elderly relatives are well versed in English and Hindi. I feel at home greeting them in English but like to converse with them freely in Hindi.

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

Ans. The expression used in our language for a ‘dilapidated drum’ is ‘phata-purana dhol’.

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


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

  1. Her fingers were busy telling the beads of her rosary.
  2. I would tell her English words and little things of 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 ‘tell’. 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

(i) telling the beads — count while reciting
(ii) tell her — give information to somebody
(iii) one could never tell — be sure
(iv) told us — make something known to someone in spoken or written words

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 ill: to suddenly become ill
    Locate these phrases in the text and notice the way they are used

Ans. In the text, these phrases are used as under:

  1. to take to: She took to feeding sparrows in the courtyard of our city house.
  2. take ill: The next morning she was taken ill.

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.

Ans. The words referring to a manner of walking are:
shuffle, stride, waddle, wriggle, paddle, swagger, trudge, slog.

Noticing form

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 examples of the past perfect forms of verbs. When we recount things in the distant past we use this form.

Things to do

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

Ans: One individual who is often missed by their loved ones is a kind-hearted grandmother. My grandmother was known for her warm personality and infectious smile. She had a strong sense of family and was always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. She was an excellent cook and loved to prepare delicious meals for her family and friends. Her grandchildren often fondly remember the times they spent with her, listening to her stories and learning from her wisdom. Even though she is no longer with them, her memory lives on through the love and kindness she shared with those around her.

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