Thinking about the Text (Page 60)

I. Discuss in pairs and answer each question below in a short paragraph (30-40 words)

Question 1 : “The sound was a familiar one.” What sound did the doctor hear? What did he think it was? How many times did he hear it? (Find the places in the text.) When and why did the sounds stop?

Answer : When the doctor entered his house, he heard the familiar sound of rats scurrying (running) through the beams of the roof. The statement that he and the rats were housemates gives an impression the house was full of rats. The doctor was used to the noises made by the rats. So, he was not bothered about the noise. The doctor heard the sound of the rats three times. When, a snake fell from the roof, the sounds stopped because the snake must have come there to catch its prey, the rats.

Question 2 : What two ‘important’ and ‘earth-shaking’ decisions did the doctor take while he was looking into the mirror?

Answer : The first important and earth-shaking (significant) decision taken by the doctor was to shave daily and grow a thin moustache to look handsome. The second decision was to smile the way he was smiling when looking at the mirror. He thought that he should look handsome because he was a bachelor and a doctor, so he was one of the most eligible bachelors.

Question 3 : “I looked into the mirror and smiles”, says the doctor. A little later he says, “I forgot my danger and smiled feebly at myself.” What is the doctor’s opinion about himself when: i) he first smiles, and ii) he smiles again? In what way do his thoughts change in between, and why?

Answer : When he first smiled, the doctor was smiling to appreciate his youthful beauty. This happens to most of the people when they are in the age group that the doctor was. When he smiles again, the snake has coiled (wrapped) round his arm, so he is smiling feebly as if to laugh at his helplessness, foolishness and stupidity. His thoughts changed because of the encounter (chance meeting) with the snake.

II. This story about a frightening incident is narrated in a humorous way. What makes it humorous? (Think of the contrasts it presents between drams and reality. Some of them are listed below.)

Question 1 : i) The kind of person the doctor is (money, possessions)
ii) The kind of person the wants to be (appearance, ambition)

Answer : The story shows a contrast between dreams and reality in a humorous manner. The doctor’s earnings are very less because he has just started his career. He was living in a small rented unelectrified (without electricity) room. He had few clothes and very little money. Even his room was full of rats. However, his dreams and ambition were totally in contrast to this. He was a great admirer of beauty and believed in looking handsome. He emphasises that he is a very eligible bachelor, as he was an unmarried doctor. He was also pleased with his appearance . He decided to shave daily and grow a thin moustache to look more handsome. The manner in which he decided that this was an important decision is funny. Later on, he decided to keep smiling always to look more handsome. This contrast between the kind of person he was and the kind of person he wanted to be makes the story humorous (entertaining).

Question 2 : i) The person he wants to marry
ii) The person he actually marries

Answer : The doctor thought that he would get married to a woman doctor who should have plenty of money and a good medical practice. She would be fat, so that if made a silly mistake and needed to run away she should not be able to run after him and catch him. However, the woman he actually married was slender (thin) who could run like a sprinter (racer). This contrast between the kind of wife he wanted and the kind of wife he actually got adds to the humour of the story.

Question 3 : i) His thoughts when he looks into the mirror.
ii) His thoughts when the snake is coiled around his arm.
Write short paragraphs on each of these to get your answer.

Answer : When the doctor looked into the mirror, he appreciated his good looks and wanted to look even more handsome by shaving daily and growing a thin moustache. When he smiled he looked even more attractive and so he decided to keep smiling. However, when the snake is coiled around his arm, he turned into a stone. He felt that God was very close to him at his time. He realised that if the snake bit him, he did not have any medicines in his house to save himself. That was when he thought that he was a poor, foolish and stupid doctor. This shows how his thoughts changed. This sequence (order) of events also adds humour to the story.

Thinking about Langauge (Page 61)

I. Here are some sentences from the text. Say which of them tell you, that the author: a) was afraid of the snake, b) was proud of his appearance, c) had a sense of humour, d) was no longer afraid of the snake.

i) I was turned to stone.
ii) I was no mere image cut in granite.
iii) The arms was beginning to be drained of strength.
iv) I tried in my imagination to write in bright letters outside my little heart the words, ‘O God’.
v) I didn’t tremble, I didn’t cry out.
vi) I looked into the mirror and smiled. It was an attractive smile.
vii) I was suddenly a man of flesh and blood.

Answer :

i) a
ii) c
iii) a
iv) a
v) a
vi) b
vii) d
vii) b

II. Expressions used to show fear

Can you find the expressions in the story that tell you that the author was frightened? Read the story and complete the following sentences.
i) I was turned …………………..
ii) I sat there holding …………………….
iii) In the light of the lamp, I sat there like…………………

Answer :

i) to stone
ii) my breath
iii) a stone image in the flesh

III. In the sentences given below some word and expressions are italicised. They variously mean that one

  • is very frightened
  • is too scared to move
  • is frightened by something that happens suddenly
  • makes another feel frightened

Match the meanings with the words/expressions in italics and write the appropriate meaning next to the sentence. The first one has been done for you.

i) I knew a man who was following me, I was scared out of my wits. (very frightened)

ii) I got a fright when I realised how close I was to the cliff edge

iii) He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw the bull coming towards him

iv) You really gave me a fright when you crept up behind me like that

v) Wait until I tell his story  Рit will make your hair stand on end.

vi) Paralysed with fear, the boy faced his abductors

vii) The boy hid behind the door, not moving a muscle

Answer :

ii) frightened by something that happens suddenly
iii) very frightened
iv) frightened by something that happens suddenly
v) makes another feel frightened
vi) too scared to move
vii) too scared to move

Translation

The text you read is a translation of a story by a well-known Malayalam writer, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. In translating a story from one language to another, a translator must keep the content intact. However, the language and the style differ in different translations of the same text. Here are two translations of the opening paragraphs of a novel by the Japanese write, Haruki Murakami. Read them and answer the questions given below.

Translation A Translation B
When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta. I’m in the kitchen cooking spaghetti when the woman calls . Another woman until the spaghetti is done; there I am whistling the prelude to Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra along with the FM radio. Perfect spaghetti-cooking music!
I wanted to ignore the phone, not only because the spaghetti was nearly done, but because Claudio Abbado was bringing the London Symphony to its musical climax. I hear the telephone ring but tell myself, ignore it. Let the spaghetti finish cooking. It’s almost done, and besides, Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra are coming to a crescendo.

Compare the two translations on the basis of the following points:

i) the tense of narration (past and present tense)
ii) short, incomplete sentences
iii) sentence length

Which of these translations do you like? Give reasons for your choice.

Answer : 

i) Translation A is in the past tense while translation B is in the present tense.

ii) Translation A has complete sentences while translation B has short, incomplete sentences

iii) Translation A has long sentences while translation B has short sentences.

I prefer translation B because it is more direct and uses powerful language with a lot of imagery. It uses more personal language which is the way it should be in stories and novels.