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Shvoong Home>Arts & Humanities>The Portrait of a Lady Summary

The Portrait of a Lady

Book Summary   by:sadhanavaid     Original Author: Khushwant Singh
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The story is written in first person and is in biographical mode. It is a perception of Khushwant Singh of his grandmother through his own eyes.
Khushwant Singh recalls his grandmother as an eternally old person. She was an extremely religious person.It was difficult for him to believe that once she too was young and pretty like other women. The stories about her childhood games were like fairytales to him. She was short, fat and slightly stooped in stature. Her silvery white hair used to scatter on her wrinkled face. Khushwant Singh remembers her hobbling around the house in spotless white clothes with one hand resting on her waist to balance her stoop and the other busy in telling the beads of her rosary. Her lips constantly moved in inaudible prayers. Possibly she was not beautiful in worldly sense but she looked extremely beautiful with the peacefulness, serenity and the contentment her countenance displayed.
Khushwant’s relationship with his grandmother went through several changes when he was a small boy. In the first stage Khushwant lived in a village with her as his parents were looking for the opportunity to settle down in the city. In village grandmother took care of all the needs of the child. She was quite active and agile. She woke him up in the morning, got him ready for the school, plastered his wooden slate, prepared his breakfast and escorted him to the school. They fed street dogs with stale chapaties on their way to school which was a great fun for them. She helped him in his lessons also .It was her domain and she was the queen of her kingdom. In this period she was the sole unchallenged guardian, mentor and creator of the child Khushwant.
The turning point came in their relationship when they came to city to stay with Khushwant’s parents. In city Khushwant joined an English School and started to go to school in a motor bus. Here the role of his grandmother in his bringing up was curtailed a little bit. Now she could not accompany him to the school. Despite taking lot of interest in his studies she could not help him in his lessons because he was learning English, law of gravity, Archimedes’ principle and many more such things which she could not understand and this made her unhappy. She found herself at loss. One more thing which disturbed her a lot was that the kids were not learning about God and scriptures in the school instead they were given music lessons which was not an honorable thing in her opinion. To her music was not meant for gentlefolk. It was meant for beggars and prostitutes only. She highly disapproved this and as she could not change it she was dismayed and withdrew herself to some extent. Perhaps she had realized that in the makeover of the child her role was finished and this very thought saddened her most.
After finishing school Khushwant went to university. He was given a separate room. The common link of their friendship was snapped. His grandmother confined herself to a self imposed seclusion. She spent most of her time in reciting prayers and by sitting beside her spinning wheel. She rarely talked to anyone. The only recreation for her was in the afternoon when she relaxed for a while to feed the sparrows. A kind hearted person, in village she used to feed street dogs, here in city she focused on birds and they too became very friendly with her. This was the phase when she found herself totally isolated and aloof but she braved this isolation with grace and dignity.
Khushwant’s grandmother was a strong person. Whatever she went through in her heart she always restrained herself from demonstrating her emotions. He recalls that when he went abroad for further studies his grandmother was there to see him off on railway station quite calm busy telling the beads of her rosary and reciting prayers as always. When he came back after five years he found her more and more religious and more and more self contained. She spent still more time in prayers and spinning the wheel. Feeding the birds was her only happy pastime. But just the day before her death for the first time she broke this routine and gave up her prayers. That day she sang the songs of the home coming of the warriors on a withered drum along with the ladies of neighborhood in order to celebrate her grandson’s return from abroad. Next morning she got ill. Although the doctor said it was a mild fever and would go away she could foresee that her end was near. She was upset that she omitted her prayers just before the final departure from the world. She did not want to waste any more time talking to anybody. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling the beads till her lips stopped moving and rosary fell from her lifeless fingers. To mourn her death thousands of sparrows flew in and sat scattered around her body in utter silence.They even ignored the breadcrumbs thrown for them by Khushwant’s mother. They only flew away after the corpse was carried away for last rites.
So this was the charismatic grandmother of Khushwant Singh.

Published: June 27, 2008   
Please Rate this Summary : 1 2 3 4 5
  1. Answer   Question  :    what are the figure of speech in the story? View All
  1. Answer   Question  :    grand mother was a strong and religious person justify this View All
  1. Answer   Question  :    how can we say grandmother was a very religious lady? ( 1 Answer ) View All
  1. Answer  :    she was a religous lady as in the village when the author used to go to is school she used to go along with him and sit in the temple reading scriptures.Also,while dressing him up in the morning she used to sing prayers in hope tha he would learn it byheart Tuesday, July 08, 2014
  1. Answer   Question  :    wtf ( 1 Answer ) View All
  1. Answer  :    bc Thursday, June 26, 2014
  1. Answer   Question  :    is the author's tone in this story of regret that their relationship worsened or its just the story of his grandmother's greateness ( 1 Answer ) View All
  1. Answer  :    this story represents both, author was very sad as his relation with his grandmother went no more.but on the other way its also a story of khushwant's grandmother's greatness, he gave so many examples in the story to illustrate his grandmother's greatness.when she(grandma) died then everyone involved in the sorroundings felt sad on her vanishing from this world.she behaved so lovingly with everyone including birds which we can estimate from Monday, May 19, 2014
  1. Answer   Question  :    character sketch of grandmother ( 1 Answer ) View All
  1. Answer  :    bla bla bla bla............ Wednesday, July 16, 2014
  1. Answer   Question  :    the grandmother was not formally educated but was serious about the author's education View All
  1. Answer   Question  :    character sketch of grand mother View All
  1. Answer   Question  :    charactersketch of grandmother ( 1 Answer ) View All
  1. Answer  :    Khushwant Singh recalls his grandmother as an eternally old person. She was an extremely religious person.It was difficult for him to believe that once she too was young and pretty like other women. The stories about her childhood games were like fairytales to him. She was short, fat and slightly stooped in stature. Her silvery white hair used to scatter on her wrinkled face. Khushwant Singh remembers her hobbling around the house in spotless white clothes with one hand resting on her waist to b Sunday, June 22, 2014
  1. Answer   Question  :    what difference does the story brings out to be in between the village school and city school View All
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  1. 20. Nitish Arora

    Nice Work!

    I am in 11th and generally looking for nice language and I get it here. I like your website. Keep it up! - Nitish

    2 Rating Wednesday, October 16, 2013
  2. 19. Madhulika Gupta

    Appreciation

    very well written and explained

    0 Rating Tuesday, August 27, 2013
  3. 18. jk

    appreciation

    well written....keep up the good work !

    2 Rating Tuesday, May 07, 2013
  4. 17. arpan

    nice story

    awesome story ,loving ,

    1 Rating Sunday, July 08, 2012
  5. 16. monalisa sahoo

    the portrait of a lady

    the story 'The portrait of a lady' is a very realistic story by Khushwant S ingh.

    3 Rating Monday, July 02, 2012
  6. 15. murad fatima

    abt the relatnshp

    really a heart touchng relatnshp.......awsme....sir.....

    4 Rating Monday, January 30, 2012
  7. 14. kritika

    story review

    awesum story by khushwant singh &her grandmother

    3 Rating Tuesday, November 01, 2011
  8. 13. Divyanka

    English

    This is really a heart touching story. This story shows the actual love and affection of grand parents.

    3 Rating Thursday, September 29, 2011
  9. 12. Harshita Gupta

    English

    It is a really good for understanding the story perfectly.I love it very much.

    2 Rating Wednesday, September 14, 2011
  10. 11. melica

    The Portrait of a Lady

    This really helped me to understand the story. Thanx for the explanation.

    4 Rating Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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