CBSE Class XI English Literature — “We are not Afraid to Die…..

April 26, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

““We are Not Afraid to Die …. if We Can All Be Together” by Gordon Cook and Allan East

Introduction …

Captain Cook was a legendary seafarer. He took three long voyages in unchartered waters of the ocean. Through a combination of courage, skill, never-say-die spirit, and luck, he virtually lorded over the sea. He was British, but voyagers of even modern times remember him with reverence and adulation. He has inspired scores of adventurers to follow his trail: some have returned triumphant, others have perished in the waters. But, Cook’s memory still beckons people to the thrill and solitude of the vast expanse of the oceans.
The story is a saga about a family’s long and heroic battle against the perils of the sea.

Story ….

The author decided to take a three-year sabbatical from his business and go on a round-the-world voyage. He was kin to retrace the route that the legendary explorer Captain James Cook had taken two centuries ago. He wanted to re-live the horror and ecstasy of Captain Cook’s epoch-making sea odyssey. His wife Mary, son Johnson (6) and daughter Suzzane (7) were to accompany him.

The author was, no doubt, a sailing freak. For 16 years, he and his wife spent a good deal of their leisure time in the sea off the British coast. They wanted to acclimatize themselves with the thrill and perils of life in the ocean waters.

A sturdy boat, big enough to carry essentials for a long stay in the sea, was built by expert artisans. It was meticulously examined, and tested over and over again to ensure it was truly sea-worthy. The wooden craft was named Wavewalker. It weighed 30 tons and measured 23 meters end to end.

The family set sail aboard the Wavewalker in July, 1976. It was going to be a 1,05,000 long voyage.

The first leg of the journey along the west coast of Africa down to its southern-most tip, Cape Town, went off smoothly. Before embarking upon the trip heading East, they took two more men as sailing companions. They were Larry Vigil (American) and Herb Siegel (Swiss). The Indian Ocean could be treacherous at times. These two men were needed to fend off any danger in the journey ahead.

Second day .. The second day started with ominous signs. Strong winds buffeted Wavewalker relentlessly for days on end. For two weeks, the gales roared past the tiny Wavewalker. The powerful winds gnawed at the small crew, but they managed to brave it out. What scared them were the high waves the gales kicked off as they chafed the water surface. The 15-meter waves were as high as the boat’s mast.

By December 25, Wavewalker had sailed as far as 3500km east of Cape Town. The hostile weather did not dampen the joy of the Christmas. Soon came the New Year, but there was no respite from the ferocious gales that swept the region. The crew thought they could wait out the storm, but their hopes were belied as the winds howled more ferociously.

June 2 .. The waves became frighteningly high. The Wavewalker had a small storm jib. However, the boat could traverse nearly eight knots a day. The tumultuous vast expanse of water seemed to writhe at our un-welcome presence. The crew cringed as the sea water virtually rained down on them making awful sounds. It seemed the gales signaled their intention to devour the beleaguered sailors.

To slow down the boat, the crew lowered the storm jib. They lashed a thick mooring rope around the mast to bolster it. They secured everything else by tying them with ropes thoroughly. To prepare for any eventuality, the crew decided to start the escape drill. They readied the life rafts, attached lifelines and wore oilskins and life jackets. With baited breath, fear pounding their hearts, they waited.

Around 6pm in the evening, the turbulent sea began to unravel what it held for the crew. There was a pause that appeared so deafening. The wind slowed down and the sky became dark. A strange sense of foreboding prevailed. The wind returned with vengeance. The howl got louder and a big dark cloud came charging at Wavewalker’s aft. To the horror of the author, it was not a cloud, but a gigantic mass of sea water. It stood tall at a height twice of the earlier ones.

The roar growled as the stern of the ship was lifted up by the approaching tower of water. The crew vainly assumed they could ride it out, but that was not to be. The raging mass of water came crashing down on the boat. The thud was terrible. The author was bodily thrown off balance. His head was smashed against the wheel as he was tossed up into the giant wave. The author felt dizzy. He realized his end was near. Surprisingly, he awaited death with sangfroid.

Quite unexpectedly, the turbulent water lifted the author’s head above water allowing him to breathe. The violent wave had wrecked the boat, and it was on the verge of sinking. The masts had become horizontal. Quite bizarrely, a wave came and made their crippled Wavewalker sit up! The author’s life line got stretched in the process. Clinging to the boat’s iron rails, the author somersaulted to the boat’s main boom position. The waves, however, kept rocking the author’s body with childish wickedness. The author’s body was badly bruised, with a broken rib, and blood oozing out of the mouth. A few teeth had been dislodged from their positions. The author did not give up. He took control of the wheel and positioned the craft to take on the next wave with the minimum battering.

There was only water all around. The author could sense that water had entered the ship, but thought it wise to be in control of the wheel rather than inspect the lower parts of the ship for water accumulation.

Mary, the author’s wife, managed to open the front hatch and emerged. With great panic, she screamed that the boat was capsizing. The decks were wrecked and Wavewalker was taking in water alarmingly.

Asking his wife to take control of the wheel, the author rushed to the hatch. Lary and Herb, the two hired sailors, were frantically pumping out water. The timbers, broken oddly, had piled up. The starboard had been pushed in by the impact of the wave. All the essential items like clothes, crockery, charts, tins, and toys floated around helplessly.

Wading through the water, the author approached his children’s cabin to see how they were doing. They were alive and safe. Sue complained of some hurt in her head. Her forehead had swelled. The author had no time to worry about her.

Gathering screws, hammer and a piece of canvass, the author rushed to the deck. His priority, obviously, was to somehow prevent sea water from getting into the boat. That could prevent the boat from running aground.

The author succeeded in somehow restricting the inflow of water by securing the canvas to block the hole.

The trouble did not cease. The hand pumps got clogged when the debris blocked its passages. The electric pump too stopped working due to a short circuit. The water level soon began to rise alarmingly. The spare hand pumps lay battered on the deck. The forestay sail, the jib, the dinghies and the anchor lay there in a mesh.

Fortunately, the author managed to start a stand-by electric pump, and it began pumping out water. Darkness fell making the efforts for survival more arduous. Braving the cold, darkness, and all-round gloom, the crew worked through the night working the pump, steadying the ship and working the radio.

None of the frantic SOS messages were answered. In that remote part of the ocean, ship travelled seldom. Sue’s head injury was getting worse. Her eyes had turned black and the face had swelled. Her arm was bruised. She bore all these with remarkable composure. She barely complained. When asked, she said calmly that she did not like to bother her father when the latter was besieged with so many worries.

January 3rd morning ….

The pumps had worked really well to rein in the surging water level. At least, the specter of Wavewalker sinking with its crew had receded. The over-worked decided to give themselves two hours of rest. When one slept, the other kept vigil.

However, a big leak somewhere below the waterline continued to let in water. This had to be plugged somehow.
The author found to his great dismay that the rib frames lay tattered down on the keel. The body of the boat had been virtually broken into two. The two parts had a cupboard to hold them together.

It was 15 hours into the first storm hit. It was clear, the crippled Wavewalker would give way well before the Australian shores. A quick examination of the chart showed that there were possibly two tiny islands a few hundred kilometers to the east. A French scientific research station was located on Amsterdam, one of the two islands. But locating them was like looking for a needle in the haystack. The chances were to slim for comfort.

January 4 ..Thirty six hours of continuous pumping had succeeded in pushing the water height inside the boat to a few centimeters. The task now was to somehow neutralize the water still entering. With the masts broken, there was no way the sails could be re-hoisted. Any further attempt could lead to the boat breaking up into two.

Hoisting the storm jib, the crew sailed forth to locate the island. Mary scoured the kitchen store and got biscuits and beef cans. With great relish, the crew ate them. For two days, they had eaten nothing.

But, danger again reared its head. Black clouds hovered over the area again. The sea was getting increasingly turbulent. Darkness fell. By January 5th, the situation became as bad as before.

The author was confronted with the question, “’Dad, are we going to die? Jon asked the question. The author tried to dispel his fear by reassuring him that they were going to make it to the land soon.

He blurted out a line that rang in the author’s mind like a momentous declaration. He said, “We aren’t afraid of dying if we can all be together – you, mummy, Sue and I.”

The words left the author struggling to find words for an answer. He was flummoxed. The author decided to muster all his physical and mental power to fend off dangers posed by the howling sea. He tried to reorient the crippled craft to a position where the damaged portion did not face the surging waves. To do this, he used some nylon ropes and some empty paraffin drums.

That evening Mary and the author sat together hand in hand as a sign of solidarity in the face of distress. More waters splashed on to the damaged haul. The danger of capsizing looked so perilously close again.

January 6th morning ..

Wavewalker walked waded through the storm gallantly. Next morning, the wind had mellowed somewhat. The author had another look on the sextant. In the chart room, he examined some data like wind speed, drift, change of course etc. to get a sense of where they could be at that point of time. It was a frustrating conclusion. The boat was in the midst of a 150, 000 kilometer ocean trying to spot a 65-kilometer island!

Mary, badly bruised in her left face struggled to reach the author’s side to hand over a folder card she had made. In the cover, she had drawn two caricatures of her husband and daughter. The words, “Here are some funny people. Did they make you laugh? I laughed a lot as well.” The statement how stoic a person she was. She could summon her sense of humor in the face of death. There was another message inside that read, “Oh, I love you both. So this card is to say thank you and let’s hope for the best.” The optimism and the spirit of defiance of her words struck me. I t made me more determined than ever to make it to the shore and survive the ordeal.

The author rechecked his calculations. The main compass was lost. He was using an auxiliary one. It was not recalibrated to factor the magnetic variation. He accounted for this and the westerly currents typical to that part of Indian Ocean.

Around 2 p.m, he went to the deck to ask Larry to steer a course of 185 degrees. Rather half-heartedly, he told Larry that they could see the island by 5 p.m, if they were indeed lucky.

With a heart despondent and gloomy, the author went to his bunk. Perhaps, out of exhaustion, he dozed off. He woke up around 6 p.m. The dusk was descending on the sea. He felt the boat had gone past the island and there was no way it could sail back against the westerly currents. It appeared to be doom and gloom everywhere.

His son came in to break news they all had been so anxiously waiting for. Congratulating his father as the best daddy and the best captain on earth, the son begged to hug the aithor. Other members of the family were there to were standing by, enjoying the moment.

They had found the island!!

The author went to the deck to see for himself. He had, at long last, outlasted the vagaries of the sea.
They anchored the crippled Wavewalker aside the island. Next morning, 28 inmates of that remote research station came in and welcome these visitors with open arms.

On land, the author reflected on the contribution of the two hired crew – Larry and Herbie – in the effort to beat off the angry sea. Their sangfroid and verve had led to the success of the fight for survival. He thought about Mary’s steadfastness and the courage of the little son and daughter who stared at death smilingly giving no room for their over-burdened father to worry for them. The well-knit family resolutely stood up to the taunts of the turbulent sea.
———————–END ———————



Dawn of a new era of transparency in India – OSA vs. RTI

April 23, 2015 at 1:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Secrets that are no longer secrets — RTI prevails over OSA

Conscious and alert citizens of this country have long seethed under the overarching power of the government to stop them from accessing ‘sensitive’ information. In countless instances, the archaic Official Secrets Act, 1923 (OSA) has been misused to deter people trying to pry upon the working of the government. There are instances where perfectly well-meaning and honourable men and women have been harassed, and even put behind bars for trying to unearth murky details of the government’s functioning.

No doubt a legacy of the colonial era, this Act effectively stifled citizens’ intent to monitor their government. OSA’s provisions run counter to the spirit of a modern, responsible and transparent society.

The Right to Information Act, 2005 came, although in a diluted form, as an antidote to the OSA. It enabled citizens to seek and obtain information from government files which, hitherto, were kept under wraps. From village level activism pertaining to use of government welfare funds to the egregious loot of nation’s resources as observed in the 2Gand Coalgate scams, the RTA has done yeoman’s service to the cause of ensuring a corruption-free society.

It was only expected that the two acts would be at odds with one another. The address this anomaly, a committee was set up by the government. It had its first meeting recently. The committee has suggested measures to convert a furtive mindset of the bureaucracy to an open and transparent one.

Curiously, the divergence between the OSA and the RTI has come to the fore with regard to demands to de-classify Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose files. Keeping this case apart for the time being and going into the merits of the RTI vis-a-vis the OSA should lead to a healthy debate.

Fortunately, there is some clarity in the RTI. In the event of the OSA coming in the way of the RTI, the latter will PREVAIL over the former. Section 22 of the RTI Act clarifies this by stating that states its provisions will override the OSA whenever there is a conflict between the two acts. Additionally, the Section 8(2) of the RTI Act empowers a public authority to allow access to information kept under wraps by virtue of the OSA.

The predominant question will be to ascertain if the disclosure serves the public interest in a more visible way than it could harm specific interests of persons or functionaries with some vested interests. What is in ‘pubic interest’, and what is not can trigger healthy debates and warrant intervention by courts.

In the areas of national security interests, a lot of circumspection and caution is needed so that corrupt politicians and bureaucrats do not hide behind ‘secrecy’, and at the same time sensitive defense data are not released.

The draconian OSA was conceived and promulgated by the British who were constantly wary of mutinies, rebellions and other threats to their rule. This was in 1923. After 1947, this act should have been given a go-by. Regrettably, the new democratic government under Nehru, did not disband the law, but gave it a new lease of life by continuing it with some minor amendments here and there.
The statute runs afoul of the spirit of the Constitution as it can term a wide array of subjects as official secrets. The undertone of arbitrariness and secretiveness are clearly discernible in the statute.

Let us see how Section 2(8)(d) of the OSA authorizes a district level official to declare a public place such as a bus stand or a rail station ‘prohibited places’. To rub more salt into the wound, Section 3 provides for prosecuting a curious onlooker on spying charges. Nothing can be more irrational than this.

Unsurprisingly, the law has been utilized by vested interests in the government to punish activists. General V.K. Singh was hauled up before a court for exposing the rot in the Research and Analysis Wing RAW. He, however, managed to evade arrest by obtaining an anticipatory bail.

In another case, Dr. B.K. Subbarao, a former Navy Captain and a brilliant naval engineer, was put behind bars for months on charges of violating the OSA. The Bombay High Court threw out the case and set him free. Hopefully, the government’s resort to heavy hand tactics for stifling transparency in public matters will be rendered ineffective.

A Photograph by Shirley Toulson

April 22, 2015 at 2:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Photograph by Shirley Toulson

This is a poem of remembrance with a rather sad tone. It brings into focus the unstoppable changes ‘time’ forces on the lives of humans and objects.

An old un-framed family photograph mounted on an ordinary cardboard has turned brownish and somewhat frayed with the passage of years. The photograph stands defiantly as a mute witness to the happy childhood days of the poet’s mother. It shows her mother, a 12-year-old girl, frolicking in the sea beach with two of her younger cousins, Betty and Dolly, at her sides. The wind blows her hair onto her face. Their happiness shows in their faces. They smile as they peer into the camera held by their uncle.

The poet, Shirley, was not born then. So, the photograph must be decades old. Her mother had a sweet face. The three girls stood in the water as it swept their little feet. No doubt, they enjoyed their time in the edge of the sea.

The poet’s mother has long departed from earth after living her full life, but the sea has hardly changed in the years gone by. This contrast is so striking.

The photograph takes Shirley down the memory lane. She recollects how her mother, now no more, used to stare at the photograph musing on her face that looked so innocent and sweet those days. Some twenty to thirty years must have elapsed in the mean time. She would chuckle at the way her cousins came dressed to the beach. It was childhood innocence at its purest. But, time has no regard for such mundane matters. It rolls on inexorably destroying, building and devouring the living and the non-living objects on earth.

The mother drew pleasure from her past childhood days. Shirley remembers how her mother laughed reminiscing about her visits to the sea shore. Both the happy moments have receded to the oblivion, never to return. The sense of loss is painful. Shirley feels the loss as acutely as her mother did. The photograph that rekindled the memories will, over the years, succumb to the ravaging power of time. It will also vanish from the face of earth. Every living being will perish; every inanimate object will head to the scrap yard, and every fun-filled activity will fall silent. This is the rule of Nature.

Odisha State Board Class X English literature – Trystt with Destiny

April 21, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tryst with Destiny .. by Nehru

Introduction .. After a long freedom struggle that lasted nearly a century, India got her freedom. The path to freedom was riddled with many unforeseen difficulties, desertion of leaders, ideological rifts and many costly compromises that cost India dearly. The partition of the country bled the country white. Leaders inflamed passion making the Hindus and Muslims turn on one another with beastly vengeance. Mahatma Gandhi, whom millions revered as the ‘Father’ or ‘Bapu’ was felled by a fanatic who thought Gandhi was too soft on the Muslims. The violence lasted for months. As blood spilled in the streets, Mahatma saw his message of love and harmony being trampled with utter contempt. Revulsion and remorse gripped his mind, and he refused to take part in any merry making prior to his dream of seeing a free India coming to fruition.
It would be unwise to say that such sadness had not affected Nehru. He was a pragmatist. As the first prime minister of an ancient country, he had a thrilling task in hand. He had to lead the country to learn to govern itself, chart a course of rapid growth, and modernize itself to command respect in the international stage. The task was daunting and set Nehru’s heart aflutter.
With romantic idealism and steely resolve to forge ahead leaving the past behind, Nehru assumed the reins of the country. He knew he was making history. His heart must have throbbed as he stepped forward to make his speech in the Parliament Hall.
From his speech, we get a glimpse of the torrent of sadness regret that remained in the back of his mind as he spoke. Utilizing his superb oratory skills, he exuded boundless energy, steely resolve and a vision that was mesmeric, audacious, and lofty.
Answers ..
1. What is the pledge we shall redeem? .. At the outset of the freedom struggle, many eminent and patriotic Indians had conjured an India that would be free, prosperous and vibrant. The foreign yoke had to be cast off for India to find her feet. This is the pledge Nehru wants to renew.

2. What does Nehru mean when ………… to life and freedom? .. Nehru gave his speech as the clock struck 12 at night. From then on, India was to be ‘free’ nation. Around this time, most Indians had retired to bed, oblivious of the precious moments in our history. When they awoke, they would be citizens of a free country. The morning rays of sun would dispel colonial rule and the gloom associated with it.

3. What is the moment that comes rarely in history?

There are moments in the history of most countries, when they are born, or are subjugated by an invader or are re-born breaking free the colonial stranglehold. Such transitions may come at interval of a few centuries. Obviously, such moments are very very rare.

4. What, according … , quest?
From time immemorial, India has been a land of ideals, discovery and introspection. Its people are deeply inward-looking, spiritual, but never afraid to explore the unknown. Its history has been punctuated by successes and failures, but the journey has seldom ceased. This striving to discover itself is what Nehru refers as ‘quest’.

5. How do we end a period of misfortune? The best way is to open a new page in the life and resolutely move forward. One must not lose one’s vitality lamenting the misfortune or sorrow.

6. What does Nehru ….. future?
We are promise-bound to remove the scourge of poverty that has bedeviled us for ages. Poverty brings illiteracy, disease and backwardness. The great son of India (alluding to Gandhiji) had to wipe sorrow from the lives of our deprived countrymen. They had succeeded, but only partly. Nehru wanted us to rededicate ourselves to accomplish this unfinished task of bringing wealth, prosperity and all –round progress to our countrymen languishing in poverty.

7. What responsibility ……………. rest?
When we became free, we can’t indulge in acts that break the law or hurt others sentiments. The new-found power must never be mis-utilized to the detriment of the collective interest of the nation. This self-imposed restraint is ‘responsibility’. The Assembly (now known as parliament) is an elected body chosen by the people. Responsibility rests on this elected body.

8. What does Nehru mean ……………. star?
By ‘star’, Nehru refers to the emergence of India from colonial slumber to un-bounded energy and enthusiasm. India is a dominant country of the East, and India’s freedom must bring good tidings for the entire region. India’s creative energy must unleash similar energy in other countries in the region to re-build themselves.

9. In what spirit ……………….. freedom?
Nehru wanted the celebrations to be somber and dignified. The continued communal violence had pained Gandhiji so much that he had thought it wise to spend his time in areas where Hindus and Muslims were still fighting each other. Nehru called upon his countrymen not forget him, nor his idealism deeply anchored to non-violence, peace and harmony.

10. Which aspects of Gandhiji’s ………… Nehru?
Nehru understood Gandhiji’s deep appreciation of India’s traditional values, the core of its soul, and its yearning for freedom. Gandhiji rebelled against the prejudices and the oppression entrenched in the Indian society and worked hard to remove the muck. Such commitment and untiring effort to lift the Indian society out of its morass inspired Nehru.

11. What are Nehru’s thoughts about …….. border?
Nehru felt a lot of goodwill for the people of East Pakistan [now Bangladesh] and West Pakistan. Although in both places Hindus were at the receiving end of communal frenzy, Nehru’s heart was surprisingly free of any rancor or vengeance against them.

12. What should Indians ………. freedom?
Nehru dreamed to banish poverty, strengthen the roots of democracy and propel the country towards high growth and prosperity. He wanted to remove the symptoms of poverty like ignorance and disease. Simultaneously, he wanted to foster an atmosphere where democratic institutions like free press, judiciary and parliament could grow.

13. What does Nehru mean ………….. us?
India had inherited myriad problems when it was born. The communal fire was ravaging communities, and superstition and prejudices ran deep. To compound the problem, poverty was rife. Nehru knew how difficult the task of nation-building was. It was going to be a long arduous haul. The government could not do it alone. So, Nehru wanted the citizens to come forward to lend their shoulders to the task of nation-building.

14. How can we ….. peoples?
We can cooperate with them in a collective effort to strengthen democracy, fight poverty and promote global peace and harmony.

15. What is our duty to our motherland?
We must proactively propagate communal and ethnic understanding and counter the venom of inter-religious intolerance. We need to be steadfastly resolve to work hard in our respective spheres to promote prosperity and integrity. We must repose our faith in our deep-rooted ancient values and never allow corruption to creep in. Our commitment to our motherland must be unshakable.

Answers to Grammar exercise

April 16, 2015 at 10:59 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Answers to Grammar exercise for the young and ambitious (No.1)

Make sentences with

Stand by (both meanings)
Meaning 1 .. Traditionally, Russia has stood by India, but the same can not be said about the U.S.
Meaning 2 .. During the Olympic games, hundreds of fire tenders stand by to douse any fire that can break out.

Put off (both meanings)
Meaning 1 ..The prime minister’s foreign trip had to be put off by a fortnight due to the spurt of Maoist killings in different parts of the country. [Postponed]
Meaning 2 .. The guests in the five-star hotel were put off by the smell of the freshly-painted walls. [Irritated]

The estranged wife seldom meets her husband.

Custodial ..
a. Since the accused was not cooperating with the police, the latter prayed the judge to grant custodial interrogation for two days.
b. Custodial death of a convict iis very seriously viewed by the courts.

Upbringing ..

His suave nature points to his aristocratic upbringing.

Go by ..
Meaning 1 .. As years went by, the hot-headed prison guard became mellowed and mild.
Meaning 2 .. Going by the account of the intelligence officer, the Commandant ordered intense combing of the forest to nab the brigand.

Go-by ..

Routinely, political parties give decency and decorum the go-by during parliament debates.

Rip off .. a. For short term gains, the Taliban rip off the ornamental stone deposits of Afghanistan through destructive mining practices.
b. We felt ripped off after we paid our bill in the luxury hill-top restaurant.

Rip-off .. Some NGOs have accused China of rip-off because of the its highly exploitative mining policies in Africa.

See through

Meaning 1 .. IMF loans see distressed countries through periods of financial crises. [Tide over a difficulty]
Meaning 2 .. Pakistanis have seen through the insidious propaganda of the Taliban and no longer welcome them with open arms. [Recognize some harmful thing early enough]

See-through .. Film actresses often wear see-through dresses to enhance their sex appeal.

Run down ….

a.The girl broke into tears when her teacher ran her down before others for her poor handwriting.
b. My son was upset because his sister had run his electric toy down when he was at school.
c. The government of India has let many archeological monuments to run down for want of funds.
d. The husband used to cook dinner every night as he knew how the office work ran his pregnant wife down.
e. In a case of apparent drunken driving, Salman Khan’s car ran down a few pedestrians. Now, Salman stares at long years behind bars.

Run-down ..

a. Detriot now looks like a run-down ghost town.
b. Hippies and illegal immigrants used to live in the run-down buildings in the outskirts of the city.

Run off … The orphans, unable to live in the sub-human conditions of the juvenile shelter, ran off, but were quickly apprehended and brought back.

Offbeat.. Mrinal Sen excelled in making offbeat, low-budget films.

Upbeat … The mood in the BJP camp is upbeat after its unusually good showing in the municipal elections.


a. The test match started under cloudy down-cast skies.

b. The atmosphere in the bride’s house became downcast after they heard about fresh dowry demands from the groom.

Cast off ….

a. A snake casts off its skin at periodic intervals.
b. Swami Vivekananda had called upon the Indians to cast off their inferiority complex.
Castaway .. The discovery of a castaway in the store of the ship left the captain in a quandary.
Change the degree of the following sentences ..

1. This chilli is one of the hottest in the chilli basket. [First and second]
Answer .. [First degree] …. Only a few chillies in the basket are as hot as this one.
[Second degree] .. This chilli is hotter than most others in the basket.

2. This cycle is among the oldest in this cycle stand. [First and second]
Answer .. [First degree] .. Only a few cycles in the stand are as old as this one.
[Second degree] … This cycle is older than most others in the cycle shed.

3. Rupa’s performance in the sports competition this year was the best so far ever since she started participating five years ago. [First and second degree]
Answer .. [First degree] .. Rupa’s performance in sports in the last five years were not as good as her performance this year.
[Second degree] .. Rupa performed better in sports this year than the earlier five years.

4. Asit has scored higher marks than most others in the class. [Third and first]
Answer .. [Third degree] ..Asit’s score is one among the highest in the class.
[First degree] …Very few in the class have scored as high as Asit.

5. Ramesh scored the third highest marks in the class. [First and second]
Answer … [First degree] .. Except two students, none scored as high as Ramesh in the class.
[Second] .. Except two, Ramesh scored more than all others in the class.
Use a phrasal verb or phrase to replace the underlined words.

a. As years passed, her eyesight became weaker.

Answer … As years went by, her eyesight became weaker.

b. The borrower was in difficulties. He wanted the bank not to insist on repayment, but extend the arrangement for another one year.

Answer …. The borrower was in difficulties. He wanted the bank to roll over the loan for another one year.

c. The manger wanted to buy a car for official use, but the owner of the company declined his request.

Answer .. The manger wanted to buy a car for official use, but the owner of the company turned down his request.

d. The storm was blowing hard. The family members did not heed the call of the Fire Brigade to evacuate. Instead, they decided to tightly close all the doors and windows of the house and stay inside till the storm subsided.

Answer … The storm was blowing hard. The family members did not heed the call of the Fire Brigade to evacuate. Instead, they decided to stay and wait out the storm

e. The assailant wounded the shop owner while the latter was returning home with a lot of cash. After that, the police started a massive man-haunt to nab him. But the accused moved from place to place to evade arrest. But being invisible to police for a year by moving from one location to another, he was finally nabbed.
Answer … The assailant wounded the shop owner while the latter was returning home with a lot of cash. After that, the police started a massive man-haunt to nab him. But the accused remained on the run for a year till he was finally nabbed.

Grammar exercise for the young &the ambitious (No 1)

April 14, 2015 at 11:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Grammar exercise for the young and ambitious (No.1)

Grammar exercises …

Make sentences with … Stand by (both meanings), Put off (both meanings), Seldom, Custodial, Upbringing, Go by, Go-by, Rip off, Rip-off, See through, See-through, Run down, Run-down, Run off, Offbeat, Upbeat, Downcast, Cast off, Castaway,


Change the degree of the following sentences ..

1. This chilli is one of the hottest in the chilli basket. [First and second]

2. This cycle is among the oldest in this cycle stand. [First and second]

3. Rupa’s performance in the sports competition this year was the best so far ever since she started participating five years ago. [First and second degree]

4. Asit has scored higher marks than most others in the class. [Third and first]

5. Ramesh scored the third highest marks in the class. [First and second]


 Use a phrasal verb or phrase to replace the underlined words.

a. As years passed, her eyesight became weaker.

b. The borrower was in difficulties. He wanted the bank not to insist on repayment, but extend the arrangement for another one year.

c. The manger wanted to buy a car for official use, but the owner of the company declined his request.

d. The storm was blowing hard. The family members did not heed the call of the Fire Brigade. Instead, they decided to tightly close all the doors and windows of the house and stay inside till the storm subsided.

e. The assailant wounded the shop owner while the latter was returning home with a lot of cash. After that, the police started a massive man-haunt to nab him. But the accused moved from place to place to evade arrest. But being invisible to police for a year by moving from one location to another, he was finally nabbed.


[Answers will be posted soon.]

CBSE Class XI English Literature — The Portrait of a Lady by Khuswant Singh

April 9, 2015 at 6:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Portrait of a Lady

by Khuswant Singh

Story in different words ….

The story dates back to the author’s childhood days when he grew up under the loving care of his widowed ageing grandmother. The two had a symbiotic relationship with each other –the child leaning on his grandma for his upbringing and the old lady drawing succor from the boy’s company to fight off loneliness and boredom.

The author was not born when his grandfather was alive. His photograph in loose white dress and long beards that adored the wall showed a face wrinkled due to old age. Apparently, he had departed long ago leaving behind his widowed wife with her youth still in tact.

Despite her desolation, her widowhood had failed to batter her sprightly mind. Despite the visible signs of her creeping old age, the demeanour remained unchanged – almost defying the effects of advancing age. A deeply spiritual person that she was, she said her prayers almost relentlessly all through the day. Bent down with age, she walked bending a little forward with a hand on her waist to maintain her balance.

She helped the child prepare for going to school always murmuring her prayers into his ears. But, it did not register in his playful mind. The school was in the temple annexe. The priest doubled up as the teacher. She stayed behind in the temple till the school hours were over, and it was time to return home with her grandson. Feeding stale chapattis to the stray dogs en route which the old lady never forgot to do.

The parents settled down in the city and it was time for the grandmother –grandson duo to move there. The boy enrolled in a English medium school that taught modern day subjects like science and geography. Scriptures and holy studies ceded place to the branches of knowledge the European society cultivated in those times. To the grandma’s horror, the school offered lessons in music. She perceived this to be the part of a decadent culture. The dissonance in the mutual ties had began to set in, but the bond of love remained intact.

Finally, the boy came of age and prepared to go to the university. He got a room of his own. With rare stoicism, the grandmother put up with the drifting relationship. She took to her spinning and praying from dawn to dusk. That was the only way she could wait out the daylight hours. In the afternoon, she fed a flock of sparrows that descended on the backyard at the appointed time every day. The sight of the sparrows jostling to eat the bread crumbs thrown at them by her, filled her heart with joy.

The time came for the college-going grandson to go abroad for studies for a 5-year stint. Again, the old lady refused to break apart. The pangs of separation must have hurt her a lot, but she showed little sign of it when she came to see him off at the station. The parting moments were poignant, but the old lady did not shed any tear. Instead, she kissed his forehead as she wished him Godspeed with her little prayers.

On return home from abroad after five years, he found his grandmother in remarkably good state. The time appeared to stand still.

Finally, the time to depart arrived. On the penultimate day, the grandma appeared to be in high spirits. She summoned her friends from the neighbourhood and got engrossed in loud singing. Using an old drum, she sang songs that depicted the proud home-coming of warriors. She sang with rare verve and gusto.

On the next day, she ran a low temperature. She knew her final hour was drawing near. She lay on her bed with the slow murmur of prayer never leaving her lips. In a short while the lips fell to move, she breathed her last.
The family members prepared for the funeral rites. But, the biggest losers were not the family members who stood around her sobbing and wailing, but the flock of sparrows who came, grieved silently, and flew off for the final time refusing the bread crumbs offered to them by another member of the family.

Questions & answers


1. The three phases of the author’s relationship ………….. to study abroad.
Answer …  First phase ..  The author is a young child who needs his grandmother’s help at every stage in his daily life. From getting ready for school, eating breakfast to being escorted to school, the child needs the grandmother as his companion.

Second stage .. The author went to an English medium school in a city whose curriculum was a gulf apart from the village school. The subjects were alien to the old lady, and the most disgusting for her were the music lessons being given by the school. The two souls had begun to drift apart although the bond endured.

Third stage … The author grew up and got ready to enroll in the university. He got a separate room and spent much less time with her grandma. She coped up with the changing times by pouring on her spinning wheel and saying her silent prayers.

2. The city school taught in English, not in the local language. The lessons were on science and such other things not taught in schools following the traditional Indian system. They didn’t teach scriptures and about God. The most revolting aspect was their offering music as a subject. The old lady thought music corrupted young minds, and had a degrading influence.

3. After the author grew up, the inevitable separation between the two happened. The old lady spent most part of her time spinning in the spinning-wheel, and praying. In the afternoon, she delighted herself feeding the sparrows. They came in hoards to feed on the bread crumbs which were deliberately strewn around the yard by the kind old lady.

4. Using an old, worn-out drum, she broke into an intriguing singing frenzy. The songs, quite inexplicably, related to stories of home-coming of warriors. Her enthusiasm baffled the family members. She did not pray that day – a very unusual break from her daily routine.

On the morning she died, she ran a low temperature. While everyone ignored it as something not serious, she lay quietly on her bed deciding to say her prayers quietly while counting the beads. Quite uncannily, she had come to know that her final hours had arrived. She was determined to pray as she had skipped it the day before. Not heeding the family members, she continued to say her prayers quietly till her lips froze.

5. The sparrows had discerned that their long-time benefactor was gone forever. Sitting around her dead body, they behaved very solemnly and desisted from their usual cacophony. Grief-stricken and orphaned, they did not partake of the bread pieces offered to them by the author’s mother. With their hearts broken, they flew away leaving the bread pieces behind.


India sets out to rein in Air Pollution — Civil Service Essay

April 8, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Breathing new life into our lungs

At last, India seems to have woken up to the pain polluted air inflicts on the un-suspecting public in the country. The problems get more and more acute as urbanization proceeds apace and more and more people move from the countryside to urban centres. Many of these people move up the income scale through their skill, and inevitably buy motor cycles and cars to commute to their places of work. This apart, factories seem to be sprouting up everywhere adding to water and air pollution.

Dust-laden air laced with obnoxious gases imperils health. People suffer from respiratory problems some of which impair work place efficiency in the short run, and cause debilitating illness as dotage draws nearer. The loss to the nation, when computed scientifically, can work out to staggering figures.

Monitoring the air quality in metropolitan centers as has been decided upon by the central government is a first step towards cleaning up the air over dense population clusters in the not too distant a future. Therefore, the National Air Quality Index launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves to be lauded as a right step in the right direction.

Presently, the quality of data from some cities is, regrettably, hazy and unreliable. Monitoring infrastructure is also inadequate. The monitoring stations are ill-equipped and ill-staffed. This sad state of affairs is due to the inadequate attention of the law makers and the general public towards the incipient danger of inhaling poisonous air.

India is way behind in compliance with the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). For micro-fine dust particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, known as Particulate Matter, the WHO has set a recommended average level of 10 micrograms per cubic metre. Some relaxation has been given for meeting interim target. It is 40mcg/m. These miniscule particles are the most damaging for human health.

Sadly, India accepts air quality as ‘good’ if the density of these hazardous pollutants is 50 micrograms per cubic meter. The air in cities like Bangalore is so conspicuously unhealthy, but people are so busy in their mundane problems that they rarely worry about this monstrous menace.

As the experience of China shows, spike in air pollution is inevitable in a fast-industrializing economy. India can not be an exception, but the problem can be minimized by proactive government response. It is heartening to find that Modi’s government has woken up to this creeping danger. The burden of fighting pollution must be shifted to the polluters. This is the universal principle. The financial cost of limiting pollution must be borne by the sections of the society who pollute more and who have the capacity to pay. This must be the bedrock of the government’s pollution-busting policy. A stick and carrot policy can be a good component of any green initiative of the government.

Eliminating diesel-driven buses by introducing large-scale metro rail system can be very expensive to begin with, but in restricting poisonous fumes in the air over cities, they bring long term benefits. A policy shift to garner resources for such expensive projects is the call of the times. Use of SUVs, coming to city centers in personal cars, levying pollution tax on diesel sale can wean the users away from large scale use of personal transport.

The National Urban Transport Policy has not made a dent on the problem of keeping the urban atmosphere clean. The National Green Tribunal has ordered diesel vehicles over 10 years old off Delhi’s roads. This is a small but good step. What should follow is to provide affordable and easily accessible method of mass transport. This is as much true for Delhi as it is for other metros.

The traditional method of short distance travelling in India and elsewhere has been the humble bicycle. Apart from zero emission, it does a lot of good to the user’s body and mind. Sadly, cycles have been relegated to the status of the ‘poor man’s transport’. The government must take steps to adopt measures to make riding a cycle fashionable and desirable for the younger folks who have the highest propensity to use motorcycles and cars. Like it has been done in many advanced cities in Europe, urban road systems must have dedicated cycling lanes and parking places.

Coal burning for power generation is another area that cries for attention. Switching to stand-alone solar plants atop roofs can ease the pressure on coal-generated thermal power grids. A big push to such smart ways of reducing dependence on diesel and coal is urgently needed.

Air pollution causes a whopping number of nearly 6.5 lakh premature deaths in the country. Countless more are affected through minor, nagging ailments. Such a mammoth health issue must be addressed urgently.

We are Seven by William Wordsworth — Stanza by stanza explanation

April 7, 2015 at 12:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We Are Seven

by William Wordsworth

Introduction .. The naivety and un-worldliness of young children come to the fore in William Wordsworth’s poem ‘We are Seven’. Unlike the adults, the pain and anguish that follow death leaves the little tender ones un-ruffled. This godly trait of aloofness helps to insulate the young minds from the trauma and suffering that shatter a grown-up person.
First stanza …
———A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

Explanation .. A child breathes feebly as life with its full fury and verve is yet to enter his body. Nonetheless, her limbs are always agile trying to move, do, touch and feel everything around. She is oblivious of the perils and awe of death.
Second stanza ..
I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

Explanation … On one occasion, the Speaker bumped into a little girl. She was eight. She had a beautiful hair-do. The luxurious hair was curled and arranged nicely to form a ring around her death.

Third stanza ..

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

Explanation … She looked like an un-sophisticated rural girl with little vanity or artificial grace. Her simple garb exuded her carefree attitude. Her eyes were bright and beautiful. She had a charming sweet face.

Fourth stanza …

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.

Explanation …The Speaker asked the little girl about her siblings. Pat came the reply, ‘We are seven.’ The girl looked somewhat amused at the speaker’s interest in her siblings.

Fifth stanza …

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

Explanation .. The Speaker wanted to know where her brothers and sisters were. She said they were seven, two of whom lived in Conway, while two others had become voyagers.

Sixth stanza …

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”

Explanation … The girl divulged almost nonchalantly that two of her sib lings lived in the church grave yard. The fact that they had departed from this world for good seemed not to bother the little girl. She added that she lived with her mother in a cottage in the church-yard. The place of the burial of her brother and sister was at a very short distance from the cottage.


Seventh stanza ..

“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Explanation .. The Speaker felt a little puzzled. He asked how the number added up to seven with two living in Conway and two gone to sea.

Eighth stanza …

Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”

Explanation .. On being queried by the Speaker, the little reiterated that they were seven in all – boys and girls. Two lay in the church yard buried under the tree. It became clear to the Speaker that the little girl still felt the two dead siblings formed part of the family.


Ninth stanza ..

“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”

Explanation … The Speaker wanted to explain the difference between a dead and a human being. A living person moves his limbs at will, where as a dead lifeless can not do so. To drive home the point further, he told the girl that her family had just five members since two had already departed.


Stanza ten …

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.

Explanation … The little girl didn’t cede her ground. She was not ready to accept that the two dead members could not form part of the family. She maintained that the graves of her two siblings were green with grass. The graves were conspicuous, so were her brother and sister. She affirmed that the two slept just twelve steps away from their bed room.

Stanza eleven …

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

Explanation .. She narrated how she sat near the graves and knitted her stockings and hemmed her handkerchiefs. At times, she sat on the ground to sing her pet songs.

Stanza twelve …

“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

Explanation .. The little one came with more facts to prove that the place was indeed very lively. She said how she ate her porridge there when darkness descends on the place at dusk.


Stanza thirteen ..

“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

Explanation … To augment her contention, she said that she ate her porridge for dinner as darkness descended on earth at dusk. The essence of her argument was the fact that the presence of her two siblings made the place so congenial for her.


Stanza fourteen …

“The first that dies was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

Explanation … She disclosed that the first sibling to die was her sister Jane. She died in her sick bed after battling illness for some time. The deliverance from suffering came with her passing away.

Stanza fifteen …

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

Explanation .. She was laid to rest in the church grave yard. That was in summer when the grass was dry. She described how her brother John and she gamboled around her grave, unmindful of the dread many people associate graves with.

Stanza sixteen ..

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

Explanation … When the winter came and snow covered the area, the girl ran and slid above the ice. But, John fell ill, and he succumbed to the sickness.

Stanza seventeen ..

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

Explanation .. The perplexed Speaker finally asked the question he had been tempted to ask so long. He asked her with two departed, how many siblings were they. Again, she affirmed quietly that they were seven, no less, no more!


Stanza eighteen …

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

Explanation .. The Speaker was baffled at the girl’s lack of worldly matters that appeared almost nonsensical. He reminded the girl that the two departed ones were in Heaven, never to come back to earth again to be among her midst. Leaving the Speaker flummoxed, the girl refused to concede her ground. She averred that they were seven!

Model letter — To a friend on the death of his mother

April 7, 2015 at 3:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

                                                                                                                                                                                           April 7, 2015

Dear Arun,

This was, perhaps, one of my saddest days in life to see you crying inconsolably for your departed mother. I went to your house in the morning to meet and console you, but the gloom was too depressing for me to bear. All your family members and some from your neighbors’ wailed standing around your dear mother’s dead body. Like a coward, I retreated to my home to unburden my grief before my parents. Even they too broke down, so did my little sister.

When I say all these, the fond memories of your mother sweep through my mind. Her kind words, encouragement, and words of wisdom remain etched in my mind. When we returned from the football ground late in the evening, she used to sternly reprimand us for losing out on our studies. But, she could never see tears in your and my eyes. With such loving hands, she wiped them off our faces whenever we were sad. Now, these hands are gone forever.

Don’t burn yourself, Arun! ‘Meetings and Partings is the go of the world’, said Rabindranath Tagore. God is great. If He has brought you such anguish, He will soon apply the soothing balm. You will bring grief to your departed mother’s soul by torturing yourself with her memories. Regain your composure, and pray God to let her soul rest in peace. This is the minimum you can do. I stand by you, my friend, in this hour of distress.

Your loving friend,


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