NCERT English –The Dear Departed

October 11, 2017 at 2:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Dear Departed .. by Stanley Houghton

The story centers around the loneliness and neglect many people contend with in their dotage. The subject  dealt with in this short play undoubtedly evokes pity, and sadness among the readers, but the author has been able to inject some subtle humour, and harmless satire into the plot making it a very enjoyable piece to read.

Mrs. Slater and Mrs. Jordan are two sisters married to Henry Slater and Ben Jordan respectively.  The two families live separately in a neighbourhood that has little sign of affluence or luxury.  In this low-income setting, the Slaters live with their ten-year-old daughter Victoria, and her maternal grandfather Mr. Abel Merryweather. The old man is retired from active life, and is more or less ignored by his host family. He is a man of no real wealth sans some furniture and some saving in the form of an insurance policy.

It emerges that Abel lived with his other daughter Mrs. Jordan for five before choosing to move over to live with his other daughter, Mrs. Slater. Mrs. Jordan didn’t quite miss her father, nor did Mrs. Slater quite wrlcomed him. The old man was an impoThere is no love lost between the two families. Mrs. Slater is an imperious bulky woman of overbearing nature. She lords over her family members like a matriarch. No wonder, she picked up a verbal duel with her sister Mrs. Jordan one day. The latter left in a huff promising to never come to see Mrs. Slater again.

Clearly, members of the two families have no dearth of meanness, and greed. At every step, these unsavoury traits affect their thinking and action. Abel, unloved and uncared for, lives out his days spending his time in the local pub, run by a widow. He drowns his drudgery in drinks. Generally, he stays aloof from the family, either due to the uncaring attitude of the family members, or of his own volition.

One night, he returns home late and drunk. He goes into his room and lies down on his bed without taking his dinner. He slips into a slumber, possibly due to an overdose of alcohol. He oversleeps possibly and fails to get up in the usual time. Mrs. Slater assumes her father has breathed his last while asleep.  For her, the death (assumed) has brought happy tidings. She can lay her hands on whatever her father (still awake and well) has left behind.

First the rituals of mourning have to be gone through. The younger sister Mrs. Jordan was informed of the sad demise and asked to come with her husband Ben. Ideas rush into Mrs. Slater’s mind. She has to make a quick work of removing her father’s bureau and the old clock from his room. She asks Victoria to change to a much less flashy dress to demonstrate how sad she is. 

Even for a moment, none in the family feel it necessary to check on the old Abel (still in sleep. No one comes up to him, no one sheds a tear, no one grieves. 

Abel is asleep when the process of dispossessing him of his bureau and the clock starts.  Henry Slater isn’t moved a bit either. He sits in the chair awaiting the tea session to start. Mrs. Slater’s head is whirling with ideas. It emerges that Abel Merryweather had gone to pay his insurance premium the evening before. Mrs. Slater is relieved the insurance policy is alive, ready t be claimed, like a ripe fruit from a low-hanging branch.

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ISC English –Gifts by Ralph Waldo Emerson

October 4, 2017 at 11:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Gifts by Ralph Waldo Emerson

About the author .. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 -1882) was among the foremost thinkers of his times. He wrote poems, essays, and gave numerous lectures. His lectures bore the hallmarks of his incisive analysis of societal values, the emptiness of minds of the rich, and his espousing of individualism. Many intellectuals of his age lauded him for pioneering role in the transcendental movement. Two of his best-known books ‘Essays : First Series’ and ‘Essays : Second Series’ contain the self-edited versions of his lectures. They point to his ability to analyze social issues with no dogma or prejudice. This essay ‘Gifts’ dwells upon the virtues of selfless giving.

The essay .. First Para .. The author starts his essay with a quote

Gifts of one who loved me,–

‘T was high time they came;

When he ceased to love me,

Time they stopped for shame.

A person yearns for the love from others. When people love others, they present him with gifts. When love disappears, gifts cease to come. Such melting away f love is unfortunate and it should put the gift giver to shame. This statement underlines the importance of ove.

There is a perennial shortage of of gifts and gift-givers in this world. The dearth of this is so bad that the world seems to be constantly trying to grapple with this shortage. The need of such noble traits is very acute indeed. During Christmas and New Year periods, we experience a heightened desire to give gifts. The scramble for gifts seems to exceed what is in offer.

The problem that most feel is to decide what exactly is to be gifted. Judicious selection of the gift item evokes the intended reaction in the gift getter. Perfunctory choosing of gifts leads to no impression on the receiver.

Second Para .. Among the umpteen choices available to be chosen as gift items, flowers and fruits appear to the author as two very obvious choices. Flowers symbolize the loftiest and most charming offerings of nature. Through their breathtaking beauty and variety, flowers beguile the mind. Nature quite frequently unveils its frightening, ugly, and ghoulish face. However, a blossom emerges from the morbid background bringing with it its genteel, fresh, and bewitching face. Flowers are undoubtedly the messengers of love and sublime creativity. Flowers make us feel good, wanted, and important. In a way, flowers flatter us in a subtle way.

Fruits, to a large extent, are adorable items to be given away as gift. People cherish fruits because these are nature’s best offerings to its children. If a fruit grower walks a unusually long distance carrying the basket on his back and presents it to his friend, the sheer labour of love involved in the transportation of the fruits proportionately enhances the self-importance of the recipient. There is always the feel-good feeling attached to fruits.

Third Para … Looking at the task of choosing a gift from a mundane angle, ordinary items that the recipient needs make good choices. Presenting a pair of shoes to a bare-footed person fills his heart with instant joy, because he was craving for a pair of shoes. So, ordinary day-to-day items should not be dismissed as being unworthy of being called gift items. Seeing a hungry man eating with relish is always a pleasing sight. So, why not gift food items to those who need it most? [We can see how the flood-affected people marooned in water for days look forward to food packets.]

Another considering the suitability of choosing a gift item for any dedicated human being is to see what particular item suits his hobby or desire. It is like presenting a guitar to a music student, or giving a dictionary to a young language learner.]

We, however, tend to err when we choose rings or jewels as gifts. These are very high value items that we buy at great cost to ourselves. They convey no amount of personal sentiment or sacrifice. The giver expects the receiver to love it for its monetary worth. So, gifting costly rings and jewels is a barren idea. When a poet brings his poem, a shepherd brings a lamb from his herd, a farmer brings a portion of his harvest etc. etc., the giver parts with a portion of his own self. In the same vein, when a person writes the biography of another person, and presents it to the latter, he instantly builds an emotional bond. Such gifts are valued and received with warmth and delight. In terms of monetary value, such gifts may be insignificant, but for the recipient treasures them. Such gifts touch the heart.

When the intention of giving gift is enhancing one’s own standing, or as atonement sums for sins, costly gilded items bought from shops can be choices. Such practice of choosing readymade items of high value is seen among the elite and the royalty. However, such gifts are cold, detached and impersonal in nature.

Fourth Para … The practice of giving or receiving is a delicate job that needs careful judgement. Normally, a self-respecting man doesn’t receive gift except those coming to express genuine unselfish love. When one gives gifts in a condescend attitude, the person receiving it feels hurt and humiliated. He might show his displeasure overtly. So, gift-giving carries with it some risk. When we eat meat, we might feel guilty because the lamb might have been reared by someone else’s effort and investment.

Sixth Para … There is another risk attached to receiving gifts. If someone gives you a gift, you should make it a point not to take anything else from him. This is a golden principle f gifting. Our expectations from others is limitless. We expect all our needs to be given to us as gifts. Such expectation, borne out of greed and laziness, are degrading and need to be avoided.

Seventh Para .. Being able to receive gifts with dignity and grace is a virtue. We should restrain our feelings when receiving gifts. Overt expressions of joy or disappointment at the time of accepting gifts must be curbed. Venting such feelings hurts the person who gives the gift. When a gift arrives from a person who is unaware of or hasn’t bothered to know the likes and dislikes of his target, it causes more harm than good. This is so because it reveals the cavalier attitude of the giver. Gifts given as just ‘give-aways’ are vexatious, because the reason behind the gift is not mutual love or admiration. For the person receiving the gift, it is embarrassing to find that he adores the gift much more than the person who has given it.

The idea of ‘usefulness’ of a gift does not hold good when the giver and taker both are very intimate friends and are of equal means. In such a case a modest gift may be misjudged as a slight. The beneficiary might feel annoyed for having been given such a ‘small’ gift. The latter, driven by greed, might desire to be given a disproportionately large chunk of the giver’s assets. Not thanking the giver, he might even feel angry at him. It is better to keep away from such greedy, ungrateful, and mean people. One can even remain detached and unaffected on receiving a gift. The Buddhists behave with rare equanimity on being flattered or honoured with gifts.

Eighth Para … According to the author, the problem arises because the gift, in most occasions, fails to communicate with both the giver and the taker. When we do a job for a magnanimous person, the latter rewards you so profusely that you instantly become indebted to him. His generosity makes him a difficult man to be chosen to give a gift to. Since these altruistic people stand in readiness to do all they can for a friend in need, it is so very difficult to extend even a minor service to them. In our daily life we keep interacting with our friends. At times we do them good: at other times our deeds harm them. These things happen so frequently that seldom people come forward to thank us for our good deeds. Even if we are unable to render a service to someone directly, we can do collective good by sticking to moral and honest behaviour.

Ninth and last Para .. Love is all-encompassing and universally sought. In whatever manner gifts shrouded with love comes, we must accept it joyfully. One should not attempt to qualify such show of love. Some people are eminently placed to give us worthy gifts. Let us embrace these with pleasure. One can not pursue gifts and get them. They come on their own, unsolicited. When the charm of love is missing, no amount of gift, either in quantity or value, should be accepted by us. The author ends his essay saying that through his well-meaning advice, he received some intellectual satisfaction. Those who benefit from his sermons, but fail to thank him, he is morally bound to love them too.

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[COMMENTS FROM READERS ARE WELCOME.]

ISC English .. On Going out for a Walk by Max Beerbohm

October 1, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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On Going out for a Walk by Max Beerbohm

About the author .. A humorist par excellence, Beerbohm excelled in parody and caricature. Through his writing writings and innocent satire, he brought reading pleasure to countless readers. Sir Henry Maximilian (Max, in short) Beerbohm (1872-1956) espouses his non-conventional views against the practice of aim-less wa ndering about, but is careful enough not to castigate those who cherish this hobby. He wrote only one novel, Zuleika Dobson. However, he was a prolific cartoonist. Even George Bernard Shaw praised him for his talent for humour.

The essay .. The author is undoubtedly a non-conformist. He is an Englishman, but loathes to saunter — a habit most Englishmen practise as a matter of instinct. In this essay, he rails against this pastime. He details, good-humouredly the reasons why he detests walking for leisure.

First para .. At the outset, the author states, quite unapologetically, that he has never in his life ventured out for a stroll out of his own volition. The author recounts his early childhood days when a nurse used to take him out for a walk. He used to talk ceaselessly with her, but even then, he had not experienced any great excitement. He grew up, and in due course, moved to London. This metropolis with its din and bustle was not quite an ideal place for carefree promenade. The walk-shy author got some respite here as he didn’t and couldn’t go out for walk.

Second Para … London is known for its hectic pace, frenzied movements, high decibels, and dust kicked by the speeding vehicles. It is not a walkers’ paradise. So, walking is not a fashionable pastime here. Because of these reasons, the walker never went out for a walk, nor did anyone ask him to accompany him. On the contrary, life in the countryside is laidback and easy-paced. Unless it is raining, people set out for strolls. Instinctively, they ask the author to accompany them, not realizing that the latter hardly likes the experience. These walking enthusiasts feel that walking is a noble hobby that triggers new ideas in brain, and rekindles noble thoughts in the mind. With such entrenched ideas, people think asking someone to accompany them is a good thing to do. The author obviously wants to stay home. He excuses himself stating that he has letters to write, and so, can’t go for the stroll. But, such an alibi has its limitations.

Third Para … First lacuna .. Generally, people tend not to believe it. Second, it makes you to rise from your seat, proceed to the writing table, and act as f you are really writing one. Till the friend leaves the entrance, you have to remain seated near the table, so as not to arouse any doubt.

Fourth Para .. For those who have made waking their abit, it can be a pleasant pastime. However, the author thinks that instead of heightening the brain’s working, it numbs it. Many of the author’s friends have experienced such slowing down of the brain during walking. But, those of the author’s friends who succeeded in pulling him out on Sundays can not claim that their brains became active when they went for walks. The author is convinced that when a person begins to walk, his creative mind sinks into inactivity. He can neither think, articulate, nor even joke. While comfortably seated on a chair, or even standing near the hearth, he is found to be mentally quite productive. Clearly, the mind becomes dumb and empty. The movement of the feet seems to tie down the brain. Instead of talking intelligently on substantive issues, he engages in frivolous empty comments which mean nothing. The author cites the example of one such walking companion, whom he cryptically names ‘A’. On one occasion, as A walked, he stopped thinking, and began to read sign boards, milestones and any such trivia that his eyes fell on along the way.

Fifth Para .. When ‘A’ sat down for lunch, his mind regained its vitality. He began to talk, amuse others and appeared a normal man with a normal brain. The author felt that ‘A’ would never go out on a walking expedition again after the benumbing of his brain that happened during the walk earlier in the day. However, much to the surprise of the author, ‘A’ set out again for another walking expedition with a different companion. The author looks at ‘A’ and his mate till they go out of sight. He knows what ‘A’ would be telling his friend. Nothing much except the remark that the author is a dull companion to walk with. Then, with the brain in stupor, ‘A’ would begin to read the roadside signs.

Sixth Para .. The author wonders why people suffer such deactivation of brain when they begin to walk. He assumes that knowing this danger, the mind’s power to reason and analyse would make a man engage in walking. With no clue for such irrational penchant to go walking, the author assumes that perhaps the soul of a person prods him to go on walk. The walking enthusiast vainly assumes that walking imparts nobility and character to one’s personality. The unconvinced author pooh poohs the fascination for walking, and decides to spend the time on the bed instead — deep in slumber. The body and the brain continue to be totally static and inactive, till the former decides to get up again. In other words, the author feels that it is advisable to sleep in spare time, so that the body gets suitably recharged.

Seventh Para .. If a person has to go to a certain place on work, he instinctively takes a vehicle to cover the distance. He does not have to work his brain for this decision. Unless you are bent upon walking, this is the right thing to do. During the walk, the brain will stop doing any serious function, other than small routine ones. Walking is a viable proposition so long as the legs can take the strain.

The author states that the ideas for this essay were conceived when he had gone out for a walk. The author says that he is not the one who abhors walking, and chooses a vehicle even for traversing very short distances. He says he does not shun physical exercise. He does exercise normally and when he feels like doing it. There are some people who have some morbid fears about their health, and they overdo physical activity with the hope that it is a cure-all for illness. In moderation, walking is desirable. However, discovering a reason to go on long walks such as going to see a friend is a foolish pretension.
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