Of Expenses by Francis Bacon –Explanation

September 25, 2017 at 8:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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OF EXPENSES

RICHES are for spending, and spending for honor and good actions. Therefore extraordinary expense must be limited by the worth of the occasion; for voluntary undoing may be as well for a man’s country as for the kingdom of heaven.

Meaning .. Money and wealth are to be spent one day. People spend money for enhancement of one’s own standing in society and for better living. Money is also spent for charity, social good, and other such benevolent causes. While spending large sums of money or investing a god amount of wealth, one must weigh the wisdom of such parting of resources. Spending for the cause of one’s country, or for noble and lofty causes can be justified as good enough reasons.

But ordinary expense ought to be limited by a man’s estate; and governed with such regard, as it be within his compass; and not subject to deceit and abuse of servants; and ordered to the best show, that the bills may be less than the estimation abroad.

Meaning .. Normal day-to-day expenses of the apparently routine type need to be done commensurate with one’s income and assets. No money should be spent for furthering dishonest and immoral causes. Servants are valued human assets, and the employer must never spent any money to dishonor or humiliate them. Expenses must be less than the income, and should not exceed it.

Certainly, if a man will keep but of even hand, his ordinary expenses ought to be but to the half of his receipts; and if he think to wax rich, but to the third part. It is no baseness for the greatest to descend and look into their own estate.

Meaning .. Ideally, expenses must be around half of one’s income. For those who want to become rich, their expenses should be a third f their incomes. To be calculative and cautious in spending is not a mean thing. Keeping an eye on the income while spending is a prudent policy.

Some forbear it, not upon negligence alone, but doubting to bring themselves into melancholy, in respect they shall find it broken. But wounds cannot be cured without searching. He that cannot look into his own estate at all, had need both choose well those whom he employeth, and change them often; for new are more timorous and less subtle.

Meaning ……Some people do not stick to these principles of judicious spending not only out of negligence, but also for the fear of feeling sad. Inevitably, abandoning caution in spending leads to their financial ruin. If a ruined man wants to rebuild his finances, he must entrust the job of scrutinizing his budget to someone else, who can do the job dispassionately. A person can’t scrutinize his own spending pattern himself, because he will be biased. Even, the ‘Finance Manager’ brought in to restore the health of the finances needs to be replaced periodically. This is because, a newly-recruited Finance Manager will tend to be very alert and strict.

He that can look into his estate but seldom, it behooveth him to turn all to certainties. A man had need, if he be plentiful in some kind of expense, to be as saving again in some other. As if he be plentiful in diet, to be saving in apparel; if he be plentiful in the hall, to be saving in the stable; and the like.

Meaning … A person who is too pre-occupied to manage his own business, property and wealth, must hand over this charge to an outsider who knows the job better. Due to certain circumstances, if a person over-spends on something, he should cut his expenses on other items to neutralize the excess outgo of funds. For example, if he spends too much on food, he must economize on his clothing expenses. In the same way, if a person spends excess amounts in furnishing his living quarters, he must spend much less on building his stable.

For he that is plentiful in expenses of all kinds will hardly be preserved from decay. In clearing of a man’s estate, he may as well hurt himself in being too sudden, as in letting it run on too long. For hasty selling is commonly as disadvantageable as interest.
Meaning ……A man who spends without restraint, is bound to come to grief, sooner than later. Consequently, he may impulsively sell his estate, or liquidate any such wealth to free himself from the creditors. Such sudden action is really very harmful to his long term interests.

Besides, he that clears at once will relapse; for finding himself out of straits, he will revert to his customs: but he that cleareth by degrees induceth a habit of frugality, and gaineth as well upon his mind as upon his estate.
Meaning …The man who frees himself from his debts so suddenly will revert to his of ways of extravagant spending. This is devastating. On the other hand, a debt-ridden person who liquidates his loans gradually by incremental cut in his expenses, will be really happy in the long run. This is because, the period of contolled spending will change his extravagant habits, and he will imbibe the habits of thrift and caution.

Certainly, who hath a state to repair, may not despise small things; and commonly it is less dishonorable to abridge petty charges, than to stoop to petty gettings. A man ought warily to begin charges which once begun will continue; but in matters that return not he may be more magnificent.
Meaning ….Lastly, it is much less embarrassing to make small cuts in one’s expenses, than to become a bankrupt, and invite ridicule from the society. A man in such distress might resort to petty and often criminal ways to get some money. This is the worst case scenario. A man who judiciously steers clear of such pitfalls will be treated with respect by the society.

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ISC English –The Voice of Humanity by Rabindranath Tagore

September 20, 2017 at 11:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Voice of Humanity by Rabindranath Tagore

About Tagore .. A true universalist and a liberal, Tagore shot to international prominence when his book Gitanjali got him the Nobel Prize. From his adolescent days, Tagore’s literary genius had begun to unravel. He loathed formal education imparted within the confines of a class room. The rigors of school education repelled him. He let his mind wander far and wide and delved deep into his inner consciousness. The result was astounding. This son of the undivided Bengal, with no formal education, wrote hundreds of poems, short stories, and plays based on the joy and suffering of the humble people around him in the poverty-stricken, superstition-ridden society.
His sojourn to Europe opened his mind and rekindled the humanist in him. He began to feel that he belonged to the whole mankind, and he had a mission to bring light and wisdom to the whole world.
This essay is the lecture he gave in Italy. It overflows with his liberal idealism, compassion, and feelings of universal brotherhood.

The essay … 

It was 1928. The reins of Italy was in the hands of its fascist dictator Mussolini. Rabindranath Tagore was on his first visit to the country that was the citadel of the best elements of European culture. Undoubtedly, it was an overwhelming experience for the eminent visitor from the East. Tagore loved every moment of is stay there. Literally, he bathed himself in the literary, architectural, and scientific heritage of his host country and Europe in general.

First para .. Explaining the language barrier

This essay is the transcript of his lecture before an august audience of elite intellectuals. Tagore felt both humbled and honoured to address such a gathering.

Tagore knew English was not the mother tongue of the Italians. However, this was the only common language in which he could communicate with the audience. In his characteristic style, Tagore regretted the inconvenience he was putting his listeners by having to speak in English.

Second para ..  Author explains why he thinks it is a pilgrimage

Tagore had already decided what he was going to speak on. He wanted to explain to the listeners why he had travelled thousands of miles to come to their country. Tagore was a deeply spiritual and contemplative man. He saw God’s hand everywhere. His vision of the Divine transcended religious or national barriers. So, he explained to his audience that he had come n a pilgrimage to explore the place where the landscape bristles with is Divine creativity and love. Layers and layers of sublime manifestation of Divinity had enriched Italy. In the true Eastern tradition, he has come to discover the Divine hand here.

Third para   .. Europe enthralls the author

 Quite clearly, Europe’s astounding progress in all facets of culture and civilization had greatly impressed the young author. He was so impressed with the blossoming of the human spirit in this distant continent that he considered the land to be holy, worthy to be called a shrine. In 1921, driven by an urge to explore this land, he set out on this pilgrimage to Europe. He reasoned that Europe led the world because the inquisitive minds of its people were always reactive and restless. The frenzied intellectual activity that ensued led to spectacular advances in literature, art, science, philosophy and technology.  In contrast, around this time, Asia seemed to be asleep, losing its initiative, verve, and drive. Such indolence led to lethargy, backwardness, and poverty. Barring just a handful of bright minds engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and skill, the whole continent seemed to be asleep. The author left his pet project at Shantiniketan, and came to Europe to experience its electrifying energy and creativity.

Fourth and Fifth Para … Author sets foot in Italy 

However, this was not his maiden visit. In 1878, when he was a young boy of 17, he had set foot in the shores of Italy with his elder brother as escort. During those times, people in the East held Europe in awe and wonder. Although his English skill was far from being exemplary, the author had read the works of the literary icons of Europe, and was aware of the literary resurgence that was sweeping the continent.

In the moonlit shores of Brindisi in Italy, the steamer in which Tagore and his brother were travelling, landed. The breathtaking beauty of this alien land manifested in the blue waters of the ocean, the bewitching landscape virtually swept Tagore off his feet. He had never see such a sight earlier.

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Para .. A fleeting encounter with a maid in an or chard

The small town of Brindishi didn’t have the daunting façade of the cities. The author found the place unusually quiet, but at the same time, very welcoming. The author’s didn’t have a placid dormant mind. He had already savoured the romance of literature, and had begun to dream. The two brothers stayed in an ordinary hotel with the most basic facilities. But, being in the land of Europe set his heart aflutter.

The next day, the author, his brother, and a Indian friend ventured out to a nearby orchard. The place was un-guarded and no one accosted them. Sun shone liberally over the orchard setting the garden lit with a golden glow. There was a youthful damsel plucking the grapes. She had a coloured scarf round her head. The author was spellbound by her charm. He was seventeen then, and the gush of manly instinct drew him to her. The sunlight accentuated her beauty. The author understood he was the guest in a foreign country, and must conduct himself with the required dignity.

Ninth Para .. Author explains why he has been sent to England

The encounter triggered no feelings in the other two, but for the author, it rekindled romantic instincts. The trio left the place soon. The author had been a problem pupil in his traditional skill. He used to be repelled by the walls of the school room. Finding his virtual refusal to be schooled in the traditional way, his guardians sent him to England so that he could learn good English – the language that held the key to respectability and accomplishment.

Tenth Para… England appears so cold, so distant

The author finaly landed in England – his destination. But it was winter, and the harsh chill made life quite unpleasant for him. The trees stood bare with all the leaves gone. There was hardly any crowd in the road. The usual bustle f an Indian city was sorely lacking. The contrast rattled the author, leaving him disconcerted and lonely. The place seemed so distant, and so unwelcoming. From his room’s window, he fixed his gaze at the Regent’s Park wondering what a bewildering land he had come to. Perhaps, he was too young to delve into the treasury of knowledge and enlightenment England held. He felt lost, pining for his homeland.

Eleventh Para ..Author returns home

After a stint of rigorous education, the author returned home, and felt more disinclined to pursue formal education that could give him a degree. He spent time in laziness doing little, but soon started writing stories, novels and poems. He wrote profusely, sitting in the bank f the Ganges. His restive mind found fulfillment in literature. He was oblivious of the tumultuous political changes that were happening around the world then.

Twelfth Para ..The seed of class room-free education is sown

The author’s mind underwent a sea change. He no longer liked to work in seclusion. Instead, he wanted to be among the crowd. He loved children, and loved to guide them as they grew up. He knew the system of class room education stifled and caged many young bright minds. He wanted these young minds to savour the taste of education in a free, unfettered environment. He chose a secluded place, away from the madding crowd, where he could school the students in the lap of Nature. 

Thirteenth Para ..New idea of education takes shape

While in the midst of this unique experiment with education, the author seemed to hear a distant call — a summon from the land where human endeavour and spirit had reached its pinnacle. He wanted to go on a pilgrimage again, to explore, learn, and feast his senses with the best of human civilization. He knew, his dream destination was Europe that stood at the forefront of humankind’s progress.

Fourteenth Para … World events unsettle the author

By then, the author was a well-read man. He had studied History, Literature and all such subjects. He had read the works of such eminent writers like Wordsworth. The hatred, oppression, exploitation, revenge, and wars that had ravaged the human race made him sorrowful. He had painfully concluded that man was the worst enemy of man. Despite such gloomy thoughts, the author remained an optimist. He felt the noble wisdom of mankind will eventually dispel the dark forces one day, ushering in an age of harmony, peace, progress and peace.

Fifteenth Para ..Visit to England brings more gloom

Sadly for the author, when he reached England, the whole f Europe was gripped with strife, discord, upheavals, and war. Mutual suspicion, envy, and avarice had bedevilled the land. Passion to create had ceded place to passion for destruction. The specter was was so depressing for the author.

Sixteenth Para ..The  lush green farms captivate the author

While travelling from Calais to England, the author got to see the lush-green fecund farms through which the train track ran. The bounty of the fields filled his heart with joy. He marvelled at the hardworking nature of the farmers who had grown the crops. These great sons of the soil had done extremely valuable service to their motherland. Their dedication deserved the highest praise, because through their sweat and sacrifice, they had brought security and sufficiency to their countries, and to the mankind at large. In the land where such worthy toiling men lived, misery couldn’t set foot. But, why was Europe so riven with the ugly and the unbearable’, wondered the thoughtful author.

Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Paras .. Author examines Europe’s boon and bane

The author reasons that Europe’s children did fairly well till their endeavour was restricted to solving their own lands’ problems. Through application of their intelligence, ingenuity and their penchant for perfection, they did quite well. They brought prosperity and plenty to themselves. However, with the advent of science and technology, new challenges emerged. Europe began to look far beyond its shores. Such adventure unleashed huge political, military and economic challenges. Harmony of earlier times was gone. In its place, came discord and dis-harmony.  Tempestuous events overtook Europe. She is still grappling with these new destructive forces. Solutions to the new challenges have eluded the Europeans so far. However daunting the task might appear, a holistic and enduring solution to the new challenges must be found. A wrong prescription may lead to unintended consequences. The bounty that God bestowed on Europe would soon become her bane. The abiding virtues like the love of justice, freedom, love f beauty that once characterised Europe would become the things of the past.

In the relentless pursuit of profit, production, trade, Europe would lose the nobler virtues of art, creativity, and the softer side of the human civilization. Tragically, this would disembowel Europe of her tender core. Deprivation, misery, and suffering would follow.

20th Para …Europe’s rise and her nightmares

The author proceeds to analyse how Europe could build her huge repository of the best of human achievements. According to him, it all came through patient pursuit of perfection. The patience was borne out of Love. The legendary artists of Europe would work endlessly to reach perfection on the tiniest of things. Such passionate effort, and perseverance are anathema to a quantity and profit-oriented commerce-driven society. Greed and creativity are quite opposite to each other.  Unfortunately, greed has overtaken Europe. This shift towards profit and gain has dispelled creativity and beauty from the human mind. The voices of sanity, restraint, and the sublime have become too feeble to be heard. Man’s inner voice is lost in the din of factories. 

21st Para .. Author stresses role of Science

The author laments the lucre associated with the unravelling of a profit-driven industrial economy, but applauds the march of Science. In this domain, Europe has led the world. Nature’s secrets have been gradually decoded, and the benefits have been passed on to the future generations of mankind. Europe has made stellar contribution in pushing back the limits of the Infinite, but so much more needs to be done. Europe must continue to stay the course in this regard. True happiness lies in relentlessly continuing the quest to unravel Nature. 

22nd Para .. Author underlines Materialism’s role in human welfare

The author tries to clear the air by stating that the material world in not all bad. He likens it to the nurse and cradle that nurture life, and the human spirit. Europe has taken to the material world. This has brought goods and conveniences to human living. Despite such involvement in commerce and manufacturing, Europe has continued to cross more milestones in the path of science. This is really laudable, thinks the author. However, the author cites a note of caution here. He thinks that Europeans must not be too possessive about whatever they have gained in science and wealth generation through industrialization. They must assume that the gains belong to the whole mankind. Through such generosity, they can lay their claim to real greatness.

23rd Para .. Science does not hold all Truths

Europe surged in Science because of the power of its citizens to observe, question, think, and analyze. This gift is a rare one, but keeping the new-found knowledge close to their chest would do the Europeans no good. They must willingly share the scientific gains with the rest of the world. By doing so, Europe’s best brains would redeem themselves. There are truths which do not come under the domain of Science. Such truths must be allowed to fuse with the ones unravelled by Science. Disregard of truths of other domains unrelated to Science is fraught and could have disatrous ramifications. Sadly, this is what is happening. All the evils that plagued Europe then were rooted in the neglect of truth from other non-science fields.

24th Para ….Author bemoans the misuse of Science

The author feels that the mightier the weapon you have, the stronger should be the restraint in using them. Science has unleashed great potential to do good, and also to wreak havoc. Without the wisdom to rein in its destructive forces, it runs amuck and brings calamity on earth. The author laments that Europe pioneered science, but failed to circumscribe its devilish power. As a result, Europe faces so much danger now. 

While crying out for peace, the people at the helm go ahead to invent more formidable weapons. So, more violence results. The craving for peace must come from within for it to be enduring. Peace imposed from outside by force has only limited effect. In matters of ensuring lasting peace and tranquility, the virtues of sympathy and self-sacrifice are more potent than the efficacy of mass mobilization.

25th and 26th Para … Science mustn’t lead to hubris and colonial instincts    

The author had always been an optimist. He believed that ultimately, the goodness of the human spirit would prevail. Like the Sun gets temporarily covered by clouds, the human spirit might be besmirched by evil instincts temporarily, but it would regain its radiance sooner or later. Some naive Europeans who cite their scientific prowess to justify their instinct to subjugate other peoples. However, like the earthquake unleashes great ferocity to shake the earth temporarily, the bombast of the colonizers would fall flat in the times to come. Some of these powers, who thought they could be eternally supreme by fostering the supremacy of their own nation, are beginning to crumble. Slowly, they are fading into the past. Quite logically, those nations who can think and act beyond their borders transcending narrow nationalism, can ultimately survive and prosper. In other words, the benefits of one’s progress must be shared with others for the gain to be lasting.

27th, and the last Para ..As the eternal optimist, the Author sees hope

Human beings who live in proximity with each other, and do not share each other’s joys and owes are not likely to thrive in the long run. By cocooning themselves within their own national confines, these self-centered people will self-destruct themselves. A day would come when the unified human spirit would prevail over parochial attitudes, and the whole human race would think and work like a single entity. That would signal the triumph of Truth.

Finally, the author humbly tells his listeners that he has come to Europe in search of the Voice of Humanity, which has been dampened by the clamour to amass power and wealth by the most brutal means. Fortunately, this dormant voice is beginning to be heard more clearly and loudly. With time, this would assume the level of a thunder which no one can ignore.

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Readers are invited to send their comments on this interpretation of Tagore’s thoughts.

 

ISC English –The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

September 6, 2017 at 2:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

About the author .. Kate Chopin(1850-1904) is remembered as much as for her gripping short stories, as for her pioneering role in American feminist movement. She believed in the institution of marriage as any normal woman, but her inner self told her relentlessly that wives must have the liberty to profess their views with no hindrance, and do things they liked without seeking the permission of their husbands. Born in St. Luis, Missouri, she had a French mother and an Irish father. She was widowed prematurely, but the disaster proved to be blessing as it enabled her to plunge into writing with all her time and energy.
In her novel ‘The Awakening’, she gives enough indication about her strong belief in women’s emancipation and the idea f equality of the sexes. ‘The Story of an Hour’, she has portrayed the feelings of a woman who receives the news of her husband’s death with equanimity and subdued glee because as a widow she could live own life. The dream is shattered moments later when the ‘dead’ husband appears alive in person

The story …

Mrs. Mallard had just lost her husband in a train accident. Being widowed at a relatively young age is a shattering tragedy for a woman. Besides this, she had a cardiac history, so everyone took extraordinary care to soften the blow before breaking the news to her. It fell on Josephine to communicate the news to her elder sister. Josephine spoke in tits and bits, in indirect language, and in a way, so that the news didn’t strike Mrs. Millard too hard.

Their family friend Richards had brought the news of the train accident that had proved fatal for Mr. Millard. In the list of passengers list killed in the accident, Mr. Millard’s name surely was there. Richards had cross-checked it through a second telegram, before coming to convey the news to the bereaved wife.

Mrs. Millard’s reaction to the news was a bit unusual. She didn’t become benumbed and still, as most women react on first hearing the news of the death of their husbands. Instead, she cried loudly and wildly in Josephine’s hands. After a while, the tumult and the frenzy began to calm somewhat. Mrs. Millard rushed into her room, bolted it from inside, and locked herself. Everyone though, most likely she wanted to be left alone in that hour of grief.

Inside the room, there was a comfortable cane chair kept facing a large window. One could see trees with lush foliage. Spring was setting on. It had rained for a while. A hawker carried his ware a little distance away. Sparrows had been twittering in the eaves exuberantly. Cloud hovered in the sky. A lone singer was singing somewhere afar.

In the comfortable cane chair. Mrs. Millard seated herself appearing as if unable to take the burden of the grief. 

The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

About the author .. Kate Chopin(1850-1904) is remembered as much as for her gripping short stories, as for her pioneering role in American feminist movement. She believed in the institution of marriage as any normal woman, but her inner self told her relentlessly that wives must have the liberty to profess their views with no hindrance, and do things they liked without seeking the permission of their husbands. Born in St. Luis, Missouri, she had a French mother and an Irish father. She was widowed prematurely, but the disaster proved to be blessing as it enabled her to plunge into writing with all her time and energy.
In her novel ‘The Awakening’, she gives enough indication about her strong belief in women’s emancipation and the idea f equality of the sexes. ‘The Story of an Hour’, she has portrayed the feelings of a woman who receives the news of her husband’s death with equanimity and subdued glee because as a widow she could live own life. The dream is shattered moments later when the ‘dead’ husband appears alive in person

The story … 

Mrs. Mallard had just lost her husband in a train accident. Being widowed at a relatively young age is a shattering tragedy for a woman.  Besides this, she had a cardiac history, so everyone took extraordinary care to soften the blow before breaking the news to her. It fell on Josephine to communicate the news to her elder sister. Josephine spoke in tits and bits, in indirect language, and in a way, so that the news didn’t strike Mrs. Millard too hard.

Their family friend Richards had brought the news of the train accident that had proved fatal for Mr. Millard. In the list of passengers list killed in the accident, Mr. Millard’s name surely was there. Richards had cross-checked it through a second telegram, before coming to convey the news to the bereaved wife.

Mrs. Millard’s reaction to the news was a bit unusual. She didn’t become benumbed and still, as most women react on first hearing the news of the death of their husbands. Instead, she cried loudly and wildly in Josephine’s hands. After a while, the tumult and the frenzy began to calm somewhat. Mrs. Millard rushed into her room, bolted it from inside, and locked herself. Everyone though, most likely she wanted to be left alone in that hour of grief.

Inside the room, there was a comfortable cane chair kept facing a large window. One could see trees with lush foliage. Spring was setting on. It had rained for a while. A hawker carried his ware a little distance away.  Sparrows had been twittering in the eaves exuberantly. Cloud hovered in the sky. A lone singer was singing somewhere afar.

In the comfortable cane chair, Mrs. Millard seated herself as if unable to take the burden of the grief. A torrent of thoughts seemed to pass through her mind. She was sad, no doubt, but she was experiencing something different. She looked vacantly at the distant sky, gazing into the clouds. Perhaps, she was trying to imagine her life as a widow. She reminisced about her married life. It was both sour and sweet. Her husband loved her, no doubt, but disagreements often marred their marital bliss. The loss was tragic, but she must come to turns with it sooner r later. She must do the rebuilding task on her own terms, not pushed or influenced by anyone else.

She felt that she was ‘free’ at last. The thought was exciting. She saw an opportunity here –to do things she liked without being fettered by anything or anyone else’s overpowering influence. She was beginning to feel happy at the prospect of living an un-shackled life. After some serious introspection, she convinced herself that the deliverance from married life was a welcome opening indeed. She looked forward to a joyous life in the coming years.

Josephine, overcome with trepidation, was frantically trying to come in and see her bereaved sister. From outside the locked door, she screamed at her elder sister to open the door and let her in. Mrs. Millard didn’t like to be disturbed from her reverie. Optimism had returned. She looked forward expectantly to the months ahead. She seemed to have triumphed over her misfortune.

Finally, she opened the door to let Josephine in. She exuded rare self-confidence and hope. She clung to her sister and both of them went downstairs. Richard was waiting there.

Something utterly unbelievable happened. Brently Millard came in opening the front door by his key. As usual, he was carrying his umbrella and grip-sack. He looked somewhat tired. He was blissfully unaware of the accident as he happened to be in a different location when the mishap happened.

Mr. Millard had a quizzical look in his eyes. Josephine recoiled in horror on seeing him, standing before her in person. The shock was perhaps too much for Mrs. Millard. Her reverie had been smashed by hard reality.

Mrs. Millard couldn’t possibly bear it. She breathed her last.

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ISC English –Quality by John Galsworthy

September 1, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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ISC English

Quality by John Galsworthy

About the author ….John Galsworthy (1867–1933), the celebrated English novelist and playwright will remain in the minds of readers for his campaign against class divide, materialistic pursuits and appalling conditions in prisons. He wrote The Forsyte Saga to vent his indignation against the Victorian values that divided the society on the basis of wealth and affluence. Although he came from a very well-to-do family of businessmen, he rebelled against the mad pursuit to amass wealth, denial of equal status to women, and indifference to the basic human rights of prisoners, and many such human rights issues. He won the 1932 Nobel Prize in Literature in 1932. But he was too ill to receive it in person. John Glossworthy will be remembered for his novels The White Monkey (1924), The Silver Spoon (1926), Swan Song (1928). Maid in Waiting (1931), Flowering Wilderness (1932), and Over the River (1933).

About this story .. ‘Quality’ is a short story about a master shoe-maker who was fanatically fastidious about the shoes he made with his own hand. He had some loyal customers, but not many as he lathed advertising, sales promotion, and all such means of modern-day business. In commercial acumen, he was a naïve, but in dedication to his work, he was second to none. Sadly, he died because, lost in shoe-making, he forgot to feed himself. Lack of food, coupled with punishing involvement in his work did him in.

The story ..

Two brothers, both ace shoe-makers lived and worked in a nondescript shop in a alley in the fashionable West End area of London. The author’s acquaintance with the duo went back many years to his adolescent years. His father used to patronize the shoe-making shop for getting his bespoke shoes made.

The shop had no flashy signage, no bright light, except a dull-looking name board that read Gessler Brothers. The name seemed German, so did their accent. In the window, the two brothers had kept a pair of shoes, perhaps to announce to the public that it was but a tiny shoe-making unit. There was a reason behind such modesty, because the two brothers made only customized foot wear. They didn’t make standard-sized shoes in large numbers for the market.

The shoe maker made shoes with his own hands, with delicacy and care, so that they fitted the wearer’s feet perfectly. He also made the finest light dancing shoes using the finest leather. He also made tall brown riding shoes that seemed almost new after long years of use. Rare artisanship was the hallmark of the shoes coming out of the hands of this shoe-maker.

In his youthful young days, the author seldom thought about the uniqueness of the shop. By the age of fourteen, the author began to realize that it was no ordinary cobbler’s shop, but the work place of two splendid craftsmen. The place seemed so intriguingly wonderful.

On one occasion, the author walked up to the shoe-maker to say that the pair of walking-boots supplied by him had creaked.

The complaint left Gessler flummoxed for a while. He perhaps couldn’t believe the shoes made by him could ever fray like this. With incredulous eyes, he asked the author if the tearing of the leather had occurred before the shoes were worn. The author denied it.

Gessler seemed lost in thought. He was perhaps trying to recollect when and how he had made the pair of shoes. Then, quite unhesitatingly, he asked the author to bring the shoes, so that he could examine them. The seriousness with which Gessler took the complaint made the author uneasy.

Gessler said that some boots made by him had defects from the beginning. Quite sportingly, he offered to refund the cost f the shoes, if they were really bad. The refund offer came after the author had worn them for long!

On another occasion, the author went in to order a new pair of shoes. He was wearing a pair of shoes procured from some other shop. While taking the order Gessler had noticed that his customer wore shoes made by someone else. He eyed the author’s footwear with incisive keenness. With a mixture of hurt pride and subtle disapproval, he commented that the pair of shoes in the author’s feet were not his products. By a feel of his finger, he could ascertain where the shoe hurt the wearer.

The author’s ready-made pair of shoes had struck a raw cord in Gessler’s heart. He began a monologue deriding the large shoe making companies who mass produce the items without adequate attention to the comforts of their customers. Quite clearly, Gessler was annoyed at the commercial approach of the big firms. He railed against their advertising, sales promotion, and everything else they did to entice the buyer at the cost of quality. Their ultimate aim is to maximize their profits. Such derisive comments seldom came to Gessler. Displeasure and annoyance were palpable in his face, wrinkled by years of toil in his trade.

The author was moved by the commitment and dedication of Gessler to his trade. He felt bad that he had some time back complained about the boot he had bought from this master artisan. To make amends for any feelings of hurt he might have caused to the embittered artisan, the author ordered quite a few pair of shoes on him. The shoes were so well made that they lasted for ages, almost driving the author to the point of boredom. For two years, the author couldn’t think of buying any more shoes.

When he went there after the lapse of two years, the author was surprised to see that one of the two windows of the old shop bore a signboard. It brazenly claimed patronage of the royal household. It was a brutal and shocking makeover. It became clear that another business had started operating from the premises.

It soon emerged that Gessler had rented out a part of the shop to curtail cost.

The author came back gain to order more shoes. He ordered three pairs instead of two. 

The author had developed a sentimental bonding with Gessler’s shop that made him return there again and again.

The visit had some unpleasant surprises for the author. He learnt that the elder of the duo had died. The author was indeed quite sorry to know of this. Worries borne out of slack business and the resulting difficulties had forced the two brothers to give up one shop. The loss apparently drove the elder brother to death.

The author ordered a few more pairs of shoes. This time, the supplies came late. The author wore them to great delight. Soon, he left for abroad. He returned to London after a year.

He went to see his favourite shoe-maker, but the encounter was not  very pleasant. Gessler had battled poor business, loss of his brother, and despondency. The continuing distress had taken a toll of his physical and mental condition. He looked so haggard, and broken. He had aged fifteen years in just one year of dull business. At first, he failed to recognize the author.

The author started his conversation by heaping praise on the boots he bought from the old shoe maker. 

Quite characteristically for Gessler, his attention fell on the author’s shoes. He felt it by his own hands and lovingly remembered that he had put in a good deal of effort to make it.

The shoemaker had practically. So, he was glad to take the author’s orders for fresh pairs of shoes. He felt the author’s feet and toes with the utmost care to determine how he was going to get a perfect fit.

The four pairs of shoes arrived at the author’s place one evening. The author tried them one by one. In fit, finish and workmanship, these were perfect. Strangely, although a long time had elapsed, the shoe man had charged the same old rate. The author paid off the amount.

A week later, the author went to Gessler’s place to talk about the excellent shoes he had made. But, what he discovered devastated him. Gessler’s name board had vanished, although other items were still there. With heart pounding, the author stepped in. A completely different man met him, not Gessler. He started soliciting order in the usual salesmanship ways.

When the author demanded to know where Gessler was, the man disclosed that he was dead. It sent a chill down his spine.

To add to the author’s horror, the man disclosed that Gessler had starved himself to death. Towards his final days, orders came few and far between. Gessler found the going hard. When any order came, Gessler worked very hard without rest or food to supply the orders in time. His body couldn’t cope with the punishing schedule. Despite his failing strength, he poured his heart out to the shoes he made. He was a shoemaker par excellence, but was poorly equipped to stand up to the commercial monster farms that dominate the trade. With the demise of the man, the fine art of shoe-making was lost forever from the face of the earth.

The curtains had come down on the life of a shoe maker of astounding dexterity and dedication. The passing away of this remarkable man left a wound in the heart of the author because he adored the humble shoe maker so much.

————————————END——————————

Question .. Write the character sketch of Gessler listing his strengths and failings.

 

 

 

——————————-To be continued——————————–

ISC English –The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

August 27, 2017 at 11:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy

About THE AUTHR … Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born in a not so well-to-do family. His father worked as a stone mason. His mother, however, was a gifted woman who took charge of Hardy’s education from the beginning. Hardy’s parents lacked the means to send him to university, so he was made to work as an apprentice with an architect. Hardy flourished in this field and, in due course, earned a name as an architect of repute. His heart, however, lay in literature. In later years, he devoted his time wholly to writing. He wrote poems, short stories and novels.

Reading Hardy must include his novels like ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’, and ‘The Return of the Native’. Among his poems, one might choose ‘Poems of Past and Present’, and ‘Moments of Vision’. In short story writing too, he excelled winning the admiration of countless readers. ‘A Tragedy of Two Ambitions’, ‘A Mere Interlude’ and ‘Alicia’s Diary’ are just a few of the long list of Hardy’s short stories.

The poem ..  

Hardy wrote this poem in 1900. It was the end of twentieth century. By then he has 60, and the old age was beginning to ravage him. Life expectancy in England was around 40 then. Was it his old age, or the depressing social conditions of England that bothered him? Perhaps, both. Hardy was ill at ease with the class-ridden, tradition-trapped Victorian age. He was born in a humble family, and his modest upbringing made him rail against the power and privileges of the elite class. The deeply-entrenched moral values stifled free thinking, and filled the average person’s life with needless misery. Hardy loathed such an archaic set up, but he could do nothing to reverse it, other than venting his desperation through his writings. The Darkling Thrush, perhaps, bears the marks of Hardy’s anguish and pessimism.

Stanza 1 …  

I leant upon a coppice gate 

      When Frost was spectre-grey, 

And Winter’s dregs made desolate 

      The weakening eye of day. 

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky 

      Like strings of broken lyres, 

And all mankind that haunted nigh 

      Had sought their household fires. 

Meaning … The insufferable winter is drawing near. There is snow everywhere. Life on earth is grinding to a halt. The landscape looks so lifeless, so ghoulish. The speaker leans over a gate that stood amidst shrubs and plants. His eyes fall on the tree that stands bereft of its foliage. The winter’s chill has stripped the tree of its leaves. Only the twigs and stems are left to peer skywards. They look like a derelict musical string instrument, whose strings are cut. Folks have retreated to their homes to escape the biting cold outside. Daily activities have been cut to the minimum in such a forbiding environment.

Stanza 2 …

The land’s sharp features seemed to be 

      The Century’s corpse outleant, 

His crypt the cloudy canopy, 

      The wind his death-lament. 

The ancient pulse of germ and birth 

      Was shrunken hard and dry, 

And every spirit upon earth 

      Seemed fervourless as I. 

Meaning .. The whole place looks so devoid of any activity. There is no hustle bustle, no exuberance, and nothing to cheer for. The town’s mortuary stands silent and alone. A dark cloud hovers over it to further accentuate the gloom and doom feeling. The wind blows with a deadly howl. There is no birth, no regeneration and no revival. Life seems to be trapped in an ice age. The speaker’s mood, like that of every other  denizen, appears so insipid and lackluster.

Stanza 3 …

At once a voice arose among 

      The bleak twigs overhead 

In a full-hearted evensong 

      Of joy illimited; 

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, 

      In blast-beruffled plume, 

Had chosen thus to fling his soul 

      Upon the growing gloom. 

Meaning ….Amidst this deafening silence and graveyard-like  doom and despondency, the speaker hears a strange loud sound emanating from the background of the dry lifeless twigs and stems of the nearby tree. It catches the speaker by surprise. The strange sound seems to announce that hope and health is returning. The speaker discovers that an old, enfeebled thrush with frayed plumes is crying out.  But, the intent of the thrush in making the cry, when all life forms are on the verge of eternal silence, baffles the speaker. ‘What could be the bird’s motivation?, wonders the speaker.

Stanza 4 …

So little cause for carolings 

      Of such ecstatic sound 

Was written on terrestrial things 

      Afar or nigh around, 

That I could think there trembled through 

      His happy good-night air 

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew 

      And I was unaware. 

Meaning … The thrush’s energetic cry obviously was not announcing the advent of cataclysm and death. ‘Then, what was it?,’ ponders the speaker. He concludes that the thrush perhaps knew that everything in this world was not doomed yet, and there was still hope. May be, good times would soon return, but the speaker was unaware of any such good tidings.

—————————–END————————

ISC English literature — Salvatore by W. Somerset Maugham

August 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Salvatore by W. Somerset Maugham

About the author .. Rarely has English literature produced such a prolific short story writer, playwright, and novelist as Dr. Somerset Maugham(1874-1965). This literary genius, born in a family of legal luminaries, spurned a career in law, although it offered him assured success. He studied medicine, and qualified as a doctor, but rarely practiced what he had been trained for. Except a stint with the Red Cross, Somerset Maugham never took to treating patients. However, his encounter with many poor suffering patients during his medical education had a profound influence on him. He began writing when he was in college studying to become a doctor. His first novel, ‘Liza of Lambeth’ dealt with infidelity prevalent among middle class men and women during those times, and the painful consequences of such unfaithfulness among spouses. The book soon flew off the shelves, giving Maugham a flying start to Maugham’s literary ambitions.
Maugham was born in France, educated in England, and lived in Spain. He travelled extensively throughout South East Asia and India observing the ways of the Eastern societies. In his six decades of writing life, he turned out many spectacular novels, short story collections and even thrillers. ‘The Magician’ (1908) captivated thriller-loving readers. At one time, London’s four opera houses were simultaneously running four of Maugham’s plays. This speaks volumes about the way the readers loved Maugham’s writings.
Maugham had a flawed romantic life, that raised eyebrows in the contemporary Victorian society, but his literary brilliance overshadowed this little distortion.

About this story ‘Salvatore’ .. This short story is set in a tiny remote fishing village in Italy. It centers around Salvatore, a young 15-year-old happy-go-lucky lad who has grown up in a fisherman’s family. He whiles away his time blithely in the sea beach. Salvatore had two young siblings, who gamboled in the shallow waters of the sea. When they went a bit far, Salvatore used to yell at them to come ashore.

The scrawny Salvatore stepped into his adulthood sooner than later. He was enamoured of a girl from Grande Marina who bore her charm with dignity. The courtship went on, but Salvatore couldn’t marry his sweetheart. He had to complete his conscription in the navy, before he could settle down. It was a daunting, but inescapable obligation that made Salvatore nervous and fearful. It was not the horrors of battle, but the prospect of leaving home that made Salvatore anxious.

Aboard the naval ship, in sailor’s uniform, Salvatore gazed at the horizon and remembered the sunset over Ischia that he used to watch every evening. This island situated to the north of the Gulf of Naples looked majestic when the sun dipped into the horizon. Salvatore yearned for Marina. The pangs of separation from her filled his mind with gloom. Salvatore was very forlorn.

His ship passed through Spezzia, Venice, and Bari before reaching China. Misfortune awaited Salvatore at China. He was afflicted by a debilitating disease, and had to be admitted to a hospital in that distant country. The doctor said that Salvatore had contacted a virulent strain of rheumatism, and wouldn’t be able to do heavy manual work for the rest f his life. The hospital’s findings came as  bolt from the blue for Salvatore, but it brought a huge relief to the home-sick and love-sick young man. He knew he would be discharged from the navy forthwith. That meant deliverance from the battle ship, and most importantly, an early return to his lady love. It cheered Salvatore to the point of being ecstatic.

Salvatore headed home. In the final lap of his journey, he was rowed ashore to the beach where his parents, friends and a whole crowed waited for him. Salvatore looked at them gleefully, but there was one person missing. Grande Marina was not there to welcome her darling home. It puzzled Salvatore. The waiting crowd kissed and hugged Salvatore, but he missed the kiss he most wanted. His fiancee’s absence filled Salvatore’s mind with angst.

Salvatore’s mother said that she had not seen the girl for two or three weeks. It added to his anxiety. He couldn’t wait any longer. As dusk fell, he went to his beloved’s house the same evening to meet her. To his great distress, he got a cold stare from her. She stood detached. He asked her if she hadn’t received the letter he had written about his return. He told her reassuringly that the doctor’s diagnosis was a bit exaggerated, and he would soon be fit and fine. Again, the maiden showed no emotion. Salvatore looked quizzically into her eyes, but she remained aloof. Finally, she dropped the bombshell. In clear terms, she told Salvatore that he was crippled, and couldn’t work hard enough to earn a living. So, she has decided to go by her father’s decision that she must marry someone else fit enough to be the bread earner of the family. She told that it was her family’s unanimous decision. Her father simply couldn’t give her to a man who can’t slog like an able-bodied fisherman.

Salvatore trudged back home with the grief gnawing at his heart incessantly. Back at home, he discovered, to his dismay, that his family members were aware of the girl’s decision, and they had held back the news from him.

Clearly, Salvatore was devastated. He let his tears wet his mother’s bosom. But, the rancor and the indignation were not there in his mind. Unlike what most young lovers would do, he didn’t blame her for her decision to abandon him. He understood marrying a semi-crippled young man would have been untenable for a working class fishing family. He bore his misfortune with remarkable fortitude.

Months rolled by. Salvatore resumed his toil in his father’s vineyard and fishing trips. He soon came to terms with his life without Marina.

His mother had a news to break for her lonely son. She said there was a young woman by the name Assunta in the community who was willing to marry him. Salvatore’s initial comment about the girl was rather disparaging. She had no great looks, and was older than him. Her fiancé had died in battle somewhere in Africa. Assunta was ready to tie the knot, if Salvatore agreed.

Apart from this, his mother disclosed that Assunta had some money with her. After marriage, she could buy a fishing boat and rent a vine yard, so that the couple could make a living with ease. Moreover, Assunta had developed a fascination for him after she saw him at the festa. 

Salvatore decided to see the girl. The following Sunday, he dressed himself smartly in black to look robust, and sat in a vantage point in the Church from where he could see Assunta properly. Salvatore agreed to make Assunta his wife. He told his mother about it.

The couple lived in a tiny white-washed cottage at the middle of the vine yard. Salvatore had become a stout, jolly, and hard-working guy. He had retained his childlike air, his pleasing eyes, and his cool demeanour. He, accompanied by his younger brother, went into the sea at evening, caught the lucrative cuttlefish, and rowed back early so that he could sell the catch to the ships bound for Naples. During the days he didn’t go out fishing, he worked in his vineyard from dawn to dusk, with a short break in the afternoon.

The rheumatism returned sporadically making it very hard for him to work. He would then indolently lie on the beach, smoking cigarettes and gazing at the sea. He bore the rheumatic pain stoically, and had a friendly chat with those passing by him.

On some occasions, he brought his children to bathe them in the sea waters. The two boys abhorred being pushed into the waters. The elder demurred lightly, but the younger one screamed with fright. Salvatore was a genteel loving father who poured affection on his two sons. It was remarkable how the trio enjoyed their beach outings with warmth and togetherness.

Maugham’s account of Salvatore has no heroics, no chivalry, no melodrama. Yet, Salvatore’s character exudes the values that make a person adorable. His life, very ordinary and mundane, radiates goodness, at every step.

———————————END—————————-

Question …

Look into Salvatore’s life through Maugham’s eyes, and discover the goodness of his character that impressed the author.

[Answer will be posted soon.]

 

 

ISC English literature –Fritz by Satyajit Ray

August 21, 2017 at 11:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Fritz by Satyajit Ray

A word about Satyajit Ray .. Satyajit Ray(1921-92) was a man of cinematography and all other art forms that go with it. Born and brought up in Calcutta, Ray started his career as a low-paid commercial artist. Despite such a humble beginning, the flame of creativity burned in him from the very beginning. His chance encounter with the French film maker Jean Renoir marked a watershed in this master artist’s life. He saw the film Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio de Sica, and from then on, Ray plunged into the world of cinema with all his gusto and verve. Paucity of finance, and many such odds came his way, but he overcame them with remarkable tenacity. He was determined to experiment with film making, because there was no way he could put a lid his restive genius bemoaning his lack f resources.
Satyajit Ray soon rose to fame like a Phoneix. His first film Pather Panchali (1955) based on a middle-class Bengali family won him eleven international awards. With this debut Ray had arrived in the international film-making arena. He wrote stories, their screenplay, music, and directed them to the minutest detail. Among his later day films are Aparojito, Apur Sansar, and The Apu Trilogy. His film Devi and Charulata are acclaimed as two of the best art films ever made anywhere in the world.

Satyajit Ray was a brilliant writer too, who could conjure up complex plots out of very ordinary situations. ‘Fritz’ set in a British-era rest house in a small town named Bundi in Rajasthan grips the reader’s attention till the last scene when it plunges him to a cauldron of fear, confusion, and chimera.

The story … The short story is set in a circuit house (a dak bungalow generally used by senior government officers for short stays). It is situated in Bundi, a small town in Rajastan. Two visitors, the author Shankar, and his childhood friend Jayanto have come to explore Bundi, and are put up in the guest house. Jayanto works in a newspaper office and the author teaches in a school. After so many misses, they have managed to get a time slot when they could go out on a journey together.

They are having tea in the circuit house. Jayanto appears lost in some thoughts. The author inquires to know what bothers Jayanto so much. He replies by saying that the faint memories of his first visit to Bundi are rushing into his mind.

Jayanto’s father Animesh Dashgupta used to work in the Archeological Department. His work brought him so many times to Rajasthan – the repository of India’s ancient monuments. Although he was a young child then, the sojourn to Bundi had not quite faded from Jayanto’s mind. The magnificent building stood still there. A few items of furniture he saw then are there too giving an impression of timelessness of the place. Jayanto becomes nostalgic as he recollects the tall rooms, the ventilators tethered to strings, the rose plants outside. The trees stood tall giving refuge to parrots and so many other birds. Jayanto remembered these vividly.

The two friends stepped out sightseeing. They go to see the famous fort of Bundi standing aside the hills. 

Time seemed to stand still in the Fort’s vicinity. Everything looked so antiquated, belonging to the bygone era. Only the electric pole standing by the road declared that the old times had yielded place to new age. In the old buildings along the roads, there were unmistakable signs of the old Rajputana’s fabled craftsmanship. The doors and the balconies had intricate designs made on them. The old golden age of master craftsmanship appeared to come alive.

Jayanto was an emotional man by nature. After he landed in Bundi, he seemed to be unusually quiet, and somewhat absent-minded. Perhaps, the sights and sounds of Bundi had stirred a delicate chord in his heart. Jayanto’s palpable sadness didn’t escape Shankar’s notice.

Jayanto reminisces about the large rooms and the over-sized chairs of the circuit house. He used to sit cross-legged on those big chairs. Now, everything seems to have shrunk in size. Shankar dispels his confusion by stating that he has grown in size over the years and that makes him feel so.

Jayanto and Shankar decide to take a stroll outside in the open. After a while, Jayanto seems to be struck by the memory of a Deodar tree that used to stand around that place. He looks somewhat bewildered, and looks around to find the tree. He finds it after a few moments and appears quite excited to discover the Deodar tree there.

Jayanto’s euphoria takes his friend by surprise. Jayanto fixes his gaze on the trunk of the tree and looks into it searchingly. He exclaims that he had an encounter with an European here. The author’s surprise mounts.

Jayanto struggles to recollect what really had happened then.

The two friends return to their room. Dilwar is there to cook food for the guests. Dilwar was red-eyed, with a scarred face, but in culinary skill, he was quite adept.

Jayanto had in the meanwhile re collected a fair portion of his faded memory – about the place and the ‘European’.

It emerged that Fritz was a doll brought from Switzerland by his uncle during his visit to a village there. Fritz was an one-foot tall Swiss gentleman attired in Swiss clothes. It look so real as a living being. The stuff it was made of rendered it very flexible and elastic. One could bend it or twist it at will.

Jayanto, as a child, took great fancy with Fritz. He treated the Swiss gentleman as his friend. Jayanto’s parents frowned to see their little son so attached to the doll. 

Shankar heard out his friend’s infatuation with the Swiss doll amusedly.

 Jayanto was however deeply engrossed in his memories of Fritz. A shocking tragedy befell Fritz. On one occasion, Jayanto had kept him on the floor while taking tea. For a moment, he had taken his eyes off the doll. A group of stray dogs came from nowhere and snatched the doll. They bit and dragged Fritz with savage force. Poor Fritz endured the excruciating pain silently. By the time Jayanto saw Fritz again just minutes later, Fritz had been ripped apart badly. He was scarred and bruised beyond recognition. With great disbelief and shock, Jayanto looked at his dear Fritz, and assumed he was dead.

Jayanto decided to bid his friend a final good-bye. He arranged to have him buried in the compound of the Circuit House, under a Deodar tree.

Shankar, now, realized why his friend was so agitated about speaking about the Deodat tree.

The two friends retired to their beds as the night deepened. 

The author slept off as he was tired after the long walk during the day. Sometime later, he woke up abruptly to find that his perplexed friend sitting on the bed. Apparently, he had switched the bedside lamp. Tension was writ large in his face. He didn’t answer to Shankar’s query.

Quite abstractly, he asked the author if the bungalow had small creatures like rats and cats. Jayanto had felt a small creature walking over his chest when he was asleep. This had woken him up. No doubt, he was frightened.

He told the author that this was the second time he had got up from his sleep. He had heard an unusual shuffling noise the first time. At this, Shankar looked around the room to spot the nocturnal intruder, but the search was futile. Jayanto was still disturbed. To prove his point, he showed his pillow that had some faint marks pointing to the fact that a small animal had walked over it.

Shanker felt his friend’s anxiety exaggerated. He told his friends some reassuring words to soothe his nerves. After a bit of coaxing and pleading, Jayanto went to sleep again, so did the author.

Next morning, they finished their breakfast by 9, and went to the fort. Jayanto again seemed immersed in his old memories of the place. He looked excited to re-discover the statutes of the elephant, the royal throne and the beds. All the while, he appeared a bit lost too. 

The two friends began to walk back very leisurely. After a while, Jayanto had quietly slipped and gone to the corner of the terrae. With a little effort, Shankar found his friend, but the latter seemed to be fully plunged in some thoughts. He stood absent-minded.

The two friends decided to return, although Shankar (the author) had wanted to stay in the fort a little longer. Jayanto was perturbed by some unknown thoughts. He was not at all his usual self.

Jayanto asked his friend persistently to tell him what lay behind his disturbed mind. After a of effort, Jayanto opened up. He told that Fritz, the long-lost doll, had come to their room the night before. He ascribed the marks on his quilt to Fritz’s footprints.

The author was beginning to feel annoyed at his friend’s irrational fear. He thought, he needs to be given some medicine to calm his troubled mind.

The author (Shankar) hit upon an idea that could dispel the fear of the ‘dead and destroyed’ Fritz from his friend’s mind. He felt exhuming Fritz’s remains from his grave would rove to his troubled friend that the doll had simply vanished into the oblivion. After thirty long years in contact with soil, everything of Fritz would have been eaten up. At the best, rusted and corroded remains of his metal buckle would be there. This should convince Jayanto that Fritz  is gone for good from the face f the earth.

The idea of exhuming Fritz appealed to Jayanto. With the help of the gardener of the bungalow, they went to the exact spot where Jayanto felt his Fritz was buried.

After not much digging, the gardener hit upon the obect the duo were so keenly looking for. But, a nasty surprise awaited them. What the gardener retrieved from the soil was not some rusted metal piece, but a tiny human skeleton of a foot length. It was so real, but so frightening. The two friends recoiled in horror in seeing a foot long human skeleton.

Disturbing thoughts rushed into the two friends like a torrent. Was Fritz a human who still yearned for Jayanto’s company?


Questions …

a. Why was Jayanto appearing so absent-minded during the trip to Bundi?

Answer .. Jayanto had lived in Bundi in his childhood days. During this period, he had developed an enduring relationship with the doll named Fritz. The two bonded very well, and Jayanto  treated Fritz like a real human being in flesh and blood and an endearing charm. The relationship ended tragically when Fritz was brutally shredded by a pack of stray dogs. Fritz was buried, but his memory clung to Jayanto’s heart. The visit to Bundi rekindled these memories leaving Jayanto engulfed with memories of Fritz. This was the reason why Jayanto looked so absent-minded.

b. How did the author try to assuage Jayanto’s mind during the night?

Answer .. The author rightly judged Jayanto’s angst about some nocturnal visitors to their room as un-founded and irrational fear. He tried to calm his friend’s nerves by reassuring him that nothing untoward had happened and there was little to lose one’s sleep on. The author looked around the room himself to see if indeed any creature had made his way in, and there was none. Even he toyed with the idea of giving his perplexed friend some tranquilizer tablets to enable him to regain his composure.

c. How the story comes to a bone-chilling end?

Answer .. The story was heading towards a lame end until the discovery of the remnants of the toy Fritz were exhumed. The author perhaps expected to see nothing except some rusted buckles or some such scrap. But, what was found was so outworldly and bizarre. The discovery of a tiny human skeleton from the grave of a supple-bodied doll was so horrifying and grisly. Was Jayanto right in treating Fritz like a living human? The question defied any answer.

 

————————————–END————————

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Children by Charles Lamb

August 18, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dream Children by Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb(1774-1834) didn’t live long, but he made stellar contribution to English literature through his essays, short stories, and poems. His personal life was beset with many problems. A lunatic elder sister, a futile romance, and his struggle with mental illness didn’t, however, dim his creativity with the pen. He courted a girl named Ann Simmons for seven long years, but she broke his heart by marrying a silversmith. The broken affair cast a long shadow over Lamb’s life, and he decided to remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. His sister Mary, older than him by eleven years, was bit of a mentally deranged woman. In a feat of rage, she once impelled a kitchen knife into her mother’s chest, killing her on the spot. Charles Lamb, despite his meager earnings, never left his sister Mary t fend for herself. He took good care of her arranging for her treatment from time to time as she swung between normalcy and instability periodically. Even Charles Lamb had a six-week stint in a mental hospital to rid himself of his partial lunacy.
He worked for a living in East India House as a clerk. In his free hours he wrote his pieces.
Charles Lamb was fortunate to have literary icons like Samuel Taylor Coleridge as his close friend. Lamb poured out his grief to Coleridge through many pensive letters.

About ‘Dream Children’ ….Dream Children is a short that formed part of Lamb’s ‘The Essays of Elia’. Lamb wrote under the pen name of Elia. It is an autobiographical account of the author’s life that was riddled with so many tragedies. As the name of the story suggests, it is a ‘reverie’, meaning that it is nothing but a short day dream conjured by the author. The dream comes to an abrupt and sad end. Almost all characters are real except Alice, who is none other than Ann Simmons, who married another man leaving Charles in a sea of agony.

The characters .. Mrs. Field .. Charles Lab’s great grandmother
Uncle John … The elder brother of the author who was older than him by about 14 years
Alice .. An imagnary girl, through whose eyes Lamb saw her beloved Ann.
John .. A boy imagined by the author

Background to the story and Lamb’s character sketch .. Charles Lamb was undoubtedly a benign man. He bore his misfortune with remarkable fortitude. To see one’s mother fatally stabbed by one’s own sister for no great reason would devastate anyone. Lamb, too, was shaken by this grim tragedy, but, far from being vengeful towards his sister Mary, he strove to see that the minimum punishment was awarded to her. Later, he took Mary to the mental treatment clinic multiple times to nurse her back to normal life. Even Lamb had his bouts of mental illness followed by a short stay in a hospital. Although the girl he loved so much ditched him after seven long years, he showed no vengfulness. He dedicated his time, money and energy to serve his sister Mary. He chose to remain a bachelor —  a great sacrifice for such a talented young man.

Charles Lamb yearned to marry, raise a family and lead a full life, but fate ordained otherwise. Obviously, he loved children and must have spent countless nights pining for a wife, and his own children. This reverie bears testimony to the cravings of his heat and the trauma of his soul.

The story (A fictional one) .. In the opening lines, Charles Lamb finds himself surrounded by two lovely children, Alice and John. The duo pleaded with their father Lamb to narrate a story about his ancestors and his bygone days.

Lamb talks about his great grandmother Mrs. Field. She was a devout Christian and a woman of great piety. Due to her sterling character, a wealthy man had asked her to live like a caretaker in one of his sprawling villas in Norfolk. Field, lived in just a lonely corner of the huge use, but attended to the upkeep of the house with attention and sincerity.

The house had some connection to a horrible episode of a very cruel uncle who had smothered some children, sometime in the past. The details of this horrific massacre were carved as ‘ballad of the woods’ in the body of a wooden chimney inside the Norfolk mansion. Sadly, the owner of the house chose to have the wooden chimney replaced by a marble one. With the renovation, the wooden chimney was gone, so was the inscription of the tragic story.

Alice and John were listening to their father’s (Lamb’s) account with attention. Lamb spoke eloquently about his great grandmother Ms. Field. When she passed away, her admirers from far and wide converged on her house to pay their tributes.

After her death, the owner of the house had all the ornate fixtures and furniture removed to another house of his. These items ill fitted the new house, looking so incongruous, and out-of-place. John, listening to the story seemed to appreciate the fact that the decision to cart away the furniture to a new house had not been a wise one.

Ms. Field was a gifted dancer too. Unfortunately, she was afflicted with cancer, and her zest for dancing took a beating. This crippling disease, however, failed to diminish Grandma Field didn’t allow her spirits to droop. She was a brave lady who slept in a solitary room in the large house. Even John chose to sleep beside the maid to ward off fear. Ms. Field saw dreams, but there was nothing to fear. In the dreams she saw two babies with wings gliding down the stairs. The nocturnal visitors had no bellicose intent.

Ms. Field’s affection towards her grandchildren had still remained vivid in his memory. She allowed them a free run over the house garden that had fruit trees of many types. There were peach trees, nectarine and orange trees, and many others. The house had busts of Roman royalty, which Lamb loved to observe with interest. The visiting children didn’t pluck any fruit from the trees perhaps because they were advised not to. Hearing this account, Alice and John seated near their father desisted from partaking of the oranges kept before them. The story appeared to have a great sway over them.

Lamb told his listeners Alice and John that his brother John L (their uncle) was a handsome, well-built, and athletic young lad. He was the favoured grand child of Ms. Field. When other children roamed around in the mansion and the garden, John L would go horse riding to nearby woods. He lavished his affection on his younger brother (the narrator and the two children’s father). At times, John L would carry his younger brother (the narrator) in his back despite an injury in his foot. His death made the narrator very sad indeed.

Soon, Alice and John lost interest in the sad account of their father’s earlier years. They prodded him to talk about days of his childhood instead of going so far down the memory lane. Particularly, they wanted to hear about their mother.

Charles Lamb proceeded to name her. She was Alice W—n. The narrator held back the true name ‘Anna Simmons’. He rued that he had courted her for seven long years, but the romance and the effort were futile. He made no effort to conceal his dismay at her refusing to marry him. Just around this time, Charles Lamb, in the role of the father of his two imaginary children Alice and John, saw some uncanny resemblance n the faces of Ann Simmons and Alice. It seemed as though Ann as speaking to him through Alice.

At this point, the story takes an abrupt turn. Lamb wakes up from his sleep and finds himself lying on his arm chair. Curtains come down on the author’s lovelorn past. Hard reality prevails. Charles Lamb honestly states that James Elia, the author, no longer lives in this world.

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ICSE Poem Enterprise by Nissim Ezkiel

July 27, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Enterprise by Nissim Ezekiel

It started as a pilgrimage
Exalting minds and making all
The burdens light, The second stage
Explored but did not test the call.
The sun beat down to match our rage. 5

Meaning. A group of intellectually-oriented sets out on foot on a journey to explore the unknown. The author is one among them. The intrepid explorers are agog in excitement. The hazards of the journey, the wrath of the elements, and the perils of the unknown land they are venturing into do not deter them a bit. They are determined to overcome the odds to reach their destination. However, some way into their journey, they get to see the harsh realities of their voyage. The Sun’s scorching heat challenges the grit and doggedness of the itinerant knowledge seekers. The going gets tough. In other words, the vagaries of journeying into un-trodden terrain take its toll on the travelers.

We stood it very well, I thought ,
Observed and put down copious notes
On things the peasants sold and bought
The way of surpants and of goats.
Three cities where a sage had taught 10

Meaning .. The travelers were undaunted by the brush with the elements. In their travelogue, they noted down all the new things they encountered. The life in the countryside was interesting. The travelers saw the way the peasants traded in their farm produces. They also saw the curious ways of the serpents and the goat herds walking in the rural tracks. They pass through three cities where sages of great renown had given their sermons. What exactly they preached is all lost in time.

But when the differences arose
On how to cross a desert patch,
We lost a friend whose stylish prose
Was quite the best of all our batch.
A shadow falls on us and grows . 15

Meaning …. In their way, they come to see a desert. Traversing through it appears fraught. The members of the group argue over the ways to cross it, but can’t reach a consensus. A distraught member of the group brakes rank, and charts a different course for himself. He was a prose writer of great flourish – possibly the best in the group. His loss is painful. Hard times seem to approach the rest of the group. Things get worse. All round gloom sets in.

Another phase was reached when we
Were twice attacked , and lost our way.
A section claimed its liberty
To leave the group. I tried to prey.
Our leader said he smelt the sea 20

Meaning .. A difficult phase has begun. On their way, they are twice waylaid by bandits. In their effort to evade the thugs, The members of the group run in different directions. Soon, they lose their way. Misery befalls the group, as a few members decide to drop out and go their own ways. The group is thus further depleted. The leader of the truncated group tries to instill some optimism among the distraught members. He says, the sea (implying their final destination) is not very far off. He can sense it.

We noticed nothing as we went ,
A straggling crowd of little hope,
Ignoring what the thunder ment ,
Deprived of common needs like soap.
Some were broken , some merely bent. 25

Meaning .. Crestfallen and sapped, the members of the group trudge on, unmindful of the comrades. They have no hope, and no energy. The trauma of the past days has robbed them of all life and cheer. The hardly take notice of other calamities along the way. The thunder means no danger to them. Inured to the past sufferings, they have become surprisingly stoic. They have run short of even the basic necessities of life – like a cake of soap. Some are weighed down by the grind and the despair. They are virtually down on their knees.

When, finally , we reached the place ,
We hardly know why we were there.
The trip had darkened every face,
Our deeds were neither great nor rare.
Home is where we have to gather grace.

Meaning .. At last, they reach their destination. By then, they have endured so much misery that their senses have been numbed. They feel no elation, no exuberance. The satisfaction of finally making it brings them little cheer. The trip has inflicted untold misery on the members. They look so dull and emaciated. To add to their frustration, they find that their exploration, undertaken with so much sacrifice, was not unique. So many others had successfully undertaken similar ventures earlier.
The realization dawns upon the group member that home sweet home is possibly the best abode for humans.
[Additional notes, question-answers and analysis will be added soon.]

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The Merchant of Venice Act 3

July 27, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Merchant of Venice
Act 3, Scene 1

Salarino and Solanio get into a conversation. The prospect of Antonio facing an irreversible financial calamity cast a gloom on them. Salarino says he heard the news of one of Antonio’s cargo-laden ships running aground in Goldwin Sands in the English Channel. He was shaken by the turn of events.
Solanio dismissed this story as baseless speculation. He assumed that his honorable friend Antonio was too good and honest to deserve such a fate.
The duo hope that no more news of calamity would follow.
Around this time, Shylock, the Jew whom both the friends detest, enters the scene. He is still angry about his daughter eloping with a local Christian boy. Shylock seethes at the way his daughter whom he had brought up with such tender care deserted him so unceremoniously.
Salarino asks Shylock if he had ews of Antonio’s ships. Instantly, Shylock erupts into a venomous tirade against his debtor Antonio. He assumes Antonio’s default is imminent and he was almost certainly staring down a barrel.
Seeing the way Shylock bristled at the mention of Antonio’s name, Quite alarmed, Salarino asks if Shylock would insist on Antonio’s flesh if the latter indeed defaulted.
Shylock explodes with anger and revenge. He recalls how Antonio had caused business losses by giving interest-free loans and had humiliated in the Realto. He was a Jew, after all a human deserving the same dignity and respect which a Christian deserves. ‘Why did Antonio berated him so badly’, Shylock demanded to know. Jews were people of flesh and blood –the same material Christians were made up of. Jews experienced the same sense of pain and joy as Christians. So, why such discrimination?, the red-faced Shylock roared in disgust.
Just at that time, the servant enters to announce that Antonio was at his house and wanted to speak to the two friends, Solanio and Salarino.

Solarino seems to be on the look-out for Antonio too. Tubal comes in around this time. Solanio too mocks Tubal for his Jwish blood.

Solanio, Salarino, and Antonio’s servant exit.

Shylock asks Tubal if he has news about his daughter. The latter disappoints Shylock saying that he could get no information on hr whereabouts.

Shylock is heat-broken. His daughter has taken with her a costly diamond. The loss of this precious piece causes him immense grief. It robs salt on his mind’s wound. In desperation, he bemoans that he is enduring the curse all Jews have been collectively condemned to.

Tubal tries to assuage Shylock saying that misfortune befalls others too. He cites how Antonio is staring at very bad news at Genoa.

That instantly peps Shylock up. He is eager to know what has come on Antonio. Tubal says that one of Antonio’s vessels has suffered a shipwreck near Tripoli.

All feelings of despondency vanish from Shylock’s mind on hearing this. He is all charged up. His vengeful mind gets a shot.

Tubal tempers Shylock’s rejoicing by disclosing that his now disgraced daughter had spent eighty ducats in Genoa post her elopement. It was a princely sum for the miser Shylock. Again he relapses to his sullen mood.

Tubal has some news to cheer Shylock again. He says that a group of Antonio’s creditors have come to Venice to collect their dues from the now-distressed Antonio. The latter is staring at his ignominious bankruptcy.

Tubal discloses that Shylock’s daughter had pawned a costly stone-studded ring to a wealthy creditor of Antonio. The news shocked Shylock. It was a reckless act on the part of his daughter to give away his treasured possession like that, he reasoned.

Shylock was gripped by a feeling of indignation and disapproval.

In the midst of this calamity, Shylock found instant relief in Tubal’s account of Antonio’s ship capsizing. The news lifted Shylock’s drooping spirits. Tubal added the news of Antanio’s ship capsizing was true, as a few sailors who had escaped the disaster had vouched for it.

The news dispelled Shylock’s grief instantly. He rejoiced at Antanio’s misfortune. The fact that his bête noire was inexorably sliding towards penury and humiliation brought him instant cheer. He asked Tubal to go and get a police officer who could take Antonio to custody.

Basanio, Portia, Gratiano, and Nerissa enter with all their attendants, including a singer.

Portia advised Bassanio to do his utmost to win the contest set up to choose her husband. She was enamoured of him, and wanted him to win the contest. She advised him not to hurry and make a mistake. Instead, he should pause for a day or two, and make a judicious, winning choice. So strong was her urge to have him that she even toyed with the idea of giving away the secret to the riddle, although it meant breaking the oath of not divulging it to anyone under any circumstances. But, she managed to rein in her wild impulse for such an unethical choice. Instead, Portia decided to prod Bassanio to exercise enough diligence to hit the right choice and win her in a fair way.

Quite unabashedly, Portia let Bassanio know that she had already succumbed to him, and couldn’t think of a life without him. But, she rued that she had no freedom to make her own choice about her life.

Portia’s doleful outpourings pierced Bassanio’s heart. He could wait no longer to go for the choice-making decision that would settle the duo’s destiny.

On being questioned by Portia, Bassanio reiterates his love for, and the fire of passion that is burning inside him for winning her.

Portia makes light f her lover’s commitment.

Bassanio skirts any frivolous comment from his lady love. He says that he can wait no more as the delay seems to consume him bit by bit.

Portia finally gives her nod to Bassanio’s request to let him try his luck. She asks Nerissa and other attendants to clear the area. She wants some music to be played to mark the solemnity of the occasion. In the event of Bassanio making the wrong choice and losing her for good, thye music would be assumed to be the Swansong for Bassanio. She would then cry so much that her tears would turn to a stream in which the Swan could swim. Portia used these metaphors to portray the angst and suspense that had gripped her mind at that time.

On the other hand, if Bassanio made the right selection, and won Portia’s hand, the music must reflect the joy and jubilation of ‘victory’, and be akin to the martial music played during the coronation of a king.

Prodded by Portia, Bassanio steps forward for the ‘ultimate’ gamble that could either ruin or enthrone him as her heart’s monarch.

He looks dignified, and petty much surefooted. Portia’s mood is expectant. She says, “Go, Hercules! If you survive, I’ll live. I’m more anxious watching you fight than you are in the fight itself.”

A musical interlude follows.

Bassanio is circumspect. He is in a contemplative mood. He thinks of many examples where deception leads to disaster. He thinks of a really good book bound by a frayed cover. He thinks of dishonest men lying before a judge hiding their perjury with sweet voices. Even pious men resort to falsehood to make their points. So, reasoned Bassanio, the world can be treacherously deceptive. Bassanio reflects on the beautiful beaches that hide danger under their belts. He thinks of the heavily made-up women and the jeer they face. Like this he made up his mind not to fall a prey to the look of things. The gold casket, thus went out of contention. Quite judiciously, he scorns the silver casket thinking silver to be too commonplace. He thinks the lead casket would be a good choice

Portia is gripped with uncontrolled torrent of emotion. She feels disconcerted and very edgy. She makes efforts t remain calm, so as not to distract Bassanio.

Finally, Bassanio makes his choice. He opens the lead box. Inside it there is an immaculate portrait of Portia. The painting looks breathtakingly beautiful, almost true to life. Bassanio is dumbstruck with the exquisite picture of Portia he gets to see. He reads..

“You who don’t judge by looks alone,

Have better luck, and make the right choice.

Since this prize is yours,

Be happy with it, and don’t look for a new one.

If you’re happy with what you’ve won

And accept this prize as your blissful destiny,

Then turn to where your lady is,

And claim her with a loving kiss.”

Most graciously he begs the woman of her dreams to declare that she finally belongs to him.

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