1st PUC English Textbook Answers Reflections Chapter 11 An Old Woman

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Karnataka 1st PUC English Textbook Answers Reflections Chapter 11 An Old Woman

An Old Woman Questions and Answers, Notes, Summary

An Old Woman Comprehension I

Question 1.
‘You’ in the poem refers to
(a) the speaker
(b) the passerby
(c) the reader
(d) anyone.
Answer:
(d) anyone.

Question 2.
What does the old woman offer to do?
OR
What does the old woman offer the speaker in return for fifty paise?
Answer:
Take the speaker to the horseshoe shrine.

Question 3.
What does the old woman demand from the tourists for her service?
OR
What does the old woman demand from the pilgrims to show ‘the horseshoe shrine’?
Answer:
A fifty paise coin.

Question 4.
The lines, ‘You turn around and face her with an air of finality’ suggest that he decided to
(a) give her a fifty paise coin and get rid of her.
(b) allow her to take him to the shrine.
(c) end the farce.
Answer:
(c) end the farce.

KSEEB Solutions

Question 5.
The old woman’s eyes are compared to _____
Answer:
bullet holes.

Question 6.
‘You are reduced
to so much small change
in her hand.’
Here, the speaker is suggesting that
(a) one is reduced to an insignificant position.
(b) one feels that one is being cheated.
(c) one feels a change in one’s personality.
Answer:
(a) one is reduced to an insignificant position.

An Old Woman Comprehension II

Question 1.
How is the plight of the old woman depicted in the poem?
Answer:
The old woman depicts all those who live below the poverty line in India. If this is a common problem of many because of the problem of unemployment, the woman’s age is an indicator to the fact that the problem is more pronounced in the case of the old. When young they might have done more productive work and earned money. But in their old age, with their physical fitness reduced, they are reduced to the level of forcing themselves upon tourists who want to get rid of them. This can be a very painful experience for the people who have lived with dignity all along but are suddenly reduced to the status of being considered burr.

Arun Kolatkar wants to take up this social problem. He takes up the question of geriatrics – the caring to be shown to the old. Does he ask as to who is responsible for the pitiable condition of the woman? Shouldn’t the government take up the problem of the old and take necessary measures to ensure that they live a life of dignity? Kolatkar has a definite purpose in talking about the cracks on her face extending to the hills, temples and the skies. He seems to suggest that just as monuments are part of our heritage, the old are also part of our heritage. We cannot treat them as unwanted, disposable stuff.

When the speaker has this realisation, he has a changed perspective and he finds himself reduced to the position of being a person of insignificance – a cheap person like the small coins in the hands of the old woman. But this realisation has not dawned upon all and that is why the old woman continues to be a tourist guide, which is nothing but a euphemism for a beggar. Her suffering is indicated by the description that she has two bullet holes in the place of eyes. Eyes are normally taken as the indicator of life, but the old woman’s eyes are lifeless bullet holes.

KSEEB Solutions

Thus, Kolatkar takes up a social problem with a special focus on the aged and tries to awaken in us a sense of responsibility towards our fellow brethren.

Question 2.
The old woman in the poem is a self-appointed tourist guide, not a beggar. Do you agree? Give reasons.
Answer:
Certainly, the woman is a self-appointed tourist guide because she pesters the speaker to avail of her services even when his intention is to get rid of her. Her persistence is seen in the fact that she hobbles after him and goes to the extent of stopping him by tightening her grip on his shirt. The speaker is more and more annoyed and he wants to get rid of her by being firm in refusing her offer. If we compare the interaction between the speaker and the old woman, we see that it isn’t much different from the transaction that takes place between a tourist and a beggar.

The beggars also follow people around pestering them with a demand for alms. But the difference is that if the tour guides offer their service, the beggars don’t. This immediately introduces a world of difference between the two categories of people. It shows that even if the tour guides can be as annoying as the beggars, they are people with self-respect.

Question 3.
How does the speaker’s attitude undergo a change?
Answer:
The speaker’s attitude undergoes a change because he is posed a question. The old woman’s question, “What else can an old woman do on hills as wretched as these?’ makes him realise the wretched life of the old woman. The word ‘wretched’ used with reference to a pilgrim centre makes it clear that places of worship will have no value if people at such places suffer. The question stumps the speaker and he is filled with admiration for the woman who has remained on the wretched hill resolutely. Though ugly and old, she is shatterproof. At this point, there is a sudden reversal of role. The speaker, who had until then considered the old woman insignificant and worthless, suddenly realises that it is he who is insignificant because he has not seen the kind of struggle the old woman has witnessed in her life. Her strength and forbearance are stronger than his.

An Old Woman Comprehension III

Question 1.
“The old woman reduces the self-esteem of the speaker and makes him feel that he is nothing more than ‘so much small change’.” Comment.
OR
How do the stature of the old woman and that of the narrator change at the end?
Answer:
Arun Kolatkar’s poem, ‘An Old Woman’, begins with a commonplace experience, but ends in a revelation. At every tourist place, you will meet a self-appointed tourist guide like the old woman in the poem. They need the money and will pester you. They even promise to give you some service in lieu of the money you give them.

KSEEB Solutions

Generally, tourists give them something to get rid of them. But a few are firmer and refuse to be influenced by the persuasive attempts of the guides. But what is to be understood is that they do what they do because they have no other means of earning their livelihood. If they don’t do what they do, perhaps the only option left for them is to beg. The very fact that they don’t beg, but offer their services shows that somewhere deep within them there is some self-respect and hence treating them as burr is inappropriate. Though they are irritating, one should remember that it is the circumstance that has reduced them to this.

Especially in the case of an old woman like the one found on the hills, what else would you expect them to do for their living? When the speaker realises that he has no answer for the question posed by the woman, “What else can an old woman do on hills as wretched as these?’, his perception of the old woman undergoes a sudden change. Her eyes which are like bullet holes become a sign of her suffering. The cracks on her face become symbolic of the cracks in a society which do not care for the old and the meek. That is why the speaker says that her cracks extend beyond her skin, and the hills, temples and the sky crack. In other words, everything around her indicates the cracks in the life of such helpless-people. Yet she stands shatterproof, continuing with life doggedly whereas many others would have cracked under the blows of poverty.

Suddenly the speaker has a new-found respect for the old woman. She becomes a sign of her heritage – the land from which she comes. It is people who dismiss her with a fifty paise coin or shoo her away without giving even that who become as cheap as the fifty paise coin. Kolatkar describes this transformation in a tourist by placing before the readers the tourist’s experience at a pilgrim centre.

Question 2.
What is the speaker trying to convey through the lines ‘And the hills crack, And the temples crack, And the sky falls’?
Answer:
The speaker had associated only ugliness and annoyance with the old woman until he had the awareness of her strength as well as her helplessness. With this realisation, she becomes the very symbol of the Indian heritage, and the otherthings, which had until then been considered monuments of heritage, begin to crack. The poet seems to suggest that it is the Indian heritage in flesh and blood that we have to value.

The reference to the hills, temples and sky cracking and falling could also mean the radical change in the hitherto held opinion of the speaker. The shock the man receives in looking at the sky, perhaps as blue as the woman’s eyes which are like bullet holes leads to his enlightened perception of the woman and her connection to this old land. The man notes that as he looks at the woman, and the cracks around her eyes, the cracks seem to spread to the landscape around her: to the hills, the temples and even the sky. But he sees that even though the sky may fall and shatter around her, she is untouched: ‘shatterproof’.

In the midst of the life that has reduced her to trying to earn some money as a guide for tourists, and seen only as an old woman to the tourists – not worth their time and barely worth their notice – her resolve is strong. She is a part of the land, as old as it is: she is as immovable. She lives, the man realises, with what is made available to her. With the man’s realization, he feels as if he has been reduced to nothing more than his money, for he does not have that kind of connection to his land or his heritage. And perhaps, in light of the trials and tribulations of life, he is really the unimportant one – beyond the small change in his pocket – but she stands, unbreakable and strong.

Question 3.
How do you relate the ‘cracks around her eyes’ to the cracking of hills and temples?
OR
Bring out the significance of the phrase ‘cracks around her eyes’ in relation to the description of the woman as ‘shatter-proof crone’.
Answer:
Cracks around the eyes are ordinarily signs of old age. But in the case of the old woman, they signify much more than mere physical features. The old woman’s eyes are just two gaping holes filled with empty air, with the hills and the sky. Then the cracks begin around her eyes, spreading beyond her skin and then the hills crack, the temples crack and the sky cracks and the sky finally shatters and falls like plate-glass. The old woman herself is shatterproof and nothing happens to her.

KSEEB Solutions

Only you get instantly reduced to a small change in her hand. It is you who shatter because her eyes are already bullet-holes which are formed with the cracks around the holes. You are shattered with the realisation that the whole system which is guilty of testing the grit and determination of an old woman is full of cracks; people who look at the old woman as a pest are full of cracks; monuments themselves crack in the face of the tenacity of the old woman. Thus the old woman, despite the cracks around her eyes, is actually the only one who is shatterproof.

An Old Woman Additional Questions and Answers

I. Answer the following questions in a word, a phrase or a sentence each:

Question 1.
What does the old woman do to get the speaker’s.attention?
Answer:
She grabs hold of his sleeve and tags along. She continues to hobble along and tightens her grip on the speaker’s shirt.

Question 2.
Who is referred to as ‘shatter-proof crone’ in the poem?
Answer:
The old woman.

Question 3.
Where does the old woman want to take the visitor?
Answer:
To the horseshoe shrine.

KSEEB Solutions

Question 4.
Name the shrine mentioned in the poem.
Answer:
The horseshoe shrine.

Question 5.
The line ‘You turn around and face her with an air of finality’ suggests that he decides to
(a) get rid of her
(b) allow her to take him to the shrine
(c) be kind to her.
Answer:
(a) get rid of her.

Question 6.
The old woman sticks to the visitors like a ______
Answer:
burr.

Question 7.
The lines ‘And the hills crack/And the temples crack’ suggest that
(a) the hills and the temples actually fall down
(b) the poet sees cracks on the hills and the temples
(c) the poet’s perception undergoes a change.
Answer:
(c) the poet’s perception undergoes a change.

Question 8.
In the poem ‘An Old Woman’, ‘You’ refers to _____
(a) the old woman
(b) any pilgrim whom the old woman meets
(c) Khandoba.
Answer:
(b) any pilgrim whom the old woman meets.

Question 9.
The old woman is _____
(a) a beggar
(b) a person with self-respect
(c) a guide appointed by the government.
Answer:
(a) a beggar.

Question 10.
The old woman represents
(a) inhuman social negligence
(b) greediness
(c) happiness.
Answer:
(a) inhuman social negligence.

KSEEB Solutions

Question 11.
What does the phrase ‘bullet holes’ stand for?
Answer:
The phrase ‘bullet holes’ stands for the old woman’s sunken eyes.

Question 12.
‘You want to end the farce’. Here, ‘farce’ stands for ______
(a) a play that was enacted there
(b) the speaker
(c) the old woman pestering the speaker.
Answer:
(c) the old woman pestering the speaker.

II. Answer the following questions in 80 – 100 words each:

Question 1.
How do the hills and temples heighten the effect of desertion?
Answer:
The hills and temples heighten the effect of desertion at various levels. First of all, they stand for loneliness and abandonment. Secondly, they heighten the difficulty of earning one’s living as there are not many opportunities available to earn one’s living. Thirdly, the description that the cracks around the eyes of the old woman spread beyond her skin, making the hills, temples and the sky crack, further heighten the effect of desertion. But, what remains as the ultimate reference to desertion is the fact that people desert one another in families and in communities. These hills and temples are holy places which people visit to earn divine blessings. But people hardly care for their fellow human beings.

Question 2.
Narrate the experience of the speaker in ‘An Old Woman’.
Answer:
In ‘An Old Woman’ the narrator presents a very common incident most tourists experience when they visit a historical shrine. Such tourist places are usually crowded out by beggars, vendors and tourist guides pestering tourists to give them alms or buy toys and trinkets or to hire them as guides respectively. The first four stanzas portray the old woman as ‘a burr’. The first stanza describes the narrator’s reaction. The sixth and seventh stanzas describe the narrator’s reaction and also signal a change in his attitude as well as his perspective towards old women.

The poem is a recollection of the narrator’s experience when he visited a historical place on the barren hills of Jejuri town, which houses the famous legendary ‘Horseshoe’ shrine for Khandoba, the presiding deity at Jejuri. The poet presents his experience dramatically helping the reader visualize it instantly. As soon as he had landed in the place, an old beggar woman grabbed hold of his sleeve and hobbled along with him, pestering him to give her a fifty paise coin in return for which she would guide him to the horseshoe shrine. Though he told her that he had already seen it, she persisted and did not let him go. At that moment, the poet’s previous experience of dealing with old women coupled with that incident makes the narrator express his annoyance and scorn for such old women saying that they are like ‘a burr’ which cannot be brushed off easily.

KSEEB Solutions

The narrator, then turned around to face her and send her away with a decisive look. Immediately, the old woman expressed her predicament stating that there was nothing else to do on those wretched hills except begging. Her statement shocked the narrator slightly. The old woman’s words triggered the moment of transformation in him. This made him look at her eyes sunk deep inside her face like two bullet holes and look right at the sky clearly through them. Her skin is wrinkled and cracks begin to appear around her eyes and spread beyond her skin. He feels that everything is falling apart. Everything is cracked and in ruins. The cracks spread beyond her skin to the hills and the sky. There is a catastrophe. The hills crack, the temples crack and the sky falls and shatters like a sheet of glass except for the “shatterproof crone who stands alone”. At this moment the poet realizes his own value. He has been reduced to a fifty paise coin in the hands of poverty. It is at this moment that the poet’s scorn for the old woman changes to respect.

III. Answer the following in about 200 words each:

Question 1.
The speaker’s perception of the old woman changes from ‘burr’ to a ‘shatterproof crone’ in the poem ‘The Old Woman’. Elaborate.
OR
Why does the speaker’s scorn change to respect for the old woman towards the end of the poem?
Answer:
In ‘An Old Woman’ the narrator presents a very common incident most tourists experience when they visit a historical shrine. Such tourist places are usually crowded out by beggars, vendors and tourist guides pestering tourists to give them alms or buy toys and trinkets or to hire them as guides respectively. The first four stanzas portray the old woman as ‘a burr’. The first stanza describes the narrator’s reaction. The sixth and seventh stanzas describe the narrator’s reaction and also signal a change in his attitude as well as his perspective towards old women.

The poem is a recollection of the narrator’s experience when he visited a historical place on the barren hills of Jejuri town, which houses the famous legendary ‘Horseshoe’ shrine for Khandoba, the presiding deity at Jejuri. The poet presents his experience dramatically helping the reader visualize it instantly. As soon as he had landed in the place, an old beggar woman grabbed hold of his sleeve and hobbled along with him, pestering him to give her a fifty paise coin in return for which she would guide him to the horseshoe shrine. Though he told her that he had already seen it, she persisted and did not let him go. At that moment, the poet’s previous experience of dealing with old women coupled with that incident makes the narrator express his annoyance and scorn for such old women saying that they are like ‘a burr’ which cannot be brushed off easily.

The narrator, then turned around to face her and send her away with a decisive look. Immediately, the old woman expressed her predicament stating that there was nothing else to do on those wretched hills except begging. Her statement shocked the narrator slightly. The old woman’s words triggered the moment of transformation in him. This made him look at her eyes sunk deep inside her face like two bullet holes and look right at the sky clearly through them. Her skin is wrinkled and cracks begin to appear around her eyes and spread beyond her skin. He feels that everything is falling apart. Everything is cracked and in ruins. The cracks spread beyond her skin to the hills and the sky. There is a catastrophe. The hills crack, the temples crack and the sky falls and shatters like a sheet of glass except for the “shatterproof crone who stands alone”. At this moment the poet realizes his own value. He has been reduced to a fifty paise coin in the hands of poverty. It is at this moment that the poet’s scorn for the old woman changes to respect.

KSEEB Solutions

Question 2.
‘The miserable plight of the old woman is a comment on the merciless society’. Examine.
Answer:
‘An Old Woman’ presents a vivid account of a tourist’s encounter with an old beggar woman who is eeking out an existence offering her services as a tourist guide for the Horseshoe Shrine situated on the barren hills of Jejuri, a popular town in Maharashtra. It refers to a legend centred around a horse-shoe shaped depression in a rock about Khandoba, the presiding deity at Jejuri. This is a legend that the true believer reveres and the sceptic doubts.

While the tourist is moving away from the place, he is accosted in the street by an old beggar woman who clutches his sleeve and tags along with him begging a fifty paise coin. Though he ignores her and moves on, the old woman ‘tightens her grip’ and ‘hobbles’ along and clings to him like a ‘burr’. Irritated by this persistence, the tourist turns around and faces her with an air of finality. The old woman’s matter of fact question “What else could an ‘old woman’ do to survive on these ‘wretched hills’?” strikes the narrator like a thunderbolt.

As he looks closely at her face, her eyes appear like ‘bullet holes’, through which he can see the sky. It seems to him as if he were looking into the very emptiness of her soul. He sees the cracks – wrinkles around her eyes and they seem to spread beyond her; he feels the hills crack, the temples crack and the sky falls around him as the shattering realisation dawns on him. With this realisation, the world as he knew it, seems to fall apart, disintegrating into so much rubble. But the old woman stands indestructible and alone. She is the reality that will not be hidden. The narrator’s world, at this moment, is reduced to the pile of small change in her hand – the sop that we pay to our conscience while actually neglecting our duty. What had appeared to the narrator as a ‘farce’ was, in reality, a compulsion for the old woman for her survival? There is nothing else she can do now at this stage of being abandoned.

The narrator experiences a revelation. The old beggar woman’s fragile physical appearance, her irritating and persistent appeals to the tourists for a fifty paise coin, the ageing barren hills and the horseshoe shrine together symbolize the fast vanishing remnants of our cultural heritage. The poet becomes aware of the cracks in the fabric of our society, our religious beliefs and our traditions. What are these cracks? They signify the moral degeneration our society has fallen prey to. Had we been following our traditions of family values, respect and care of elders, this old woman would have had a family, people to care for her and a home to go to. She would surely not have been on the streets dependent on the occasional kindness of visitors to the shrine nor face the humiliation of refusal, irritation, perhaps even harsh words. Thus, the miserable plight of the old woman as revealed through the poem is a comment on the merciless society.

An Old Woman by Arun Kolatkar A Note on the Poet:

Arun Kolatkar (1932 – 2004) was educated in Mumbai where he worked as a graphic artist.
A winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, Kolatkar has contributed to ‘Kavi’, ‘Opinion Literary Review’, ‘New Writing in India’ and ‘The Shell and The Rain’. He is a bilingual poet and has translated Marathi poems into English. This poem is selected from ‘Jejuri’, a collection of his poems.

An Old Woman Summary in English

An old woman clutches a tourist’s sleeve and tags along with him. She wants a ‘fifty paise coin’. For this, she offers to show him ‘the horseshoe shrine’. This refers to a legend centred around a horse¬shoe shaped depression in a rock about Khandoba, the presiding deity at Jejuri, who leapt from that rock onto his horse as he carried his wife with him. This is a legend that the true believer reveres and the sceptic doubts.

KSEEB Solutions

The tourist moves away as he has seen the shrine already. The old woman ‘tightens her grip’ and ‘hobbles’ along – not giving up so easily. She is persistent. She clings to him like a ‘burr’ – a prickly seed pod that clings to clothes.

An Old Woman Summary in Kannada 1

Irritated by this persistence, the tourist decides to ‘face her’ with an ‘air of finality’ – he decides that he will not yield to her and thereby wants to put an end to the ‘farce’. He presumes that his no-nonsense reaction will deter her. But the old woman’s matter of fact question – ‘what else’ could an ‘old woman’ do to survive on these ‘wretched hills’ – strikes the narrator like a thunderbolt.

The stark reality that hits the narrator allows him to ‘see’ her at closer quarters. When he turns to look at her face, he is shocked. There are two deep sunken eyes that look like bullet holes. Her skin is wrinkled and cracks appear around her eyes and spread beyond her skin. He feels that everything is falling apart. Everything is cracked and in ruins.

The cracks spread beyond her skin to the hills and the sky. There is a catastrophe. The hills crack, the temples crack and the sky falls and shatters like a sheet of glass. But the old woman stands there as a symbol of all-round degradation. The narrator feels ashamed. He is reduced to the small change in the heartland.

In a moment of realization, the narrator/tourist finds himself reduced in his self-esteem. His awakening to the ‘real’ world makes him feel ‘small’ – as insignificant as the small coin in her hand.

An Old Woman Summary in Kannada

An Old Woman Summary in Kannada 2
An Old Woman Summary in Kannada 3

Glossary:

  • Jejuri (n): a temple town in Maharashtra
  • horseshoe shrine: The legend goes that Khandoba carried Banai from her father’s house on a blue horse; the horse leapt across the hill and hit the ground so hard that the horseshoe dug into the side of the hill; also a shrine at Jejuri.
  • burr (n): a person who forces his or her company on others
  • air of finality: as if put an end to the matter
  • crone (n): ugly old woman

KSEEB Solutions

Additional Glossary:

  • tag: follow closely (after)
  • hobble: walk as when lame or when the feet or legs are hurt
  • burr: (a plant with a seed case or a flower head that clings to the hair or fur of animals);
    something or somebody that sticks like a burr, especially a person who forces his/her company on others and is hard to shake off
  • an air of finality: the impression that there is nothing more to be said or done
  • plate glass: a very clear glass of fine quality made in thick sheets, used for doors, mirrors, shop windows, etc.
  • wretched: miserable
  • clatter: the sound hard objects make when banged together
  • small change: coins, not notes; less in value
  • shatterproof crone: the withered old woman as immune to shattering (breaking); unbending.

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