IGCSE English (First Language): Specimen Questions with Answers 144 - 144 of 179

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Passage

Here is a narrative story of Kushwanth Singh՚s Portrait of Lady.

My grandmother, like everybody՚s grandmother, was an old woman. She had been old and wrinkled for the twenty years that I had known her. People said that she had once been young and pretty and had even had a husband, but that was hard to believe. She often told us of the games she used to play as a child. That seemed quite absurd and undignified on her part and we treated it like the fables of the Prophets she used to tell us. She had always been short and fat and slightly bent. Her face was a crisscross of wrinkles running from everywhere to everywhere. No, we were certain she had always been as we had known her. Old, so terribly old that she could not have grown older, and had stayed at the same age for twenty years. She could never have been pretty; but she was always beautiful. She hobbled about the house in spotless white with one hand resting on her waist to balance her stoop and the other telling the beads of her rosary. Her silver locks were scattered untidily over her pale, puckered face, and her lips constantly moved in inaudible prayer. Yes, she was beautiful. She was like the winter landscape in the mountains, an expanse of pure white serenity breathing peace and contentment. My grandmother always went to school with me because the school was attached to the temple. The priest taught us the alphabet and the Morning Prayer. While the children sat in rows on either side of the verandah singing the alphabet or the prayer in a chorus, my grandmother sat inside reading the scriptures. When we had both finished, we would walk back together. This time the village dogs would meet us at the temple door. They followed us to our home growling and fighting with each other for the chapatti we threw to them.

When I went up to University, I was given a room of my own. The common link of friendship was snapped. My grandmother accepted her seclusion with resignation. She rarely left her spinning wheel to talk to anyone. From sunrise to sunset she sat by her wheel spinning and reciting prayers. Only in the afternoon she relaxed for a while to feed the sparrows. While she sat in the verandah breaking the bread into little bits, hundreds of little birds collected round her creating a veritable bedlam of chirruping. Some came and perched on her legs, others on her shoulders. Some even sat on her head. She smiled but never shooed them away.

It used to be the happiest half-hour of the day for her. Even on the first day of my arrival, her happiest moments were with her sparrows that she fed longer and with frivolous rebukes. The next morning, she was taken ill. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beads. Even before we could suspect, her lips stopped moving and the rosary fell from her lifeless fingers. A peaceful pallor spread on her face and we knew that she was dead. We left her alone to decide for her funeral. In the evening we went to her room with a crude stretcher to take her to be cremated.

The sun was setting and had lit her room and verandah with a blaze of golden light. We stopped half-way in the courtyard. All over the verandah and in her room right up to where she laid dead and stiff wrapped in the red shroud, thousands of sparrows sat scattered on the floor. There was no chirruping. We felt sorry for the birds and my mother fetched some bread for them. She broke it into little crumbs, the way my grandmother used to, and threw it to them. The sparrows took no notice of the bread. When we carried my grandmother՚s corpse off, they flew away quietly. Next morning the sweeper swept the bread crumbs into the dustbin.

Question 144 (1 of 3 Based on Passage)

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Short Answer▾

Animals are capable of empathy. Substantiate this statement with examples from the story as well as your own experiences.

Explanation

  • In the village, grandmother used to feed the dogs with stale chapattis both in the morning and evening. When she came to the city her life had been changed a lot. She could not move freely as in the village. She spent most of her time with her spinning wheel. During the afternoon she came to the verandah and fed the sparrows regularly. This was the happiest part of the day. The grandmother lay dead. Thousands of sparrows came there. They did not chirrup. They paid their last homage to the old lady silently. The narrator՚s mother threw some crumbs of bread to them.
  • They took no notice of them. As soon as the grandmother՚s corpse was carried off, the sparrows flew away quietly.
  • The same thing happened in my life too. My uncle had a pet dog. On the sudden demise of my uncle the dog did not have any intake for another one week and it starved to death itself. When I read this story that incident came to my mind. Hence animals are capable of empathy.

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