IGCSE English (First Language): Specimen Questions with Answers 144 - 145 of 179


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)


Write in Short

Short Answer▾

As young Khushwant Singh, write a letter to your parents describing your daily routine along with your thoughts and feelings about staying in the village.



6th July 2020

Dear Dad and Mom, Well and wish to hear the same from you. Here I am fine. Grandma is also fine. She fills my belly with her hand made-delicious chapattis. Not only that, she teaches me a lot of moral stories. She helps me even in arithmetic՚s too. We go to school regularly in the morning. At that moment she feeds the stray dogs with stale chapattis. When I attend my school, she is praying at the temple which is beside the school.

When we return home in the evening the dogs follow us. They fight with one another for the chapattis we give them. I feel very happy for being here with my sweet grandma. Take care of your health. There is no need to worry about me. I enjoy my life with my sweet grandma.

With regards

Yours loving son,

Khushwant Singh

Address on the envelope:

To, 88 Sir Sobha Singh, 3.

Sixth Avenue Hadali,

Khushab district, Kerala,

Descriptive writing

Question 145 (2 of 3 Based on Passage)


Write in Short

Short Answer▾

The grandmother played a vital role in the author՚s formative years. Give your own example of how elders have a positive influence on the younger generation. Include examples from the story also. Write around 100 - 150 words.


  • My grandmother is a great inspiration to me. She had a positive influence on me. When I did my schooling, she used to narrate a lot of stories to me. Though she did not help me in my academic side, her stories had a close link with my school curriculum. Like Kushwant Singh՚s grandma, my grandma was too pious. My grandma inculcated morality in me through her stories in the form of narrating bed time tales. She taught me a lot through her bed time stories.
  • Sometimes she spun her own story. Later only I could realize it. She introduced to me many Puranas. She was a secularist. She told me stories from the Holy Bible too. She cited the quotes even from the Quran. I missed her a lot when she was in deathbed. As soon as I heard of her ailment, I rushed but I was late. I was unfortunate to be by her side when she left the world.
  • Thanks to my grandmother, I am a person of morality now.

Argumentative/discursive writing

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