CBSE English Class 7 — The One Who Survived: AdaBlackjack — Expanding the story

Expanding a story …

The One who Survived: Ada Blackjack
Ada Blackjack – the Woman who Looked Adversity in the Eye and Won
In the days when large parts of the earth had not been explored, and sea faring was very fraught, four men and a woman set out on a voyage. The three men Frederick Maurer (28), E Lone Knight (28), Allan R Crawford (20), set out under the leadership of Stefansson to discover new lands and conquer them. The spirit of adventure and the lure of virgin islands drove them, where as the fourth member, a woman named Ada Blackjack (23) undertook the perilous journey to resuscitate
her ailing son battling T.B. What unfolded during the voyage is both saddening and heartening.
Ada was born in the year 1898. Curiously, she avoided going out to play with other children preferring to stay indoors to do household chores to help her grandma. The exuberance of a youngster was missing in her.
By 1921, Ada had married, and become a mother, but sadly had lost two of her babies. The five-year-old Bennett lay in bed, afflicted by TB. Woefully short of money, Ada could ill-afford good medical care for her sick son. She could do nothing but bemoan her fate.  


At this point of time, entered Stifansson, the leader of the expedition. He made a proposal to Ada. Stifansson needed a help who would accompany the four young sailors aboard their ship. She had to do cooking, mending clothes and other such sundry work. Could she accompany the expedition, asked Stifansson. But, Ada had her leg tied to Bennett’s sick bed. She could never leave him to die. She was lost in thoughts.
Stifansson made an enticing offer. He would make arrangements for Bennett’s comprehensive medical care to turn him around till Ada returned.
Ada weighed the offer, and concluded that the medical care was vital for her sick son. She could bear the separation from her son for some time if it could ensure his recovery from TB. She would also get her remuneration. With mind engulfed in torment, she agreed to Stifansson’s offer to work as a cook and a seamstress for the Arctic expedition. Stiffanson was delighted.


On 21st September, the group set out for Wrangel Island. Initially, the other members of the group felt Ada was too frail to stand the cold hazardous journey, but Ada showed remarkable determination and resilience. They agreed.
Stifansson saw off the group assuring that the place they were heading to was awash with wild life. The young men could haunt them for the meat. Stifansson had six months ration loaded on the ship. Additionally, he assured that he would send another supply ship after six months to replenish the stock.


Their ship Silverwave left the port. Soon, on board the ship, Bennett’s memory began to haunt Ada. She consoled herself thinking that it was more important for Bennett to stay alive than her remaining close to him.


The expedition landed in the island. Unlike their earlier assumption, the island turned out to be a vast swathe of land, not a tiny patch. Ada made up her mind to stick to her assigned work – sewing and cooking. The young men decided to begin hunting from the next day.
It was 1922. Spring arrived. Life was rather easy for the members of the expedition. There were games aplenty for hunting. Seals, polar bears, ducks and geese provided plentiful of the much-needed meat for consumption in that desolate cold land. The crew decided to build a snow-house for shelter to keep warm.


Things started to take a turn for the worse. Lone Knight returned to the camp after swimming across the Skeleton River. The cold water and the exhaustion took their toll. Lone felt uneasy. Soon he was taken ill. No amount of care and nourishing could revive him. His condition went from bad to worse.


The members of the crew began to worry stock of essential items like sugar, coffee, bean and flour reached critically low levels. Lone showed no sign of recovery. His moral was low, as he felt he couldn’t pull it through. Ada was there with her words of comfort, but Lone had slipped past the threshold. Doom and despondency was in the air.


One of the crew members suggested that they could cross the icy Chukki Sea to reach the land where they could seek help for themselves and the beleaguered comrades left behind. In other words they mulled over the idea of expedient escape from the camp.


Lone’s condition deteriorated fast. Leaving him to the care of Ada, the three other crew members left the camp for their onward journey. The demure Ada could neither demur, nor vent her anxiety.


It was January 1923. Crawford, Malle and Gaurer headed for Siberia crossing the Chukki Sea. Ada did her best to instill some confidence in the ailing Lone, but his condition was too grim for her kind words to have any salutary effect. There was no food to eat. It was a desperate situation. Starvation loomed over the duo – one critically ill, the other, a frail woman with little skill to gather food in those hostile cold surroundings.


Ada pulled herself up and decided to go ahunting. Lone protested, but Ada said she would do it – anyhow. She managed to kill a few animals, and could fend off starvation. Tragedy befell again. Lone passed away, leaving Ada heart-broken, and alone. There was no trace of the three men. The ghoulish wilderness gnawed her relentlessly. But, she refused to capitulate. She thought of Bennett, and drew comfort from the fact that he must be recovering fast. She had a reason to stay alive. She kept the fire burning in her tent. Inside her, the fire of hope and energy remained aglow. Despair and despondency began to recede. She clung to her life and spirit.


On August 23, 1923, a merchant ship named Donaldson laid anchor in the shore. The sailors took good care of Ada, by then half-starved and battered by the cold. Her ordeal was finally over.


When she reached home, she was treated like a hero. She became the darling of the media who gave her front-page coverage. She was invited to gatherings to recount her struggle with the adversity and the elements. Felicitations flowed from all quarters.
Ada narrated her learning experience – how she studied maps, and how she hunted foxes with the help of traps. Her story became an inspiring saga of struggle and survival.


With her accumulated salary, she took her fit and fine son to Seattle to start life anew. She declared that the spirit of adventure was still alight in her. The indomitable Ada finally went to Arctic and made it her home.

CBSE English Class 7 –When Wishes Come True

When Wishes Come True

Subal Chandra and Sushil Chandra were father and son. The duo had one unusual thing in common: They were opposite to what their names suggested. Sushil (meaning calm and docile) was a bouncy little lad. His childish exuberance was evident from the many ways he troubled the neighbours with his small acts of mischief. On the contrary, his father, Subal (meaning strong) was enfeebled by his age and rheumatism.
The Father didn’t quite like the son’s penchant for antics, which some in the neighborhood found quite annoying. Sushil was too agile for his father and could easily slip away to evade thrashing from his enraged father. But, once in awhile, he got caught, and had to face his father’s wrath.

It was a Saturday. School started in the morning and got over by 2pm. Sushil lay in his bed deep in his sleep. Sushil found the call of school very disgusting. He had two good reasons to feel so. First, he sulked at the idea of writing the Geography test scheduled for that day. Second, the preparations for the fireworks at the house of Bose during the day were too exciting for him to miss. The sight and sound of fireworks were to set the sky aglow in the evening the same day.

Sushil wanted to avoid going to school. He feigned sickness of stomach and lay in bed. He sought to be excused from school. But, Subal, was not the least convinced. He saw through the trick of his truant son. He planned his counter move.

Quite impassively, he turned to Sushil and advised him to lie in bed. He would not have the lozenges brought for him. Instead, he would drink a brew that would cure him of the stomach ache. With such advice, Subal went to make the brew, bolting the door from outside.

Sushil was perplexed. ‘Had he jumped from a frying pan to fire,’ he wondered. He detested the brew his father had made him drink in earlier occasions. It was too awful.

Subal entered the room with the pot of brew. Sushil sprang out of his bed and declared that the stomach ache was gone and there was no need for the weird drink. He was ready to go to school.

Subal sternly ordered that Sushil must stay in bed the whole day. With these words, he made his son to drink the dreadful drink. Sushil had no option but to drink it. Subal locked his son and went out.

As the day dragged on, Sushil’s agony mounted. The forced incarceration in his room was too hard for the boisterous boy to bear. He wept endlessly. He rued his being a young boy, and fancied being a old grown-up man, so that he could take decisions about himself on his own.

Outside the room, Subal sat brooding and reminiscing about his childhood days. During those carefree days, he studied as he pleased, and paid little heed to his parents’ admonitions. His parents fawned over him then. He regretted his neglect of studies. He yearned to be young again, so that he could make amends for his past behavior by being a studious student again.

When both the father and the son were lost in thoughts about travelling back and forth in time, the goddess who fulfilled the desires of her devotees happened to pass by. She heard the pleas of the father and the son, and granted their prayers. The two seemed joyful in their new Avatars the next morning.

Old Subal normally slept late and lay in his bed until the late hours in the morning. But, now he was a sprightly youngster. He sprang out of his bed as soon as the Sun rose the next morning. His limbs were supple and his teeth were firm. His clothes appeared too over-sized to wear. He felt odd.

Sushil, on the other hand, was sluggish and late to leave his bed. His eyes were dreary as he struggled to get up. His father (now young Subal) was making a lot of noise outside. His clothes clung too tightly to his body. He had outgrown them overnight. Beard and moustache had grown all over his face clouding his childlike innocence. To his horror, he found that he had pate on his head. Quite uncharacteristically, he body struggled to break free from the bed. The warm bed’s embrace was too good to forgo.

The abrupt make-over had caught the father-son duo off guard. They found it hard to come to terms with their new physique. The lure for the freedom to indulge in youthful adventures had driven Sushil to ask the goddess to make him older. However, Sushil (now old) felt no urge for outdoor adventures. He had no desire to climb trees, swim in the pond, or just wander around. Instead, he felt drained and lazy. But, he shook off his lethargy and indulge in the youthful frenzy.

He proceeded to the nearby Olive tree, wanted to climb it, but found it an uphill task. To have some fun, he hang from a low branch, but it gave way under his weight. Sushil (now old) landed, bang on his back. Curious onlookers had a hearty laugh at his predicament.

Sushil (as an old man) sprang a surprise on his friends. They were aghast to see their chubby friend looking like an old haggard. They recoiled in horror. Sushil who had hoped to play with his friends Gopal, Akshay, Nanda, and Harish with gay abandon, now found their presence annoying. Sushil detested their raucous games. He liked to be left alone.

Subal (now young) no longer wanted to sit still and study. The thought of school repelled him. To add to his misery, Sushil reminded him to go to school. Subal, was disoriented and confused. He feigned stomach ache and decided to give the school a miss.

Sushil (now old) roared in disapproval. He reprimanded Subal strongly, and said he would have none of these pretences. Subal stood defenseless and meek.

On Sushil’s orders, Subal went to school and returned in the usual time. He wanted to go out and play. Sushil wore his reading glasses and sat down to read the Ramayana. He found Subal’s noisy presence distracting. He made Subal to sit down in front of him and solve some very tough mathematics problems. Subal took nearly an hour to solve just one of them. At dusk, Sushil (now old) sat down with friends to play chess.

Sushil (now old) remembered his father Subal’s aversion to eat anything in any quantity his weakened appetite didn’t permit. So, in his ‘senior’ avatar, Sushil allowed his father Subal (now young) only frugal meals. To add to his misery, Subal’s appetite was as voracious as that of a youngster. He craved for more, but got what filled a corner of his stomach. The enforced starvation took a toll of the old man’s heath and energy. He grew pale and thin.
Sushil (now old) suffered in a different way. He lost the bounce and playfulness of his nature. No pastime of the past thrilled him anymore. His penchant for small mischief in the neighborhood appealed to him. He became insipid and docile – a pale shadow of his earlier self. A bath in the backyard pond exacerbated his rheumatism, and he had to take medication for six months. He bathed at home, in warm water on alternate days. His movement of hand became disoriented, making him to fumble while combing his hair.
At times, driven by his old habits, Subal (now young) walked into the gathering of old folks, and make ill-thought interjections, much to their annoyance. Subal had to dejectedly walk away after their reprimands accompanied by some wrenching of his ears. On occasions, he inadvertently asked for a puff of tobacco from his teacher. The teacher admonished him for such indecent manners and made him stand on the bench as punishment, besides spanking him thoroughly.
Quite amusingly, Subal (now young) caned Sushil (now old) for minor failings. Sushil would revolt saying, ‘Is it the manners they teach you in school?’
The things came to a head soon. The confusion took its toll. Both yearned to get back their old forms. The duo realized the mistake.
The wish-granting goddess made her appearance soon, and asked if the father and son had fulfilled their desires. Quite promptly, both beseeched the goddess to revert them to their old forms.
She granted their wish, and assured that the change-over would happen the next morning.
Both woke up the next morning as if they had seen a bad dream. They were back to their old ways. Subal asked Sushil why he was not doing his grammar lessons. Sushil, in his usual childish manner, replied that he had lost the book.  





The Tiger at the End of the Tunnel by Ruskin Bond

The Tiger in the Tunnel by Ruskin Bond


Thembu’s father, Baldeo, was a small-time employee in the railways. His job demanded working at night. No matter how cold or wet the night was, he had to brave the elements to go out of his hut for duty. His humble dwelling was beside a jungle.


On one occasion, Thembu was awake in his bed when his father got ready to step out. It was a dark, quiet and forbidding night. The stillness was broken by the shrill cry of the cicadas. One could even hear the faint tik tak sounds of the woodpeckers, digging into barks of trees with their beaks. A mild breeze blew. The grunt of a wild boar digging out its delicious roots punctuated the pervasive silence of the jungle.


Baldeo worked as a watchman in the railways. He lay awake as he had to go out on his night duty. He removed the thick shawl from his body rather reluctantly. The cold was biting. The midnight’s cold was unforgiving. The station he was attached to was very rudimentary set-up where trains stopped only occasionally. There was a long tunnel ahead, and the trains needed to be flagged in due to safety considerations. This was the reason why the trains slowed down briefly as they went past the station to enter the tunnel.


On Baldeo’s shoulders lay the responsibility of inspecting the tunnel for any possible obstruction of the track. He would signal the trains in only if there was no hindrance to obstruct the train. Baldeo used to stand guard at the tunnel entrance and manually wave the train in by his hand-crafted signal. Despite, the basic nature of this arrangement, Baldeo’s contribution to the safe passage of the train was critical.


On that fateful night, the young boy Thembu wanted to accompany his father. His curiousity got the better of his comfort in the warm bed. But, Baldeo didn’t want his son to be exposed to that night’s cold. Thembu was asked not to venture out.


Thembu was a 12-year-old then. He had to extend a helping hand to his mother and young sister in household chores and in the work in the family farm. This robbed him of the opportunity to sleep in the station beside his father, Baldeo. From the station to their hut that stood bordering the tribal village, it was a three mile trek. Baldeo’s salary from the railways, although meager, came in handy to meet his family’s needs. The paltry income from their paddy farm fell well short of their needs. Baldeo, had thus managed to avoid grinding poverty. His love for the railways and the Khalasi job he did was, therefore, understandable.


Baldeo, with sleep weighing down his eye lids, struggled to rise. It took him some effort to find the match box he wanted to light the lamp. Undeterred by the darkness and the cold, he stepped out of his hut and set off for the station treading the same solitary jungle path which he used every night on his way to duty. Thembu had fallen asleep again in the meanwhile.


Baldeo was not sure if the lamp in the signal post was alight. Wrapping the shawl around his body, he trudged forward along the track in the chill. It was not a pleasant job, but he did it each night dutifully. But, he loved to return to the warmth of his hut.


The hills on either towered over the rail track. An uncanny feeling of fear seemed to grip the desolate area. The wild animals were there around the place. Baldeo had to be very alert to their presence. He had heard many stories about the man-eaters that stalked the tunnel, but he consciously brushed these tales as nothing but figments of imagination. Till that night, he had not encountered any wild animal.


Some panthers, obviously, were there. One such cat was killed by the villagers. Their spears pierced its body to death. Panthers had stayed clear of Baldeo’s hut so far.


Baldeo, undaunted by the looming danger of wild animals in the area, walked forward confidently. His tribal blood had trained him to defy the fears. He carried a small axe, which he could use to deadly effect when the need rose. He used it to chop off trees, and as a bulwark against the jungle animals’ possible attack.
On one occasion, he had killed a boar with the same axe. His family feasted on its meat for three days. The axe was a precious family possession. It had belonged to his father who had wrought its steel blade quite deftly over charcoal fire. The blade’s shine had remained intact over the years. In the hand of Baldeo, it was a formidable weapon against any attack. On occasions, railway officials had offered good money to buy the weapon, but Baldeo was too proud of it to part with it.


Baldeo, finally, reached the tunnel. It was a frightening sight as the dark interior seemed to awe any intruder.


Baldeo’s concern was the lamp. It had stopped burning. Had it run dry? He wanted to ascertain if there was enough oil left in it. If not, he would have to rush home to fetch some. The train was due soon. He lowered the lamp using its chain.


As he ran his hand over his body to get hold of the match box, he could hear the shriek of a deer from afar. He heard a big thud from nearby undergrowth. It made Baldeo’s hairs stand on their roots. Luckily for him, there was some oil left in the lamp. That saved him the trouble of going back to his hut. He lit the lamp, put it in position, and looked around apprehensively.


Not losing any more time, he went on his inspection tour of the tunnel’s passageway. The lamp on his hand swung as he walked briskly. The shadows danced to and fro on the wall. The tunnel was clear. Baldeo paced back to the entrance and waited for the train’s approach.
The train was late. Baldeo wrapped himself up tightly to kkeep warm and sat down. Soon, he dozed off, forgetting the unusual sounds he had heard some time earlier.


In the hut, the rumbling sound of the train set the environment alive. Thembu woke up from his sleep, and thinking that he was beside his father, blurted out, ‘Father, it is time to light the lamp.’ Soon, he discovered that his father had left much earlier leaving him on the warm bed of the hut. He lay wide awake hoping to see his father back from duty after the train departed.


Baldeo was woken up hearing the frightening grunt of a jungle cat very close to him. Bracing up for the danger, Baldeo grabbed his axe firmly, and wanted to figure out the location from which the sound came. An ominous silence lasted for a while. Was it the lull before a storm?
A few pebbles came cascading down the slope preceded by a thump. The tiger had arrived at Ground Zero!


Baldeo knew for certain it was a tiger, but he did not know the direction in which it was moving. ‘Was the tiger heading towards his hut, where his son Thembu was asleep?’ wondered Baldeo.


Just about a minute after, the majestic animal unveiled itself within yards of where Baldeo stood. I t was coming straight at him. The tiger’s shone brightly with their piercing gaze. Baldeo’s sense told him the futility of fleeing. Outpacing a tiger on the prowl is humanly impossible, he reasoned. With the signal post at his back, Baldeo stood still frozen fear as the tiger approached.
The tiger was a man-eater. He knew how feeble humans were against its might. Expecting no great fight-back from his prey, the tiger assumed a frightening aggressive posture with its right paw forward.


Baldeo moved swiftly to evade the paw and swung back at his attacker with his axe. The axe landed on the tiger’s shoulder. The enraged tiger charged against Baldeo with full fury. Baldeo again hit back at it with his axe. The axe inflicted a deep cut on the tiger’s leg, almost chopping it off. Unfortunately, the axe remained stuck in the tiger’s body leaving Baldeo without his only weapon of defence. Baldeo became utterly vulnerable now.


The tiger, seething in pain, pounced upon Baldeo with savage vengeance, and tore his body apart in no time. For Baldeo, the end came swiftly. He felt an excruciating pain on his back before falling silent for good. He had perished.
The tiger retreated to a distance and licked its limb. The pain of the cut made him to grunt intermittently. The tiger was also shaken by the encounter. It could not hear the sound of the approaching train. The Overland Mail came in majestically with its furnace aglow and smoke and sparks shrouding the engine as it struggled to climb up the incline.
Just before entering the tunnel, the driver blew the steam whistle, as was customary. The intent was to ward off obstructions from the track. The train kicked up a big noise inside the narrow tunnel. After a while, it emerged triumphantly at the other end. The din in the forest died down fast. Everything fell silent as if nothing had happened.


As a routine practice, the driver halted the train to re-charge water into the engine. He got down for unwinding a bit, and inspecting the headlamp. But, what he saw sent a shiver down his spine. He had never see anything like this before.


The tiger’s mangled body was stuck just above the cowcatcher of the engine. Obviously, the tiger had been mauled by the steel giant.
People soon gathered around the place. They gaped at the carcass, and made their own judgments in shock and wonder.


Thembu had arrived on the spot where the deadly encounter with the tiger had ended his father’s life. The poor boy sobbed as he looked on with his tear-filled eyes at what remained of his dead father. He sat there, undeterred by the approaching darkness. He wanted to guard his father’s dead body from the jungle animals who relished human flesh. The relief watchman came in due course.


For two complete days a pall of gloom hung over Thembu, his sister and the mother. The grief almost numbed them into silence.


But, life had to go on, regardless of the misfortune. On Thembu’s shoulder fell the responsibility of earning a living. Just three nights after the ghastly incident involving his father, Thembu was there at the tunnel doing exactly what his dead father did. It was a legacy he was proud of.


To cut the boredom, Thembu sang silently to himself as he waited for the incoming train. His father had fought valiantly winning everyone’s acclaim. The tiger’s death was sweet revenge for Thembu’s family. Besides, he had inherited the legendary axe that had inflicted such a fatal cut on the tiger. He felt proud.

The Merchant of Venice .. Main characters

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare … Character analysis of Shylock, Portia and Bassanio

Shylock ..
For the first time reader, Shylock appears to be the central pivot of the gripping story, The Merchant of Venice. He was, no doubt, a greedy, cruel and cunning money-lender with a heart filled with vitriol and extreme animosity towards the Christians he lived with. He was a Jew who charged usurious interest on the loans he gave. He had no mercy on the defaulters and pounced on them with vengeance, no matter how much pain it caused to the loanee.
He was, perhaps, the target of relentless harassment by the Christian majority government of those times. He was an embittered man, hounded by fellow Christian citizens. Some critics tend to take a lenient view of the hideous nature of Shylock considering the hostile environment he had to contend with all his lifetime.
Shylock derived a sadistic satisfaction in inflicting humiliation on Christian businessmen of his city. He had no soft corner in his heart for his daughter who was in love with a Christian young man. Religious bigotry prevented him from reconciling to their marriage.
His meanness comes to sharp focus when he invokes the clause in the loan document signed by Antonio, and demands his pound of flesh from the heart of his beleaguered borrower. The scene in the court is as riveting as it is sad. The readers breathlessly await the climax with Shylock ready with his sharp knife and the upright Antonio stepping forward to offer himself for the butchery. Shylock is pitiless and unforgiving. Luckily for the readers, the story takes a complete U-turn with Shylock trying to wriggle out of a very inconvenient situation.
Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock’s evil side is vivid and powerful. It adds a touch of highly drama and poignancy to the story. The story leaves an indelible mark in the reader’s mind and leaves us to ponder if Shylock deserves a softer assessment. Nonetheless, The Merchant of Venice owes its greatness as a novel to Shylock. We must concede this to him.
Portia ..
Portia is the damsel who is cherished by many blue-eyed young men. She is beautiful, intelligent, urbane, sophisticated and principled. She is a paragon of beauty, and with her grace, she becomes the woman of dream for so many eligible suitors.
Bassanio is very enchanted with Portia and is desperate to win her hands. Portia has dropped enough hints that he could woo her, with some luck, of course. It was during an earlier sojourn to Belmont that Bassanio read it in her eyes. Nerissa, the maid of Portia, knows Portia’s inclination towards Bassanio. When she mentions it to Portia, the latter struggles to conceal the excitement. Portia is too dignified to let a maid be privy to her inner feelings. But, the torment of love sweeps her inhibition aside.
Portia is a young woman with no dearth of romantic feelings. She is agog with joy to learn through Nerissa that Bassanio has already arrived at her mansion to take part in the contest. She, by then, has fallen for Bassanio’s masculine charm and personality. She pleads with him saying, “Pause a day or two, for in choosing wrong, I lose your company.” This is ample indication for the young man that his battle is already half won.
Bassanio’s makes the correct choice of the casket. Portia is in Cloud 9. She surrenders to his irresistible chivalry and charm. She offers herself and every other material possession she has to the young man who is soon going to be her husband. The earlier Portia – reticent, stately and carrying an air of superiority – is now a meek, obedient, caring and submissive woman, bewitched by her suitor’s persona. With impeccable presence of mind and sense of judgment, she dispatches Bassanio to rescue Antonio from the clutches of Shylock. Her magnanimity and maturity come to the fore when she decides to wait to be Bassanio’s wife, formally.
Portia is portrayed as a lady of substance – a woman who does not fall to the temptations of flesh forsaking her graciousness and sense of sympathy. She emerges as a woman of formidable virtue and great forbearance. The novel The Merchant of Venice would have been poorer without Portia.
Bassanio …
Bassanio is Antonio’s best very close friend. He adores Portia, the paragon of beauty and grace, and is desperate to woo her and make her his wife.
Bassanio is a happy-go-lucky young man who loves all the good things of life. He is poor in his money management, and tends to live beyond his means. He has mismanaged his shipping business, and makes no effort to hide his failings. He is down in debt, and vainly wishes that good luck will soon arrive to help him pay off the loans. Antonio is one of his creditors. He brazenly wants to borrow more to pay for his romantic pursuit of Portia. One can safely conclude that Bassanio is callous and insensitive.
Although in great debt, he has no qualms about taking more loan to chase a woman he adores. Such attitude deserves little appreciation. Behind his fascination for the youthful Portia, it is difficult to ignore Bassanio’s lust for her wealth. No doubt, he is a cunning player. He knows his friend Antanio’s large-heartedness, and magnanimity. Quite shamefully, he asks Antanio to stake his honour and life to borrow money from Shylock, the notoriously cruel money-lender. A ‘Pound of Flesh’ for the pleasures of flesh – surely reprehensible!!
While prodding his friend Antonio to arrange the loan, Bassanio makes little effort to hide his fascination both for her mind, mansion, and for her money. It was sheer lust compounded with greed and cunningness.
It would be unfair to assume that Bassanio ‘used’ Antonio to get the money. He truly was loyal to Antonio and cared for his safety and well being. This is why, he did not wish to stay back to enjoy conjugal pleasure with his beautiful wife, and rushed to save his dearest friend from the jaws of a very cruel death engineered by Shylock.

CBSE English Literature –Lost Spring analysis

Lost Spring [With Questions and Answers]

Sometimes I find a Rupee in the garbage.
Saheb is an urchin. Fate has been very cruel to him. He scratches a living by foraging garbage heaps in and around his locality. Saheb hails from Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. Like scores of refugees, he too made his way to India, but conditions here has been no better than in Dhaka. He has all but forgotten Dhaka.
His mother tells him that storms and typhoons ravaged their shanty home and fields making them destitute in their own land. They fled for greener pastures in neighboring India, and settled down in the city where he lives now. But, happiness and dignity has eluded him in this teeming city. His poverty bites him relentlessly.
The author speaks to him. She suggests that he go to school, but the idea was so impractical. Saheb is fed up with the drudgery of rag-picking, and says he would love to go to a school if there is one nearby. He said this when she offered to start a school.
Some days later, she runs into Saheb again. He wants to know if she had started the school. Saheb’s question puts her in the defensive. Her offer to start a school was just a flippant suggestion. She feels guilty for having contributed to the litany of broken promises Saheb would have faced stoically. She wriggles out of the embarrassment saying that building a school is time-consuming.
She meets the boy quite often in a group of other boys, all in tattered clothes and sunken eyes. They all scavenge the garbage dumps for anything worthwhile like some recyclable waste, bits of food etc. etc. For them the day starts in the morning and ends by noon when the Sun beats down mercilessly. Poverty had scarred each one’s face deep and hard.
Saheb’s real name is Saheb-e-Alam which translates to the ‘Lord of the Universe’. What an irony! TheLord of the Universe is down on the streets living off what others have left as waste!
On one occasion the author asked Saheb why he didn’t wear any chappals. Saheb replied that his mother had kept them in the shelf. One of his mates wearing an ill-fitting pair of shoes explained that Saheb would throw off his footwear even if his mother gives it to him. Another member of the scavenger gang says he wants shoes as he has never worn one all his life.
In villages and cities, one comes across umpteen number of boys and girls walking barefoot. It is a common sight. Perhaps, they go about barefoot more as a way of life than due to lack of money to buy a pair of shoes. It might be an entrenched practice that lingering poverty has forced upon the poorer sections of society.
The author recalls a story a man from Udipi had once narrated to her long back. He had a father who worked as a priest in the village temple. Each morning, he would lass by the temple on his way to school. During his brief Darshan, the boy would pray to the deity for a pair of shoes.
Thirty years later, the author visited the same village again. The village had changed beyond recognition. She visited the new priest. He had brightly-coloured plastic chairs in the yard. His school-going son wore uniform, shoes and had a smart school bag. Time, it seemed, had changed things for the better. Sadly, for the scavengers’ gang, time had stood still, unmoved and uninterested.
The author builds up a bond with Saheb. She follows him to Seemapuri, a shanty town in the outskirts of Delhi. Paradoxically, the locality, inhabited by Bangladeshi illegal migrants, is a world apart from the opulence of India’s capital city. Seemapuri has become a haven for Bangladeshis who came to India in the aftermath of the 1971 war. Like a swarm of bees, some 10,000 refugees have filled up this place which was once a totally uninhabited place. Ramshackle huts made out of corrugated tins, and tarpaulins dot the area. Living conditions are appalling, with no power, piped water or sewage. It is a hell. Only the hardiest of humans survive the deprivation and disease that plague the place.
In the government records, these displaced persons do not exist. They have no identity papers, no proof of citizenship and, therefore, no access to subsidized food. For three decades, the refugees have weathered the grim life in a slum. Politicians and government officers have looked askance at these people condemned to live as unwanted intruders under subhuman conditions.
For the men and women, staving off hunger is the primary task. So, they have learned to live with the daily grind of life in a city that does not recognize them as fellow human beings.
Picking through the city’s garbage offends none. So, they indulge in it with rare vigour and optimism. The garbage has become their source of sustenance. Over the years, they have learned how best to pick the right kind of waste—the items they can consume themselves or sell to make some little money. When one place ceases to cater to their needs, they move on to settle in some other place where they can scavenge and survive. Garbage is ‘gold’ to these nomads.

[To be continued]