Thinking about the Text
I. Answer these questions in one or two words or in short phrases.
- 1. Name the two temples the author visited in Kathmandu.
- 2. The writer says, “All this I wash down with Coca Cola.” What does ‘all this’
- refer to?
- 3. What does Vikram Seth compare to the quills of a porcupine?
- 4. Name five kinds of flutes.
II. Answer each question in a short paragraph.
- 1. What difference does the author note between the flute seller and the other
- 2. What is the belief at Pashupatinath about the end of Kaliyug?
- 3. The author has drawn powerful images and pictures. Pick out three examples
- each of
- (i) the atmosphere of ‘febrile confusion’ outside the temple of Pashupatinath
- (for example: some people trying to get the priest’s attention are elbowed
- (ii) the things he sees
- (iii) the sounds he hears
III. Answer the following questions in not more than 100–150 words each.
- 1. Compare and contrast the atmosphere in and around the Baudhnath shrine with the Pashupatinath temple.
- 2. How does the author describe Kathmandu’s busiest streets?
- 3. “To hear any flute is to be drawn into the commonality of all mankind.” Why does the author say this?
Solution : 1
1. The two temples the author visited in Kathmandu were the Pashupatinath temple and the Baudhnath stupa.
2. ‘All this’ refers to the author buying a bar of marzipan, a corn-on-the-cob roasted in a charcoal stove on the pavement (rubbed with salt, chilli powder and lemon), a couple of love story comics, and a Reader’s Digest.
3. Vikram Seth compares the fifty or sixty bansuris protruding in all directions from the pole with an attachment on top that is held by the flute seller to the quills of a porcupine.
4. The five kinds of flutes are the reed neh, the Japanese shakuhachi, the deep bansuri of Hindustani classical music, the clear or breathy flutes of South America, and the high-pitched Chinese flutes.
Solution : 2
1. The author notes that the flute seller selected a flute from time to time and played it for a few minutes. The sound rose clearly above the noise of the traffic and the hawkers’ cries. While the flute seller played slowly, meditatively, and without excessive display, the hawkers shouted out their wares.
2. At Pashupatinath, there is a small shrine that protrudes from the stone platform on the river bank. The belief is that when it emerges fully, the goddess inside will escape, and the evil period of Kaliyug will end on earth.
(i) The author has drawn powerful images and pictures of the atmosphere of ‘febrile confusion’ outside the temple of Pashupatinath. There are so many worshippers that some people trying to get the priest’s attention were elbowed aside by others pushing their way to the front.
By the main gate, a party of saffron-clad Westerners struggled for permission to enter as only Hindus were allowed to enter the temple.A fight broke out between two monkeys. One was chasing the other, who jumped onto a shivalinga, then ran screaming around the temples and down to the river, the holy Bagmati.
(ii) He saw that the Baudhnath Stupa had an immense white dome, which was ringed by a road. Small shops were there on the outer edge where felt bags, Tibetan prints and silver jewellery could be bought.
There were no crowds there. On the busiest streets of Kathmandu, he saw fruit sellers, flute sellers, hawkers of postcards, shops selling Western cosmetics, film rolls, chocolate, copper utensils and Nepalese antiques.
(iii) The sounds he heard were film songs that were blaring out from the radios, car horns, bicycle bells, stray cows lowing, vendors shouting out their wares. He also listened to flute music, calling it the most universal and most particular of sounds.
Solution : 3
1. The atmosphere at Pashupatinath temple was one of noise, chaos and confusion. Worshippers were trying to get the priest’s attention;
others were pushing their way to the front; saffron-clad Westerners were trying to enter the temple; monkeys were fighting and adding to the general noise; a corpse was being cremated on the banks of the river Bagmati; washerwomen were at their work, while their children were bathing.
In contrast, at the Baudhnath stupa there were no crowds, it was “a haven of quietness in the busy streets around”. There was a sense of stillness and serenity about the Buddhist shrine.
2. Along Kathmandu’s narrowest and busiest streets, there were small shrines and flower-adorned deities. Apart from these, there were fruit sellers, flute sellers, hawkers of postcards, shops selling Western cosmetics, film rolls, chocolate, copper utensils and Nepalese antiques.
The author heard film songs that were blaring out from the radios, sounds of car horns and bicycle bells, stray cows lowing questioningly at motorcycles, vendors shouting out their wares. He also saw a flute seller with many bansuris. He contrasts the serene music produced by the flute seller with the cries of the hawkers.
3. The author considers flute music to be “the most universal and most particular” of all music. There is no culture that does not have its flute. Each kind of flute has a specific fingering and compass, and “weaves its own associations”. Still, for the author, to hear any flute is “to be drawn into the commonality of all mankind to be moved by music closest in its phrases and sentences to the human voice.
In spite of their differences, every flute produces music with the help of the human breath. Similarly, in spite of the differences in caste, culture, religion, region, language all human beings are the same, with the same living breath running through all of them.
Chapter 10 – Kathmandu Exercise 134
Solution : 1
(i) The heart is a pump that sends the blood circulating through our body. The pumping action takes place when the left ventricle of the heart contracts. This forces the blood out into the arteries, which expands to receive the oncoming blood.
(ii) The African lungfish can live without water for up to four years. During drought, it digs a pit and encloses itself in a capsule of slime and earth, leaving a tiny opening for air. The capsule dries and hardens, but when rain comes, the mud dissolves and the lungfish swims away.
(iii) Mahesh : We have to organise a class party for our teacher. Does anyone play an instrument?
Vipul : Rohit plays the flute.
Mahesh : Does he also act?
Vipul : No, he composes music
Mahesh : That’s wonderful !