Khushwant Singh's A Portrait of a Lady – a review

Suffice it to say, reading is poisonous. It tells upon one's health and eyes, and fills one with all sorts of discomforts. This poison is a poison of looking back. It leaves anybody unnerved and draws a layer of brine water on the stone-dried eyes.

Reading and rereading Khushwant Singh's A Portrait of a Lady... and the reading goes on with an unstoppable spirit... wishing other books a happy recess of not being soiled by this reader's vile eyes.


Old memories are evergreen. They belong to the past, and it is the past that keeps the everlasting spirit for giving a totality to our thinking that we are alive in the present. The narrator browses over the pages of the past. He is busy collecting the emotional harvest of the olden times, redolent of sweet childhood memories. Recollected in tranquillity, the memories act as fertilizer to the lands of the narrator's mind. The old memories have appeared anew and afresh, enlivened and animated, even years after.

The description of his grandmother's appearance and activities is touched upon with affectionate purity and pure affection. Ripe age slightly sags her from her waist. She hobbles with one hand resting on her waist to balance her stoop, and engages the other in telling the beads of her rosary. Her lips trembles with inaudible prayers. She goes to the temple every day, reads holy books and wishes that her grandson could learn prayers by heart. She helps her grandson to get ready for school and accompanies him to school. She helps him in his lessons as well. She is sincere and dutiful. She loves Indian culture, is fond of singing and spinning, hates western and scientific education. Her face is criss-crossed with age lines. Her grey hair usually slides down her puckered face.

She belongs to a Punjabi family and lives with her son, daughter in-law and her grandson. She looks not so pretty but her beauty is immaculate, as it broadcasts serenity and purity, calm and composure. She is very kind to the dogs. She feeds them with chapati-s. She feeds the sparrows and enjoys their company. She does not show any sort of resentment, instead she becomes quiet and goes in quest for a recluse.


The story touches the hemisphere of Indian culture and timeless quietness that had always been her glorious social structure. And here, as an Indian, I am somewhat penetrated by the magic of linguistic lucidity and feel a shudder within my soul and exclaim how happy we were in the olden times, when Indian civilization was a model edifice of love and affection, sincerity and dedication – when all these emotional inundations used to sparkle with the dignity of humanity that lies nowhere but in human beings.

1 comment:

khairul044 said...

I’m really like it! Very, very dgdeeac good!

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