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Q.1. How does the author describe the flute seller? What does he say about the flute music?
Ans. The author finds a flute seller in a corner of the square near his hotel. There is a pole in his hand. There is an attachment at the top of the pole. Fifty or sixty flutes are stuck on it. These flutes protrude in all directions. The author compares these flutes to the quills of a porcupine. These flutes are made-of bamboo: From time to time, he stands the pole on the ground. Then he selects a flute and plays on it for a few minutes. The sound rises clearly above the noise of the traffic and the hawkers’ cries. He plays the flute slowly and thoughtfully. He does not shout out his wares. Occasionally someone buys a flute from him. But the flute seller’s attitude is carefree. The author likes his attitude. He imagines that this has been his pattern of life for years. The author finds it difficult to come away from there. He has always been attracted by the flute music: He says that the flute is a very common musical instrument. It is found in almost all cultures. It is the common link of all mankind.
Q.2. Compare and contrast the atmosphere in and around the Baudhnath shrine with that in the Pashupatinath Temple.
Ans. The Pashupatinath Temple, sacred to Hindus, and the Baudhnath shrine of the Buddhists stand in contrast with regard to their ambiance.
The noisy confusion of the Hindu Temple is opposite to the tranquillity that reigns supreme in the Baudhnath shrine. In the Pashupatinath temple, utter chaos is created by a large number of unorganized worshippers who try to push each other to reach closer to the priest and the deity. At Baudhnath stupa, there aren’t many people inside the structure.
The atmosphere at Pashupatinath Temple is made noisy by the heterogeneous crowd consisting of priests, hawkers, devotees, and tourists. The animals like cows and dogs freely move around and the pigeons to contribute to the confusion. Even monkeys play about and fight in the premises of the temple. Confusion is also created by some Westerners who wish to enter the temple.
The Boudhanath stupa, on the contrary, gives a feeling of stillness and silence. Although there are small shops on the road around the temple, run by Tibetan immigrants, there is neither noise nor chaos. The author is so fascinated by the serenity in and around the temple that he calls it ‘a haven of stillness’ standing quietly amidst the busy streets.
Q.3. How does the author describe Kathmandu’s busiest streets?
Ans. The author presents the busiest streets of Kathmandu as ‘vivid, mercenary and religious’. It is a place with the beautiful, vivid, landscape, and a lot of religious activity goes on all the time. Besides the famous places like the Pashupatinath temple and the Baudhnath stupa, Kathmandu also has small shrines and deities-It is ‘mercenary’ as it is a tourist place and a lot of business – flourishes in the narrow streets. One can find fruit sellers, flute sellers, and hawkers selling postcard photographs. As in any other tourist place, there are shops selling various things like cosmetics from western countries, rolls of film, chocolates, antique things of Nepal, and copper pots and pans.
There is a bedlam of noises created by radios playing film songs, sounds of car-horns, bells of bicycles and vendors shouting to invite the customers. There are also the cows bellowing as they hear the sounds of motorcycles. Thus, the streets of Kathmandu are full of noise and din.
Q.4. “ To hear any flute is to be drawn into the commonality of all mankind.” Why does the author say this?
Ans. The author hears the music of a flute played by a flute seller in a square near his hotel in Kathmandu and is reminded of the various kinds of music produced by various types of flutes found in various cultures. However, the flute is universal because almost every culture has flutes, though each has a different tone and pitch.
The author further describes the variety of flutes named differently as the shakuhachi in Japan and the bansuri in India. They have different fingering methods and ranges of sound. The Indian bansuri has a deep sound, the South American flute emits clear, breathy sound and the Chinese flute gives out loud, high-pitched melodies.
Despite the variety of flutes and the variations in their music, the author emphasizes that the music of all the flutes closely resembles the human voice. To produce music, every flute needs pauses and breaths in the same manner in which phrases and sentences are uttered in the human voice. These pauses and breaths are generated through fingering of the holes of a flute. This characteristic feature of the flutes gives the author a feeling of being “drawn into the commonality of mankind”, which gives him a sense of universality and harmony.
Q.5. What ideas do you get about the author from the extract “Kathmandu”?
Ans. The extract “Kathmandu” taken from Vikram Seth’s travelogue, ‘Heavenly Lake’, brings forth certain traits of his personality. As a traveller, Seth displays a keen sense of observation, and as a person with a fine aesthetic sense, his ability to capture the vivid details comes to the fore.
The pictures of the temples of Kathmandu and its crowded streets become alive with his vivid descriptions. Though indirectly, he also appears to be a lover of serenity and tranquillity when he terms the stupa as a ‘haven of quietness’. He also shows his concern as an environmentalist who does not approve of the polluting activities carried on the banks of the Bagmati river. Vikram Seth’s fondness for travelling is obvious by the fact that although tired, he still contemplates taking a longer route back home to Delhi.
His fondness for music is brought forth when we find him so enchanted by the music of the flute that he has to force himself to leave the square where the flute is being played by the seller.
His choice of reading reveals that when tired, he prefers to read light and popular stuff. Like a typical traveller, he indulges himself with the eatables he finds available in the bazaar of Kathmandu.
Thus, the author emerges as a man with a profound fondness for travelling, love for music, a keen sense of observation, reflective mind, and an ability to portray places and people minutely and realistically.
Q.6. 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
(ii) the things he sees
(iii) the sounds he hears
Ans. (i) Some examples of the atmosphere of ‘febrile confusion’ outside the Pashupatinath Temple:
(ii) Some examples of the things that the writer sees:
(iii) Some examples of the sounds that the writer hears:
Q.7. Where does the author find the flute seller and what are his observations about him? What draws the author to the music of the flute?
Ans. The author finds a flute seller along with many other hawkers in a corner of the square near his hotel in Kathmandu. But the flute seller’s style of selling his ware differs absolutely from that of the other vendors. He does not shout to attract the customers nor does he show any kind of desperation to sell.
He carries a pole with about fifty to sixty flutes attached at the top. The author compares these flutes protruding in all directions to the sharp quills of a porcupine. Most of the flutes on the poles are of the varieties of ‘recorders’ and ‘cross-flutes’. The flute seller, instead of hawking loudly, places the pole on the ground every now and then, selects a flute and plays upon it slowly and in a meditative manner without ever resorting to excessive display.
The sound of the flute is distinct and clear and can be heard even above the noise created by the traffic horns and the shouts of the hawkers. He does not seem to run a very brisk business and it appears as if playing the flute is his chief activity and selling of flutes is incidental to it.
The mesmerising music of the flute draws the author to it. He is left spell-bound by its hypnotic notations. The impact is so deep that he has to force himself to leave the square where the flute is being played. This music is etched in his memory and he carries it with him to his home in India.