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A Visit to Cambridge, Class 8 CBSE English Lesson Summary, Explanation

By Ruchika Gupta

 

A Visit to Cambridge, CBSE Class 8 English Honeydew Book Lesson 7 Explanation, Summary, Difficult words

 

A Visit to Cambridge Class 8 English Honeydew Book Lesson 7 - Detailed explanation of the lesson along with the meanings of difficult words. Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the lesson. All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson have been covered.

Class 8 English (Honeydew Book) Chapter 7 - A Visit to Cambridge

By Firdaus Kanga from Heaven on Wheels

“It matters if you just don’t give up”


a visit to cambridge

 

A Visit to Cambridge - Introduction

A Visit to Cambridge is written by Firdaus Kanga, writer and journalist from Mumbai. He was born with ‘brittle bones’ that tended to break easily when he was a child. The lesson gives us a glimpse of the meeting between Firdaus Kanga and Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest scientists of our time suffered from a form of paralysis that confined him to a wheelchair, and allowed him to ‘speak’ only by punching buttons on a computer, which speaks for him in a machine-like voice. Both these men moved around in wheelchairs. It was during Firdaus Kanga’s visit to Cambridge that they met each other.

 

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A Visit to Cambridge- Summary

A Visit to Cambridge by Firdaus Kanga begins with him taking a walking tour through Cambridge. During this tour, his guide mentioned that the famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking lived there. The author had completely forgotten about this and just as his tour ended, he went to a phone booth to contact him. He was able to talk to Hawking’s assistant and explain to him that he had come all the way from India on a wheelchair. The assistant allowed him half an hour with the scientist, from three-thirty to four. The writer mentions how people often ask differently-abled people to cheer-up as if they have a courage account they are too lazy to draw a check on. He feels the only thing that can make you stronger is seeing someone like you achieve something great. Stephen Hawking told him that he hadn’t been brave and this was the only choice he had, although the writer is of a conflicting view. The author was guilty of making the scientist speak as it took a lot of effort for him to tap on his little switch and find words in his computer. He was a man with a bright mind but his computerised voice made his thoughts come out as frozen phrases. Stephen mentions that he finds it amusing when people patronise him. The writer then gives a description of Hawkins as to how he looks like a three dimensional version of all his photographs in magazines. First impression of his appearance is shocking but he is the embodiment of inner glow in a man. He made the author believe in eternal souls and that everything else is just accessory. Hawkings thinks there is nothing good about being disabled but the writer is of the view that it makes you realise the existence of kindness in the world. Further, upon being asked, if he inspires a lot of people makes it any better for Stephen, he answered that it doesn’t. For someone whose body is like a claustrophobic room whose walls are getting narrower day by day, it doesn’t make much of a difference. The only advice Stephen had to offer to differently-abled people is only to focus on things they are good at. The half an hour came to an end and it was time for the writer to leave but the scientist made him stay. He offered the writer tea and a tour of his garden. His garden was as big as a park but Stephen covered every inch of it in his wheelchair while the writer dodged himself out of his way. They did not talk much in the sun. When it was time to leave, the author touched his shoulder and wheeled out. As he looked back, he could see an embodiment of his bravest self, the one he was moving towards and the one he had believed in for so many years.

A Visit to Cambridge- Lesson and Explanation

Cambridge was my metaphor for England, and it was strange that when I left it had become altogether something else, because I had met Stephen Hawking there.

JMetaphor- a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else.

The author begins by telling the readers that at some point in life, England only meant Cambridge for him and nothing more. He further remarked that after his meeting with Stephen Hawking, the meaning and relevance of England in his life changed completely.

stephen hawking

It was on a walking tour through Cambridge that the guide mentioned Stephen Hawking, ‘poor man, who is quite disabled now, though he is a worthy successor to Issac Newton, whose Chair he has at the university.’ And I started, because I had quite forgotten that this most brilliant and completely paralysed astrophysicist, the author of A Brief History of Time, one of the biggest best-sellers ever, lived here.

Astrophysicist- scholar of astrophysics - branch of physics dealing with stars, planets, etc

The author mentions that he happened to be on a walking tour through Cambridge when his guide spoke about Stephen Hawking. The guide called him a “poor man” because he was differently abled. He even told the author that Stephen Hawking now holds the position in the university which was earlier held by Issac Newton. The author reveals that before the guide had mentioned, he had forgotten that Stephen Hawking, most brilliant and completely paralysed astrophysicist, the author of one of the biggest best-sellers ever, A Brief History of Time, lived here.


When the walking tour was done, I rushed to a phone booth and, almost tearing the cord so it could reach me outside, phoned Stephen Hawking’s house. There was his assistant on the line and I told him I had come in a wheelchair from India (perhaps he thought I had propelled myself all the way) to write about my travels in Britain. I had to see Professor Hawking — even ten minutes would do. “Half an hour,“ he said. “From three-thirty to four.”

Propelled- drive or push something forward (here, it means come)

 

 

Once the walking tour came to an end, the author hurried to the nearest phone booth and stretched the cord to the extent of almost tearing it so that it could reach him outside the booth (because he was on a wheelchair). He called Stephen Hawking’s residence where his assistant answered the call. The author introduced himself as someone who came all the way from India (which the assistant must have taken in the literal sense that he travelled all the way from India on a wheelchair) to write about his travelling experience in Britain. The author explained that he needed to see Professor Hawking even if it meant only for ten minutes, but the assistant gave him a thirty-minute slot from three-thirty to four for the next day.


And suddenly I felt weak all over. Growing up disabled, you get fed up with people asking you to be brave, as if you have a courage account on which you are too lazy to draw a cheque. The only thing that makes you stronger is seeing somebody like you, achieving something huge. Then you know how much is possible and you reach out further than you ever thought you could.

The author began feeling weak at that moment. He relates how one is constantly told to be brave and cheerful when you grow up being differently abled as if it were that easy. He mentions that people think one who is different is just lazy to draw a cheque on their courage account. In such a situation, the only thing that gives you courage and strength is seeing people like you do something big. It is only then you know there is hope and possibility which makes you go beyond your limits and imagination.

“I haven’t been brave,” said his disembodied computer-voice, the next afternoon. “I’ve had no choice.” Surely, I wanted to say, living creatively with the reality of his disintegrating body was a choice? But I kept quiet, because I felt guilty every time I spoke to him, forcing him to respond. There he was, tapping at the little switch in his hand, trying to find the words on his computer with the only bit of movement left to him, his long, pale fingers. Every so often, his eyes would shut in frustrated exhaustion. And sitting opposite him I could feel his anguish, the mind buoyant with thoughts that came out in frozen phrases and sentences stiff as corpses.

Disembodied- separated from the body
Anguish- severe mental or physical pain or suffering
Buoyant- intensely active and vibrant

The next afternoon when he went to see him, Stephen Hawking told him that he hadn’t been brave. He spoke in his disembodied computer voice that he had no other option. The author wanted to reply that living so creatively even with his disabilities was a brave choice but he refrained from doing so as his guilt took over every time he pushed Stephen Hawking to respond by talking to him. He spoke by finding the words on his computer and then tapping a little switch in his hand with the only remaining movement left in his pale and long fingers. He would get easily fatigued and would shut his eyes every now and then in frustration. The author mentions how he could feel Hawking’s pain as the thoughts in his intensely active and vibrant mind came out emotionless and stiff as a corpse.

“A lot of people seem to think that disabled people are chronically unhappy,” I said. “I know that’s not true myself. Are you often laughing inside?”
About three minutes later, he responded, “I find it amusing when people patronise me.” “And do you find it annoying when someone like me comes and disturbs you in your work?” The answer flashed. “Yes.” Then he smiled his oneway smile and I knew, without being sentimental or silly, that I was looking at one of the most beautiful men in the world.

Chronically- in a persistent and recurring way
Amusing- causing laughter and providing entertainment
Patronise- to be kind or helpful to someone, but to talk to them as if they are inferior
Sentimental- prompted by feelings of tenderness or nostalgia

The author expresses how most people think that people with different abilities are constantly sad and miserable but as far as he is talking about himself, it is not true. He asks Hawking if it was true for him or was he laughing on the inside. It took Hawking almost three minutes to respond. He finds it entertaining when people are only kind to him because of his different abilities. The author further asks him if he feels irritated when people like him come and keep him away from his work, to which he answered a firm ‘yes’. After that Stephen smiled his oneway smile, not giving in to emotions but the author knew for sure that he was looking at one of the most beautiful and wonderful men in the world.


A first glimpse of him is shocking, because he is like a still photograph — as if all those pictures of him in magazines and newspapers have turned three-dimensional. Then you see the head twisted sideways into a slump, the torso shrunk inside the pale blue shirt, the wasted legs; you look at his eyes which can speak, still, and they are saying something huge and urgent — it is hard to tell what. But you are shaken because you have seen something you never thought could be seen

Slump- sit, lean, or fall heavily and limply.
Torso- upper part of the body
Wasted- weak or emaciated

The author mentions how the first glance of Hawking startles you because he is motionless, just as a photograph. It seems that all his photos in magazines and newspapers have become three-dimensional, but still. As you notice him further, his head is turned sideways limply, the upper part of the body is shrunk inside his dull blue shirt and legs weak. His eyes appear as if they can speak, they are still, yet trying to speak something of great significance and urgency, although what they are saying is hard to decipher. Having looked at him shakes you up completely because your eyes have something completely unexpected.

Before you, like a lantern whose walls are worn so thin you glimpse only the light inside, is the incandescence of a man. The body, almost irrelevant, exists only like a case made of shadows. So that I, no believer in eternal souls, know that this is what each of us is; everything else an accessory.

Incandescence- inner glow or light
Accessory- not essential, but extra, though decorative

When you see him, it appears as if he is like a lantern whose walls are so worn out that you only see the light inside. Yes, before you, is the inner glow of a man. It makes you feel that the body is irrelevant and exists only like a case made of shadows. It even makes the author, a non-believer in eternal souls, one realizes that a man is no more than that. Everything else is just not essential.


“What do you think is the best thing about being disabled?” I had asked him earlier. “I don’t think there is anything good about being disabled.” “I think,” I said, “you do discover how much kindness there is in the world.” “Yes,” he said; it was a disadvantage of his voice synthesiser that it could convey no inflection, no shades or tone. And I could not tell how enthusiastically he agreed with me.

Synthesiser- an electronic musical instrument, typically operated by a keyboard, producing a wide variety of sounds by generating and combining
signals of different frequencies
Inflection- rise and fall of the voice in speaking

The author asked Stephen, what according to him was the best thing about being differently abled. To which, Hawking replied that he did not find anything good about it. The author then expressed that he thinks it makes you discover that there is so much kindness in the world. Stephen agreed, but due to his voice synthesiser, the author could not decipher the excitement behind his answer as there is a disadvantage that comes with it that it conveys no inflection, shade or tone.


Every time I shifted in my chair or turned my wrist to watch the time — I wanted to make every one of our thirty minutes count — I felt a huge relief and exhilaration in the possibilities of my body. How little it mattered then that I would never walk, or even stand.

Exhilaration- a feeling of happiness, excitement or elation

The author mentions that each time he adjusted himself in his chair or had a look at his wrist-watch to track time, he wanted to make sure that no single minute of the meeting went wasted. He adds that he was relieved and happy about the limited possibilities his body had to offer. In that moment, it almost did not matter to the author that he would never be able to walk or even stand, for that matter.

 

 

I told him how he had been an inspiration beyond cliche´ for me, and, surely, for others — did that thought help him?
“No,” he said; and I thought how foolish I was to ask. When your body is a claustrophobic room and the walls are growing narrower day by day, it doesn’t do much good to know that there are people outside smiling with admiration to see you breathing still.

Cliche´- phrase or idea used so often that it loses its meaning
Claustrophobic- very small and suffocating (‘Claustrophobia’ is abnormal fear of being in an enclosed space)

The author confessed to him how Stephen had inspired him beyond limits and he was sure that he must have inspired a lot others. He asked if this fact made it any better for Stephen. Stephen said that it didn’t. On hearing his answer, the author felt foolish for even asking such a question. This is because Stephen Hawking feels when your own body is like a very small and suffocating room whose walls are getting closer day by day, the fact that people out there are happy that you are alive does not make much of a difference for you.

“Is there any advice you can give disabled people, something that might help make life better?” “They should concentrate on what they are good at; I think things like the disabled Olympics are a waste of time.” “I know what you mean.” I remembered the years I’d spent trying to play a Spanish guitar considerably larger than I was; and how gleefully I had unstringed it one night. The half-hour was up. “I think I’ve annoyed you enough,” I said, grinning. “Thank you for...” “Stay.” I waited. “Have some tea. I can show you the garden.” The garden was as big as a park, but Stephen Hawking covered every inch, rumbling along in his motorised wheelchair while I dodged to keep out of the way. We couldn’t talk very much; the sun made him silent, the letters on his screen disappearing in the glare.

 

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Gleefully- very happily
Rumbling- a continuous deep, resonant sound (probably of the wheels, here)

The author asked Stephen if he would like to give a piece of advice to other differently-abled people which would help make life a little easier for them. Stephen said that they should focus on their strengths and what they are good at. According to Stephen, things like Olympics for the differently-abled are a waste of time. The author got the gist of what Stephen meant because he had spent years learning to play a Spanish guitar, which was larger than his own size and how he unstringed it one night very happily.
The thirty minutes came to an end and the author smiled as he said “I think I’ve annoyed you enough” and continued to thank him for his time but was interrupted by Stephen who instead asked him to stay. He waited for Stephen to say something next and he offered the author some tea and a chance to show his garden. Even though the garden was as big as a park, Stephen showed him every inch and corner of it on his motorised wheelchair. The author tried not to come in his way. They couldn’t converse a lot during that time as the letters on his screen disappeared in the glare. It felt as if the sun made him silent.

An hour later, we were ready to leave. I didn’t know what to do. I could not kiss him or cry. I touched his shoulder and wheeled out into the summer evening. I looked back; and I knew he was waving, though he wasn’t. Watching him, an embodiment of my bravest self, the one I was moving towards, the one I had believed in for so many years, alone, I knew that my journey was over. For now


An hour passed and it was time to leave. The author did not know what to do as he left, as he could not kiss him or cry either. Thus, he touched his shoulder and went out into the summer evening in his wheelchair. The author knew Stephen was waving (when he actually wasn’t) as he looked back.
The author expresses how glancing at Stephen was like looking at his bravest self, the one he was moving towards and the one he had believed in for so many years. He was well aware that his journey was over, for now, in England.

A Visit to Cambridge- Question and Answers

Comprehension Check

Which is the right sentence?
1. “Cambridge was my metaphor for England.” To the writer,
(i) Cambridge was a reputed university in England.

(ii) England was famous for Cambridge.
(iii) Cambridge was the real England.
Answer- (iii) Cambridge was the real England.

2. The writer phoned Stephen Hawking’s house
(i) from the nearest phone booth.
(ii) from outside a phone booth.
(iii) from inside a phone booth.

Answer- (ii) from outside a phone booth.

3. Every time he spoke to the scientist, the writer felt guilty because
(i) he wasn’t sure what he wanted to ask.
(ii) he forced the scientist to use his voice synthesiser.
(iii) he was face to face with a legend.
Answer- (ii) he forced the scientist to use his voice synthesiser.

4. “I felt a huge relief... in the possibilities of my body.” In the given context, the highlighted words refer to
(i) shifting in the wheelchair, turning the wrist.
(ii) standing up, walking.
(iii) speaking, writing.
Answer- (ii) standing up, walking.

Working with the Text
Answer the following questions.

1. (i) Did the prospect of meeting Stephen Hawking make the writer nervous? If so, why?
A. Yes, the prospect of meeting Stephen Hawking made the writer nervous because he was someone like him who had achieved bigger things in life. The author wanted to make use of each minute of that thirty minute meeting.

(ii) Did he at the same time feel very excited? If so, why?
A. He felt excited at the same time as he had been given half an hour to be with someone like him who had achieved bigger things in life.

2. Guess the first question put to the scientist by the writer.
A. The author’s first question to Hawking must have been about his well-being and the source of his inspiration that led him to do brave things.

3. Stephen Hawking said, “I’ve had no choice.” Does the writer think there was a choice? What was it?
A. Although Stephen Hawking said he had no choice but to be brave, the writer did think there was a choice. The choice was to live creatively with the reality of his disintegrated body. 

4. “I could feel his anguish.” What could be the anguish?
A. The astrophysicist would get exhausted by tapping at the little switch in his hand to find words on his computer. The author mentions he could feel Hawking’s anguish on how even after having a buoyant mind, thoughts came out in frozen phrases and sentences stiff as corpses.

5. What endeared the scientist to the writer so that he said he was looking at one of the most beautiful men in the world?
A. The scientist’s pure and oneway smile made the author feel like he was looking at one of the most beautiful men in the world.

6. Read aloud the description of ‘the beautiful’ man. Which is the most beautiful sentence in the description?
A. The line “Before you, like a lantern whose walls are worn so thin you glimpse only the light inside, is the incandescence of a man” is the most beautiful sentence in the description of ‘the beautiful’ man.

7. (i) If ‘the lantern’ is the man, what would its ‘walls’ be?
A. If ‘the lantern’ is the man, its ‘walls’ would be the body or torso.

(ii) What is housed within the thin walls?
A. The glow of an eternal soul was housed within the thin walls.

(iii) What general conclusion does the writer draw from this comparison?
A. From this comparison, the author draws a general conclusion that eternal soul is what each one of us is, and everything else is just accessory.

8. What is the scientist’s message for the disabled?
A. The scientist’s message for the differently abled is to concentrate on something they are good at.

9. Why does the writer refer to the guitar incident? Which idea does it support?
A. The writer spent years trying to learn to play Spanish guitar but unstringed it one night. The writer referred to the guitar incident to support Stephen Hawking’s idea that differently abled people must concentrate on something they are good at.

10. The writer expresses his great gratitude to Stephen Hawking. What is the gratitude for?
A. The writer expressed his great gratitude to Stephen Hawking as he could see within Stephen, an embodiment of his bravest self, the one he was moving towards and who he had believed in for so many years.

 

 

11. Complete the following sentences taking their appropriate parts from both the boxes below.
(i) There was his assistant on the line ...
(ii) You get fed up with people asking you to be brave, ...
(iii) There he was, ...
(iv) You look at his eyes which can speak, ...
(v) It doesn’t do much good to know …

A

  1. tapping at a little switch in his hand
  2. and I told him
  3. that there are people
  4. as if you have a courage account
  5. and they are saying something huge and urgent

 

B

  1. trying to find the words on his computer.
  2. I had come in a wheelchair from India.
  3. on which you are too lazy to draw a cheque.
  4. smiling with admiration to see you breathing still.
  5. it is hard to tell what.

 

Solution-
(i) There was his assistant on the line ...
There was his assistant on the line and I told him I had come in a wheelchair from India.
(ii) You get fed up with people asking you to be brave, ...
You get fed up with people asking you to be brave, as if you have a courage account on which you are too lazy to draw a cheque.
(iii) There he was, ...
There he was, tapping at a little switch in his hand trying to find the words on his computer.
(iv) You look at his eyes which can speak, ...
You look at his eyes which can speak and they are saying something huge and urgent.
(v) It doesn’t do much good to know …
It doesn’t do much good to know that there are people smiling with admiration to see you breathing still.

A Visit to Cambridge- Grammar Exercises

 

1. Fill in the blanks in the sentences below using the appropriate forms of the words given in the following box.

 

guide

succeed

chair

travel

pale

draw

true

(i) I met a ____________ from an antique land.
(ii) I need special ____________ in mathematics. I can’t count the number of times I have failed in the subject.
(iii) The guide called Stephen Hawking a worthy ____________ to Issac Newton.
(iv) His other problems ____________ into insignificance beside this unforeseen mishap.
(v) The meeting was ____________ by the youngest member of the board.
(vi) Some people say ‘yours ____________’ when they informally refer to themselves.
(vii) I wish it had been a ____________ match. We would have been spared the noise of celebrations, at least.

Solution-
(i) I met a traveller  from an antique land.
(ii) I need special guidance in mathematics. I can’t count the number of times I have failed in the subject.
(iii) The guide called Stephen Hawking a worthy successor to Issac Newton.
(iv) His other problems paled into insignificance beside this unforeseen mishap.
(v) The meeting was chaired by the youngest member of the board.
(vi) Some people say ‘yours truly’ when they informally refer to themselves.
(vii) I wish it had been a drawn match. We would have been spared the noise of celebrations, at least.

2. Look at the following words.

walk

stick

Can you create a meaningful phrase using both these words?
(It is simple. Add -ing to the verb and use it before the noun. Put an article at the beginning.)
..a walking stick
Now make six such phrases using the words given in the box.

 

read/session

smile/face

revolve/chair

walk/tour

dance/doll

win/chance

Solution-

  1. read/session- A reading session
  2. smile/face- A smiling face
  3. revolve/chair- A revolving chair
  4. walk/tour- A walking tour
  5. dance/doll- A dancing doll
  6. win/chance- A winning chance

3. Use all or both in the blanks. Tell your partner why you chose one or the other.
(i) He has two brothers. _______ are lawyers.
(ii) More than ten persons called. _______ of them wanted to see you.
(iii) They _______ cheered the team.
(iv) _______ her parents are teachers.
(v) How much have you got? Give me _______ of it.

Solution-
(i) He has two brothers. Both are lawyers.
(ii) More than ten persons called. All of them wanted to see you.
(iii) They all cheered the team.
(iv) Both her parents are teachers.
(v) How much have you got? Give me all of it.

4. Complete each sentence using the right form of the adjective given in brackets.
(i) My friend has one of the _______ cars on the road. (fast)
(ii) This is the _______ story I have ever read. (interesting)
(iii) What you are doing now is _______ than what you did yesterday. (easy)
(iv) Ramesh and his wife are both _______. (short)
(v) He arrived _______ as usual. Even the chief guest came _______ than he did. (late, early)

Solution-
(i) My friend has one of the fastest cars on the road. (fast)
(ii) This is the most interesting story I have ever read. (interesting)
(iii) What you are doing now is easier than what you did yesterday. (easy)
(iv) Ramesh and his wife are both short. (short)
(v) He arrived late as usual. Even the chief guest came earlier than he did. (late, early)

 

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