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The Snake and the Mirror, Class 9 CBSE English Lesson Explanation, Summary

By Ruchika Gupta

 

CBSE Class 9 English Lesson - The Snake and the Mirror

CBSE Class 9 English Lesson - The Snake and the Mirror. Detailed explanation of the lesson along with 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.

 

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CBSE Class IX Lesson 5 - The Snake and the Mirror

By Vaikom Muhammad Basheer [translated from the Malayalam by V. Abdulla]

 

 

Introduction to the Lesson

The story is a narrative within the narrative. The writer tells us the story which was told to him by a homeopathic doctor. As we see from the title, the snake and the mirror are the two most important things in the story. This homeopathic doctor encountered a snake, the snake fell on the doctor. When the snake saw its reflection in the mirror, it was more interested in that and the doctor’s life was saved.

 

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Lesson and Explanation

 

“HAS a snake ever coiled itself round any part of your body? A full-blooded cobra?” All of us fell silent. The question came from the homeopath. The topic came up when we were discussing snakes. We listened attentively as the doctor continued with his tale.

It was a hot summer night; about ten o’clock. I had my meal at the restaurant and returned to my room. I heard a noise from above as I opened the door.

 

The homeopathic doctor is narrating the story. He asks the writer and the group if anyone had ever been wrapped up by a cobra snake. The audience became silent due to the fear of the cobra snake. Then the doctor narrated his story. It was a hot summer night, almost 10 o'clock, he was returning home after having his dinner at the restaurant. As the doctor was opening the door of his room, he heard a noise from above, but he did not react because he was used to such noises.

 

The sound was a familiar one.

One could say that the rats and I shared the room.

 

He was used to listen to this kind of noise. It was the noise of rats. There were many rats in his room, so he was used to the noise.

 

 

I took out my box of matches and lighted the kerosene lamp on the table.The house was not electrified; it was a small rented room.

 

There was no light in the doctor’s room, so, he lighted the kerosene lamp with a match box. He had taken a small room on rent.

 

I had just set up medical practice and my earnings were meagre.I had about sixty rupees in my suitcase.Along with some shirts and dhotis I also possessed one solitary black coat which was then wearing.

 

 

 

meagre: small in quantity.

possessed: had

solitary: single

 

As he had just started his medical practice, he was earning very less. That is why he was living in such a shabby, dirty condition. He told the writer that he had just sixty rupees in his bag.

 

Further,he added that he had some shirts and dhotis to wear. He also had a black -coloured coat which he was wearing at the time of the incident.

 

I took off my black coat, white shirt and not-so white vest and hung them up.

 

He removed his coat, his shirt and his vest. He says that the vest was not so white which means that it was dirty.

 

I opened the two windows in the room. It was an outer room with one wall facing the open yard. It had a tiled roof with long supporting gables that rested on the beam over the wall. There was no ceiling. There was a regular traffic of rats to and from the beam.

 

Yard is an open area like a garden or veranda.

gable: upper part of a wall below a sloping roof

 

Then he opened the windows. The room which he had taken on rent was on the outside of the house. And one wall of the room faced the garden. The roof had tiles on it and the gable was supported by the beams. Inside the room, there was no roof.The beam on which the gable was supported was full of rats which went in and out of the room through it.

 

I made my bed and pulled it close to the wall. I lay down but I could not sleep.

I got up and went out to the veranda for a little air, but the wind god seemed to have taken time off.

taken time off: to take a day off, take a holiday

 

He set his bed near the wall and he laid down to sleep but could not sleep. It seemed that the wind god had taken time off means that as the wind was not blowing,the wind god had taken a day off, he was on a holiday and so, wind was not blowing at all. He had gone out to get some fresh air because he did not have any fan or cooler in his room and he was feeling hot.

 

I went back into the room and sat down on the chair. I opened the box beneath the table and took out a book, the Materia Medica. I opened it at the table on which stood the lamp and a large mirror; a small comb lay beside the mirror.

 

He came back to his room and sat on a chair.  And he opened the box under the table and took out a book named ‘Materia Medica’. He kept it on the same table on which a lamp,a mirror and a small comb was lying. He opened it and sat down.

 

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One feels tempted to look into a mirror when it is near one.

I took a look. In those days I was a great admirer of beauty and I believed in making myself look handsome.

As he was sitting in front of the mirror, he looked at his image in the mirror.

He says that he was a great admirer of beauty. As he was a young man, he liked to appreciate beautiful things and wanted to improve his looks to look more handsome.

 

I was unmarried and I was a doctor.I felt I had to make my presence felt.

 

As he was unmarried, and he was a doctor too, he was a eligible bachelor. So, he wanted to make people know that he was also available.

 

I picked up the comb and ran it through my hair and adjusted the parting so that it looked straight and neat.

 

He combed his hair, trying to set them properly.

 

Again I heard that sound from above.

 

When he was combing his hair, he again heard the same sound from above but ignored it.

 

I took a close look at my face in the mirror. I Made an important decision — I would shave daily and grow a thin moustache to look more handsome.

 

He looked carefully in the mirror and decided that he would shave daily and grow a thin moustache because he thought that he would look better and more handsome with it.



I was after all a bachelor, and a doctor!

bachelor: a man who is not and has never been married

 

The doctor repeats that he was not married and was a doctor too. So, he wanted to say that he was supposed to look very handsome. He was supposed to be good looking so that he could get a better match for himself.

 

I looked into the mirror and smiled. It was an attractive smile.I made another earth-shaking decision. I would always keep that attractive smile on my face .. to look more handsome.

 

earth-shaking decision: something very important.

 

He appreciated himself and said that he had an attractive smile. Another thing that he decided was that he would always keep smiling, because he looked better when he smiled.  The doctor was being ironic when he said that ‘to keep smiling’ was an earth – shaking decision.

 

 I was afterall a bachelor, and a doctor too on top of it.Again came that noise from above.

on top of it: to add on to something

 

Again, he is stressing that he was a bachelor and to add to it he was also a doctor. He thought that he had a lot of value and that is why he wanted to look handsome.

 

I got up, paced up and down the room. Then Another lovely thought struck me. I would marry.I would get married to a woman doctor who had plenty of money and a good medical practice. She had to be fat; for a valid reason - If I made some silly mistake and needed to run away she should not be able to run after me and catch me!

 

paced: walked

valid: logical, justifiable

 

He got up from his chair and started walking up and down in the room and then he decided on one more thing. He decided to marry a woman doctor, one who had lots of money and a good medical practice. Further the doctor thought that he would marry a fat girl. For that he had a logical reason also.  He reasoned that if sometime, he makes some mistake and his wife chases him in anger to hit him she will not be able to run fast and catch him if she would be fat.

 

With such thoughts in my mind I resumed my seat in the chair in front of the table. There were no more sounds from above. Suddenly there came a dull thud as if a rubber tube had fallen to the ground ... surely nothing to worry about.

 

Thinking all these things, the doctor again sat down on the chair.Now, the sound had stopped but all of a sudden, something fell down making the sound of a ‘thud’. It felt like some rubber tube had fallen and the doctor did not bother about it.

 

Even so I thought I would turn around and take a look.

 

But then he thought of turning around to see what had fallen.

 

No Sooner had I turned than a fat snake wriggled over the back of the chair and landed on my shoulder.The snake’s landing on me and my turnings were simultaneous.

wriggled: crawled

simultaneous: happened at the same time

 

As soon the doctor turned, he saw that a big fat snake had crawled over the chair and sat on his shoulders. The timing of the doctor’s turning around and the snake’s landing on his shoulder was same.

 

I didn’t jump. I didn’t tremble. I didn’t cry out.There was no time to do any such thing.

 

He did not panic, jump or tremble. he did not shiver he did not scream. It happened so fast, so instantly that he did not have any time to react.

 

The snake slithered along my shoulder and coiled around my left arm above the elbow.

slithered: Twisting and crawling motion of the snake

 

The snake moved in such a way that it wrapped itself on the doctor’s left arm like a coil.

 

The hood was spread out and its head was hardly three or four inches from my face!

 

hood: head of the snake.

 

It was in such a position, just 3 -4 inches away from his face, that if he would have moved slightly, the snake could have bitten him.

 

It would not be correct to say merely that I sat there holding my breath. I was turned to stone. But my mind was very active.

 

The doctor says that he was not only holding his breath but had turned into a stone, just like a statue. Although physically, he was still like a statue, but his mind was very actively. He was thinking what he should do next.

 

The door opened intodarkness.In the light of the lamp I sat there like a stone image in the flesh.

There was darkness all around him. Outside the room, inside the room, it was all very dark. There was only single light, the light of the lamp and in that light, he was sitting like a statue.

 

I felt then the great presence of the creator of this world and this universe. God was there.

As he was in trouble, he started feeling the presence of God. He was not able to do anything, so he started thinking of god.

 

Suppose I said something and he did not like it… I tried in my imagination to write in bright letters outside my little heart the words, ‘O God’.

 

He decided not to speak lest he should anger the snake. In his heart, the doctor was praying to god to save his life.

 

There was some pain in my left arm. It was as if athick leaden rod — no, a rod made of molten fire — was slowly but powerfully crushing my arm. The Arm was beginning to be drained of all strength.

What could I do?

As this snake has coiled itself, it had wrapped itself around his arm, it was experiencing a lot of pain. He was feeling as if a thick molten rod made of lead was crushing his arm and breaking it. He felt helpless. He could not do anything to save himself.

 

At my slightest movement the snake would strike me! Death lurked four inches away.

 

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strike: attack

 

lurked: hid

 

He knew that if he moved a bit, the snake would attack him. Death was very near, it was sitting at a distance of four inches.

 

Suppose it struck, what was the medicine I had to take? There were no medicines in the room. I was but a poor, foolish and stupid doctor. I forgot my danger and smiled feebly at myself.

 

feebly: weakly

 

He thought that if the snake bit him, then what would he do, which medicine he would take and then he recalled that there was no medicine in his room.He felt that he was a poor, foolish and stupid doctor. He was feeling very weak and as he did not have any way to come out of this situation, he smiled at his foolishness.

 

It seemed as if God appreciated that. The snake turned its head. It looked into the mirror and saw its reflection.

 

The doctor felt that God appreciated the doctor’s realization of his mistake. Something favourable happened and the doctor’s life was saved. The snake moved its head to the other side and saw the mirror. It looked at the mirror and it saw its own reflection in it.

 

I do not claim that it was the first snake that had ever looked into a mirror. But it was certain that the snake was looking into the mirror.

 

It is not possible that any snake had never looked at itself in the mirror before. But yes, this snake was looking at itself in the mirror and the doctor was surprised because the snake was looking at itself in the mirror very carefully.

 

Was it admiring its own beauty?

 

He was thinking that maybe it was admiring its beauty.

 

Was it trying to make an important decision about growing a moustache or using eyeshadow and mascara or wearing a vermilion spot on its forehead?

vermilion spot: red bindi

The doctor imagines that the snake must be imagining different styles like he was thinking few minutes back when he was looking at his face in the mirror. He thought that may be the snake was thinking of growing a mustache or may be of wearing eye shadow and mascara to look more pretty or maybe it was thinking of wearing a red – coloured bindi on its forehead.

 

I did not know anything for certain. What sexwas this snake, was it male or female? I will never know; for the snake unwound itself from my armand slowly slithered into my lap. From there it crept onto the table and moved towards the mirror. Perhaps It wanted to enjoy its reflection at closer quarters.

closer quarters: to get a closer look

 

The doctor did not know whether it was a male or a female snake. And he says that he will never come to know this because just then, it crawled from his arm and moved down into his lap. From there,it jumped and started crawling over the table. It crawled very close to the mirror and started looking at itself. The doctor thought that may be snake wanted to look at itself and have a closer look at its appearance.

 

I was no mere image cut in granite. I was suddenly a man of flesh and blood.

Granite: form of a marble, it’s a stone.

The doctor was no longer a mere statue made of stone. As soon as the snake crawled and got down from him, he came back to life.

 

Still holding my breath I Got up from the chair. I quietly went out through the door into the veranda. From there I leapt into the yard and ran for all I was worth.

 

all I was worth:  all the strength that I had

 

As the snake had crawled out of doctor’s lap, he stood up. Till now he had stopped his breath because he was scared of the snake Now, he quietly moved out of the door, jumped from the garden and ran away.

 

“Phew !” Each of us heaved a sigh of relief. Somebody Asked, “Doctor, is your wife very fat?”

 

All the people who were listening to the doctor’s story got relief and took a deep breath after they came to know that he was saved.  And someone from that group asked him whether his wife was fat.

 

 

“No,” the doctor said. “God willed otherwise. Mylife companion is a thin reedy person with the gift of a sprinter.”

 

reedy person: a thing or person resembling a tall, thin – leaved plant of the grass family

 

 

He replied that his wife was thin and tall just like a reed plant because god didn’t want his wife to be fat, so she was thin and could run very fast.



 

Someone else asked, “Doctor, when you ran did the snake follow you?”

 

Another person from the group asked him whether the snake chased him.

 

 

 

 

 

The doctor replied, “I ran and ran till I reached a friend’s house. Immediately I smeared oil all over myself and took a bath. I changed into fresh clothes.

smeared: covered with

He replied that he ran and ran till he reached a friend’s house. There he took an oil massage, took bath and wore fresh clothes. He did not know if the snake had chased him or not because he did not look behind him.

 

The next morning at about eight-thirty I took my friend and one or two others to my room to move my things from there. But we found we had little to carry.

Little to carry means his belonging were stolen and there was nothing much left to carry away.

The next day, around eight thirty in the morning, the doctor along with two of his friends went to the room to bring his belongings from there. There was not much stuff to take.

 

Some thief had removed most of my things.The room had been cleaned out! But not really, the thief had left behind one thing as a final insult!’

“What was that?” I asked.

The doctor said, “My vest, the dirty one.

The fellow had such a sense of cleanliness...! The rascal could have taken it and used it after washing it with soap and water.”

rascal: a mischievous or cheeky person, especially a child or a man, a naughty person

 

Someone had stolen most of the things from his room but left behind one thing. He thought that the thing which he left behind was to insult him.

The writer asked the doctor, what was the thing which the thief left behind. He replied that he left the vest which was dirty and was hanging on the wall. He added that the thief was so much into cleanliness that he left the dirty vest there only. He says that the naughty thief could have taken it along with him, washed it with soap and could have used it.

 

“Did you see the snake the next day, doctor?”

 

Someone asked the doctor if he saw the snake the next day.

 

The doctor laughed, “I’ve never seen it since. It Was a snake which was taken with its own beauty

taken with: attracted by

 

He laughed and replied that after that night, he never saw that snake. Maybe the snake was attracted towards its own beauty that is why it looked so carefully in the mirror.

 

 

Summary

It is a story of a homeopathic doctor’s encounter with a snake. The doctor lived in a small rented room which was an outhouse. It had two windows and a tiled roof. The tiles were supported by gables which rested on the beam and there was no electricity supply to the room. The place was infested with rats.


One hot summer night, the doctor took his meals at the restaurant and returned home. He lighted the kerosene lamp, took off his coat and shirt and opened the two windows. He settled on the chair and took out a medical book to read. There was a large mirror on the table on which stood a lamp. Since it was too hot to sleep, and he had nothing better to do, he sat down in front of the mirror, admiring himself, planning to improve his appearance as he was an eligible bachelor. Gradually, his thoughts shifted from self-admiration to planning his future marriage. He thought that he would marry a rich doctor having a good practice and that he would choose a fat lady as his wife so that she would not be able to run and catch him.


He was so engrossed in his day dreaming that he did not give much importance to the sudden silence. The rats had stopped scampering and there was a sound of something falling behind him. But he was slow to react. By the time he turned around to have a look, a snake had wriggled over the back of the chair and landed on his shoulders. It coiled around his left arm, above the elbow. It was a dangerous cobra and its hood spread out, hardly three inches from his face.The doctor sat there like a stone statue, afraid to move, lest the snake may strike. He thought of various medicines he had and if any was good enough to save him if the snake did bite him.

In this moment of fear of death, (he realized the presence of God). God had punished him for being too proud and arrogant. He realized that he was but a mere human, a poor man, nothing to boast about.


The moment he accepted his true worth, the snake crawled off and sat on the table in front of the mirror.The doctor got up silently and rushed out of the door. Next morning when he returned, all his belongings had been robbed but for his dirty vest which was too dirty even for the thief.

 

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Question and Answers

Discuss in pairs and answer each question below in a short paragraph (30–40 words).

 

1. “The sound was a familiar one.” What sound did the doctor hear? What did he think it was? How many times did he hear it? (Find the places in the text.) When and why did the sounds stop?

A. The sound that the doctor heard was that of rats which moved on the beam overhead. He thought that it was the squeaking of the rats. He heard the sound thrice. The places in the text which indicate this are as follows –

  1. “I heard a noise from above as I opened the door”.
  2. “Again I heard that sound from above”.
  3. “Again came that noise from above”.

When the doctor sat on the chair, the sound stopped suddenly as the rats had seen a snake.

 

2. What two “important” and “earth-shaking” decisions did the doctor takewhile he was looking into the mirror?

A. When the doctor looked at himself in the mirror, he decided to improve his looks in order to appear more handsome. So, he made two “important and “earth – shaking” decisions. Firstly, he would shave daily and grow a thin moustache. Secondly, he would always keep smiling as he looked attractive when he smiled.

 

3. “I looked into the mirror and smiled,” says the doctor. A little later he says,“I forgot my danger and smiled feebly at myself.” What is the doctor’s opinion about himself when:

(i) he first smiles, and

(ii) he smiles again?

In what waydo his thoughts change in between, and why?

A. (i) when the doctor smiled for the first time, he thought that he was a valuable man as he was an unmarried doctor and there would be many girls who wanted to marry him. He was looking at himself in the mirror, admiring himself and planning to improve his looks.

(ii) when he smiled for the second time, he was helpless and thought that he was a foolish person. He was looking at himself in the mirror, feeling that he was so silly to have landed into trouble as he could not think of any way out.

 

Grammar Exercises

Here are some sentences from the text. Say which of them tell you, that the author: (a) was afraid of the snake, (b) was proud of his appearance,(c) had a sense of humour, (d) was no longer afraid of the snake.

1. I was turned to stone.

2. I was no mere image cut in granite.

3. The arm was beginning to be drained of strength.

4. I tried in my imagination to write in bright letters outside my little heart the words, ‘O God’.

5. I didn’t tremble. I didn’t cry out.

6. I looked into the mirror and smiled. It was an attractive smile.

7. I was suddenly a man of flesh and blood.

8. I was after all a bachelor, and a doctor too on top of it!

9. The fellow had such a sense of cleanliness...! The rascal could have taken it and used it after washing it with soap and water.

10. Was it trying to make an important decision about growing a moustache or using eye shadow and mascara or wearing a vermilion spot on its forehead.

 

A.

S. No

(a) was afraid of the snake

(b) was proud of his appearance

(c) had a sense of humour

(d) was no longer afraid of the snake

1

I was turned to stone.

     

2

     

I was no mere image cut in granite.

3

The arm was beginning to be drained of strength.

     

4

I tried in my imagination to write in bright letters outside my little heart the words, ‘O God’.

 

I tried in my imagination to write in bright letters outside my little heart the words, ‘O God’.

 

5

I didn’t tremble. I didn’t cry out.

     

6

 

I looked into the mirror and smiled. It was an attractive smile.

   

7

     

I was suddenly a man of flesh and blood.

8

   

I was after all a bachelor, and a doctor too on top of it!

 

9

   

The fellow had such a sense of cleanliness...! The rascal could have taken it and used it after washing it with soap and water.

 

10

   

Was it trying to make an important decision about growing a moustache or using eye shadow and mascara or wearing a vermilion spot on its forehead.

 

 

Can you find the expressions in the story that tell you that the author wasfrightened? Read the story and complete the following sentences.

1. I was turned _______________________________ .

2. I sat there holding _______________________.

3. In the light of the lamp I sat there like ______________________________ .

 

A.

1. I was turned to stone.

2. I sat there holding my breath.

3. In the light of the lamp I sat there like a stone image in the flesh.

 

Match the meanings with the words/expressions in italics,and write the appropriate meaning next to the sentence. The first one has been done for you.

 

1. I knew a man was following me, I was scared out of my wits. (very frightened)

2. I got a fright when I realised how close I was to the cliff edge.

3. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw the bull coming towards him.

4. You really gave me a fright when you crept up behind me like that.

5. Wait until I tell his story — it will make your hair stand on end.

6. Paralysed with fear, the boy faced his abductors.

7. The boy hid behind the door, not moving a muscle.

A.

1. I knew a man was following me, I was scared out of my wits. (very frightened)

2. I got a fright when I realised how close I was to the cliff edge. (frightened by something that happens suddenly)

3. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw the bull coming towards him.(very frightened)

4. You really gave me a fright when you crept up behind me like that.(frightened by something that happens suddenly)

5. Wait until I tell his story — it will make your hair stand on end. (makes another feel frightened)

6. Paralysed with fear, the boy faced his abductors. (too scared to move)

7. The boy hid behind the door, not moving a muscle.(too scared to move)

 

Report these questions using If/whether or why/when/where/how/which/what.

(Remember the italicised verbs change into the past tense.)

1.Meena asked her friend, “Do you think your teacher will come today?”

2.David asked his colleague, “Where will you go this summer?”

3.He asked the little boy, “Why are you studying English?”

4.She asked me, “When are we going to leave?”

5.Pran asked me, “Have you finished reading the newspaper?”

6.Seema asked her, “How long have you lived here?”

7.Sheila asked the children, “Are you ready to do the work?”

A.

1. Meena asked her friend if she thought the teacher would come that day.

2. David asked his colleague where he would go that summer.

3. He asked the little boy why he was studying English.

4. She asked me when we were going to leave.

5. Pran asked me if I had finished reading the newspaper.

6. Seema asked her how long she had lived there.

7. Sheila asked the children if they were ready to do the work.