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English CBSE Class 10 NCERT First Flight Chapter 8 Mijbil the Otter Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words

MIJBIL THE OTTER

(Explanation)

I

EARLY in the New Year of 1956 I travelled to Southern Iraq. By then it had crossed my mind that I should like to keep an otter instead of a dog, and that Camusfearna, ringed by water a stone’s throw from its door, would be an eminently suitable spot for this experiment.

Word Meaning
Crossed my mind A thought came to me
At a stone’s throw Very near
Eminently Highly
Spot Location, Place

During beginning of year 1956 I went to southern part of Iraq. That time a thought had come to my mind that I should keep an otter as pet instead of a dog. Camusfearna is surrounded by a water body. It is very close to my house. That would be a highly suitable location for conducting the experiment of having otter as a pet.

 

 

When I casually mentioned this to a friend, he as casually replied that I had better get one in the Tigris marshes, for there they were as common as mosquitoes, and were often tamed by the Arabs.

Word Meaning
Casually Informally, Without being serious
Mentioned Narrated, Told
Marsh Wet land, Bog
Tamed Trained, Domesticated

I casually narrated my thought to a friend. He advised me to get an otter from marshes of Tigris river. Because these are very commonly found there. In that region, Arabs train otters.

We were going to Basra to the Consulate-General to collect and answer our mail from Europe. At the Consulate-General we found that my friend’s mail had arrived but that mine had not.

Word Meaning
Consulate General Officer in embassy

We went to the Basra town in Iraq. We went to the office of Consulate General to collect and answer our mails (mail here means letters and telegrams. During those days there were no e-mails) received from Europe. At the office we found that mail of my friend had arrived but my mail had not reached.

 

 

I cabled to England, and when, three days later, nothing had happened, I tried to telephone. The call had to be booked twenty-four hours in advance.

Word Meaning
Cabled Sent telegram
In advance Before, Prior

I sent a telegram to England. I did not receive any reply even after three days. So I decided to make a telephone call. It was required to book the call before twenty four hours.

On the first day the line was out of order; on the second the exchange was closed for a religious holiday. On the third day there was another breakdown. My friend left, and I arranged to meet him in a week’s time. Five days later, my mail arrived.

Word Meaning
Out of order Not working
Breakdown Failure, Malfunction

On the first day the telephone line was not working. On the second day the telephone exchange was closed because of a religious holiday. On the third day there was some other failure. My friend went away. I agreed to meet him within a week. After five days my mail reached the office.

I carried it to my bedroom to read, and there, squatting on the floor, were two Arabs; beside them lay a sack that squirmed from time to time. They handed me a note from my friend: “Here is your otter…”

Word Meaning
Squatting Sitting
Beside Along the side
Sack Bag
Squirm Twist, Wriggle
Handed me Gave me

I took the mail to my bedroom to read it. There two Arabs were sitting on the floor. There was a bag on the floor. The bag twisted and jumped from time to time. They gave me a letter from my friend – “Here is your otter ….”

 

****

II

With the opening of that sack began a phase of my life that has not yet ended, and may, for all I know, not end before I do. It is, in effect, a thraldom to otters, an otter fixation that I have since found to be shared by most other people, who have ever owned one.

Word Meaning
Thraldom Under the control of someone, Slavery
Fixation Strong attachment

After opening of that bag, a new phase of my life started. That phase has not yet ended. And it may not end before my end comes. (Meaning that this phase of life will continue throughout my life). Actually this phase of life means being under the control of otter, a strong attachment to otters. Many other people have told me about such feelings who had an otter as their pet.

The creature that emerged from this sack on to the spacious tiled floor of the Consulate bedroom resembled most of all a very small, medievally-conceived, dragon.

Word Meaning
Emerged Appeared, Came out
Spacious Large, Having big space
Resembled Looked like, Similar
Medievally conceived Of Middle Age, Of olden times

When the bag was opened, an animal came out from the bag. It came on the big tiled floor of the bedroom of the Consulate. The animal looked like a small dragon of olden times.

From the head to the tip of the tail he was coated with symmetrical pointed scales of mud armour, between whose tips was visible a soft velvet fur like that of a chocolate-brown mole.

Word Meaning
Tip End point
Symmetrical Similar, identical
Scales Layers
Armour Protective cover

This animal was fully covered by the mud – from its head to the end of its tail. The mud particles were similar. It looked as if the mud had formed an armour around the body of the animal. Between these mud particles a soft velvet fur of the animal was visible. It was of chocolate colour.

He shook himself, and I half expected a cloud of dust, but in fact it was not for another month that I managed to remove the last of the mud and see the otter, as it were, in his true colours.

He (the otter) shook his body. I had some expectation that lot of dust would emerge and animal will be clean. But it took me about one month to remove all the dust from its body. After removal of dust, I could see the true colour of its fur.

Mijbil, as I called the otter, was, in fact, of a race previously unknown to science, and was at length christened by zoologists Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli, or Maxwell’s otter.

Word Meaning
Race Breed, Type
Christened Named

I named the otter as Mijbil. Actually, it was a rare type of otter. These types of otter were earlier not known to science. Zoologists had a given a long name for this type of otter as Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli. In short it was called Maxwell’s otter.

For the first twenty four hours Mijbil was neither hostile nor friendly; he was simply aloof and indifferent, choosing to sleep on the floor as far from my bed as possible.

Word Meaning
Hostile Aggressive
Aloof Detached, Keeping away
Indifferent Not bothered, Not concerned

During first twenty four hours Mijbil was neither aggressive nor friendly. He remained away and was not concerned about anything. He decided to sleep on the floor and far from my bed.

The second night Mijbil came on to my bed in the small hours and remained asleep in the crook of my knees until the servant brought tea in the morning, and during the day he began to lose his apathy and take a keen, much too keen, interest in his surroundings.

Word Meaning
Small hours Very early in morning
Crooks of knee Back portion of knee
Apathy Lack of interest, Unwillingness
Keen interest Great interest
Surroundings Things around someone or something

In the very early morning hours of second night Mijbil climbed on my bed. He slept in the back side my knees till the servant brought tea for me in the morning. During the day he started taking interest. He started taking very good interest in things around him.

I made a body-belt for him and took him on a lead to the bathroom, where for half an hour he went wild with joy in the water, plunging and rolling in it, shooting up and down the length of the bathtub underwater, and making enough slosh and splash for a hippo.

Word Meaning
Wild with joy Very happy
Plunging Jumping

I made a belt that fitted alround his body that had a string (lead) attached to it. Holding that string, I took him to bathroom. He jumped into the bathtub. He was extremely happy to play in water. He jumped into it and rolled into it. He quickly swam underwater along the length of bathtub. He made lot of splash of water as if it was a hippo.

This, I was to learn, is a characteristic of otters; every drop of water must be, so to speak, extended and spread about the place; a bowl must at once be overturned, or, if it will not be overturned, be sat in and sploshed in until it overflows. Water must be kept on the move and made to do things; when static it is wasted and provoking.

Word Meaning
Characteristic Quality, Habit
Static Not moving, Stationery
Provoking Irritating, Annoying

Later I understood that this is the quality or habit of otters. They want to spread every drop of water on the floor. A bowl full of water must be immediately overturned. If the bowl cannot be overturned then otter will sit inside it, splash water till all the water comes out. Otters feel that water should always be moving and doing something. If water is not moving it is a waste and irritates an otter.

Two days later, Mijbil escaped from my bedroom as I entered it, and I turned to see his tail disappearing round the bend of the corridor that led to the bathroom. By the time I got there he was up on the end of the bathtub and fumbling at the chromium taps with his paws.

Word Meaning
Escaped Ran out
Fumbling Playing

An incident occurred after two days. Mijbil ran out from the bed room while I was entering into it. I turned and saw that his tail was moving around the bend of the corridor. There was a bathroom at the end of the corridor. When I reached in the bathroom I saw that Mijbil had climbed on the bathtub. He was playing with the chromium plated tap with his paws.

I watched, amazed; in less than a minute he had turned the tap far enough to produce a trickle of water, and after a moment or two achieved the full flow.

Word Meaning
Amazed Surprised
Trickle Small amount

I watched in surprise that in less than one minute he had turned the tap a bit. Now small amount of water had started coming from the tap. Very soon he turned the tap to get full flow of water from the tap.

(He had been lucky to turn the tap the right way; on later occasions he would sometimes screw it up still tighter, chittering with irritation and disappointment at the tap’s failure to cooperate.)

Word Meaning
Chittering Sound of an otter
Irritation Annoyance
Cooperate To help

Luckily this time he had turned the tap in the correct direction. Many other times he would turn it in the wrong direction to close it tighter. Then he would get irritated and make various sounds. He would get disappointed because the tap was not helping him.

Very soon Mij would follow me without a lead and come to me when I called his name. He spent most of his time in play.

Very soon Mijbil started following me without the strap. He would come to me when I called his name. He spent most of his time playing.

He spent hours shuffling a rubber ball round the room like a four-footed soccer player using all four feet to dribble the ball, and he could also throw it, with a powerful flick of the neck, to a surprising height and distance.

Word Meaning
Shuffling Moving
Flick Jerk

He spent many hours playing and moving a rubber ball around in the room. He looked like a football player with four feet. He would dribble the ball. He could throw the ball with a powerful jerk of his neck to great height and distance.

But the real play of an otter is when he lies on his back and juggles with small objects between his paws. Marbles were Mij’s favourite toys for this pastime: he would lie on his back rolling two or more of them up and down his wide, flat belly without ever dropping one to the floor.

Word Meaning
Juggle Play, Move an object in air and catch
Belly Stomach

But the real game of an otter is to lie on its back and play with small objects between his paws. Playing with marbles was the favourite sport for Mijbil. He would lie on his back. He will put marble on his belly. Then move his body so that marble moved from one end to other. He never dropped any marble on floor while playing this game. His belly was wide and flat.

****

III

The days passed peacefully at Basra, but I dreaded the prospect of transporting Mij to England, and to Camusfearna. The British airline to London would not fly animals, so I booked a flight to Paris on another airline, and from there to London.

Word Meaning
Dreaded Feared
Prospect An event, A possibility

The days at Basra passed peacefully. But I feared the event of taking Mij to England and then to Camusfearna. The Biritish airline to London does not allow animal on its flights. So I booked a flight to Paris in another airline and the next  flight from Paris to London.

The airline insisted that Mij should be packed into a box not more than eighteen inches square, to be carried on the floor at my feet. I had a box made, and an hour before we started, I put Mij into the box so that he would become accustomed to it, and left for a hurried meal.

Word Meaning
Insisted Forced, Demanded forcefully
Accustomed to Used to
Hurried Quick, Quickly

The airline forced that Mij should be packed in a box. Size of the box should not be more a square sized box of eighteen inch. The box was to be placed at my feet in the plane. I got the box made. Before one hour from our start, I put Mij in the box so that he gets used to it. Then I went to quickly have my food.

When I returned, there was an appalling spectacle. There was complete silence from the box, but from its airholes and chinks around the lid, blood had trickled and dried.

Word Meaning
Appalling Shocking
Spectacle Scene
Chinks Gaps

When I came back there was a shocking scene. No sound was coming from the box. But from the airholes of the box and gaps around the lid, blood had come. The blood had dried.

I whipped off the lock and tore open the lid, and Mij, exhausted and bloodspattered, whimpered and caught at my leg.

Word Meaning
Whipped off Quickly removed
Bloodspattered Covered with blood
Whimper Whine, Speak as if in pain
Caught at Tried to hold

I quickly opened the lock and tore the lid to open the box. Mij was tired and fully covered with blood. It produced sounds as if it was in pain and tried to hold my legs.

He had torn the lining of the box to shreds; when I removed the last of it so that there were no cutting edges left, it was just ten minutes until the time of the flight, and the airport was five miles distant. I put the miserable Mij back into the box, holding down the lid with my hand.

Word Meaning
Shreds Small pieces
Miserable Uncomfortable, Sad

He had torn lining of the box into small pieces. I removed all these small pieces from the box so that there was no sharp edges in the box. Only ten minutes were left for the flight time when I completed this work. The airport was five miles away. I put the uncomfortable Mij back into the box and closed the lid. I had put my hand on the lid. It was not locked.

I sat in the back of the car with the box beside me as the driver tore through the streets of Basra like a ricochetting bullet. The aircraft was waiting to take off; I was rushed through to it by infuriated officials.

Word Meaning
Ricochetting Rebounding, Changing direction
Take off To start, To fly
Infuriated Very angry

I sat on the back seat of the car. I had placed the box near me. The driver was driving the car very fast in a zig zag manner (quickly changing directions) through the traffic of streets of Basra. The aeroplane was ready to take off. I was quickly taken to the plane by angry officials.

Luckily, the seat booked for me was at the extreme front. I covered the floor around my feet with newspapers, rang for the air hostess, and gave her a parcel of fish (for Mij) to keep in a cool place.

Luckily my seat in the plane was at front of the plane. I covered the area around my feet with newspapers. Then I rang the bell to call an airhostess. I gave her a small parcel of fish to keep in a cool place. These fish were for Mij.

I took her into my confidence about the events of the last half hour. I have retained the most profound admiration for that air hostess; she was the very queen of her kind.

Word Meaning
Profound Sincere, Intense, Great
Admiration Appreciation
Retained Continued to hold

I told her everything about the events that had happened during last half an hour. I continue to hold sincere and huge  appreciation for that air hostess. She was really very generous and kind.

She suggested that I might prefer to have my pet on my knee, and I could have kissed her hand in the depth of my gratitude. But, not knowing otters, I was quite unprepared for what followed.

Word Meaning
Suggested Advised, Recommended
Gratitude Thankful
Unprepared Not ready

She advised me to keep my pet on my knees. So I put the box in my lap. I wanted to kiss her hand to express my sincere thanks to her. But I did not fully know behaviour of otter. Hence I was not ready for what happened after this.

Mij was out of the box in a flash. He disappeared at high speed down the aircraft. There were squawks and shrieks, and a woman stood up on her seat screaming out, “A rat! A rat!”

Word Meaning
In a flash Quickly
Squawks Shouts
Shrieks Cries, Shouts

Very quickly Mij came out of the box. He ran quickly towards other end of the aircraft. There were lot of shouting. A woman stood up from her seat shouting “A rat! A rat!”

I caught sight of Mij’s tail disappearing beneath the legs of a portly white turbaned Indian. Diving for it, I missed, but found my face covered in curry. “Perhaps,” said the air hostess with the most charming smile, “it would be better if you resumed your seat, and I will find the animal and bring it to you.”

Word Meaning
Portly Fat
Charming Attractive

I saw that tail of Mij was disappearing below the feet of a fat Indian who was wearing a white turban. I dived to catch it. I could not catch Mij but my face got covered by curry the person was eating. The air hostess said with an attractive smile that I should go back to my seat. She will find the animal and bring it to me.

I returned to my seat. I was craning my neck trying to follow the hunt when suddenly I heard from my feet a distressed chitter of recognition and welcome, and Mij bounded on to my knee and began to nuzzle my face and my neck.

Word Meaning
Craning Stretching neck to see something
Distressed Painful
Chitter A type of sound
Bounded on Jumped to
Nuzzle Rub one’s nose to something

I came back to my seat. I was stretching my neck to look for the Mij. Suddenly I heard a painful sound familiar to me. Mij jumped to my knees and lap. It began to rub its nose on my face and my neck.

****

IV

After an eventful journey, Maxwell and his otter reach London, where he has a flat.

After the journey that was full of events, Maxwell and his otter reached London. Maxwell had a flat there.

Mij and I remained in London for nearly a month. He would play for hours with a selection of toys, ping-pong balls, marbles, rubber fruit, and a terrapin shell that I had brought back from his native marshes.

Word Meaning
Terrapin A type of turtle
Shell Outer cover

Mij and I stayed in London for about a month. He used to play for many hours at a stretch. He used to play with many toys like ping-pong balls, marbles, rubber fruit and shell of a terrapin. I had brought a shell of a turtle for him from his native marshes. (Means it was brought from Basra)

With the ping-pong ball he invented a game of his own which could keep him engrossed for up to half an hour at a time. A suitcase that I had taken to Iraq had become damaged on the journey home, so that the lid, when closed, remained at a slope from one end to the other.

Word Meaning
Engrossed Absorbed, Occupied

He invented a new game with the ping pong ball. This game used to keep him occupied for up to half an hour in one stretch. A suitcase that I had taken to Iraq got damaged during return journey to home. The lid of this suitcase remained at a slope after closing it.

Mij discovered that if he placed the ball on the high end it would run down the length of the suitcase. He would dash around to the other end to ambush its arrival, hide from it, crouching, to spring up and take it by surprise, grab it and trot off with it to the high end once more.

Word Meaning
Dash Run quickly, Sprint
Ambush Surprise attack
Crouch Bend knees and lay on the ground
Spring up Jump, Rise suddenly
Trot off Walk proudly

Mij found out if he placed the ping pong ball at the high end on the lid, the ball would roll across the length of the suitcase. He would quickly run around the suitcase and reach the other end. He would be ready there to catch the ball. He would catch the ping pong ball before it fell down. With the ball he would walk to the higher end to play the game once more.

Outside the house I exercised him on a lead, precisely as if he had been a dog.

Word Meaning
Lead Strap
Precisely Exactly

I took him out of my house for exercising. I took him with a strap on his body and a string exactly like people would take their dog for a walk.

Mij quickly developed certain compulsive habits on these walks in the London streets, like the rituals of children who on their way to and from school must place their feet squarely on the centre of each paving block; must touch every seventh upright of the iron railings, or pass to the outside of every second lamp post.

Word Meaning
Compulsive habits Fixed behaviour
Rituals Series of actions

Very soon Mij developed his own pattern of walking on the streets of London. These were similar to series of actions that a child would have while walking home from school. Examples of such actions could be placing feet exactly at the centre of each tile of the floor, touching every seventh post of railing or to pass the outside of every second lamp post.

Opposite to my flat was a single-storied primary school, along whose frontage ran a low wall some two feet high. On his way home, but never on his way out, Mij would tug me to this wall, jump on to it, and gallop the full length of its thirty yards, to the hopeless distraction both of pupils and of staff within.

Word Meaning
Frontage Front portion
Tug To pull
Gallop Run quickly
Distraction Diversion, Disturbance

Opposite to my flat there was a building of primary school. It was a single storied building. It had a boundary wall of about two feet high. While returning from the walk but not while going to walk, Mij would pull me towards the wall. He would jump on the wall. He would run at the top of the wall along the full length of thirty yards. This caused a disturbance both to students and teachers.

It is not, I suppose, in any way strange that the average Londoner should not recognise an otter, but the variety of guesses as to what kind of animal this might be came as a surprise to me. Otters belong to a comparatively small group of animals called Mustellines, shared by the badger, mongoose, weasel, stoat, mink and others.

It is not strange that an average person residing in London cannot recognize an otter. But their guesses about Mij really surprised me. Otter belongs to group of animals called Mustellines. Other animals in the group are badger, mongoose, weasel, stoat, mink and some others.

I faced a continuous barrage of conjectural questions that sprayed all the Mustellines but the otter; more random guesses hit on ‘a baby seal’ and ‘a squirrel.’ ‘Is that a walrus, mister?’ reduced me to giggles, and outside a dog show I heard ‘a hippo’. A beaver, a bear cub, a leopard — one, apparently, that had changed its spots — and a ‘brontosaur’; Mij was anything but an otter.

Word Meaning
Barrage A series of something
Conjectural Based on guess or opinion
Sprayed Included, Distributed across

I was asked a series of questions about Mij based on their opinion. These included every variety of Mustelline group of animals but did not include an otter. People randomly guesses if it was a baby seal, a squirrel, a beaver, a walrus etc. At one of the dog show I asked if Mij was a hippo. There were many other guess as well. I used to laugh at such guesses.

But the question for which I awarded the highest score came from a labourer digging a hole in the street. I was still far from him when he laid down his tool, put his hands on his hips, and began to stare.

Word Meaning
Laid down Put down
Stare Look carefully or continuously

But the question I liked most was asked by a labourer who was digging a pit in the street. I was quite far from him and he put down his tool. He put his hands on his hips and started looking carefully at the Mij.

As I drew nearer I saw his expression of surprise and affront, as though he would have me know that he was not one upon whom to play jokes. I came abreast of him; he spat, glared, and then growled out, “Here, Mister — what is that supposed to be?”

Word Meaning
Drew nearer Came near
Affront Insult, Humiliation
Abreast Side by side, at the same level
Glared Looked continuously

When I came near to him I could see his expression of surprise and humiliation. His expression told me that I should not play any jokes on him. (Meaning that I should be careful of him). When I reached right at his side, he spat on the ground, looked carefully at Mij then asked in a heavy voice – “Hello Mister, what is this animal called?”

 

****

FOG

(Explanation)

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbour and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

The fog comes to a harbor and city silently. No person can predict when it will come. Fog comes as silently as a cat comes to a house. No one can predict when a cat will come to a house. The cat would silently sit somewhere in the house. The fog sits over the city and the whole city comes under a fog. After sometime the fog moves away from the city silently without making any announcement or giving indication. It is again just like a cat. A cat would move out of the house silently.

****

 

Important Links
Mijbil the Otter – Textbook Q&A Mijbil the Otter – Extra Q&A
The Glimpses of India – Explanation Madam Rides the Bus – Explanation
The Glimpses of India – Textbook Q&A Madam Rides the Bus – Textbook Q&A
The Glimpses of India – Extra Q&A Madam Rides the Bus – Extra Q&A
Re-arrange Exercises Error Finding Exercises
Active-Passive Rules Gap Filling Exercises
Passages Direct-Indirect Speech Rules
Story Writing Tips Letter Writing

 


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