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English CBSE Class 12 NCERT Flamingo Chapter 6 Poets and Pancakes Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words

POETS AND PANCAKES

(Explanation)

Notice these expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context

Phrase Meaning
Blew over Got angry
Was struck dumb Greatly surprised
Catapulted into Suddenly became famous
A coat of mail Oversized coat with metallic decorations
Played into their hands Helped unknowingly
The favourite haunt Preferred meeting place
Heard a bell ringing Recalled, Remembered

Pancake was the brand name of the make-up material that Gemini Studios bought in truck-loads.

Word Meaning
In truck loads In huge quantities

Gemini Studios is situated in Madras – now called Chennai. Shooting of films is done in this studio. Pancake is brand of a make-up material. Gemini Studios used to buy this make material in huge quantities.

Greta Garbol must have used it, Miss Gohar must have used it, Vyjayantimala must also have used it but Rati Agnihotri may not have even heard of it.

Actresses Greta Garbol and Miss Gohar had certainly used this brand of make-up. Probably actress Vyjayantimala had also used this brand. These were actresses of long time ago. But a relatively new actress Rati Agnihotri probably did not even hear about this brand. Author is trying to say that this brand is very old. But later it vanished.

The make-up department of the Gemini Studios was in the upstairs of a building that was believed to have been Robert Clive’s stables. A dozen other buildings in the city are said to have been his residence.

Word Meaning
Upstairs First floor of a building
Stable Place where horses are kept

The make-up department of the Gemini Studios was on first floor of a building. This building was once stable of Robert Clive. (Robert Clive was a British army officer of high rank.) It is said that he had stayed in about a dozen other buildings of Madras city.

For his brief life and an even briefer stay in Madras, Robert Clive seems to have done a lot of moving, besides fighting some impossible battles in remote corners of India and marrying a maiden in St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George in Madras.

Word Meaning
Brief Small, Short
Besides In addition to
Maiden Young woman

Robert Clive had brief life means he did not live very long. His stay at Madras was for a very small period. He appeared to have lived in many building during his stay at Madras. He had fought several tough battles in remote areas of India. He had married a young woman at St Marry’s Church in the Fort St George. This Church is in Madras.

The make-up room had the look of a hair-cutting salon with lights at all angles around half a dozen large mirrors.

Word Meaning
At all angles Alround

The make room had six large mirrors in it. There were lights  alround in the room. So the room looked like a hair cutting saloon.

They were all incandescent lights, so you can imagine the fiery misery of those subjected to make-up. The make-up department was first headed by a Bengali who became too big for a studio and left.

Word Meaning
Incandescent lights To give light by burning
Fiery Hot, Heat
Misery Trouble
Became too big Became very famous

These lamps produced light by burning. [Meaning these were not electrical lights. Probably these were oil lamps]. So the room used to get very hot. Because of heat, artists used to feel very uncomfortable during make-up. Initially head of this department was a Bengali. He became very famous so he left the studio.

He was succeeded by a Maharashtrian who was assisted by a Dharwar Kannadiga, an Andhra, a Madras Indian Christian, an Anglo-Burmese and the usual local Tamils.

Word Meaning
Succeeded by Person who came after
Kannadiga From Karnataka
Anglo Burmese Englishman from Burma
Tamils Persons from Tamil Nadu

After that Bengali person, a person from Maharashtra became head of make-up department. His assistants were from Dharwar (in Karnataka), from Andhra Pradesh, an Indian Christian from Madras and a person who belonged to England and Burma. There were some local persons from Tamil Nadu also.

All this shows that there was a great deal of national integration long before A.I.R. and Doordarshan began broadcasting programmes on national integration.

Word Meaning
Great deal of A large amount of

People from all parts of country worked in the make-up department. This indicates that it believed in national integration. All India Radio and Doordarshan started their programmes on national integration much after this.

This gang of nationally integrated make-up men could turn any decent-looking person into a hideous crimson hued monster with the help of truck-loads of pancake and a number of other locally made potions and lotions.

Word Meaning
Gang Group
Hideous Ugly
Crimson Red and purple colour
Hue Shade of colour

Persons of this group from all parts of the country were good make-up men. They had the ability to change the appearance of a nice looking person into an ugly red face of a monster. They would use huge quantity of pancake material and local creams and lotion.

Those were the days of mainly indoor shooting, and only five per cent of the film was shot outdoors. I suppose the sets and studio lights needed the girls and boys to be made to look ugly in order to look presentable in the movie.

During that time, most of the film shooting was done inside a building. Only 5% of shooting was done in open area. The author imagines that it was required that boys and girls should look ugly after make-up. But in the film they looked good. The author wants to say that too much of make-up was done for each artist. He has called doing make-up as ‘making ugly’.

A strict hierarchy was maintained in the make-up department. The chief make-up man made the chief actors and actresses ugly, his senior assistant the ‘second’ hero and heroine, the junior assistant the main comedian, and so forth.

Word Meaning
Hierarchy Rank or level
So forth Similar, Likewise

A strict level or rank was maintained in the make-up department. The chief make up man did make up of chief actors and actresses. The senior assistant did make up of other heroes and heroines. The junior artist did make up of comedian. All work was divided similarly.

The players who played the crowd were the responsibility of the office boy. (Even the make-up department of the Gemini Studio had an ‘office boy’!)

The office boy of Gemini Studios did make-up for people who played the role of an ordinary person.

On the days when there was a crowd shooting, you could see him mixing his paint in a giant vessel and slapping it on the crowd players. The idea was to close every pore on the surface of the face in the process of applying make-up.

Word Meaning
Giant Very big
Slapping on Using hands to apply make-up

When there was shooting for many people as part of crowd, requirement of make-up material was more. The office boy used to prepare make-up material is a big vessel. He would use his hands to apply make-up to complete his work quickly. Make-up was applied on every part of the face.

He wasn’t exactly a ‘boy’; he was in his early forties, having entered the studios years ago in the hope of becoming a star actor or a top screen writer, director or lyrics writer. He was a bit of a poet.

The office boy was not of the age of a boy. He had crossed the age of forty. He had come to studio to become an actor or a story writer or a director or a writer of songs. He had some qualities of poet also.

In those days I worked in a cubicle, two whole sides of which were French windows. (I didn’t know at that time they were called French windows.) Seeing me sitting at my desk tearing up newspapers day in and day out, most people thought I was doing next to nothing.

Word Meaning
Cubicle Small office room
French window Large door with glass panels
Tearing up newspaper Repeatedly reading newspaper
Day in and day out Throughout the day

During those days I used to sit in a small office room. This office had French windows (door with glass panel) on its two side. Most of the time, while sitting at my table, I used to read newspaper throughout the day. People thought I did not have any work.

It is likely that the Boss thought likewise too. So anyone who felt I should be given some occupation would barge into my cubicle and deliver an extended lecture.

Word Meaning
Occupation Work
Barge Come without permission

Probably boss also thought that I did not have any work. Anyone who wanted to give me work, would quickly come to my office. He would then give orders in detail.

The ‘boy’ in the make-up department had decided I should be enlightened on how great literary talent was being allowed to go waste in a department fit only for barbers and perverts.

Word Meaning
Enlightened Made to understand
Pervert Those who copy

The office boy thought I should know all about the Studio and himself. He wanted me to understand that he was a talented person and that his talent was not getting utilsed in the Studio. He thought that Gemini Studio was for barbers and persons who were expert in copying.

Soon I was praying for crowd-shooting all the time. Nothing short of it could save me from his epics.

Word Meaning
Epics Lengthy talks

Very soon I got bored by his talks. So I had a wish that there should always be a crowd shooting. This was the only way to keep him away and to stop his talks. Because that kept the office boy busy for the full day and he did not come to me.

In all instances of frustration, you will always find the anger directed towards a single person openly or covertly and this man of the make-up department was convinced that all his woes, ignominy and neglect were due to Kothamangalam Subbu.

Word Meaning
Frustration Deep dissatisfaction
Covertly Indirectly, Secretly
Woes Misery, Problems
Ignominy Disgrace, Humiliation

In the every case of deep dissatisfaction, one would hold a single person responsible. The anger against that person could be expressed openly or indirectly. The office boy thought that only Kothamangalam Subbu was responsible for his all problems.

Subbu was the No. 2 at Gemini Studios. He couldn’t have had a more encouraging opening in films than our grown-up make-up boy had.

Word Meaning
Opening Start, Beginning
More encouraging Better

Subbu was the second highest official at Gemini Studios. The make-up boy and Subbu had a similar type of start in film making line.

On the contrary he must have had to face more uncertain and difficult times, for when he began his career, there were no firmly established film producing companies or studios.

Word Meaning
On the contrary Conversely, Instead

Instead Subbu must have faced more difficult time that the office boy. Because when Subbu started his career, established companies or studios did not exist.

Even in the matter of education, specially formal education, Subbu couldn’t have had an appreciable lead over our boy. But by virtue of being born a Brahmin — a virtue, indeed! — he must have had exposure to more affluent situations and people.

Word Meaning
Appreciable Significant
Lead Advantage
By virtue of Because of
Exposure Experience
Affluent Rich, Better

Subbu was not significantly more educated that the office boy. But because Subbu was a Brahmin, he must have experienced and had advantage of better situation and being with richer people.

He had the ability to look cheerful at all times even after having had a hand in a flop film.

He was always cheerful. He would continue to be happy even after a flop film.

He always had work for somebody — he could never do things on his own — but his sense of loyalty made him identify himself with his principal completely and turn his entire creativity to his principal’s advantage.

Word Meaning
Principal Boss

Subbu always assigned work to others. He did not do any work by himself. But he was always loyal to his boss. He completed every work his boss asked him to do. He was very creative person. He used his creativity for the advantage of his boss.

He was tailor-made for films. Here was a man who could be inspired when commanded.

Word Meaning
Tailor made Ideal

Subbu was the ideal person for film making. Whenever ordered, he could start thinking.

“The rat fights the tigress underwater and kills her but takes pity on the cubs and tends them lovingly — I don’t know how to do the scene,” the producer would say and Subbu would come out with four ways of the rat pouring affection on its victim’s offspring.

Word Meaning
Tigress Female tiger
Cub Baby tiger
Takes pity Shows mercy
Tends Treats, Handles
Pouring affection Showing love
Offspring Kids

Underwater a rat fights a tigress and kills her. But the rat takes pity at kids of tigress. The rat give them love. How should we do this scene, producer would ask Subbu. Immediately Subbu would suggest four methods by which a rat can show affection to kids of killed animal,

“Good, but I am not sure it is effective enough,” the producer would say and in a minute. Subbu would come out with fourteen more alternatives.

Producer of the film would appreciates his suggestion but would say that these were not effective. Within one minute Subbu would suggest fourteen more methods. Author wants to say that Subbu was creative and very quick.

Film-making must have been and was so easy with a man like Subbu around and if ever there was a man who gave direction and definition to Gemini Studios during its golden years, it was Subbu.

Word Meaning
Definition Recognition
Golden years Best period

If Subbu was your colleague, film making was very easy. Subbu provided good support to Gemini Studios. Gemini studio was recognized because of his efforts. Those were the best period of Gemini Studios. It was very famous.

Subbu had a separate identity as a poet and though he was certainly capable of more complex and higher forms, he deliberately chose to address his poetry to the masses.

Word Meaning
Identity Known as
Complex Difficult, Complicated
Deliberately Intentionally
Masses General public, Common people

Subbu was also a good poet. He had the ability to write more difficult and better forms of poetry. But intentionally he wrote his poems for the common people.

His success in films overshadowed and dwarfed his literary achievements — or so his critics felt.

Word Meaning
Overshadowed Looked bigger
Dwarfed Made small, Looked small
Critics Person who criticises

Subbu was more successful in films. Therefore his achievements in literature looked very small. These were the thought of his critics.

He composed several truly original ‘story poems’ in folk refrain and diction and also wrote a sprawling novel Thillana Mohanambal with dozens of very deftly etched characters.

Word Meaning
Story poem Poem based on story
Folk refrain and diction Folk style
Sprawling Very big
Deftly Skillfully, Cleverly
Dozens of In large number
Etched out Defined

Subbu wrote many original poems based on folk stories. These poems were written in folk style. He also wrote a very big novel ‘Thillana Mohanambal’. In this novel Subbu had skillfully defined large number of characters.

He quite successfully recreated the mood and manner of the Devadasis of the early 20th century.

Word Meaning
Moods and manners Feelings and behaviour

In this novel Subbu narrated the feelings, behaviour and social condition of Devadasis. The system of Devadasi was prevailing during early 20th Century (period starting from 1900)

He was an amazing actor — he never aspired to the lead roles — but whatever subsidiary role he played in any of the films, he performed better than the supposed main players.

Word Meaning
Amazing Excellent, Impressive
Aspired Hoped, Desired
Lead roles Main roles
Subsidiary Secondary, Not the main

Subbu was an excellent actor. He did not want to do main roles. He did not have such ambition. But in every film he played the role of secondary hero, his performance was  better than that of  main actors.

He had a genuine love for anyone he came across and his house was a permanent residence for dozens of near and far relations and acquaintances.

Word Meaning
Genuine Sincere
Came across Met
Dozens of Large number
Acquaintances Known persons

Subbu sincerely liked everyone he met. In his house large numbers of relatives and persons known to him used to live permanently.

It seemed against Subbu’s nature to be even conscious that he was feeding and supporting so many of them. Such a charitable and improvident man, and yet he had enemies!

Word Meaning
Conscious Aware
Charitable Kind, Generous
Improvident One who spends lot of money

It was against the nature of Subbu to think that he was giving food and support to so many people. He was a generous person and spent lot of money. Still he had enemies.

Was it because he seemed so close and intimate with The Boss? Or was it his general demeanour that resembled a sycophant’s? Or his readiness to say nice things about everything? In any case, there was this man in the make-up department who would wish the direst things for Subbu.

Word Meaning
Intimate Familiar, Close
Demeanour Manner, Appearance
Sycophant Yes-man
Wish direst things To abuse, Jealous

Did Subbu had enemies because he was close and familiar to The Boss? Or it was because his manners were similar to a yes-man. Or because he always said good things about everything and everyone. (meaning that he did not fight with anyone). However, one person in the make-up department was jealous of and was against Subbu.

You saw Subbu always with The Boss but in the attendance rolls, he was grouped under a department called the Story Department comprising a lawyer and an assembly of writers and poets. The lawyer was also officially known as the legal adviser, but everybody referred to him as the opposite.

Subbu was always working with The Boss. But his attendance was done in the Story Department. This department had a lawyer and many writers and poets. The official designation of lawyer was legal advisor. But everybody called him lawyer.

An extremely talented actress, who was also extremely temperamental, once blew over on the sets. While everyone stood stunned, the lawyer quietly switched on the recording equipment.

Word Meaning
Temperamental Hot tempered, Not calm
Blew over Got angry
Stunned Greatly surprised

A highly talented actress was also very hot tempered. She was not calm. Once she became very angry at the sets of a film. She started using bad words towards many. Everyone was very much surprised and did not know what to do. The lawyer, without saying anything, started the recording equipment. He recorded everything she had said.

When the actress paused for breath, the lawyer said to her, “One minute, please,” and played back the recording.

The actress stopped shouting for a short break. The lawyer said ‘one minute please’. Then he played the recording.

There was nothing incriminating or unmentionably foul about the actress’s tirade against the producer. But when she heard her voice again through the sound equipment, she was struck dumb.

Word Meaning
Incriminating Accusing, To imply fault
Unmentionably That cannot be spoken, Abuses
Foul Bad
Tirade Speech full of anger, Diatribe
Struck dumb Greatly surprised

The actress did not have any intention of finding faults of producer. She had no intention of using foul words about the producer. But she was surprised to hear her own voice once again. Unintentionally she had used foul words towards producer.

A girl from the countryside, she hadn’t gone through all the stages of worldly experience that generally precede a position of importance and sophistication that she had found herself catapulted into.

Word Meaning
Countryside Rural area
Precede Happening before
Catapulted Suddenly became famous
Sophistication Being intelligent, Knowing social aspects,

She was from rural area. She had not seen or experienced several practical aspects of world before she suddenly became famous. Normally people go through such aspects before becoming famous. The author wants to say that she was not matured and had not experienced realities of this cruel world.

She never quite recovered from the terror she felt that day. That was the end of a brief and brilliant acting career — the legal adviser, who was also a member of the Story Department, had unwittingly brought about that sad end.

Word Meaning
Unwittingly Unknowingly

She got afraid that day. She could never overcome her fears. Her short and brilliant career ended. The legal adviser had unintentionally ended her career.

While every other member of the Department wore a kind of uniform — khadi dhoti with a slightly oversized and clumsily tailored white khadi shirt — the legal adviser wore pants and a tie and sometimes a coat that looked like a coat of mail.

Word Meaning
Clumsily Poorly
Tailored Stitched
A coat of mail Long coat with metallic decorations

Every one of the Story department used to wear a khadi dhoti and a poorly stitched white khadi shirt. But the legal advisor used to wear pant, shirt and a tie. Sometimes he wore a coat that was oversized that had metallic decorations on it.

Often he looked alone and helpless — a man of cold logic in a crowd of dreamers — a neutral man in an assembly of Gandhiites and khadiites.

Word Meaning
Cold logic Practical knowledge

Usually the legal adviser was alone, as if no nobody could help him. He was a man of practical knowledge among those who dreamed. He appeared a neutral man among those who followed Gandhi and those who wore khadhi.

Like so many of those who were close to The Boss, he was allowed to produce a film and though a lot of raw stock and pancake were used on it, not much came of the film.

Many people who were close to The Boss were allowed to produce a film. The legal adviser was also allowed to produce a film. Lot of raw material (stage, dress etc) and make-up material was used. (Author means to say that lot of effort and money were put in making the film) But the film did not achieve success.

Then one day The Boss closed down the Story Department and this was perhaps the only instance in all human history where a lawyer lost his job because the poets were asked to go home.

Then one day the Story Department was closed. Everybody of this department lost their job. So all the poets and writers of the department lost their job. The legal adviser was in the story department. So he also lost his job.

Gemini Studios was the favourite haunt of poets like S.D.S.Yogiar, Sangu Subramanyam, Krishna Sastry and Harindranath Chattopadhyaya. It had an excellent mess which supplied good coffee at all times of the day and for most part of the night.

Word Meaning
Favourite haunt Frequently visited

Gemini Studios was frequently visited by many poets. The studio had an excellent mess. It made coffee throughout the day. It made coffee during most part of the night also.

Those were the days when Congress rule meant Prohibition and meeting over a cup of coffee was rather satisfying entertainment. Barring the office boys and a couple of clerks, everybody else at the Studios radiated leisure, a pre-requisite for poetry.

Word Meaning
Prohibition No alcohol consumption
Barring Except
Leisure Easy, Rest
Pre-requisite Pre-condition

During those days, congress was ruling the country. Consumption of alcohol was not permitted. Therefore in meetings coffee was served. Such meetings were considered satisfactory entertainment. Except the office boys and some clerks, everybody else in the office appeared to be having easy working. People believed that having easy working was a pre-condition to write poetry.

Most of them wore khadi and worshipped Gandhiji but beyond that they had not the faintest appreciation for political thought of any kind.

Word Meaning
Faintest appreciation Very small knowledge

Most of the poets wore khadi clothes and respected Gandhiji. Beyond these two factors, they did not know anything about politics.

Naturally, they were all averse to the term ‘Communism’. A Communist was a godless man — he had no filial or conjugal love; he had no compunction about killing his own parents or his children; he was always out to cause and spread unrest and violence among innocent and ignorant people.

Word Meaning
Averse Against
Filial love Love from family
Conjugal love Love among spouse
Compunction Uneasiness, Guilt
Always out to Always ready

All of them were against communism. A communist did not have guardian. A communist did not have love from any family. A communist did not get love of a spouse. (Author wants to say that communist did not have acceptance in the society.) A communist did not feel guilty to kill his parents or children. His only motive was to create and spread unrest among innocent people.

Such notions which prevailed everywhere else in South India at that time also, naturally, floated about vaguely among the khadi-clad poets of Gemini Studios. Evidence of it was soon forthcoming.

Word Meaning
Notions Thoughts, Concepts
Floated about Existed
Vaguely Unclearly
Forthcoming About to come or happen

Such type of thoughts existed all over South India. Therefore these thoughts existed unclearly among khadi wearing poets of Gemini Studios. Proof of such existence was about to happen.

When Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament army, some two hundred strong, visited Madras sometime in 1952, they could not have found a warmer host in India than the Gemini Studios.

Word Meaning
Warmer host Suitable host

Moral Re-Armament (MRA) group visited Madras in 1952. It was a group that did theaters. It had about 200 members in it. Frank Buchman was owner of this group. The group thought that Gemini Studios would be the most suitable place to stay in India.

Someone called the group an international circus. They weren’t very good on the trapeze and their acquaintance with animals was only at the dinner table, but they presented two plays in a most professional manner.

Word Meaning
Trapeze Type of acrobatics

Someone said that this group was an international circus. The group did not do good acrobatics. The group did not know anything about animals. They were non-vegetarians. To that extent only they knew about animals. (The author is trying to say that it is not clear why they were called a circus.) They gave performance of two plays. They were very professional in doing those plays.

Their ‘Jotham Valley’ and ‘The Forgotten Factor’ ran several shows in Madras and along with the other citizens of the city, the Gemini family of six hundred saw the plays over and over again.

Word Meaning
Gemini Family All employees of Gemini Studios

‘Jotham Valley’ and ‘The Forgotten Factor’ were names of two plays. These were screened in Gemini Studios at Madras. All 600 employees of Gemini Studios and other citizens of Madras saw these plays many times.

The message of the plays were usually plain and simple homilies, but the sets and costumes were first-rate.

Word Meaning
Plain Direct
Homilies Advice
First rate Excellent, Very good quality

The message or teaching from these plays were direct and simple advice. Decoration of their sets and dresses of characters were of very good quality.

Madras and the Tamil drama community were terribly impressed and for some years almost all Tamil plays had a scene of sunrise and sunset in the manner of ‘Jotham Valley’ with a bare stage, a white background curtain and a tune played on the flute.

Word Meaning
Terribly Highly
Bare stage Empty stage

The people connected with drama in Madras and Tamil Nadu were highly impressed. For many years every play had a scene of sunrise and sunset. This was similar to that in the play “Jotham Valley”. The scene would have empty stage, a white curtain in the background and a tune on flute would be played.

It was some years later that I learnt that the MRA was a kind of countermovement to international Communism and the big bosses of Madras like Mr. Vasan simply played into their hands.

Word Meaning
Played into their hands Helped unknowingly

After many years I understood that MRA was a group to counter the spread of communism. Influential people of Madras like Mr Vasan, helped MRA without realizing it.

I am not sure however, that this was indeed the case, for the unchangeable aspects of these big bosses and their enterprises remained the same, MRA or no MRA, international Communism or no international Communism.

Word Meaning
Enterprises Organisation

But I am not sure the bosses unknowingly helped the cause of MRA. Because many aspects of these people and their organisation did not change after visit of MRA.

The staff of Gemini Studios had a nice time hosting two hundred people of all hues and sizes of at least twenty nationalities. It was such a change from the usual collection of crowd players waiting to be slapped with thick layers of make-up by the office-boy in the make-up department.

Word Meaning
Had a nice time Enjoyed, Liked
Hues Colours

The staff of Gemini Studio enjoyed being host to 200 people. These persons were from more than 20 countries. They were of different size and of different colour. This was a big change from the normal routine of the studio. In normal routine people used to be similar and office boy applied thick layer of make-up. This was not the situation with MRA group.

A few months later, the telephone lines of the big bosses of Madras buzzed and once again we at Gemini Studios cleared a whole shooting stage to welcome another visitor. All they said was that he was a poet from England.

After some months, there was a telephone call to the big bosses of Madras. One big stage of film shooting at the Gemini Studios was once again cleaned to welcome the visitor. They said the visitor was coming from England. He was a poet.

The only poets from England the simple Gemini staff knew or heard of were Wordsworth and Tennyson; the more literate ones knew of Keats, Shelley and Byron; and one or two might have faintly come to know of someone by the name Eliot. Who was the poet visiting the Gemini Studios now?

The staff of Gemini Studios knew about only two poets of England – Wordsworth and Tennyson. Those who were more educated knew about Keats, Shelley and Byron. Very few may know about Eliot. Name of the poet visiting the studio was not known to anyone.

“He is not a poet. He is an editor. That’s why The Boss is giving him a big reception.” Vasan was also the editor of the popular Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan.

Somebody told that the visitor was not a poet. He was an editor. Hence the boss was giving him a big welcome. Vasan, the boss of Gemini Studios, was also an editor of a Tamil weekly magazine – Anannda Vikatan.

He wasn’t the editor of any of the known names of British publications in Madras, that is, those known at the Gemini Studios.

People working at Gemini Studios knew names of many publications of England. But the visitor was not editor of any of these newspapers.

Since the top men of The Hindu were taking the initiative, the surmise was that the poet was the editor of a daily — but not from The Manchester Guardian or the London Times. That was all that even the most well-informed among us knew.

Word Meaning
Surmise Assumption

“The Hindu” is a daily newspaper of India. “The Manchester Guardian” and “London Times” are daily newspapers of England.

The boss of ‘The Hindu’ was taking initiative in the visit of the poet. Therefore it was an assumption that the poet was editor of a daily newspaper of England. It was also a guess that the poet was not the editor of ‘The Manchester Guardian’ or ‘London Times’. This was all any of us knew about the visitor. And that was all the information we had about the visitor.

At last, around four in the afternoon, the poet (or the editor) arrived. He was a tall man, very English, very serious and of course very unknown to all of us.

Finally, around four in the afternoon the visitor reached Gemini Studios. We did not know if he was a poet or an editor. He was very tall, English (he was from Britain) and serious looking person. Certainly we did not know him.

Battling with half a dozen pedestal fans on the shooting stage, The Boss read out a long speech. It was obvious that he too knew precious little about the poet (or the editor).

Word Meaning
Precious little Very less

Six pedestal fans were installed on the stage. Because of air from these fans, the boss had difficulty in holding papers. The boss read a speech from the shooting stage. Through the speech it became known to us that he also did not know much about the poet or the editor.

The speech was all in the most general terms but here and there it was peppered with words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’.

Word Meaning
Here and there Sometimes, In between
Peppered Used sometimes

It was a speech on general topics. But in between words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ were used.

Then the poet spoke. He couldn’t have addressed a more dazed and silent audience — no one knew what he was talking about and his accent defeated any attempt to understand what he was saying.

Word Meaning
Dazed Confused
Audience Listener
Accent Style of speaking

After that, the poet gave a speech. We all were confused and silent listeners. None of us understood what he was talking about. Because of his style of speaking, we could not understand what he was saying.

The whole thing lasted about an hour; then the poet left and we all dispersed in utter bafflement — what are we doing?

Word Meaning
Dispersed Went away
Utter Complete
Bafflement Confusion

Duration of his visit was one hour. After the poet had gone, we also went away. We were completely confused about what had happened.

What is an English poet doing in a film studio which makes Tamil films for the simplest sort of people? People whose lives least afforded them the possibility of cultivating a taste for English poetry?

Word Meaning
Least afforded Could not do, Not possible
Cultivating a taste Start liking

People wondered why an English poet had come to Gemini Studios. The studio used to make Tamil films for common people. Life style of these people was simple. It was not possible for these people to start liking English poetry.

The poet looked pretty baffled too, for he too must have felt the sheer incongruity of his talk about the thrills and travails of an English poet. His visit remained an unexplained mystery.

Word Meaning
Pretty Very much
Baffled Confused, Surprised
Sheer Complete, Extreme
Incongruity Not matching, Strange
Travails Difficulties, Unpleasant experience

The poet was also very much confused. Because he must have felt his talks about thrills and difficulties of English poet was not matching with taste and understanding of his audience. Therefore reason of the visit of the poet could not be explained or understood.

The great prose-writers of the world may not admit it, but my conviction grows stronger day after day that prose writing is not and cannot be the true pursuit of a genius.

Word Meaning
Prose Essay, Descriptive
Conviction Belief
Pursuit Hobby, Occupation

The author believes that the occupation of writing prose is not a work of a truly genius. Day by day his belief has become stronger. Though great writers of prose would never agree with him.

It is for the patient, persistent, persevering drudge with a heart so shrunken that nothing can break it; rejection slips don’t mean a thing to him; he at once sets about making a fresh copy of the long prose piece and sends it on to another editor enclosing postage for the return of the manuscript.

Word Meaning
Patient  Calm
Persistent Steady, Sustained
Persevering Determined
Drudge Hard working, Monotonous work
Manuscript Hand written

Prose writing is for persons who are calm, determined and hard working. Nothing can break their heart. Rejection of their writing does not mean a big setback to them. He immediately makes a new copy of his prose and sends it to another editor. He would enclose a self-addressed and stamped envelope with his hand written prose. So that if rejected, his work can be sent back to him.

It was for such people that The Hindu had published a tiny announcement in an insignificant corner of an unimportant page — a short story contest organized by a British periodical by the name The Encounter.

Word Meaning
Tiny Very small
Insignificant Small
Periodical Magazine

For such people, ‘The Hindu’ had published a very small advertisement in a small corner of an unimportant page. It was about a short story competition by a British magazine ‘The Encounter’.

Of course, The Encounter wasn’t a known commodity among the Gemini literati. I wanted to get an idea of the periodical before I spent a considerable sum in postage sending a manuscript to England.

Word Meaning
Literati Person interested in literature
Considerable sum Large amount of money

Certainly ‘The Encounter’ was not known to the educated people of Gemini Studios. I wanted to participate in the competition. But sending the manuscript through post to England was expensive. Before spending money I wanted to know about this periodical.

In those days, the British Council Library had an entrance with no long winded signboards and notices to make you feel you were sneaking into a forbidden area.

Word Meaning
Winded Lines
Sneak Enter without getting noticed
Forbidden Prohibited, Not permitted

During those days, the British Council Library did not have signboards with long lines of notices. Therefore no one felt that one was secretly entering into a prohibited area.

And there were copies of The Encounter lying about in various degrees of freshness, almost untouched by readers. When I read the editor’s name, I heard a bell ringing in my shrunken heart.

Word Meaning
Heard a bell ringing Recalled
Shrunken heart Sad

In the library, there were many copies of ‘The Encounter’. Some were new and some were old, some had not been touched by anyone. When I read name of the editor, I recalled something in sad heart.

It was the poet who had visited the Gemini Studios — I felt like I had found a long lost brother and I sang as I sealed the envelope and wrote out his address.

The editor was the poet who had come to the Gemini Studios. I felt as if he was my brother. I started singing. (Author felt that the editor would favour him because they knew each other.) I sealed the envelope and wrote address.

I felt that he too would be singing the same song at the same time — long lost brothers of Indian films discover each other by singing the same song in the first reel and in the final reel of the film. Stephen Spender. Stephen — that was his name.

I imagined that the editor would also be singing the same song. It would be similar to Indian films. At the start of the film brothers sing a song. Then they get separated out. In the end of the film, they sing the same song and recognize each other. (Author is imagining and hoping that the editor would recognize him). Stephen Spender was the name of the editor.

And years later, when I was out of Gemini Studios and I had much time but not much money, anything at a reduced price attracted my attention.

After many years, I was not working at Gemini Studios. Now I had more time but less money. Hence I would get attracted to things being sold at reduced price.

On the footpath in front of the Madras Mount Road Post Office, there was a pile of brand new books for fifty paise each. Actually they were copies of the same book, an elegant paperback of American origin.

Word Meaning
Pile Heap, Stack
Elegant Nice, Beautiful

On the footpath of the Mount Road Post office in Madras, author saw a heap of brand new books. These were being sold for fifty paise each. These were copies of the same book. A beautiful paperback edition printed in America.

‘Special low-priced student edition, in connection with the 50th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution’, I paid fifty paise and picked up a copy of the book, The God That Failed.

These were specially priced low for students on the occasion of 50th Anniversary of Russian Revolution. I purchased the book “The God That Failed”.

Six eminent men of letters in six separate essays described ‘their journeys into Communism and their disillusioned return’; Andre Gide, Richard Wright, Ignazio Silone, Arthur Koestler, Louis Fischer and Stephen Spender.

Word Meaning
Eminent Famous
Men of letters Writers
Disillusioned Disappointed

Six famous writer had written separate essays in the book. They had recorded their experience of accepting Communism and their return after getting disappointed. One of the writers was Stephen Spender.

Stephen Spender! Suddenly the book assumed tremendous significance. Stephen Spender, the poet who had visited Gemini Studios! In a moment I felt a dark chamber of my mind lit up by a hazy illumination.

Word Meaning
Assumed Became
Tremendous Very high, Large
Significance Importance
Hazy Unclear
Illumination Light, Shining

After knowing the name of Stephen Spender, the book became very important. Stephen Spender was the poet who had visited Gemini Studios. Suddenly I could recall the poet in my mind. The unknown poet was now known to me.

The reaction to Stephen Spender at Gemini Studios was no longer a mystery. The Boss of the Gemini Studios may not have much to do with Spender’s poetry. But not with his god that failed.

Word Meaning
Reaction Response
No longer Not now, Not anymore
Mystery Secret
Not have much to do with Not interested

The response given to Stephen Spender at Gemini Studios was now not a secret. The Boss of Gemini Studio was not interested in the poetry of Stephen Spender. But he was interested in listening to the disappointment of Stephen Spender with communism. ( Here the word ‘god’ refers to communism.)

****

Important Links
Poets & Pancakes – Textbook Q&A Poets & Pancakes – Extra Q&A
Indigo – Explanation Going Places – Explanation
Indigo – Textbook Q&A Going Places – Textbook Q&A
Indigo – Extra Q&A Going Places – Extra Q&A
Passages Note Making
Letter Writing Notice Writing
Advertisement Writing Article Writing
Report Writing

 

 


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