(Explanation, Meaning of Difficult Words)

Author – Vaikom Muhammad Basheer


Word Meaning
Coiled Circled,
Full blooded Fully grown, Very big
Homeopath A homeopathic doctor
Came up Occurred, Mentioned
Attentively With full attention, Carefully
Tale Story

The speaker asks a gathering of people if a snake had ever circled around any part of their body. A fully grown cobra – a big cobra snake. This question was asked by a homeopathic doctor. This topic was mentioned when we all were discussing about snakes. The doctor continued his story.  We all were listening carefully



The doctor continues to narrate.

It was summer season. Time was about 10 in the night. I had taken my dinner at the restaurant. I had returned to my home. I heard a noise while opening the door.



Word Meaning
Meal Food
Familiar Known

The sound was known to me.  There were many rats in my room. So one could say that I and rats lived together. I took out my match box. A lamp was on the table. I lit that kerosene lamp.



Word Meaning
Not electrified Did not have electricity supply
Rented Taken on rent
Set up Started
Medical practice Work as a doctor
Earnings Income
Meagre Very small

The house did not have arrangement for electricity supply. It was a small room. I had taken it on rent. I had recently started working as a doctor. My income was very less.



Word Meaning
Solitary Only one
Possessed Owned, Had

In my suitcase I had about sixty rupees. I also had some shirts and dhotis in the suitcase. I had only one coat of black colour. At that time I was wearing the coat.



Word Meaning
Took off Removed
Vest Baniyaan
Not-so-white Not bright white, Soiled to some extent

I removed my black coat, white shirt and my vest. The vest was not exactly white. I opened both the windows of my room. The room was on the outer side of the house. One wall was towards an open space. The windows were located in that wall. 



Word Meaning
Tiled roof Roof made of tiles
Gable The triangular part of the wall at the end of tiled roof

The roof of the room was made of tiles. The gable at the two ends of the room were constructed on a beam. The beam was constructed on the walls of the room. The room did not have a horizontal ceiling. Its roof was inclined. One could see bottom of tiles while being in the room. Rats used to regularly move in the room and climb upto the beam and then back to the room.



Word Meaning
Made my bed Arranged bed sheets etc. on the bed
Take time off Take a break

I arranged bed sheets etc. on my bed. I pulled the bed near the wall of the room. I lay down on the bed but could not sleep. I got up from the bed. I went out to the veranda. I wanted to feel the flow of cool air for some time. But the wind was not blowing.



Word Meaning
Beneath Below
Beside Near

I returned to my room and sat down on the chair. I opened the box that was lying below the table. I took out a book. Name of the book was Materia Medica. I put the book on the table and opened it. The lamp was placed on this table. A large mirror was also on the table. A small comb was placed near the mirror.



Word Meaning
Feels tempted Has an urge, has an inclination
Admirer One who appreciates

The narrator says that everyone likes to look into a mirror whenever it is near. I also looked into the mirror. In those days I liked everything that was beautiful. I also wanted to look handsome. I was unmarried. I was a doctor.



Word Meaning
Make my presence felt To have a better effect on situation or people
Parting A line at which hair are combed in opposite direct

I wanted to feel better so I picked the comb and combed my hair. I also adjusted the parting so that it looked straight. Once again I heard the same sound from  above.



Word Meaning
To have a close look Look carefully
Bachelor Unmarried man
After all A phrase to emphasize something

I carefully looked at my face in the mirror. I made an important decision. I would shave daily and I would maintain a thin moustache. I took this decision because I wanted to look handsome.  I realised that I was a bachelor and a doctor.



Word Meaning
Earth shaking decision A very big and new decision,

I looked into the mirror and smiled at myself. I thought my smile was attractive. I made one more very big and new decision.


Word Meaning
On top of it In addition to it

I decided to keep that attractive smile on my face. I wanted to look more handsome. I was aware that I was bachelor. In addition to it, I was also a doctor.

Once again I heard the same noise from above.



Word Meaning
Paced up and down Walked repeatedly from one end to another
Good medical practice If many patients come to consult a doctor

I got up from the chair and started walking from one end of the room to the other end. Now one more good thought came to my mind. I thought I would marry a lady doctor. And that she would be a rich lady. Lot of patients would come to her for consultation. 



Word Meaning
Valid Correct, Proper, Logical
Silly mistakes Foolish mistakes,

It was my desire that my wife should be fat. This thinking had a logical reason. If I made a foolish mistake then I would run away. In such cases she should not be able to run after me to catch me.



Word Meaning
Resume To start doing something again
Thud Sound when something falls on ground

While thinking such thoughts, I once gain sat in the chair. The chair was in front of the table. Now those sounds were not coming from above. Suddenly I heard a sound as if something had fallen. It appeared as if something made of rubber had fallen on the ground. I assumed that it was not a cause to worry.



Word Meaning
Even so Despite, In spite of
Wriggle Twist and turn
Simultaneous Together, Occurring at the same time

Though I thought there was no reason to get worried, I decided to turn and see what had happened. As soon as I turned, a fat snake twisted around the back rest of the chair. Then it sat on my shoulder. My turning to look back and the snake climbing on my shoulder happened together. 



Word Meaning
Tremble To shiver

I did not jump. I did not shiver. I did not shout. I did not have time to do these activities. The snake had suddenly jumped on me.



Word Meaning
Slither Slide, Move like a snake
Coiled Circled
Hood Wide portion of the head of a snake

The snake slowly moved on my shoulder and it circled around my left arm. The snake had wound around the portion of the arm above elbow. Its hood was wide. Its head was about three or four inches from my face.



Word Meaning
Turn to stone Not able to move
Flesh Meat

It would be wrong to say that I had stopped breathing. I stayed at my chair. Actually I was not able to move. I was as lifeless as a stone is. I continued to think. All around the room it was dark. The lamp was spreading its light in the room. I was sitting in the chair as a person who could not move. I felt I was a stone with flesh around it.



At this time of great difficulty I remembered the Almighty God. The God who had created this world. I wanted to say something to God. But I was not sure He would like what I said. So imagined that I was writing name of God. These words were coming from my heart.



Word Meaning
Leaden rod Heavy and strong rod
Molten Liquid, Melted
Drained of strength Removal of strength

My left arm had developed some pain. I thought that a thick strong rod made of lead was around arm. I thought that actually  a rod made of liquid fire was around my arm. And that rod was gradually tightening its grip around my arm. I felt my arm was being crushed. The arm was becoming weaker and weaker. I did not know what should I do.



Word Meaning
Slightest Smallest
Lurked Moved, Approached silently but dangerously

I thought that if I moved even by a small amount the snake might bite me. I felt that the death was just four inches away from me. If the snake strikes me, which medicine should I take?



Word Meaning
Feebly Weekly, Slowly, Slightly

Actually I did not have any medicine in my room. Now I thought that I was a poor, foolish and stupid doctor. I forget about the danger to my life. I slightly smiled at my stupidity.



It appeared to me that even God liked my thoughts and my smile. The snake turned its head away from me. It looked into the mirror. I do not want to say that it was the first snake in the world to look into the mirror. But I was sure that this snake was looking into the mirror. 



Word Meaning
Admire Appreciate
Vermillion spot A red coloured dot

I wondered if the snake was appreciating its own beauty in the mirror. Or was it making an important decision of its life. The decision could be about growing a mustache or using a mascara or putting a red dot on its forehead.



Word Meaning
Unwound from my arm Removed from being around my arm

I will never know the decision the snake wanted to take. I did not know the gender of the snake nor will I ever know.  It could have been a male or a female. The snake shifted its position from being around my arm. It now moved into my lap.



Word Meaning
Crept Moved slowly
At close quarters From close distance

From my lap it moved to the table. And then it reached before the mirror. Probably it wanted to see itself in the mirror from a close distance. 



Word Meaning
Image cut in granite A statue made of granite stone
A man of flesh and blood A normal human being

Now I was not a statue made of granite stone. I was like a normal human being. I was still holding my breath. I got out of my chair. 



Word Meaning
Quietly Silently
Leapt Jumped
Ran for all I was worth Ran as fast as I could, Ran very fast

Without making any noise, I moved out the door of the room. I had reached my veranda. Then I jumped into the yard. I started running as fast as I could.



Word Meaning
Heaved a sigh of relief Felt happy that some wrong had not occurred, Felt relaxed,

We all, listeners of the story, were relaxed because doctor had saved his life. One of us asked the doctor if his wife was very fat.



Word Meaning
God willed otherwise God wanted something other
Reedy Tall and thin
Sprinter One who can run fast

The doctor answered that the desire of God was different.  My wife is thin, actually a tall and thin person. She can run very fast. It is her talent. Someone asked the doctor if the snake followed him while he was running.



Word Meaning
Smeared Applied

The doctor answered that he continued to run till he reached house of his friend. There he applied oil to his body. He took a bath and changed his clothes.



Word Meaning
Had little to carry Hardly anything was available

Next morning around eight thirty doctor went to his house. His friend and some other people were also with him. They wanted to shift the luggage of doctor from the room. But they found that hardly anything was available in the room.



A thief had taken away my all belongings. The room did not have any of my luggage. But actually, the thief did not take one item from my room. I felt the item left was an insult to me.



Word Meaning
Rascal Scoundrel, Dishonest person

I asked the doctor which item was not taken by the thief. The doctor replied that the thief did not take his dirty vest. The doctor thought that probably the thief liked to take only clean things. But the thief could have washed the vest with soap. Then he could have used it.



Word Meaning
Taken with Impressed by

I asked the doctor if he saw the snake in his room next day. The doctor laughed at the question. I have never seen that snake again. It was a snake that was impressed by its own beauty.


[Translated from the Malayalam by V. Abdulla]




Poet – Phoebe Cary

In this poem legend means a traditional story or a story since ancient times.


Word Meaning
Away, away Very far away
Northland Area near North Pole
Poetic Devices
Away, away in the Northland Repetition
Where the hours of the day are few Repetition
That they cannot sleep them through Alliteration

Very far away from here, there is a place called Northland. It is near North Pole. The Sun shines there for a very less time so days are quite short. Nights are longer. During winter nights become very long indeed. Nights become so long that people cannot sleep for the while night. People residing there would usually wake up while it is still night there.

[“They’ refers to people residing in the Northland]



Word Meaning
Swift Fast, Quick
Reindeer An animal of North Pole
Sledges A cart used in polar region – it does not have wheels
Harness the swift reindeer to sledge Deploy reindeer to pulls sledge just like a horse pulls a tonga
Bear’s cubs Children of a bear
Furry cloths Cloths made of fur, Warm cloths
Poetic Devices
Where they harness the swift reindeer Alliteration
To the sledges, when it snows; Alliteration
And the children look like bear’s cubs Alliteration
And the children look like bear’s cubs Simile
In their funny, furry clothes: Alliteration

When snow falls in the Northland, people use reindeer to pull their carts. Usually reindeers move quite fast. It becomes very cold during such period. During such season, children usually wear cloths made of fur. They would like a baby bear looks like – full of hair.



Word Meaning
Curious Strange
Learn a lesson Understand something, Derive wisdom
Tale Story
Poetic Devices
They tell them a curious story Alliteration
And yet you may learn a lesson Alliteration
If I tell the tale to you. Alliteration

In this stanza ‘they’ means elderly people and ‘them’ refers to kids

The elderly people tell some stories to children. The kids sometimes find such stories quite strange. Elderly people explain that they themselves do not feel that those stories were true stories. The kids should try to derive some wisdom or improve their understanding from such stories.



Word Meaning
World below On the earth
Walked about it Roaming or wandering on earth
Preaching Giving religious speeches

Now the elderly person narrates a story.

This story is of those days when Saint Peter used to live on the earth. He used to roam on the earth for preaching or giving religious speeches. Every Saint does this.



Word Meaning
Cottage Small house, Hut
Hearth A part of the furnace
Poetic Devices
He came to the door of a cottage, Alliteration
In travelling round the earth, Alliteration
Where a little woman was making cakes Alliteration
And baking them on the hearth Alliteration

While roaming around the earth, the Saint Peter once reached a small house. A woman used to live there. She used to make cakes for her living. She used to bake the cakes in a furnace.



Word Meaning
Faint Weak
Fasting Not taking any food
Poetic Devices
And being faint with fasting, Alliteration
For the day was almost done Alliteration
He asked her, from her store of cakes Repetition
He asked her, from her store of cakes Alliteration

Saint Peter had not eaten anything during that day. He was feeling very week. The day was almost over – means it was evening.  Saint Peter requested the woman to give him one cake from her shop. He had requested for only one cake.



Word Meaning
Very little Very small
Baking lay Being baked, Getting baked
Poetic Devices
So she made a very little cake, Alliteration
She looked at it, and thought it seemed Repetition

The woman was greedy. She made a very small cake. Then she started baking it. While it was getting baked, the woman thought that it was a big cake. She did not want to give a big cake to the Saint.



Word Meaning
Knead Mix water and flour to make dough
Poetic Devices
And still a smaller one Alliteration
But it looked, when she turned it over Repetition
As large as the first had done Simile

Therefore the woman made preparations of making another smaller cake. She mixed water and flour to make dough. While she was turning over the cake in the furnace for baking, she thought this cake was also big. She thought it was as big as the previous cake. So she did not want  to give it to the Saint.



Word Meaning
Tiny Very small
Scrap Piece
Rolled Used a roller pin to make it flat
Wafer A very thin substance
Part with To give away
Poetic Devices
Then she took a tiny scrap of dough, Alliteration
Then she took a tiny scrap of dough, Alliteration
And rolled and rolled it flat Repetition
And baked it thin as a wafer Simile

Therefore this time she took a very small piece of dough. She rolled it. It became very thin. She baked it.  The cake was like a wafer now – very thin indeed. But she did not want to give even this cake to the Saint.



Poetic Devices
For she said, “My cakes that seem too small Alliteration
So she put them on the shelf Alliteration
So she put them on the shelf Alliteration

She told herself that those cakes were looking very small if she herself wanted to eat. But if she wanted to give those cakes to others, they looked very big to her. So she put all the cakes on the shelf of her shop. She did not give any cake to Saint Peter.



Word Meaning
Provoke Make angry
Poetic Devices
Then good Saint Peter grew angry Alliteration
For he was hungry and faint Alliteration
And surely such a woman Alliteration

The pious Saint Peter understood intentions of the woman. He got very angry. He was hungry since long time and had become weak. The woman did not want to give any cake to him. The attitude of woman made Saint Peter very angry.



Word Meaning
Dwell Reside
Dwell in human form Live as a human being

The Saint told the woman that she was a very selfish person. Therefore she should not live as a human being. She did not have the right to have food and home. She did not have the right to be rich enough to keep her home warm during winter.



Word Meaning
Scanty Very less quantity
Boring Making a hole
Poetic Devices
Now, you shall build as the birds do Alliteration
By boring, and boring, and boring Repetition
All day in the hard, dry wood. Alliteration

The Saint gave a curse to her that she would become a bird. She will need to make nests as other birds do. You will get very less food. You will eat insects that live in wooden pieces. To obtain food you will have to make holes in the hard and dry wood. So you will have to do hard work everyday.



Poetic Devices
Then up she went through the chimney Alliteration
And out of the top flew a woodpecker Alliteration

She did not say even a word to the Saint. She immediately got converted into a bird. She went into the chimney of her house. She flew out from the top of the chimney. She was a woodpecker bird now.



Word Meaning
Scarlet Red colour
Poetic Devices
She had a scarlet cap on her head Alliteration
She had a scarlet cap on her head Alliteration
Black as a coal in the flame Simile

The woman at time was wearing a cap of red colour. So the bird also had a cap like formation on its head. Colour of this formation was red. The woman was flying out of chimney so her clothes became black. Thus body of the bird was black.



Word Meaning
Country Rural area
Schoolboy A young child
Till this very day Even upto now


Poetic Devices
Has seen her in the wood Alliteration
Where she lives in the trees till this very day Alliteration
Boring and boring for food Repetition

In rural areas even a child has seen this bird woodpecker. It would be sitting on wooden pieces or on a tree. Even today, she makes her nest on a tree. The bird uses its beak to make small holes in wood. She searches for insects that live in the wood.



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