Questions & Answers
- “But people are not always true to their names.” Is this statement true about Sushil and Subal? Explain.
Yes, the names of Susheel and Subal do not do justice to the two people who bear those names. Sushil means ‘well-behaved’ but the real Sushil in the story is not well-behaved. On the contrary, he an impish child who told lies to his father. Similarly, Subal means ‘very strong. He has a very weak body and is suffering from rheumatism.
- Why was Subal not able to correct Sushil?
Sushil was so naughty that he drove the entire neighborhood crazy. Although Subal tried to punish the young boy, Sushil always got away because Subal was too weak to run after the quick-paced Sushil. Whenever Subal tried to slap the boy, Sushil easily escaped his father’s unsteady blows.
- Why did Sushil wish to take an off from the school?
Hints : Saturday – half day – geography test that he dreaded/feared – had planned to see the fireworks at their neighbor Bose’ residence – all his friends were looking forward to it.
- Was Subal a good father? Give reasons to support you answer.
No, Subal was not a very good father although he shows some raw traits of a good father. The relation between the father and son doesn’t seem to be very healthy. Subal’s methods of punishing his son appears rude and cruel. He should not have resorted to beating all the time.
- How did Subal punish Sushil for lying to bunk the school?
Hints : Lozenges – tempted Sushil – instead he gave him a bowl of bitter brew – locked him in –
- Why did Sushil wish to be an old man?
- What for did Subal wish to become a young child?
- Why was Sushil not happy after he became an old man? Sushil faced several difficulties after becoming an old man. Most importantly, he was too weak to play like his friends. After becoming old, he suddenly lost his childish enthusiasm and cheerfulness. He no longer enjoyed the sports that he used to enjoy with friends.
- Why did Subal wish to be an old man again?
- Why did elderly people chase Subal away?
The son Sushil drove the entire neighbourhood mad with his antics. This made his father itch to punish him. Unfortunately, the father suffered from rheumatism while the son could run like a deer. So, most of the intended slaps missed their target. But on the rare occasions when his father managed to catch him, Sushil really had a bad time.
3.The day on which this story begins was a Saturday, and school would be over by two in the afternoon. But Sushil was in no mood to go to school for a number of reasons. To start with, it was the day of the dreaded geography test. Secondly, there was to be a display of fireworks at the Bose’s that evening which everyone was looking forward to. Sushil, too, longed to spend the day watching every bit of the preparation. 4. After thinking long and hard about it, Sushil jumped into bed just when it was time to go to school. Subal looked at him in surprise and asked him, ‘Why are you still in bed? Aren’t you going to school?’
5. ‘I’ve a terrible stomach-ache,’ said Sushil promptly, ‘I can’t go to school today.’ Subal saw through the trick at once and said to himself, ‘Very well. I know how to teach you a lesson.’ 6. He turned to Sushil. ‘A stomach-ache, eh? You’d better* stay in bed then. You are not to go anywhere. I had bought some lozenges for you, but you’d better not have them. Just lie down quietly while I go and prepare a brew for your stomach-ache.
7. Subal locked his son in, and went off to prepare a bowl of a really bitter brew. Sushil was in a quandary. He loved lozenges and loathed anything bitter, especially the brews his father made. And he was dying to go to the Bose’s. But now there seemed to be no chance. When Subal returned to the room with a big bowl of bitter brew, Sushil jumped out of bed saying, ‘I am fine now, my stomach-ache has gone. I’m going to school.’ ‘You are not going out anywhere today’, said Subal. ‘Drink this and lie here quietly for the rest of the day.’ He forced the brew down Sushil’s reluctant throat, locked the door from outside, and left.
Sushil burst into tears and wept buckets the whole day long. He told himself over and over again, ‘lf only I could be as old as my father, I’d be able to do whatever I wanted to. No one would be able to lock me in like this.’ 9. Subal sat outside and thought, ‘My parents pampered me so much when I was young. I could never study as much as I ought to have done. If only I could be young once again, I wouldn’t waste a single minute playing. I’d spend all my time studying hard.’ 10. And it so happened that the goddess, who grants wishes, was passing by just then. She heard both Subal and Sushil and decided to grant them both their wishes. Appearing before Subal, she said, ‘Tomorrow morning you will be as young as your son.’ To Sushil she said, ‘From tomorrow you are going to be as old as your father.’ Both father and son were delighted.
Usually, old Subal could never get any sleep towards the early part of the night, but around dawn he was fast asleep and slept late. But when the sun rose the next morning, he almost jumped out of bed and discovered that he had grown quite small. The teeth he had lost were all back. His moustache and beard had vanished. The clothes he had been wearing were too big for him now. His shirt sleeves were longer than his arms, and almost touched the floor. The neckline reached down to his tummy. His dhoti swept the floor, and he almost tumbled in it. 12. Sushil normally woke up at the crack of dawn and ran about the house. But this morning he was hardly able to open his eyes. When he finally did succeed in shaking off his sleep, it was only because his father was making such a racket outside. Sushil woke up to find that his clothes were really tight. His body had become strangely bloated. Nearly half his face was covered with a salt and pepper beard and moustache. There was no trace of the unruly hair that had covered his head. He was shocked to discover a gleaming, bald pate in its place. What seemed even stranger was that he didn’t want to get out of bed as he did on other days. He yawned, turned over on his side and decided to stay in bed. 13. Both father and son had got exactly what they had wished for. What they had not anticipated, were the complications. In the past, Sushil had always thought that once he was old and independent, he’d spend his entire time climbing trees, swimming in the pond, eating raw mangoes, looking for birds’ nests, and roaming wild with his friends all day long. He would return home only when he felt like it, and eat whatever he wanted to. There would be no one to stop him from doing what he wanted. When he woke up that morning, he felt no urge to climb trees. He looked at the pond, covered with water-hyacinths and felt quite certain that he’d run a temperature if he dared to take a dip in it. He spread a mat on the verandah and sat there lost in thoughts. Finally, he decided that he shouldn’t give up the things he was fond of.
14. He stood up and decided to try his usual antics. He went to a nearby olive tree and made several attempts to climb it. He was astounded to find that climbing a tree was beyond him now. Wasn’t it just yesterday that he had been up there as easily and effortlessly as a squirrel? After several attempts he hung on to one of the lower branches which gave way under his weight, and broke into two. He lay flat on the ground. Passers-by were amazed to see an old man trying to climb a tree, and when they saw him rolling on the ground they burst out laughing.
15. Sushil’s friends who had played with him just the previous evening, took one look at the grouchy old man, and ran for their lives. They had no idea that it was Sushil himself. Sushil used to think that the moment he was old and independent, he’d play with his friends all day long. But now the very sight of Gopal, Akshay, Harish, and Nanda put him in a bad mood. He hated the thought of their noisy games, and didn’t want them to disturb him.
16. You’d remember, of course, that once upon a time Subal had told himself that if he ever got back his lost childhood he’d lock himself up in his study and pore over his books all day long. He’d even give up listening to grandmother’s stories at night and would learn all his lessons in all earnestness. Now that* he was young again, he hated the very thought of studying or going to school. Sushil was very angry with him, and said, ‘Father, aren’t you going to school today?’ Subal looked down, scratched his head, and said. ‘I can’t. I’ve got a stomach-ache.’ ‘Stomach-ache!’ said Sushil angrily, ‘Don’t try your tricks on me. I used to* get a similar stomach-ache to avoid going to school. Don’t try to fool me, I know all about it.’ Sushil had known so many different ways of playing truant* and the memory was still so fresh in his mind that it was quite impossible for his poor father to fool him.
17. Sushil forced his young father to go to school. When Subal returned in the evening and longed to go out and play, it was time for old Sushil to wear his glasses and read the Ramayana aloud to himself. Subal’s noisy presence disturbed him. So he made Subal sit in front of him and do the sums. He selected such tough and complicated problems that it took his young father more than an hour to solve at least one of them. In the evening, Sushil played chess with the old men in the locality. 18. Sushil was particularly careful about food. When his father Subal was an old man, he had a lot of digestive problems. The slightest overeating would bring in an attack of acidity. Sushil remembered it very well and stopped his young father from eating his fill*. Subal, on the contrary, was perpetually hungry these days, and felt he’d be able to digest even a piece of stone. However, Sushil just would not allow him to eat normally, and Subal remained hungry. He started losing weight and growing thin. Sushil was afraid that he was really ill, and made him swallow all kinds of pills and powders. 19. Old Sushil also had his own problems. He soon realised that nothing of what used to be his second nature, suited him anymore. Earlier, he had been so fond of plays that whenever he heard of one being performed, he’d land up there. But when he tried to do the same now he fell sick. The irregular hours gifted him a cold cough and severe body-ache, and he had to remain in bed for three whole weeks.
Young Sushil had loved to take his daily dip in the pond. But the moment he tried it now, his rheumatism increased so alarmingly that he had to see a doctor for six months. He now bathed at home in warm water, and that too on alternate days, and refused to let Subal bathe in the pond as well. Every time he tried to jump out of bed the way he did when young, his old bones would rattle most uncomfortably and send shooting pains all over his body. When he tried to pop a paan inside his mouth as he used to do, he realised that he no longer had any teeth to chew with. He would pick up the comb by mistake to comb his hair, and end up scratching his bald pate. 21. Subal too forgot at times that he was no longer old. He would go and join a gathering of old people and comment on their discussions. Needless to say, it would annoy them very much. They boxed his ears, scolded him for being precocious, and told him to go away. Forgetting that he did not look old, he’d ask his tutor for a puff of tobacco. The tutor caned him soundly and made him stand on one leg as a punishment for his impertinence. He forgot his new look once again, and asked the barber why he didn’t come to shave him any more. The barber thought he was joking and replied, ‘I will, in another ten years or so.’ Sometimes Subal would go and smack Sushil as before. The elderly Sushil would flare up and say, ‘Is this the kind of manners they’re teaching you in school these days? How dare you?’ 22. Enough was, after all, enough! Subal now prayed with all his heart that he might regain his lost age and independence which he had been foolish enough to pass on to Sushil.
Sushil too prayed earnestly that he might become young once again and play around with his friends the way he used to. ‘Father has become exceedingly naughty; I can’t look after him anymore. He really worries me all day.’ 24. The goddess who grants wishes heard them both. ‘Well?’ she said appearing before them, ‘are you satisfied?’ ‘Yes, yes indeed we are,’ cried both father and son falling at her feet. ‘Please change us back to what we used to be once again.’ ‘Very well then,’ said the goddess. ‘That’s what will happen when you wake up tomorrow morning.’ 25. The next day, Subal woke up as an old man and Sushil found himself young once again. Each of them felt that he had just woken up from a bad dream. Subal raised his voice and asked, ‘Sushil, why aren’t you studying your grammar aloud?’
Sushil scratched his head and replied, ‘Father, I’ve lost my book.’