Circus Cat And Alley Cat

Category: Written by Nerella Bharat / 10:30 AM
This is a story about a circus woman who tames and performs with tigers and lions. She herself cannot be domesticated. She gets estranged form her husband. A woman's need for family life and motherhood make her an alley cat. 
Anna alias Shakti is born in a circus family. She starts her career training tigers and lions. She marries co-worker who forces her to give up her job and attend to domestic chores. Anna leaves him. Mrs. Bates, a missionaries wife sees her , and her baby in abject poverty. She poties her and employs her as a nanny. 
To the children Anna always remains a 'breath - taking , death-defying and terror - striking' circus cat. Her actions and movements lead them into a world of imagination. Common objects in her hand are transformed into symbols of terror. As soon as she enters the room with a tricycle the children feel as if a trainer has arrived. When she sits as the breakfast table cutting slices of bread, it makes the children think it is a chunk of fresh meat dripping with scarlet blood. A cooling spoon in Anna's hand appearance of a showy satin stage costume. Thus Mrs. Bates efforts to tame and domesticate here are in vain. 
Anna 's husband comes back and takes away her child. Anna follows him to Bombay, to get back the child. She never returns. Years later the author sees Anna performing in the circus. Anna remains separated from her husband who wanted her to be an alley cat. Strong willed and determined Anna prefers to stay single, rather than submit to her tyrannical, insensitive husband. She remains a circus cat.
The story comments on the plight of a woman in man dominated society. Anna though alone, retains her freedom. Thus Anita Desai's minute observation , and intense feeling for a very small confined section of the world, and her sensitive evocation of the inner lives of the characters, make her one of the one of the first talents at work in the Indian novel.

Question & Answers:-

  1. 'And through the cage of bamboos. Where was the write hiding ? Was it really a cage? Why did the writer think it had become a cage?
     The writer was hiding behind a screen of bamboos. It was not a real cage but just a fence. 
  2. Describe the physical appearance of Anna.?
     Anna was a Malabar girl who had been born into the circus. She was large and heavily built. She had very black bright. Eyes, a lot wiry black hair, and hefty shoulders. She had also a loud , sharp and authoritative voice. 
  3. What was Anna's special act? What phrases were used to describe the act?
    Where would you expect to find these phrases?
     Her special act was to drape a tiger over her shoulders and stand on the backs of two lions whom she would then order to emit great, rumbling roars that made her large frame tremble all over and the tiger snarl.
    The phrases 'breath-taking', death-defying', and 'terror-striking' were used to describe the act. I expect to find these phrases in highly adventurous and daring acts. 
  4. Who did Anna marry? what kind of a man he? In what way did his ambition show? How did Anna react? What happened to her?
     Anna married the boy who led the cats. He was ambitious. He soon taught her that a woman's place is her home and straddling the lions himself and wrapping the tiger round his own neck.
    She reacted sharply and left his house with her baby. Soon she was on the verge of starvation. 
  5. In what state was Anna, when Mrs, Bates found her? Mrs. Bates did two things for Anna. What were they?
     Anna was begging in the streets when Mrs. Bates found her. At that time Anna and her child were near starvation.
    Anna was given a wash with bath salts to remove the circus smell. She was also given a white uniform. Besides, her baby was put in a cradle in the back verandah and fed on milk and oranges. 
  6. What were the changes in the children after the coming of Anna? 
    A. The coming of Anna into the house made the children feel that they had been shut in their cages. They stopper walking or running but resorted to prowling. Instead of hopping or skipping happily , they sprang and leaped in terror. They were not at liberty to play or speak to their liking. Their voices also changed. Further, they would play only those games that she ordered them to play. 
  7. The children imagined that quite ordinary things in Anna's hands became circus equipment, can you give a few examples? which do you think is the most terrifying among them?
     The brand looked like a great hunk of fresh meat, dripping with scarlet blood. A cooking spoon in her hand became a circus whip. A plain brooch pinned to her lapel turned to a stage costume. The first one is the most terrifying among them. 
  8. "My baby 's gone !" she cried theatrically. "My baby's been taken away!" what did the writer think Anna outburst meant? What had really happened?"
     The writer thought that Anna's baby had died. Anna cried that her baby had been taken away .She prayed to God to given her baby back to her. Her way of crying make the writer think that the baby had died. The word "theatrically" means that Anna made her crying rather showy, producing some dramatic effect. What really happened was that Anna's husband took away the baby. 
  9. "we were nonplussed that the mistress of the house should not have heard of the tragedy yet". What was the tragedy and how did the truth come over?
     The tragedy was the death of Anna's baby as imagined by the write . Hearing the cries of Anna for her lost baby , the writer took the child to be dead. She told it to her mother. She went at once to Anna and began to console her saying that God's decree must be accepted. On her way back she asked Mrs. Bates about the funeral. She jumped with surprise and tried to suppress her laughter because the baby was not dead but vanished. Then she reheated the truth. 
  10. What were the efforts in tracing Ann's baby? 
    A. The Bates made all efforts to trace the baby. It was difficult because the circus had moved to Bombay. So they sent Anna away to Bombay. 
  11. "That was the last we saw of Anna for a long time". When did the writer see Anna next? What was she doing? What do you think had happened to Anna's child?
     The writer saw Anna next time in a circus. She was doing the same breath - taking and terror-striking feats. They saw a little child somer-saulting in the sawdust whom they thought was Anna's child. 
  12. How well did the children accept Anna as their Nanny?
    At first the children did not accept Anna as their Nanny because she had trained circus cats only. They felt as they were in a cage when she kept them in a room shut. But when she brought the playing , things , they felt very happy. They treated her only as a circus lady but not as Nanny. 
  13. What did the Bates say about Anna?
     The Bates said that Anna was a Malabar girl born into the circus. She had trained the big cats even since she was thirteen. She married the boy who led the cats. In course of time she had a baby and her husband ordered her to stay at home. She became angry and left with her baby. Later she was found in a state of starvation on a Daryaganj street. Mrs. Bates picked her up. 
  14. What had happened to Anna's baby?
     Anna's baby had been taken away by her husband and his family. The circus had moved to to Bombay and the child too must have taken with them. 
  15. "All this played real havoc on our imagination, as nothing had ever done before". What was all this? Given a few instances of how it had played a havoc on their imagination?
     "All this" means the vivid description of Anna as a cat trainer in a circus . If Anna rattled the knobs of the doors and windows, the children would feel that they were shut into their cages. They also felt that they were not hopping or skipping but springing. The presence of Anna would make then feel that the trainer had arrived. When she cut slices of bread at the breakfast table, the children would think that it was a hunk of fresh meat soaked in blood. When she had a cooking spoon in her hand, would think that it was a circus whip.
I. Choose the correct meaning of the word given.
  1. staid: sick/ gloomy/ dull/ slow
  2. chortle: a laugh of surpise/ a laugh of joy/ a laugh of pleasure/ a laugh of pride
  3. hound : chase away/ worry/ command / request
  4. gibbering : making noise/ crying loudly/ go on talking without end/ making meaningless sounds
  5. endeavour : swallow/ making oneself lovable/ effort/ to put an end to
  6. eternal : permanent or everlasting/ on the outside / inside/ without beginning
  7. drape : to take in drop by drop/ allow to jump/ to hand over shoulders like a
    garment / wear
  8. straddle : a leather seat for the rider on a horse/ stand across something with legs widely separated/ walk with long steps/ stand in attention
  9. install : to settle in an official position/ to place in a stall/ paying a part/ to fix
  10. appland : show approval by clap of hands/ to hoot/ to shout showing disapproval/ to plead to repeat
  11. havoc : great fear/ widespread damage/ harm/ a sorrowful event
  12. pathetic : pitiful/ showing sympathy/ indifferent/ careless
  13. tragedy : an act of courage/ a very sad event/ that which ends in death/ funny act
II. Select the best option that conveys the meaning of the underlined word and write it.
  1. We must accept whatever God decrees for out life. [ ]
    a)gives b)decides c)prepares d) plans
  2. Mr. Rao is installed as the warden of this hostel [ ]
    a) promoted b) appointed c) made d) transferred
  3. He attended the meeting with a preoccupied mind. [ ]
    a) fixed on the result b) fixed on participation c) fixed on lame excuses d) fixed on something else
  4. The thief shuddered at the thought of being caught by the police [ ]
    a) trembled with disgust b) shook violently with anger c) trembled with fear d) terrified
  5. The judge passed a decree against him. [ ]
    a) order b)sentence c) acquittal d) release
  6. We could no longer walk or run but prowl. [ ]
    a) crawl b) cry wildly c) weep d) shone form behind the clouds
  7. We had a vivid picture of what had happened [ ]
    a) distorted b) very clear c) very large d) loudly
  8. We are very sorry that God had taken her at tender age. [ ]
    a) easily hurt b) offer c) young and immature d) quickly feeling pain
  9. The Bates preferred to call her by the name of Anna. [ ]
    a) selected b) favoured c) chose d) asked
III.Fill in the blanks in the following passage with the appropriate word given in the brackets.
  1. Anna's _________ voice made the children obey her.
    (authority, authoritative, authoritarian)
  2. Anna's behavior fired the _________ of the author.
    (imagination, imaginary, imagine)
  3. Every student must wear _________
    (uniform, cloth, apparel)
  4. I have selected a suitable _________ for my role in the play.
    (dress, attire, costume)
  5. "This _________ comes to you with guarantee of one year" said the shopkeeper.
    (clothes, garment, outfit)
  6. He is in the _________ of a sheep whereas he is a fox by nature.
    (garb, dress, robe)
  7. Late one evening she came to us to _________ us out of the shrubbery.
  8. "My baby's gone " she cried _________
    (Calmly , silently, theatrically)
IV. Find the wrongly spelt word in each set and write it correctly:
  1. sprangel/ angel/ angle/ triangle
  2. devour/ endevour/ fervour/ forever
  3. provision/ occasion/ starvasion/ plantation
  4. precious/caucious/ vicious/ conscious
V. In each of the following group of words ,find the word in which the underlined part is pronounced in the same way as in the key word.
  1. Safe : sack sat salt sale
  2. Busy : sugar station miss girls
  3. Achieve : chord ache much cholera
  4. Weather : feast bee led beard
  5. Shoulder : ought shower poach house
VI. In each set find the word that rhymes with the key word.
  1. Roar : rear rare crore
  2. Dream : storm scream palm
  3. Clapped : lapsed sloped slapped stopped
  4. Throught : blue trough knew good
VII.Sentence endings in the following passage are not indicated. Decide where each sentence ends and write the last word followed by a proper mark (!) or (.) 
1. What a spectacular sight it was I could stay here for another day how about leaving the day after.

VIII. Punctuate: 
1. on her way out my mother looked in on mrs bates and asked when is the funeral to be

IX. Read the sentence given below. Rewrite the sentence carrying the given instructions. 
  1. a) my imagination was fired by the stories of Nanny.
    b) The stories of Nanny ……………………...
  2. a) No matter how hard we tried, she never spoke of the circus once.
    b) Though we tried …………………….........
  3. a) The most terror striking, event in the circuswas Anna's draping a tiger over her shoulders.
    b) No other event …………………….........
  4. a) we were so excited that we could not even applaud.
    b) we were too …………………….........
  5. a) The circus had moved to Bombay and so it will be a bit difficult.
    i) If the circus were ……………………..
    ii) If the circus had not ………………….
  6. a) The thought uppermost in my mind was : Where is Anna's husband?
    b) The thought upper most in my mind was ....................................
X. Identify the parts of speech of each underlined word below. Identify the word and the parts of speech 
1. Anna wept on the her shoulders, looking quite thin and pathetic in her sorrow.
2. She prayed that God might help me.

XI. Write the following sentences making necessary corrections, if any, 
1. She was too weak that she can't walk.
2. Neither Anna not her baby have returned to Mrs. Bates

Key Answers :-
  1. 1.Dull
    2. a laugh of pleasure
    3. chase away
    4. making meaning less sounds
    5. effort
    6. permanent or everlasting
    7. to hang over shoulders
    8. stand across something with legs widely separated
    9. to settle in an official position
    10. show approval by clap of hands
    11. widespread damage
    12. sowing sympathy
    13. a very sad event 
  2. 1. decides
    2. appointed
    3. fixed on something else
    4. trembled with fear
    5. order
    6. crawl
    7. very clear
    8. young and immature
    9. chose 
  3. 1.authoritative
    2. imagination
    3. uniform
    5. garment
    6. garb
    7. hound
    8. theatrically 
  4. 1. spangle
    2. endeavour
    3. starvation
    4. cautions 
  5. 1. sale
    2. girls
    3. much
    4. led
    5. poach 
  6. 1. crore
    2. scream
    3. slapped
    4. blue 
  7. 1. Was(!)
    2. Day(.)
    3. After(?) 
  8. On her way out, she looked in on Mrs. Bates, and asked, "when is the funeral to be?"
  9. 1. The story of Nanny fired my imagination
    2. Though we tried hard, she never spoke of the circus once.
    3. No other event is as terror striking as Anna's draping a tiger over her shoulders.
    4. We were too excited to applaud.
    5. i) If the circus were to move to Bombay, it would be a bit difficult
    ii) If the circus had not moved to Bombay, it would not have been a fit difficult
    6. The thought upper most in my mind was where was Anna's husband? 
  10. 1.Went-verb, her-adjective, Pathetic-adjective, sorrow-noun
    2. Proved-verb, that-pronoun, god-noun , me-pronoun. 
  11. 1. She was too weak to walk
    2. Neither Anna. Nor her baby have returned to Mrs. Bates.
Thank for sharing!

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