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The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni …

The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Notes by Yeo Yam Hwee

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  • 1. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee DivakaruniChapter15p.179- The Final Test187 Chapter 15 Page 179 When Anand came to, Nisha was kneeling by him in the pale silver light of a Comment [K1]: “came to” means “regained consciousness”. moon about to set, patting his face. He tried to jerk upright, but she pushed him back, and he was too weak to resist. “Rest a moment,” she said, “or you might get dizzy and faint again.” He managed to force his stiff, disobedient lips to form a question. “Where’s the conch?” “Right here, on your chest,” Nisha said. She guided his hand until it closed around the conch. “Did you put it there?” Nisha shook her head. “You must have clutched it to you as you fell.” Comment [K2]: Anand has not learned at all that “the conch has a will of its own, and one cannot lose it unless it intends to be lost.” Like most teenagers, Anand needs a lot of reassurances from others that HOPE is intact as long as we “BELIEVE”. 1 PageFor Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 1
  • 2. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni But Anand knew better. The conch chooses to be lost or to be found, to stay or to go, he thought. He picked it up carefully and looked at it, his heart Comment [K3]: In this case, the beating with joy. His vision was still blurry, but he could tell that the conch question of the conch going missing should never bother Anand. looked small and ordinary again. He fumbled with his pouch – why, he was as uncoordinated as a baby – and finally managed to slip the conch inside. Chapter 15 Page 180 Thank you for choosing to stay with me, he said in his mind. “You’re welcome,” the conch said. “Not that I had a plethora of choices. Comment [K4]: Anand and the conch Slimy red was never a contender, so it had to be you or Miss Mule Head –and I are communicating with each other. distinctly remember her calling me a shell. A shell, if you please!” Comment [K5]: Poor Surabhanu – no matter how scheming he is, he is never fated to be the keeper of the conch. “Slimy Red” refers to Surabhanu who dies in the form of a scarlet snake. Anand could feel his dry lips crack as a smile broke across his face. “Look!’ Nisha was pulling at his hand. There was a large fissure beside him, empty of snow and burned black. 2 “Did you see what happened?” he asked. PageFor Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 2
  • 3. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni She hesitated. “I’m not sure. I thought I saw a great fire, or perhaps it was lightning, come from your mouth. The snake creature burst into flame – but there was too much smoke, I couldn’t really tell. It howled and took off for the sky, or maybe it was sucked down into the earth.” Comment [K6]: The demise of Surabhanu – a deserving end for his evil ways. They stared at the fissure. Was Surabhanu really destroyed? Anand couldn’t quite believe it. Comment [K7]: Although Surabhanu is dead, his presence and evilness are still felt by Anand. Fear can corrupt one’s mind. As though she sensed his thoughts, Nisha said, “I think he’s gone for good, but you’d better not waste any time.” She started to cough and couldn’t stop. Anand could see that her face had grown pale, and in spite of the cold there were beads of sweat on her upper lip. When she spoke again, her words came in gasps, as though she had run out of breath. “You’d better get the conch to the foot of the peak.” Reluctantly, Anand pushed himself up on to his knees. His arms and legs felt too weak to bear his weight, and he ached all over, as though he’d been thrown against the Chapter 15 Page 181 side of the mountain. He knew there was something else he should be asking Nisha, but his head was so heavy he couldn’t remember it. Comment [K8]: Anand remains deeply troubled as he has a lot of questions on his mind. They are important to him because When he held out his arm to pull her up, she shook her head. he really cares for Nisha. “Aren’t you coming with me?” he asked, surprised. Nisha shook her head with a grimace. “My leg – I can’t move it very well. It hurts a lot even when I’m sitting, but if I try to put any weight on it, it’s just terrible. I could barely drag myself over to you.” Comment [K9]: Nisha remains badly injured. Her leg is seriously dislocated. She pulled the edge of her dress back from her knee. Even in the half dark, Anand could see the unnatural angle at which her leg was bent. Dismayed, he 3 cried, “But wasn’t it healed?” PageFor Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 3
  • 4. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni “I think that was temporary, and it went away when Surabhanu left. Or maybe it was never healed. Maybe it was all an illusion, a trick of his to get me to do what he wanted. In any case, I’d rather have both legs broken than be in his power.” She gave a shudder. “I’m awfully sorry for what I did to you.” Comment [K10]: Nisha is ever so sharp and clear in what she has gone through while under the influence of Surabhanu. “I know you couldn’t help it,” Anand interrupted. “I know how that is. It’s horrible, isn’t it, when you have no control over your arms and legs – even your words? But –“ Nisha swayed and gave a small moan. “I’m sorry, I think I’ve got to lie down. Can you take…him…with you?” She pointed to the small golden-brown mass of fur that lay unmoving at the foot of the cliff. “I tried to wake him,” she said tiredly, “but I couldn’t. Maybe the Healers can help him.” Comment [K11]: Nisha has not forgotten about the injured mongoose. Chapter 15 Page 182 Abhaydatta! How could he have forgotten him even for a moment? Anand Comment [K12]: Readers may be ran to the mongoose and picked him up. The small, limp body weighed almost wondering when Anand is going to wise up and be more decisive and swifter in his nothing. For a moment, with a sinking of his heart. He thought there was no actions and choice-making. life left in the creature. Then he saw its chest rise and fall in the faintest of movements. Anand couldn’t stop his tears. He wasn’t completely sure yet that the Comment [K13]: Compassion alone 4 mongoose was, indeed, the Master Healer – it seemed so impossible. And yet, cannot do much to alleviate the situation. Page hadn’t almost everything that had happened to him in the last few weeksFor Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 4
  • 5. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni been impossible, too? As he stared at the mongoose, memories flooded him. How many times had the old man protected Nisha and him, seen to their comfort even when he himself was under stress or in danger! How many times had he forgiven Anand his stupidities and doubts! Even at the very last, he had thrown himself fearlessly at the snake just to save Anand’s life! Comment [K14]: Although not as quick thinking as Nisha, Anand is nonetheless, a grateful child. He knows how much “I won’t let you die,” he whispered fiercely, “I won’t!” Abhaydatta (in the form of the mongoose) has done for him and Nisha and appreciates him greatly. Stumbling, with the mongoose cradled in his arms, he made for the peak. Yes, there was the flat rectangular rock, shaped like a step, at its foot, just as Comment [K15]: Anand’s promise to Abhaydatta – perhaps his greatest Abhaydatta had described. With a rapidly beating heart, he stood upon it. commitment in the novel. All through the dangers of the journey, at moments when he felt so overwhelmed that he wanted to give up, Anand had kept himself going by imagining this moment. In his mind’s eye, Abhaydatta would stand on the rock, with Anand and Nisha on either side of him, and raise the conch above his head. As the light of the rising sun haloed Comment [K16]: Anand’s vision – will it come true? Chapter 15 Page 183 the conch and streaked his white head with gold, he would call to his brother Healers. With a sound like thunder or cheers from a thousand throats, an opening in the shape of a giant gate would appear in the mountain’s side. Plumed horses and jewelled elephants would march out in a procession to carry the Master Healer and his companions in triumph through the valley. Comment [K17]: This vision of a grand The fantasy changed a little each time Anand daydreamed it, but in no version welcome appears in Anand’s imagination. of it had he stood on the rock alone to announce his arrival. 5 Page But it was no use wishing for what could not be. He cleared his throat. “OpenFor Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 5
  • 6. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni the pass, Healers. I have brought you that for which you have been waiting.” There was no reply. Had he got the words wrong? Perhaps there was some formula, some proper and reverential way to announce the conch’s presence. He put his hand on the conch for help, but it was silent. What had it said? Only when humans had done all they could do was it allowed to use its power to help. Anand would just have to try again. Comment [K18]: Anand has to work hard to arrive at his own decisions first before he can expect any help from the “Are you there?” he called. “Can you hear me? Brothers of the conch – I have conch. brought back to you that which was stolen. Open the gate and let us in.” Still there was no answer. The moon had disappeared, and in the faint glow of the stars the stretches of ice around Anand looked barren, a wasteland where nothing lived. He felt like a fool, standing in front of a wall of rock, calling to Comment [K19]: Anand has to learn to people who perhaps did not even exist. He wanted to give up and turn be patient. He must not take for granted that whenever he wishes for something to around. happen, it will happen. Comment [K20]: Anand also gives up Chapter 15 Page 184 too easily. He is still “doubting” after all these days of adventures. The mongoose stirred in his arms and gave a small, shuddering moan. No! Anand said to himself. Doubting things – that had always been his weakness. All through this journey he’d doubted the words of the Master Healer and trusted his own intelligence, the little, tinny voice of logic that said this isn’t real. And each time it had led him into one trouble after another, had caused him to almost ruin everything. He would not doubt any longer. Comment [K21]: It is now up to Anand The animal in his arms was real; the girl with the broken leg, lying on the icy to stand up for his friends, especially those who have helped him previously. path behind him, waiting for him to succeed, was real. As real as anything in this secret, baffling landscape could be. Equally real was the fact that he was the only one left who could help them. And if that meant shouting at a mountain till he lost his voice, Anand would do it. Comment [K22]: Anand’s new found determination. “My companion are hurt and in need of your help,” he shouted once more. “We’ve risked our lives to bring you the conch, without which you, too, cannot survive. Let us into the valley, please!” The silence stretched out for an interminable moment. Then a voice spoke 6 from somewhere in the mountain peak. Anand strained to understand the Page muffled, booming words.For Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 6
  • 7. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni “Put the conch down on the step, boy, and return to where you came from.” Comment [K23]: This command comes across as being rather mean and cold, especially after we have read about the Anand couldn’t believe his ears. After all they had done, risking their lives, the adventures the three persons have been ungrateful speaker wanted him to hand over the conch, turn around, and go through so far. But then again, it is up to Anand to speak up and express his feelings back? As though he’d merely strolled up from a village down the road! and thoughts clearly to the people from the Brotherhood. Chapter 15 Page 185 Didn’t they even care that Abhaydatta, a member of their own Brotherhood, was injured almost to death? And even if they hadn’t been hurt and exhausted, didn’t the Conch Bearer and his companions deserve better treatment than this? Didn’t Anand, who had, after all, vanquished Surabhanu, deserve a few accolades? Anger surged in him. For a moment he was tempted to raise the conch once again to his lips, teach the insolent speaker a lesson. Comment [K24]: Anand is courageous enough to feel upset and frustrated with the meanness of the “insolent speaker”. “Ah, Anand, think with care! What does he want you to do?” The cool voice of the conch felt to Anand like he was sucking on an ice chip on a blazing summer’s day in Kolkata. It cleared his head. Comment [K25]: The conch is telling Anand to exercise anger management by controlling his emotions. “Thank you,” he said to it. “Thank you for warning me that this is another test. The voice wants to see if I get angry, if I lose control.” He smiled a tight smile. Comment [K26]: Self-control is “Well, it isn’t going to happen.” important. “I am not going to leave,” he called out to the invisible voice. “We have fought too hard and risked everything – our bodies and minds, even our spirits – to get here. The reason we came was not for ourselves but to help the Brotherhood, I would remind you. So, I won’t give up the conch. Not until you help my companions. Not until you let us into the valley.” He raised the mongoose’s body up high. “Abhaydatta promised us this.” Comment [K27]: Let us understand that it takes a lot for a teenager like Anand to speak up like this to a complete There was a pause, as though the voice had not expected this response. Then stranger, an invisible voice as such. it said, “It is easy to speak of promises, boy, using the name of one who is no longer with us. But only the deserving are allowed to pass beyond this point. However, since you have come this far, 7 Chapter 15 Page 186 Page We will give you a chance. We will ask you a question,and give you untilFor Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 7
  • 8. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni daybreak for your reply. If you are able to answer correctly, you may enter the Silver Valley.” Hot words of argument rose to Anand’s lips. He wanted to tell that cold, superior voice exactly how deserving he was. Hadn’t Abhaydatta himself come to his home and asked him for help in his quest? Hadn’t Anand duelled with the evil genius Surabhanu, who had fooled and foiled the Brotherhood, and won? Wasn’t he the one the conch spoke to? “And the one who doesn’t listen when I speak,” the conch said, its words cool but also hard, like stones in a riverbed that might cut an unwary traveller’s feet. Anand bit his lip. What a fool I am! I almost fell into the trap again, didn’t I? This time the conch’s voice was like the whisper of a hummingbird’s wings. “It’s a wise fool who knows his own folly.” Anand drew himself up to his full height and turned to the impassive rock face. “Speak your question, and I will do my best to answer it.”Honesty Loyalty Compassion “Very well,” the voice said. Or was it a chorus of voices? “Which of these three virtues is the most important: honesty, loyalty, or compassion? Comment [K28]: A question that Remember, by daybreak – which is one hour away – you must bring us your requires a lot of thinking through. answer.” “But can you not help my companions before then?” Anand cried. “They are in pain, and Abhaydatta has been poisoned. Another hour might be too late.” Chapter 15 Page 187 “We do not know why you keep speaking the name of Abhaydatta,” the voice said. “He is gone. That creature in your hands is only a mongoose, and may be beyond saving already. And the girl – she is of no importance to us. However, to ease your mind, we will wrap them in a sleep cloud while you wrestle with the question we have given you. They will not feel pain, nor will they degenerate further. But if your answer is the wrong one, you must 8 promise to ask no more of us. You must give us the conch and leave. “ PageFor Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 8
  • 9. The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni The voice spoke in a tone of finality. Anand knew it would be of no use trying to bargain further. “I promise ,” he said. He glanced at the sky. Was it his imagination, or was it already glowing light in the East? He turned his mind to the question, the final test that he hadn’t expected. Comment [K29]: Anand must work on this test alone. 9 PageFor Teaching and Learning in the Classroom Only Page 9