Universes

Written by;

Syeda Waliya Zafar
I have always wondered about the personal little universes of human beings. I had mine and it therefore seemed only normal and inevitable for everybody else to have theirs. 
These little universes, as I have always believed,are the onstage display of our lives. The highlight reel. Not the backstage. For the backstage, as we all know,is the dimmer,tedious and a more haphazard version of everything. It is what goes on the inside of every human being. But they don’t like to show it. They prefer keeping the onstage show on. The happier,fancier and more decorative version of their lives and themselves. But why is that?
Seven years old,I remember my mama telling me about the sadder side of everyone of us that keeps in hiding. “It does not like the open-it fears freedom. It fears being seen and recognized”, she would say. And I would steal glances at her through the glass window to try to spot her sadder side. As I now walked through the streets flooded with people,I could feel nothing but that sadness around me. Everywhere that I looked,I could see worn faces and desolate eyes but fancy clothes and painted smiles to show that they are happy.
Looking at children though,it occurred to me that some of us are happy performers. Or honest rather. We show what we feel. Not what we wish people would see. It has become a habit now,to look at people and try to take a peek within their soul,to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle-to find out the backstage profile.

8693 October/November 2009 Paper 11

In the extract below, the bombing of a town is described.

(a) Comment on the style and language of the passage. [15]

(b) Basing your answer closely on the language and style of the original extract, write a description (between 120–150 words) of another dramatic event (real or imaginary) where a peaceful environment is suddenly disturbed. [10]

The town far below was asleep. It lay pillowed on the secure shore; violet shadows leaned against its pale buildings; there was no movement in its streets; no smoke from its chimneys. The ships lay still in the deep close harbor; their masts rose out of the green water like reeds thickly growing with the great funnels and turrets of the warships like strange plants among them. The sea beyond the strong breakwater was smooth as a silver plate; there was no sound anywhere.

The aeroplane descended in slow spirals upon the town, tracing an invisible path through the pearly air. It was as if a messenger from heaven were descending upon the people of the town who dreamed.

Suddenly a scream burst from the throat of the church tower. For an instant the sky seemed to shiver with the stab of that wail of terror rising from the great stone throat. Surely the town would waken in a panic – and yet, no, nothing stirred. There was no sound or movement in any street and the sky gave back no sign. The aeroplane continued to descend until it looked from the church tower like a mosquito; then there dropped something from it that flashed through the air, a spark of fire.

Silence had followed the scream.

The aeroplane, superbly poised now in the spotless sky, watched the buildings below it as if waiting for some strange thing to happen; and presently, as if exorcised by the magic eye of the insect, a cluster of houses collapsed, while a roar burst from the wounded earth.

Still, the neat surface of the wide city showed no change, save in that one spot where the houses had fallen. How slow to wake the town was! The daylight brightened, painting the surfaces of the buildings with pale rose and primrose. The clean empty streets cut the city into firm blocks of buildings; the pattern of the town spread out on the earth, with its neat edges marked by walls and canals, gleamed like a varnished map.

Then the siren in the church tower screamed again; its wail followed by a second roar and a ragged hole yawned in the open square in the middle of the town. The aeroplane circles smoothly, watching.

And at last signs of terror and bewilderment appeared in the human ant hill beneath it. Distracted midgets swarmed from the houses: this way and that they scurried, diving into openings in the ground: swift armored beetles rushed through the streets; white jets of steam rose from the locomotives in the station yard: the harbor throbbed.

Again there was a great noise, and a cloud of debris was flung into the air as from a volcano, and flames leapt after it. A part of the wharf with a shed on it reeled drunkenly into the sea with a splash.

The white beach was crawling now with vermin; the human hive swarmed out on to the sands. Their eyes were fixed on the evil flying thing in the sky and at each explosion they fell on their faces like frantic worshipers.

The airplane cavorted, whirling after its tail in an ecstasy of self-gratification. Down among the sand dunes it could see the tiny black figures of men at the antiaircraft guns. These were the defenders of the town; they had orders to shoot to death a mosquito floating in boundless heaven. The little clouds that burst in the sunlight were like materialized kisses.

The face of the city had begun to show a curious change. Scars appeared on it like the marks of smallpox and as these thickened on its trim surface, it seemed as if it were being attacked by an invisible and gigantic beast, who was tearing and gnawing it with claws and teeth. Gashes appeared in its streets, long wounds with ragged edges. Helpless, spread out to the heavens, it grimaced with mutilated features.

Nevertheless the sun rose, touching the airplane with gold, and the aeroplane laughed. It laughed at the convulsed face of the town, at the beach crawling with vermin, at the ant people swarming through the gates of the city along the white roads; it laughed at the warships moving out of the harbor one by one in stately procession, the mouths of their guns gaping helplessly in their armored sides. With a last flick of its glittering wings, it darted downward defiant, dodging the kisses of shrapnel, luring them, teasing them, playing with them: then, its message delivered, its sport over, it flew up and away in the sunshine and disappeared. A speck in the infinite sky, then nothing – and the town was left in convulsions.

Writer: Faiza Urooj

(a)

The given passage is a fictional text most likely to be found in a novel, or a short story. The writer intends to describe the bombing of a town, and how unexpected and disturbing the incident was. The passage has a poetic function as it conveys the writer’s perception of the event. Towards the end it also performs the expressive function as he zooms out of the image of the town.

The passage begins with a description of the town’s serenity. In a calm tone the writer relates how stagnant the whole town was at the time. He describes each image in vivid detail with the use of various similes to describe a landscape of a town which was ‘like a varnished map’. The fact that there ‘was no sound anywhere’, implies that the whole ‘town far below was asleep’. The writer oscillates between describing the town and an airplane that flew above. He demarcates these changes in the scene by the changing paragraphs. The movement of the airplane is slow at first, hence the description of the plane as it ‘descended’ like a ‘messenger from heaven’ is quite similar to the description of the asleep town.

The writer makes use of repetition, of the word ‘scream’ each time he refers to the church bell. He refers to the tolling of the bell as a scream and an alarm for the impending doom. In a foreboding tone the writer personifies the ‘scream’ of the church tower to be ‘a wail of terror’, upon hearing which; the writer hoped the whole ‘town would waken in panic’. Line 17 is a very short and impactful sentence that stands out as a paragraph on its own. The ‘silence’ according to the writer is like the quite before the storm. This short paragraph is followed by a long, complex sentence that describes the threat that the airplane poses to the town.

This sentence speeds up the action and the readers can visualize the airplane is closing in.The writer is almost frantic at how ‘slow to wake the town was!’ This exclamation is reflective of his worry and bias towards the townspeople and their safety. He describes ‘buildings’, ‘walls’ and ‘canals’, to exemplify the image of the calm and peace that prevailed over the entire town.

Another short sentence in line 30 contributes to the forthcoming doom and the town’s relative inertness to this fact.

Upon the appearance of signs of ‘bewilderment’, the writer zooms out of the picture and describes the frantic humans as ‘distracted midgets’ and ‘swift armored beetles’. He describes them as insignificant creatures. This foreshadows their status after the bombing, and also reflects their powerlessness and incapability in face of the attack.

The writer uses a metaphor to describe the result of the bombing due to which ‘debris was flung into the air as from a volcano’, this exemplifies the effect of the destruction caused by the attack.

The people are again referred to as insignificant creatures like ‘vermin’; ‘crawling’ ‘like frantic worshippers’.  Alliteration in the line 41 on the ‘f’ sound intensifies and imitates the frenzy of the whole situation. The fact that the ‘tiny black figures of men’ were not able to ‘shoot’ the airplane that bombed them is a reflection of their helplessness.

The writer makes an efficient use of linguistic devices and appropriate diction to describe the bombing of a town and the reaction of the unaware people of the town.

 (b)   The surface of the water was smooth. Trees swayed gently in a lullaby sway, in the warm summer breeze. A family of bears rested, unaware, in the shade of the trees. He was closing in, slowly; with each stealthy step he neared the unaware creatures. A gun hitched to his side, and a hat pulled over his face.

One of the younger bears moved, he stretched his arms, awake from the deep slumber. The innocent did not know what was about to come.

The scream of a shot was heard.

A fountain of red gushed forth. A struggle to survive ensued, but to no avail. He had accomplished what he had come for.

Another shot was heard. This time coupled with joy.

Source:
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL EXAMINATIONS
English Language Paper 1 8693/01
October/November 2006 Question 2

The passage below describes the writer’s experience of a gorilla family in the forests of Rwanda in Africa.

(a) In the next chapter of his book the writer describes an encounter with another wild animal in another part of the world. Basing your answer closely on the language and style of the extract, write the opening to the chapter (between 120 and 150 words).                 [10]
(b) Compare the language and style of your piece with those of the original extract.        [15]

The most imperial creatures in the Garden were easily twice my size, and had they been so inclined, they could have batted the life out of my body with a casual backhand slap. I was a guest, not entirely welcome but tolerated because I abided by the rules. I stayed low and still, in a proper worshipful attitude. When I came upon a family of them on my last day in the Garden, Ndume, the one I knew best, the leader and patriarch, sighed as if to say, ‘You again?’ He didn’t exactly frown – nothing that intense – but he compressed his lips slightly, and a small vertical ridge formed in the shiny black skin just above his nose. It was an expression of mild annoyance.

I thought I read some small curiosity there as well, so I crawled forward a bit. Ndume’s expression softened, and I grunted twice, a polite custom among his kind. He returned the greeting, a deep, double gutteral rasp. Neither of us moved for quite some time. He sat, and I lay, in a deep green tangle of luxuriant vegetation. A drifting mountain mist cooled and dampened our faces. It was not polite to stare, so we both shifted our eyes frequently. A residue of morning rain glittered on the leaves. When I looked again, Ndume was holding his chin in the palm of his hand. He seemed to be in a contemplative mood. I smiled at him, careful not to show my teeth, for this is an aggressive and impolite thing to do. Ndume smiled back, grunted courteously, and rose up onto all fours. He moved toward me, smiling vaguely and shifting his gaze in a well-bred manner. Despite the gleaming pelt of shiny black fur, I could see muscles the size of melons rolling in his upper arms. Ndume is a ‘silverback’, so called because of the saddle of silver hair – a sign of sexual maturity – across his broad back.

His odor was sharp: musky and sweet with a faint sour tang. He could have reached out and touched me. Instead he cocked his head slightly, like a man trying to solve a tricky but trivial puzzle. There was a rolling, cloudlike fog in the Garden now, and we regarded each other, man and gorilla, through a swirl of dreamlike mist. His eyes were a deep golden brown under the heavy black ridges of his brow.
I felt unreal, strangely insubstantial, out of time, as though the mist between us was the stuff of millennia.

Ndume strode off into the forest just as the sun broke through the clouds and began to burn off the mist. We were on the lower slopes of a volcano called Visoke, just above Lake Ngezi. The temperature rose to seventy degrees, and the eleven gorillas of Ndume’s family were settling down for their afternoon siesta. Two infants, both less than two years old, and two juveniles, both about four, lay together in a furry heap. One of the juveniles stripped the leaves off a vine and stuffed them into
his mouth. An infant reached up, grabbed the juvenile, and pulled him backward. The juvenile’s mouth was open, and his face shone with a kind of idiot joy. His play chuckle, a heh-heh-heh sound, was barely audible. It resembled the sound a child might make laughing helplessly in church.

The largest juvenile, a six-year-old female named Picasso, climbed a small tree and stared down at me. Slowly the tree began to topple, bending until the trunk broke with a sharp crack and Picasso rolled into the dense vegetation on the forest floor. I was never able to decide whether gorillas are extraordinarily bad judges of which trees will hold them or whether they simply regard riding a breaking branch as an exciting and efficient way to get down to the ground.

Ndume clambered up the thick trunk of a huge hagenia. These are immense, gracefully expansive trees about forty feet high. The crotch formed by the trunk and the great lower branches is often large enough to accommodate several adult gorillas. Ndume found one such platform, rolled over heavily onto his back, one long arm dangling, and let the warm sun bake his chest and legs. One of the juveniles climbed up to be with Ndume, settling carefully into the big male’s armpit. An infant found a soft spot to sleep in the middle of Ndume’s huge belly.

There were yellow flowers blooming on the senecios and on the vine-entangled hypericum trees. Below, the surface of Lake Ngezi was as still and blue as the sky above. The chain of volcanoes stretched out, noble and massive in the distance, ranging all the way to Uganda in one direction and to Zaire in another. The infant crawled over the silverback’s chest and pulled at the hair under the juvenile’s chin. The two dissolved into play chuckles and rolled over Ndume’s belly, wrestling indolently as the patriarch yawned, showing his massive canines.

I felt, in that bright, aureate moment, that I was watching one of the loveliest scenes on the face of the earth. It seemed like a tableau out of time: the lazy frolic, the drowsy family at peace in the provident forest, the special beauty of the lake and the mountains. I found myself thinking of the dawn of man, of the Garden of Eden. The sensation was almost physically seductive, and I wanted the moment to last forever – especially since I carried with me a fund of ominous knowledge. What I knew tinged the idyllic setting with a sense of doom.

Answer:

(b)
By: Umme Salma Gadriwala

The passage is an account of the author’s experience with gorillas on his visit to Africa. It may be found in an animal-lovers magazine or in his diary, which was later published. The setting is in Africa, on the volcano Visoke above Lake Ngezi as the writer describes in line 31. The writer’s purpose is to comment on the magnificence of the gorillas and on their much humanly lifestyle. He has portrayed them as beautiful, playful creatures rather than the horror they are known for. He writes as an experienced and seasoned zoologist who has much knowledge about the lifestyle and habits of the gorillas. His tone is that of awe and admiration as he comments on the tenderness of the gorillas. He creates a similar mood of awe and a sense of foreboding towards the end. The diction is very sensuous and technical, with some poetic words like ‘aureate’.

The passage begins with a godly presentation of the gorillas as ‘imperial creatures’ that were large and powerful. The author creates fear in the reader’s mind by the prospective of getting killed with a ‘casual backhand slap’. The ‘worshipful attitude’ of the writer amongst the gorillas reinforces the need to be calm for the protection of one’s life. The fear is deflated by the mention of the fact ‘had they been so inclined’ which then relaxes the reader and opens the door to admiration and love in the reader’s heart. The gorillas are personified as ‘frown(ing)’ and ‘sighing’ and being ‘mild(ly) annoyed’. The description of the gorilla’s expression reinforces the subject position of the writer as fully in command of the gorillian lifestyle.

The author’s vast knowledge about the gorilla’s way of life and as a person who understands their ‘curiosity’ and ‘custom(s)’ and his careful and calculated actions and accurate details further emphasize on the writer’s position and abilities. The alliteration of ‘deep, double’ in line 11 allows the reader to picture a heavy sound, similar to the one that the gorilla’s make, and the magnificence of the animal. The simile ‘muscles the size of melons’ lays further emphasis on the power and might of the gorillas. The sibilance in line 21 creates a tone of admiration, tenderness and awe and connects the paragraph with the writer’s purpose of appreciating the animal.

Further on, the writer presents the gorillas as soft and loving creatures with a cloak of power and might, like a deep golden brown under the heavy black ridges’. The olfactory images of their ‘musky and sweet’ yet ‘sharp’ and ‘faint(ly) sour’ odor is a reference to their lifestyle. The gorillas are painted as resilient creatures battling the rising heat (line 32) and living under the ominous shadow of the volcanoes (line 55) yet settling down for an afternoon siesta with an ‘idiot joy’. The simile in line 38 presents them as innocent and tender creatures like a ‘child’, chuckling and laughing with a foolish joy.

The writer describes the setting like a camera, first focusing up-close and personal into the gorillas and then zooming out to present the larger picture. The life of the infants and the patriarch is described with paternal love and care, cuddling and ‘sleeping in the middle of Ndume’s huge belly’.

He alludes to the ‘Garden of Eden’ to show the reader the magnificence and heavenly part of the ecology. The contrast in line 66 ‘idyllic setting with a sense of doom’ creates a sense of foreboding as the writer hints towards the silverback gorillas going extinct. This creates a mood of guilt and sympathy and the writer is feeling pity towards these innocent, lovable creatures being wiped out.

An Instructive Little Tale

By: Mark Twain

My beautiful new watch had run eighteen months without losing or gaining, and without breaking any part of its machinery or stopping. I had come to believe it infallible in its judgments about the time of day, and to consider its constitution and its anatomy imperishable. But at last, one night, I let it run down. I grieved about it as if it were a recognized messenger and forerunner of calamity. But by and by I cheered up, set the watch by guess, and commanded my bodings and superstitions to depart. Next day I stepped into the chief jeweler’s to set it by the exact time, and the head of the establishment took it out of my hand and proceeded to set it for me. Then he said, “She is four minutes slow — regulator wants pushing up.” I tried to stop him — tried to make him understand that the watch kept perfect time. But no; all this human cabbage could see was that the watch was four minutes slow, and the regulator must be pushed up a little; and so, while I danced around him in anguish, and implored him to let the watch alone, he calmly and cruelly did the shameful deed. My watch began to gain. It gained faster and faster day by day. Within the week it sickened to a raging fever, and its pulse went up to a hundred and fifty in the shade. At the end of two months it had left all the timepieces of the town far in the rear, and was a fraction over thirteen days ahead of the almanac. It was away into November enjoying the snow, while the October leaves were still turn- ing. It hurried up house rent, bills payable, and such things, in such a ruinous way that I could not abide it. I took it to the watchmaker to be regulated. He asked me if I had ever had it repaired. I said no, it had never needed any repairing. He looked a look of vicious happiness and eagerly pried the watch open, and then put a small dice box into his eye and peered into its machinery. He said it wanted cleaning and oiling, besides regulating — come in a week. After being cleaned and oiled, and regulated, my watch slowed down to that degree that it ticked like a tolling bell. I began to be left by trains, I failed all appointments, I got to missing my dinner ; my watch strung out three days’ grace to four and let me go to protest ; I gradually drifted back into yesterday, then day before, then into last week, and by and by the comprehension came upon me that all solitary and alone I was lingering along in week before last, and the world was out of sight. I seemed to detect in myself a sort of sneaking fellow-feeling for the mummy in the museum, and a desire to swap news with him. I went to a watch- maker again. He took the watch all to pieces whila I waited, and then said the barrel was ” swelled.” He said he could reduce it in three days. After this the watch averaged well, but nothing more. For half a day it would go like the very mischief, and keep up such a barking and wheezing and whooping and sneezing and snorting, that I could not hear myself think for the disturbance ; and as long as it held out there was not a watch in the land that stood any chance against it. But the rest of the day it would keep on slowing down and fooling along until all the clocks it had left behind caught up again. So at last, at the end of twenty-four hours, it would trot up to the judges’ stand all right and just in time. It would show a fair and square average, and no man could say it had done more or less than its duty. But a correct average is only a mild virtue in a watch, and I took this instrument to another watchmaker. He said the kingbolt was broken. I said I was glad it was nothing more serious. To tell the plain truth, I had no idea what the kingbolt was, but I did not choose to appear ignorant to a stranger. He repaired the kingbolt, but what the watch gained in one way it lost in another. It would run awhile and then stop awhile, and then run awhile again, and so on, using its own discretion about the intervals. And every time it went off it kicked back like a musket. I padded my breast for a few days, but finally took the watch to another watchmaker. He picked it all to pieces, and turned the ruin over and over under his glass; and then he said there appeared to be something the matter with the hair- trigger. He fixed it, and gave it a fresh start. It did well now, except that always at ten minutes to ten the hands would shut together like a pair of scissors, and from that time forth they would travel together. The oldest man in the world could not make head or tail of the time of day by such a watch, and so I went again to have the thing re- paired. This person said that the crystal had got bent, and that the mainspring was not straight. He also remarked that part of the works needed half- soling. He made these things all right, and then my timepiece performed unexceptionably, save that now and then, after working along quietly for nearly eight hours, everything inside would let go all of a sudden and begin to buzz like a bee, and the hands would straightway begin to spin round and round so fast that their individuality was lost completely, and they simply seemed a delicate spider’s web over the face of the watch. She would reel off the next twenty-four hours in six or seven minutes, and then stop with a bang. I went with a heavy heart to one more watchmaker, and looked on while he took her to pieces. Then I prepared to cross-question him rigidly, for this thing was getting serious. The watch had cost two hundred dollars originally, and I seemed to have paid out two or three thousand for the repairs. While I waited and looked on I presently recognized in this watchmaker an old acquaintance — a steamboat engineer of other days, and not a good engineer, either. He examined all the parts carefully, just as the other watchmakers had done, and then delivered his verdict with the same confidence of manner,

He said:

“She makes too much steam — you want to hang the monkey-wrench on the safety-valve!”

I brained him on the spot, and had him buried at my own expense.

My uncle William (now deceased, alas!) used to say that a good horse was a good horse until it had run away once, and that a good watch was a good watch until the repairers got a chance at it. And he used to wonder what became of all the unsuccessful tinkers, and gunsmiths, and shoemakers, and engineers, and blacksmiths; but nobody could ever tell him.

You the reader have another gadget that does not work and are trying to get it fixed. In the style of the passage, start telling us about your experience with the repair.

Writer: Wajiha Mukhtar

I spun the corner with an inch to spare, twirling around with the grace of a drunken pelican, with my arms failing around me like a windmill, trying in vain to help me keep my balance. I toppled, and landed with a bang loud enough to cause all nearby birds to flee the spot. I gasped, not because my backside hurt, I was used to that by now, but oh my precious roller skates were broken. Two of the wheels had come off one and the other had been slashed in such a way that the entire sole had been removed and was hanging absurdly.

I was shattered. These skates were a gift from my grandmother, she really wanted me to learn and she was coming for a visit in a week’s time! She would have a heart attack when she saw that the $2000 skates she had bought for her darling angelic grand daughter had been slashed as if possessed by the devil. There was only one hope for me, to get them repaired.

Writer: Ishaq Ibrahim

My smart new phone had lived up to its reputation as a genius for eighteen months now. Only a little more time and it could have won the Nobel Prize. But alas, on the thousandth day of its life, my phone departed. I don’t know what the reason was behind such a rude attitude. My phone wouldn’t open. It won’t respond to me. By and by, I felt as if the world had shifted to the reverse gear. Or rather I was the one the world left behind. Tired of this stone age cave I was living in, I decided to take my phone to a repairer. The repairer looked at it with those big blue eyes of his. As he opened my phone, my heart began to thump. Sweat rolled down my face as he separated the skin from the body. I could not bear to see it. I covered my eyes as he dissected my phone. After a long, disrespectful look, he said: “The LCD has stopped working.” The floor slipped from under my feet. When i asked if he would be able to revive it or not, he gave a slow nod, staring at my phone, a glint of evil in his eyes. Well I did feel relieved, and so, I waited.

Writer: Merwa Tariq

For one whole year, my precious laptop stood beside me. For one whole year, it grew nearer and nearer to my soul, never once failing to assist me, always there as my right hand. Until one day, alas! It fainted. The entire world had collapsed. And I ran immediately to the very best technician I could find; the poor thing deserved nothing worse. He scrutinized it, turning it upside down, cutting its flesh open, taking its organelles out, all right in front of me. Then, with a blank look, he broke the news to me: he needed THREE whole days to carry out its operation. I waited, wretched, with my heart torn; I had never been away from it. But three days’ longing wait, did its work. It was returned as healthy as new.