A Horse and Two Goats

The story ‘A Horse and Two Goats’ is a humorous story about linguistic barriers. Have you ever experienced any situation where you couldn’t understand what the other person spoke? R.K Narayan depicts this very well in the story.

R.K Narayan wrote about ordinary people engaged in the mundane routine of life. His writings have elements of humour in them. He wrote about the Indian society, especially the southern part of India. In this story, he paints a funny picture of the contrast between the Indian and the Western culture.

The story brings out a sharp contrast between different characters- Muni, his wife, and the American. Muni, a poor man who was quite prosperous once, is now left with just two goats. During his happy days, he used to own a whole flock of sheep. But, misery and poverty have broken him down. He and his wife do not have either enough money or food for survival. They don’t have any children either, and Muni thinks that probably if they had children he would have received the blessings of Gods. Muni fears those in authority, which reflects the state of the poor and downtrodden in the country. If one goes against the authority, they can be severely punished; this is reflected through Muni’s dialogues when he sees the American approaching him.
The American is a businessman from New York on his visit to India. He is wearing Khaki clothes, just like foreign tourists usually wear. What seems strange is that he speaks only in English, and is surprised when Muni speaks only in Tamil. He expects an old villager from the tiniest village in India to speak a foreign language. Furthermore, he expects to find a gas station in a place where even basic amenities are not easily available. He also tells Muni of a bad experience he had to face in his office, when he had to work for four hours without elevators and electricity. The irony lies in the fact that the American is not able to survive four hours without electricity, whereas Muni lives that life every day.
R.K Narayan highlights the Western and Indian perspective through the situations in which Muni and the American are. The American is rich enough to spend money on a horse statue, whereas Muni is so much in debt that he is filled with happiness on receiving the hundred rupees (which he thinks is the amount for selling his goats). Towards the end, Muni gets the money as well as the goats back, and the American gets the statue.

 

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  • Q1

    How does the story reflect the differencesbetween the Western and the Indian cultures?

    Marks:16
    Answer:

    The story brings out a sharp contrast between different characters- Muni, his wife, and the American.Muni, a poor man who was quite prosperous once, is now left with just two goats. During his happy days, he used to own a whole flock of sheep. But, misery and poverty have broken him down. He and his wife do not have either enough money or food for survival. They don’t have any children either, and Muni thinks that probably if they had children he would have received the blessings of Gods.Muni fears those in authority, which reflects the state of the poor and downtrodden in the country. If one goes against the authority, they can be severely punished; this is reflected through Muni’s dialogues when he sees the American approaching him.

    The American is a businessman from New York on his visit to India. He is wearing Khaki clothes, just like foreign tourists usually wear. What seems strange is that he speaks only in English, and is surprised when Muni speaks only in Tamil. He expects an old villager from the tiniest village in India to speak a foreign language. Furthermore, he expects to find a gas station in a place where even basic amenities are not easily available. He also tells Muni of a bad experience he had to face in his office, when he had to work for four hours without elevators and electricity. The irony lies in the fact that the American is not able to survive four hours without electricity, whereas Muni lives that life every day.

    R.K Narayan highlights the Western and Indian perspective through the situations in which Muni and the American are. The American is rich enough to spend money on a horse statue, whereas Muni is so much in debt that he is filled with happiness on receiving the hundred rupees (which he thinks is the amount for selling his goats). Towards the end, Muni gets the money as well as the goats back, and the American gets the statue.

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  • Q2

    Read the extract below and answer the questions that follow-

    The old man now understood the reference to the horse, thought for a second, and said in his own language, “I was an urchin this high when I heard my grandfather explain this horse and warrior, and my grandfather himself was this high when he heard his grandfather, whose grandfather…”

    The other man interrupted him. “I don’t want to seem to have stopped here for nothing. I will offer you a good price for this,” he said, indicating the horse.

    a. How did Muni understand that the American was making a reference to the horse?(3x1=3)

    b. Why was the American offering a price for the horse?(3x1=3)

    c. What did Muni say in Tamil?(3x1=3)

    d. Give a brief character analysis of Muni.

    (3x1=3)

    e. Why was the American man interested in Muni’s Tamil even though he did not understand anything?(4x1=4)

    Marks:16
    Answer:

    a. When Muni was about to leave, the American stopped him, pinioned Muni’s back to the statue, and asked the former to sell it to him. Then Muni understood that the American was making a reference to the statue of the horse.

    b. The American was offering a price for the statue because he wanted to take the statue as a piece of decoration in his house. He was rich, and so could afford to pay any price Muni asked for it.

    c. Muni, though, could not understand the reference to the horse, explained to the American man how he came to know about the statue. He tried to explain how old he was when he learnt of the story. He then went on to explain how the legend of the horse was told to him through generations.

    d. Muni is a poor man who lives with his wife, and two goats. During his prosperous days, he used to own a whole flock of sheep. But now, he and his wife do not have either enough money or food for survival. They don’t have any children either, and Muni thinks that probably if they had children he would have received the blessings of Gods.

    e. The American Man was interested in Muni’s Tamil because he had never heard that language before. Probably, he was attracted to the Tamil accent, and therefore, wanted to tape-record it. He thinks that Muni was trying to explain the value points of the statue of the horse, so that he could get a better price for it.

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  • Q3

    Read the extract below and answer the questions that follow-

    Unleashing the goats from the drumstick tree, Muni started out, driving them ahead and uttering weird cries from time to time in order to urge them on. He passed through the village with his head bowed in thought. He did not want to look at anyone or be accosted. A couple of cronies lounging in the temple corridor hailed him, but he ignored their call. They had known him in the days of affluence when he lorded over a flock of fleecy sheep, not the miserable gawky goats that he had today.

    a. What did Muni do to urge the goats to move on?Why did he bow his head in thought, and not look at anyone?(3x1=3)

    b. Why did he ignore the cronies?(3x1=3)

    c. How are sheep a sign of affluence?(3x1=3)

    d. What was Muni’s present financial condition?

    (3x1=3)

    e. What kind of relationship did he share with his wife?(4x1=4)

    Marks:16
    Answer:

    a. Muni uttered weird cries from time to time, in order to urge the goats to move on. He passed through the village with his head bowed in thought, and did not look at anyone. This was because he already felt humiliated by the shopkeeper and his wife, and did not wish to be insulted any more.

    b. He ignored the cronies because he knew that they would make fun of him. They had known him since the days when he was affluent. He was already insulted by the shopkeeper and his wife, and did not want to be a laughing stock again.

    c. The sheep are a sign of affluence, as one can put them to various uses. One can shear their wool and sell it, for woollen clothes to be made. Muni had a large flock of sheep which made him a rich person at that time.

    d. Muni’s present financial condition was poor. From owning a flock of forty sheep, he was now reduced to owning just two tiny goats. He did not have enough money or food for survival, and lived mostly on debts.

    e. The beauty of Muni and his wife’s relationship can be seen in the fact that even though they quarrel with each other, they take care of each other. Muni has had known his wife since childhood, hence they act more as friends, and less as a couple. Poverty has broken them down, and due to this they end up quarrelling and rebuking each other.

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  • Q4

    Read the extract below and answer the questions that follow-

    The village consisted of less than thirty houses, only one of them built with brick and cement. Painted a brilliant yellow and blue all over with gorgeous carvings of gods and gargoyles on its balustrade, it was known as the Big House. The other houses, distributed in four streets, were generally of bamboo thatch, straw, mud, and other unspecified material. Muni’s was the last house in the fourth street, beyond which stretched the fields. In his prosperous days Muni had owned a flock of forty sheep and goats and sallied forth every morning driving the flock to the highway a couple of miles away.

    a. Which village does the writer refer to here?Give a brief description of the village.(3x1=3)

    b. Where was Muni’s house located?How is his life now different from what it used to be?

    (3x1=3)

    c. What was Muni’s daily routine earlier?(3x1=3)

    d. What did Muni’s wife cook for him? Why didn’t he like it?(3x1=3)

    e. What do you think the writer wants to convey through this description of the village?(4x1=4)

    Marks:16
    Answer:

    a. The village referred to here is Kritam. It was a small village in the southern part of India. The village consisted of less than thirty houses, and there was a big house, which was made with brick and cement, with its walls carved with gods and gargoyles.

    b. Muni’s house was the last one in the fourth street, beyond which were the fields. Earlier he had owned a flock of forty sheep and goats, but the number reduced to just two goats now.

    c. Earlier when he owned a large flock of sheep, Muni used to drive the flock every morning, to the highway, which was a couple of miles away. He took his cattle out for grazing there.

    d. Muni’s wife cooked balls of millet flour for him in the morning. She boiled water in a mud pot, added salt and served it to him. He would swallow it with a raw onion at mid-day.

    e. Through the description of this village, the writer wants to convey the misery of poor people living in villages. Through Muni’s life, he presents the nakedness of misery and poverty. Leading a harsh lifehas broken down Muni and his wife. They do not have either enough money, or food for survival.

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