Texte de Bulbul Sharma


«  Her son was waiting for her outside(1) when she finally emerged, but even though she saw him at once she gave no sign that she recognized him. The fifty-year-old extremely successful dentist, member of the Royal College of Dentists and a very old London club, did not dare raise his arm and wave to his mother. She walked towards him slowly and, after she reached him, stood staring at him as if he were a total stranger. The son lurched forward and made an awkward, half-bending movement to touch his mother's feet but at the same time surreptitiously tried to look as if he was tying his shoelaces. Mayadevi, who was on full alert, her eyes carefully scrutinizing her son for faults, pounced(2) like an eagle on the first wrong move. " Ashamed to touch your mother's feet now, are you? A mother who has not long to live but even then has travelled such a great distance, fasting for twelve hours, sitting with all kinds of half-castes so that she can see her son," she hissed. Amit, who was well-known in dentists' circles for his dry, sharp wit, was about to defend himself with a few crisp, well-chosen words, but before he could speak, something clicked inside him. As he looked into that old, lined face, an irrational fear jolted his memory and he said in a whining, childish voice, "No, Ma… I… so many people here," stammering helplessly. Now that she had established the old family, Mayadevi told her son to pick up her suitcase and take her to his home. Though the mother and son had not seen each other for more than thirty years, they drove to the semi-detached house in the beautiful, green, tree-lined suburbs in unbroken, stony silence. […] " Welcome to England, Mrs Banerjee. Hope you had a nice flight," Martha, Amit's wife, said cheerfully. Mayadevi looked up at her tall, large-boned daughter-in-law through the top of her spectacles for a few long, uncomfortable seconds and then said, "I wish to wash hands. Everything so dirty." Martha's plain, good-natured face showed a brief flicker of surprise, but she beamed at her mother-in-law and said, " Come and see your room and then we will have a nice cup of tea. Hope you like the new curtains we put up for you, Amit did not know what your favourite colour was, so I chose blue." She prattled on, her voice full of genuine affection for the old lady she had never met before. Amit crept up to shelter behind his wife's ample frame, as his mother examined the room, and cringed(3) each time Martha came too close to her. He knew what would happen if Martha touched her by mistake. "Are you feeling cold? Should we turn up the central heating?" asked Martha, suddenly feeling cold herself. Though Mayadevi was shivering in her cotton sari, she said, "Not cold, only wash hands, so much dirty." Martha quickly led her to the bathroom, gaily decorated with trailing plants and fluffy rugs. Mayadevi slammed the door shut on Martha's smiling face and began to wash her hands. First she washed the taps(4) thoroughly, and then she began rinsing the soap, though it was a brand new one. Then she finally washed her hands meticulously four times in a row. When she had finished she turned the tap off with her elbow, so as not to touch the tap again. She dried her hands by shaking them about in the air, looking scornfully as she did so at the pretty, flowered hand towels Martha had put out for her. Then she went out to search for her son. "How will I bathe in that jungle you call bathroom? Why has she put carpets in the bathroom? To hide the dirty floor?" she charged full force, happy to have found something to complain about so quickly. " Ma, she can hear you," said Amit, glancing nervously at the kitchen door, even though they were speaking in Bengali. "You must be tired, why don't you eat the rice I have made for you and go to sleep now," he suggested, desperately hoping she would agree. Surprisingly, she did. "If you are telling the truth that she did not make it," was the only half-hearted resistance she put up and followed him to the kitchen. "I cooked it, Ma, she did not even touch it. I am not lying to you," he said, and flushed when he saw Martha watching him even though he knew she could not understand what he had said. »
Abridged from Bulbul Sharma, Mayadevi's London Yatra, 2007

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. Mayadevi is the main character. Say what her full name is and give one quotation to prove that she is Indian.
2. Say how she is related to Amit and Martha.
a) In what country do the three characters meet?
b) Explain what Mayadevi is doing there.
4. What adjectives best apply to Mayadevi in the first part of the passage from "Her son was waiting […]" to "[…] stony silence" ? Justify in each case with a quotation from the text.
affectionate – authoritarian – distant – embarrassed – moved – overjoyed – reproachful
a) Draw Amit's portrait (age, occupation, family and social status).
b) Would you say that his attitude corresponds to this portrait? Explain in your own words and justify by quoting the text.
6. "They drove to the semi-detached house in the beautiful, green, tree-lined suburbs in unbroken, stony silence." . Account for the atmosphere in the car. (30 words)
7. From "Welcome to England […]" onwards, where is the scene set?
8. Given the social link between the two women, does Martha fulfil her role? Give four quotations to support your answer.
a) Is Martha rewarded for her efforts? Explain in your own words. (20 words)
b) Why do Amit and Mayadevi speak in Bengali? Is that correct towards Martha?
c) How does Amit feel about it?
d) "Surprisingly, she did": What is the meaning of this sentence? Explain! (30-40 mots)
10. How can you account for Mayadevi's attitude towards Martha? (30 words)
11. Is Amit a supportive husband? Analyse his behaviour to prove your point. (30 words)
Expression écrite
As the saying goes "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". Do you think that you should adapt to local customs when travelling abroad? (300 words)
(1)Outside: outside the airport.
(2)Pounce: suddenly attack.
(3)Cringe: move back in fear.
(4)Tap: device to turn water on and off.


Compréhension de l'écrit
1. The main character's full name is Mayadevi Banerjee.
"[…] Mayadevi was shivering in her cotton sari […]" .
"[…] they were speaking in Bengali." .
2. Mayadevi is Amit's mother and Martha's mother-in-law.
a) The three characters meet in England.
b) Mayadevi is paying a visit to her son.
4. She is:
  • authoritarian: "[…] Mayadevi told her son to pick up her suitcase and take her to his home."
  • distant: "She (…] stood staring at him as if he were a total stranger."
  • reproachful: "[…] her eyes carefully scrutinizing her son for faults, pounced like an eagle on the first wrong move" . "Ashamed to touch your mother's feet, are you?"
a) Amit is fifty years old, he is a dentist, he is married to Martha and he clearly belongs to the upper-middle-class.
b) Although he is a middle-aged man and has a good social status, his attitude is still childish in front of his mother. He obeys to his mother's authoritarian behaviour.
"[…] an irrational fear jolted his memory and he said in a whining, childish voice, `No, Ma… I… so many people here,' stammering helplessly." .
6. The atmosphere in the car seems to be tense.
He knows she is scrutinizing him, consequently he feels uneasy, ill at ease in her presence. That's probably why he is speechless since she is so cold and authoritarian.
7. The scene is set at Amit and Martha's place.
8. Yes, Martha fulfils her role.
"`Welcome to England, Mrs Banerjee. Hope you had a nice flight,' Martha […] said cheerfully.".
"[…] she beamed at her mother-in-law […]" .
"Come and see your room and then we will have a nice cup of tea […]" .
"Hope you like the new curtains we put up for you" .
"[…] genuine affection […]" .
"Should we turn up the central heating?" .
"[…] Martha's smiling face […]" .
"brand new soap" .
"[…] pretty, flowered hand towels Martha had put out for her" .
a) Martha is not rewarded for her efforts at all. Her mother-in-law is disdainful, she doesn't pay any attention to Martha and she is also reproachful as she finds everything is dirty.
b) They speak in Bengali because they don't want Martha to understand what they say yet it is not polite because they exclude her from their conversation.
c) He is nervous and he feels ashamed, he fears his wife might understand his mother's grievance, I quote "Ma, she can hear you […] glancing nervously" .
d) Mayadevi agreed on eating the rice her son cooked for her and on going to sleep afterwards because she must be tired but it is surprising because she is aggressive towards her son and daughter-in-law and it seems she is determined to annoy them as much as possible.
10. Mayadevi behaves like a shrew, she is a very capable woman and she is used to ruling over her family. Moreover Martha is not Indian as a result she may not find her the right wife for her son. That's why she is contemptful towards Martha.
11. Amit is not supportive at all with Martha because of his childish attitude. He doesn't side with Martha, doesn't try to defend her and to put forward her qualities, on the contrary he doesn't say anything in favour of Martha.
Expression écrite
I think that it is important to adapt to local customs when travelling abroad. This way I feel like discovering other ways of life, customs, habits. If travelling abroad means keeping my customs, then is it really worth travelling? Generally, not only do people travel to discover new horizons, but also to find new places, new monuments and a new people. Each culture proceeds from a country, a language, customs, habits and a people, that's why the way of life of these people is different and that's also why in order to understand them, it is important to adapt, to fit in and to share their way of life so as to understand them better, to have a new experience and to take advantage of it. I would have to get used to speak and understand another language and to make new friends which is a challenge but which can be so rewarding and enriching. It is important to confront cultures and different ways of thinking. People who go to foreign countries and cling to their way of life, those who want to find the same daily routine and comfort as the one they have at home do not take advantage of their travel and somehow they are not open to people and even narrow-minded. They travel in the same way as when going to the zoo where you go to see animals in cages but you see them as living objects but not more. Moreover, you are not in your home country as a consequence, you mustn't impose your way of life, customs or habits to those who are your hosts, you mustn't shock them which may happen, on the contrary you have to adapt to their traditions and make the most of it.