The Last Stone Carver
Days and weeks went by. It was a month since Gopal had left. The old man worked tirelessly. It was all there, in the stone the strong, straight shoulders of Krishna, his soft curved hips, the pointed fingers holding the flute delicately to his lips, his serene face eternally beautiful – the old man could see it in the stone. He could feel it. He only had to set it free with the chisel.
He didn’t feel hunger, he didn’t feel thirst. He was driven by the strong desire to finish the sculpture in time. It was his biggest piece of work, his best. It would also be his last.
On and on he worked, his chisel striking the stone again and again. But then came the day when the old man felt his strength ebb. His shoulders began to ache, his arms felt heavy and his vision blurred. Overcome with fear, he sank to his knees and prayed. The old man prayed a lot these days.
“Masterjee,” Salim said, “you haven’t touched your food again. Please have some rice and vegetables. You only had a glass of milk for breakfast. Have the curd. You like curd, I know you do.”
The old man looked up. He whispered, “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it. If Gopal was here, it would be different. He hadn’t yet learnt to carve the finer details but in a year or two he would have learnt surely.”
He felt silent. “It was the features and hands that gave him trouble. There was something missing in his figures. That something which can’t be taught.”
“Because it comes from somewhere deep inside you,” Salim whispered. “From deep inside here!” and he pointed to his heart.
The old man looked at the boy surprised. He saw him blush and turn his face away.
“You are right, Salim, you are right.” And then he added with sudden bitterness, “And if you don’t have it here,” he thumped his chest, “ then you’d better go to Agra and mass produce ashtrays for tourists from abroad. Then...” The old man coughed painfully and reached for his glass of water.
“Eat, Masterjee, eat. Everything will be alright.”
After he had eaten, the old man once again took up his hammer and chisel. He worked till late in the night. In the early hours of the morning the chisel fell from his hand, and the hammer dropped to the ground. His old body sagged, falling forward limply. His forehead struck Krishna’s flute and slid down the statue to rest on the pedestal.
“Hai Ram,” he muttered, and sank into a comfortable darkness.
When he opened his eyes, he found himself lying on a cot in his bedroom, covered by a light cotton blanket.
serene - calm
blurred - become unclear
blush - show shyness
Read the sentences and number them in correct order.
1. The old man worked tirelessly on the sculpture. 1
2. He had a strong wish to finish it in time. 2
3. Over days, he felt very weak. 3
4. He thought he wouldn’t be able to finish it. 4
5. He wished to have Gopal with him. 5
6. He realized that Gopal must learn to carve the finer details. 6
7. Salim felt that it should come from within. 7
Additional questions :
1. What could the old man see in the stone?
The old man could see the strong, straight shoulders of Krishna. He saw his soft lips and his fingers holding the flute to his lips. He also saw the serene face which was eternally beautiful.
2. How did the old man work?
The old man worked tirelessly. He did not feel hunger or thirst. He was bent on finishing the sculpture in time.
3. How did the old man feel about his work?
It was the biggest and the best work for the old man. He felt that it would be his last work.
4. How did the old man feel when he became weak?
The old man felt his strength ebb. His shoulders began to ache. His arms became heavy. His vision blurred.
5. What did the old man think of Gopal?
Gopal hadn't learnt the finer details. But the old man felt that he would have learnt it in a year or two.
6. What did Salim say about the finer details?
Salim said that it should come from somewhere deep inside the heart.
7. What should a sculptor do if he didn't have it inside?
If a sculptor didn't have it inside he had to go to Agra and mass produce ashtrays for tourists.
8. What happened to the old man after he had worked for a long time?
The chisel fell from his hand. The hammer dropped to the ground. His old body sagged and he fell down.
9. What happened to the old man when he fell down?
When the old man fell down his forehead struck Krishna's flute. His body fell to rest on the pedestal.
10. What was the condition of the old man when he opened his eyes?
The old man found himself lying on a cot in his bedroom. He was covered by a light cotton blanket.
1. How did the old man work hard to carve the statue?
The old man worked tirelessly. He wanted to set free the beauty of Krishna with his chisel. He did not feel hunger or thirst. He thought that it was his biggest work, his best. He also knew that it would be his last. On and on he worked. His chisel was striking again and again.
2. What happened to the old man when he became weak?
The old man felt his strength ebb. His shoulders began to ache. His arms felt heavy. His vision blurred. He coughed painfully. One day he worked till late in the night. Early in the morning the chisel fell from his hand. The hammer dropped to the ground. His old body sagged. The old man fell forward limply. His forehead hit Krishna's flute and his body slid down to the pedestal.