The old woman didn’t like the look or sound of the kid. She scowled at her husband. ‘Where did you pick up this kitten from? Why do we need her?’ When the old man told her she was a goat kid, she picked her up and exclaimed in amazement: ‘Yes, she is a goat kid!’
All night, they went over the story of how the kid had come into their hands.
That same night the old lady gave the goat kid that resembled a kitten a nickname: Poonachi. She once had a cat by the same name. In memory of that beloved cat, this goat kid too was named Poonachi. They had acquired her without spending a penny. Now they had to look after her somehow. Her husband had told her a vague story about meeting a demon who looked like Bakasuran and receiving the kid from him as a gift. She wondered if he could have stolen it from a goatherd. Someone might come looking for it tomorrow. Maybe her husband had told her the story only to cover up his crime?
The old woman was not used to lighting lamps at night. The couple ate their evening meal and went to bed when it was still dusk. That night, though, she took a large earthen lamp and filled it with castor oil extracted the year before. There was no cotton for a wick. She tore off a strip from a discarded loincloth of her husband’s and fashioned it into a wick.
She looked at the kid under the lamplight in that shed as though she were seeing her own child after a long time. There was no bald spot or bruise anywhere on her body. The kid was all black. As she stared at the lamp, her wide-open eyes were starkly visible. There was a trace of fatigue on her face. The old woman thought the kid looked haggard because she had not been fed properly. She must be just a couple of days old. A determination that she must somehow raise this kid to adulthood took root in her heart.
She called the old man to come and see the kid. She looked like a black lump glittering in the lamplight in that pitch-black night. He pulled fondly at her flapping ears and said, ‘Aren’t you lucky to come and live here?’
It had been a long time since there was such pleasant chit-chat between the couple. Because of the kid’s sudden entry into their lives, they ended up talking a while about the old days.
[Extracted, with edits and revisions, from Poonachi, or the Story of a Black Goat, by Perumal Murugan, translated by N. Kalyan Raman, Context, 2018.]
What does the word ‘haggard’ as used in the passage mean?
Dark in colour and hard to see.
Looking exhausted and unwell.
Direct and outspoken.
Furry and warm
Looking exhausted and unwell
The correct answer is – looking exhausted and unwell. This can be inferred from the information set out in the fifth paragraph, which indicates that there was a trace of fatigue on the kid’s face and that the old woman thought the kid looked haggard because she had not been fed properly. Both these pieces of information, that is, that the kid looked fatigued, and had not been fed properly, would support the meaning of ‘haggard’ set out in looking exhausted and unwell.
While the passage also discusses how dark the kid is, this discussion is not related to the use of the word ‘haggard’ in any way, and so, 'Dark in colour and hard to see' cannot be correct. There is nothing in the passage to indicate that the kid made any sounds, and so 'Direct and outspoken' cannot be correct. Neither is there any discussion in the passage about how furry the kid may have been, and so, 'Furry and warm' cannot be correct.