The outcasts were not allowed to mount the platform surrounding the well, because if they were ever to draw water from it, the Hindus of the three upper castes would consider the water polluted. Nor were they allowed access to the nearby brook as their use of it would contaminate the stream. They had no well of their own because it cost a lot of money to dig a well in a hilly town. Perforce they had to collect it at the foot of the upper caste Hindu well and depend on the bounty of some of their superiors to pour water into their pitchers.
Very often there would be no upper caste Hindu present. Most of them were rich enough to get the water carriers to supply them with plenty of fresh water every morning for their baths and kitchens and only those came to the well who were either fond of an open-air bath or are too poor to pay for the water carriers’ services. So, the outcasts had to wait for a chance for some upper caste Hindu to come to the well, for luck to decide that he was kind, for fate to ordain that he had time — to get their pitchers filled with water.
They crowd around the well, congest the space below its high brick platform, morning, noon and night, joining their hands in servile humility to every passer-by; cursing their fate and bemoaning their lot, if they were refused the help they wanted; praying, beseeching and blessing, if some generous soul condescended to listen to them, or to help them.
When Sohini reached the well, there were already about ten other outcasts waiting. But there was no one to give them water. She had come as fast as she could to the well, full of fear and anxiety that she would have to wait her turn since she could see from a distance that there was already a crowd. She didn’t feel disappointed so much as depressed to realise that she would be the eleventh to receive water. She had sensed the feeling in her brother’s soul.
He was tired. He was thirsty. She had felt like a mother as she came out of her home to fetch water, like a mother going out to fetch food and drink for her loved ones at home. Now as she sat in a row with her fellow-sufferers, her heart sank. There was no sign of anyone passing that way who could be a possible benefactor. But she was patient. She had in her an inbred fortitude, obvious in her curious reserve, in her docile and peaceful bearing.
Q. On the basis of your reading of the above passage, make notes, using headings and subheadings. Use recognizable abbreviations, wherever necessary (minimum four). Also suggest a suitable title.
Miseries of Untouchables
- Prejudices faced by outcastes:
- not allwd to draw water from
- village well
- nearby brook
- not mount the platform surr. the well
- not allwd to draw water from
- Poverty aggrvtd water woes:
- no well for outcastes
- too poor to afford their own well
- had to depend on the bounty of upper caste to fill their pitchers.
- had to wait long at the well.
- Easy access to water for the rich:
- engaged water carriers
- drew water directly from well
- Sohini’s plight
- needed water for tired brother
- long queue at the well
- no trace of any help
- resign’d herself to her fate
- allwd – allowed
- aggrvtd – aggravated
- resign’d – resigned
- surr. – surrounding
Q. Make a summary of the passage in not more than 100 words using the notes made.
Outcasts faced caste prejudices. They were not allowed to draw water from any well or brook as upper caste Hindus believed that the sources would be polluted. Poverty aggravated their woes. As they were too poor to afford their own well, they had to depend upon the bounty of rich upper caste Hindus and wait for long. Rich upper caste had their own wells and also engaged water carriers. One day, Sohini went to the well to fetch water for her tired and thirsty brother but there was no one to help her, so she resigned to her own fate.