About the Author
Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (7 June 1914 – 1 June 1987), popularly known as K. A. Abbas, was an Indian film director, screenwriter, novelist, and a journalist in the Urdu, Hindi and English languages.
He won four National Film Awards in India. As a director and screenwriter, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas is considered one of the pioneers of Indian parallel or neo-realistic cinema, and as a screenwriter he is also known for writing Raj Kapoor’s best films.
Asa screenwriter, he penned a number of neo-realistic films, such as Dharti Ke Lai (which he directed), Neecha Nagar (1946) which won the Palme d’or at the first Cannes Film Festival, Naya Sansar (1941), Jagte Raho (1956), and Saat Hindustani (which he also directed). He is also known for writing the best of Raj Kapoor’s films, including the Palme d’or nominated Awaara (1951), as well as Shree 420 (1955), Mera Naam Joker (1970), Bobby (1973) and Henna (1991).
Pardesi (1957) was nominated for the Palme d’or at the Cannes Film Festival. Shehar Aur Sapna (1963) won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film, while Saat Hindustani (1969) and Do Boond Pani (1972) both won the National Film Awards for Best Feature Film on National Integration.
His column Hast Page’ holds the distinction of being one of the longest-running columns in the history of Indian journalism. The column began in 1935, in The Bombay Chronicle, and moved to the Blitz after the Chronicle’s closure, where it continued until his death in 1987. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1969.
Gist of the Story
The story is about a simple village girl named Bholi. Her real name was Sulekha. Fate had deceived her when she was ten months old when she fell off the cot damaging some part of her brain. At birth, she was fair and pretty but at the age of two she had an attack of small-pox that left her with black spots all over the body. She picked up speech only after five years of age along with stammer. The other children often made fun of her and mimicked her.
Bholi was seven years old when a primary school opened in their village. The tehsildar came to perform the opening ceremony of the school. He told Ramlal that as a revenue official and as a representative of the government in the village, he should send his daughter to the school and set an example before the villagers. Despite his wife’s disapproval, Ramlal decided to send Bholi to the school.
Next day, Ramlal dropped her off in the school where she sat in a corner in the class. When her teacher asked her name, she stammered and the children started laughing. At this Bholi started weeping. But the teacher encouraged her and finally she told her full name. Then the teacher told her that if she would come daily to school, she would speak without a stammer and would become the most educated girl in the village.
Years passed and the village turned into a small town. One night Ramlal consulted his wife about the marriage proposal made by Bishamber, a grocer in the neighbouring village. His wife readily agreed to it. On the day of the marriage, when the bridegroom was about to garland Bholi, some lady pulled her veil down showing her face to him. The bridegroom asked Ramlal to give him five thousand rupees as dowry in order to marry that ugly girl. After some arguments, Ramlal handed over the money to Bishamber. But Bholi asked his father to take the money back from him as she did not want to marry that old lame and greedy person. Everybody was surprised because Bholi was not stammering at all. The bridegroom went back with his baraat. Ramlal could not lift his head due to shame and grief. He worried as who will marry her daughter now. Bholi pacified her father and told him that she would serve her parents in their old age and teach in the same school where she had learnt so much.
Brief introduction: Bholi was the fourth daughter of Numberdar Ramlal. Her real name was Sulekha. But since her childhood, every one called her Bholi.
Suffered from numerous problems in childhood days: When Bholi was ten months old, she had fallen off the cot on her head. It damaged some part of her brain. At birth, she was very fair and pretty but at the age of two years, she had to suffer an attack of small-pox. Her body was completely disfigured by deep black pock-marks.
Family details of Ramlal: RamlaTs family was prosperous. He had plenty to eat and drink. He had three sons and four daughters. Except Bholi, all the children were healthy and good looking. But Bholi had neither good looks nor intelligence. So, Ramlal always remained worried about her.
Bholi sent to school: The Tehsildar Sahib inaugurated a new primary school for girls in the village. He told Ramlal to send her daughters to school and set an example for other people of the village. Since Ramlal had no courage to disobey the Tehsildar, he sent Bholi to school. She did not know what a school was like. She was taken to school by Ramlal.
School environment: The environment of the school was good. The children were in their classrooms. There were several rooms. Children were either reading from books or writing on slates. There were so many girls similar to her age.
Generous teacher: Her teacher was very generous. Bholi was not able to understand what she was saying. The colours on the wall impressed her very much. When the teacher asked her name, she stammered a lot. The teacher’s voice was soft and soothing. After a lot of persuasion, she said “Bh-Bh-Bho-Bholi”. The teacher patted her affectionately. Bholi was even given the book full of pictures. It was really very attractive.
Marriage plan of Bholi: Years passed and Bholi’s father made a plan of her marriage. The offer of marriage for Bholi came from Bishamber Nath, a well-to-do grocer. He was similar to the age of Bholi’s father. He was from another village and did not know about the pock-marks and her lack of sense. Bholi’s parents were happy at the only thing that their daughter was going to get married.
Adequate arrangement of wedding made: Elaborate and adequate arrangement of wedding was made. Bishamber came with a big party of friends and relatives with him for the wedding. A decorated horse, a brass-band playing a popular tune from an Indian film, etc., were properly arranged. Ramlal had never dreamt that Bholi’s marriage would get solemnised at such a grand wedding.
Auspicious moment came: Ultimately, the auspicious moment came. Bholi was clad in a red silken bridal dress. There was a garland in her hand. In the meantime, a woman slipped back the silken veil of Bholi. Bishamber also took a quick glance and the garland remained poised in his hands. He shouted loudly that she had pock-marks on her face. So, if he was to marry her, Ramlal would have to pay five thousand rupees as dowry. At last, Ramlal went in, opened the safe and counted the notes and put them at the feet of Bishamber Nath. Now, he was ready to tie a nuptial knot with Bholi.
Drastic change in Bholi’s behaviour: After Bishamber Nath got agreed, there came a drastic change in Bholi’s behaviour. He raised the garland to place it around Bholi’s neck but Bholi struck out her hand like a streak of lightning. The garland was flung into the fire. She threw away the veil and spoke loudly before her parents and relatives. She told her father to take the money back. Ramlal called Bholi crazy and also advised not to do so for the prestige of the family. At this, Bholi replied that she would not marry to such a mean, greedy and contemptible coward man. Bishamber returned with his relatives and friends. Now, Bholi said in a loud voice that there was no need to worry about her. She would teach in the same school where she had studied. She would also take proper care of her parents.
Lesson at a Glance
- Bholi was the fourth daughter of Numberdar Ramlal.
- When she was ten months old, she had fallen off the cot on her head and some part of her brain got damaged.
- She was very fair and pretty when she was a child.
- She had an attack of small-pox when she was barely two years old. Due to this, her body was disfigured by black pock-marks.
- She used to stammer while speaking.
- All other children mimicked and made fun of her.
- Except Bholi, all the members of the family were healthy and strong.
- Bholi had neither good looks nor intelligence.
- The Tehsildar inaugurated a primary school for girls.
- Ramlal was a revenue official in the government.
- The Tehsildar told him to send his daughter Bholi to government school for education and set an example before the villagers.
- Although Bholi’s mother was against this, Ramlal could not disobey the order of Tehsildar.
- The next day, Ramalal took Bholi to school. She did not know what the school was all about.
- Bholi had never worn new dress. She had only worn the old dresses of her sisters.
- That day Bholi was given a clean dress. She was bathed and oil was rubbed into her dry and matted hair.
- Bholi was not even acquainted with school. But she was glad to be present amidst girls of her age.
- When the teacher asked her name she stammered a lot. Even then she could not pronounce her name properly.
- She kept her head down and did not even dare to look up at the girls of her class.
- Hearing her sobbing, the teacher told her in a friendly manner to get up.
- Bholi was very happy to see the book full of nice pictures.
- The teacher encouraged her to read more and be more learned than anyone else in the village.
- The years passed and the village became a small town. All the things of the village changed drastically.
- Now, the offer for marriage came from a prosperous grocer, Bishamber, for Bholi.
- He was a man of fifty-five or fifty years of age. It was the perception of Ramlal that Bishamber was from other village so he did not know about the pock-marks of Bholi.
- Bholi was like a dumb cow.
- Bishamber was a rich grocer. So, he came with a big party of friends and relatives with him for the wedding. All the arrangements were properly done.
- It was really a wonderful moment for Ramlal. He was more enthusiastic to see such pomp and splendour.
- Ramlal never thought that her fourth daughter would get married in such a way.
- When Bishamber was ready to garland Bholi, he saw her pock-marked face.
- He put a condition before Ramlal that he would not marry to his daughter unless he was paid five thousand rupees.
- Then Ramlal went and placed his turban at Bishamber’s feet and told him to take two thousand rupees.
- In the end, Ramlal went inside and came out with a bundle of notes and placed it at the bridegroom’s feet.
- Bishamber got agreed to marry. As he was about to put garland in her neck, Bholi had only the feeling of cold contempt towards her prospective husband.
- She flung the garland into the fire.
- She could now speak in a clear loud voice. She said before all the members that she was not going to marry that lame old man.
- Ramlal called her crazy and asked what she would do as no one would ever marry her.
- Bholi said that she would serve the parents in their old age. She would also teach in the same school where she had learnt.
- There was a deep satisfaction on Bholi’s face.
English Bholi Important Questions and Answers
Very Short Answer Type Questions
How did Bholi persuade her father of not marrying?
Bholi told her father not to worry. She consoled him by saying that she would serve him and the mother in their old age. She would start teaching in the same school where she had learnt so much.
Why is Sulekha called ‘Bholi’?
Sulekha is called ‘Bholi’ because she is a simpleton due to her suffering from some brain damage after falling off a cot when she was ten months old. As a result, she is not as smart as children of her age.
What happened to Bholi when she was two years old?
Bholi fell a victim to small pox at the age of two years. Her face and body became full of pock-marks. She was still fortunate as her eyes had remained untouched and were fine.
How did Bholi react when the teacher asked her name?
Bholi stammered when she spoke and could not tell her name completely when the teacher asked her to do so. So, she broke into tears.
Why do Bholi’s parents accept Bishamber’s marriage proposal? [CBSE 2015]
Bholi’s parents accepted Bishamber’s marriage proposal because they were happy that he was well off and had not asked for dowry.
The last line of the text talks about an artist and the masterpiece. Elaborate.
The ‘artist’ is the teacher and the ‘masterpiece’ is Bholi. It was her teacher who had turned Bholi into a strong and independent girl who was aware of her place in society.
Short Answer Type Questions
What did Bholi do when Bishamber saw the face of Bholi and demanded five thousand rupees?
When Bishamber demanded five thousand rupees after seeing the face of Bholi, she flung the garland into the fire. Then she got up and threw away the veil. There was a cold contempt in her eyes and she straight away denied marrying the lame old man Bishamber.
What was the teacher’s basis of reposing so much confidence in Bholi that she said she would be more learned than anyone else in the village?
When the teacher asked Bholi’s name, she was not able to pronounce it due to her stammering. But gradually, after trying she finally pronounced her name. Observing her never say die attitude, the teacher reposed this much confidence in her. Moreover, she wanted to encourage Bholi to come to school everyday.
Bholi was fascinated by the walls of the classroom. Why?
The walls of the classroom had bright and colourful pictures of a horse, a goat, a parrot and a cow. They all looked familiar to Bholi and were like the ones in the village. That is why she was fascinated to see those pictures.
Bholi found her teacher to be different from others. How?
Others had always neglected Bholi. They made fun of her all the time. But, she found her teacher to be different. Her voice was calm, her manner comforting and touch was full of affection.
What filled Bholi, a dumb cow, with a new hope in her? [CBSE2015]
Bholi’s first day of school brought her a hope of a new life. She had found a loving and kind
teacher. The teacher had inspired her and given her a book and had made Bholi feel confident about herself.
In what way did the village change over time?
The village changed into a small town over a period of time. The primary school had become a high school. The village had a cinema and a cotton ginning mill. The mail train also stopped at the village railway station.
What objections does Ramlal have to Bishamber’s proposal?
Ramlal was not very happy with the proposal. He did not like the fact that Bishamber was of his age. He had a limp and his children were quite grown up. It was not a very satisfactory proposition.
Why were Bholi’s sisters envious of her luck?
Bishamber Nath was quite prosperous. The procession for Bholi’s marriage had a brass band and the groom rode a decorated horse. Such pomp and show impressed everyone. All this made her sisters envious of her.
Why did Bishamber’s marriage with Bholi not take place? [CBSE2013]
Bishamber’s marriage with Bholi did not take place because he had demanded a dowry of five thousand rupees from her father for the marriage. Seeing that how greedy, mean and contemptible he was, Bholi refused to marry him.
Why was Ramlal thunderstruck?
Ramlal had always taken his daughter to be dumb. He was thunderstruck when she loudly asked him to take back the money and declared that she was not going to marry Bishamber because of his greed.
What kind of mother was Ramlal’s wife? [CBSE 2014]
Ramlal’s wife was a traditional housewife who believed that daughters should not be
educated, as it would be difficult to find husbands for them. She neglected looking after her daughter Bholi because she was a slow learner.
Essay Type Questions
‘Dowry is negation of the girl’s dignity’. Discuss with reference to the story ‘Bholi’.
A girl is an individual in her own right. Equal opportunities in life can help her become
independent and strong. She is not a burdensome object to be given away with money as compensation. Thus dowry negates the girl’s dignity and self respect.
The story ‘Bholi’ shows this in a dramatic manner. Bholi is thought to be ugly and dumb by her parents. Therefore, they are willing to pay dowry to an old man with a limp so that he marries her. Bholi, on the other hand, refuses to marry that man. She is educated; assertive and capable of taking care of herself. She dedicates her life to the service of her parents and teaching at school.
Bholi chose a dignified life of service rather than surrendering herself to a greedy old
man for the rest of her life. Education provides the required stimulus to overcome one’s personal barriers. Explain the role of education in shaping the life of a child with respect to the lesson ‘Bholi’. [CBSE 2012]
Education is the answer to all social ills. Illiteracy and ignorance bring nothing but poverty, suffering and misery. Bholi lacks confidence initially because of her disabilities. She is silent, timid and weak in mind. Her ugliness and stammer do not let her progress. She is afraid to speak as others make fun of her.
School changes her life completely. It opens a new world of hope for her. Her teacher treats her with love and kindness. Her affection and support help Bholi to have faith in herself. She studies and grows into a confident young woman. She knows her rights and she asserts them as well. She refuses to marry a man who demands dowry. Thus, being educated changes the life of Bholi.
The chapter ‘Bholi’ highlights the discrimination against the girl child. Analyse.
Nature does not discriminate, but society does. From time immemorial the world has
discriminated against the girl child. The chapter, ‘Bholi’ throws up many such instances. Ramlal’s sons go to school and college. His daughters are not educated but married off. Her mother does not think it necessary to take Bholi’s consent for her marriage. The groom is old and lame. Still he demands dowry. Her father is also ready to pay him. It is the girl herself who raises her voice against this marriage. She is criticised and humiliated for standing up for her dignity. But she is firm and decides the course of her life.
Bholi is a child different from others. This difference makes her an object of neglect and laughter. Elaborate.
Society does not tolerate difference very easily. Bholi is not like others. She is slow for her age. She stammers when she speaks. Small pox leaves her all covered with pock-marks. As a result, she has to suffer a lot.
Her parents do not even bathe her. She is ignored and neglected. They take her only as a burden. People laugh at her. Children imitate her when she speaks. So, she remains silent most of the time. She has no confidence or self esteem.
Society must realise that it must accept those who are different. They must be treated with the same love and respect as others.
“Put the fear out of your heart and you will be able to speak like anyone else” These words of encouragement from the teacher highlight that change of social attitude and encouragement can help a child like Bholi to become confident and face the world bravely. Taking help from the lesson ‘Bholi’ write how the social attitude towards Bholi made her an introvert. What should be done to help such children to face the world bravely?
Bholi suffered a weak mind due to her accident (falling from her cot) during her infancy. She also started to stammer while speaking. Then she became ugly due to pock-marks on her face and body on contracting the small pox disease. All these made her family and other children treat her badly, resulting in her becoming an introvert. To help such children face the world bravely, we must treat them with love and affection and encourage them to join mainstream society. We must not mock their disabilities; instead we should give them hope that they can be as good as the other children by motivating and uplifting them.
English Bholi Textbook Questions and Answers
Read and Find Out (Page – 54)
1. Why is Bholi’s father worried about her?
Bholi’s father was worried about her as she had neither good looks nor intelligence. He did not know how he would find a suitable groom for her.
2. For what unusual reasons is Bholi sent to school?
The Tehsildar had performed the opening ceremony of the primary school for girls that had just opened in Randal’s village. He told Ramlal that as he was a representative of the government in the village, he should set an example for the villagers by sending his daughters to the school. When Ramlal discussed this matter with his wife, she said that if girls were sent to school, no one would marry them. Since Ramlal did not have the courage to disobey the Tehsildar, his wife suggested that they should send Bholi to the school. She felt that as there were little chances of her getting married with her ugly face and lack of sense, she might as well go to the school.
Read and Find Out (Page – 55)
1. Does Bholi enjoy her first day at school?
Bholi found everything new at the school. She felt glad to see many girls of her age present there. She was fascinated by the bright colours of the pictures on the walls. She cried when she kept stammering on being asked her name. However, she saw how kind the teacher was and finally, managed to speak her name. She was given a book by the teacher. The teacher behaved with her like no one had ever done, thereby filling her with confidence. At the end of her first day at school, her heart was throbbing with a new hope and a new life.
2. Does she find her teacher different from the people at home?
Yes, she found her teacher different from the people at home. Her teacher was very kind and spoke to her affectionately. She did not scold or command her, but encouraged her in a soothing voice. She told her that in time, she would be more learned than anyone else in the village, and no one would ever be able to laugh at her. People would listen to her and respect her. This filled Bholi with a new hope.
Read and Find Out (Page – 58)
1. Why do Bholi’s parents accept Bishamber’s marriage proposal?
Bholi’s parents believed that nobody would ever marry Bholi because of her black pock-mark ridden face and lack of sense. They were anxious by the thought of not knowing what to do with her for the rest of their life. When Bishamber’s marriage proposal arrived, Bholi’s parents felt that if they did not accept Bishamber’s proposal, she might remain unmarried all her life. Her mother said that they were lucky that Bishamber was from another village and hence, did not know about Bholi’s pock-marks and her lack of sense. Moreover, he had not even asked for any dowry. Hence, Bholi’s parents accepted the marriage proposal.
2. Why does the marriage not take place?
The marriage did not take place because Bholi refused to marry Bishamber. When the groom saw that her face was covered with pock-marks, he declared that he would marry her only if her father paid him a dowry of five thousand rupees. Bishamber did not budge from his stand in spite of repeated pleadings by Ramlal. Finally, Ramlal placed the dowry amount at the groom’s feet. Consequently, when Bishamber was about to place the garland around Bholi’s neck, she struck out her hand and the garland was flung into the fire. She said that she was willing to marry that man only because of her father’s honour. However, on seeing that the man was mean, greedy and contemptible, she decided not to go ahead with the marriage.
Think about It
1. Bholi had many apprehensions about going to school. W hat made her feel that she was going to a better place than her home?
Bholi felt that she was going to a better place than her home when she got the treatment that she had never got before. New clothes had never been made for Bholi. The old dresses of her sisters were passed on to her. No one cared to mend or wash her clothes. However, before being sent off to the school, she received a clean dress. She was even bathed, and oil was rubbed into her dry and matted hair. It was then that she began to believe that she was being taken to a place better than her home.
2. How did Bholi’s teacher play an important role in changing the course of her life?
Bholi’s teacher played a very important role in changing her life. She was the first one to
have spoken to her affectionately. She encouraged her to speak out her name without any fear. She gave her a book, thereby aiming to inculcate in her the desire to learn. She told her that in time, she would be more learned than anyone else in the village, and no one would ever be able to laugh at her. People would listen to her and respect her. This filled Bholi with a new hope.
3. Why did Bholi at first agree to an unequal match? Why did she later reject the marriage? What does this tell us about her?
At first, Bholi had agreed to marry an old man because of her father’s honour, thereby placing her family’s interest over her own. However, she later refused to marry him because she saw how mean, greedy and contemptible he was. By demanding a hefty dowry, he took advantage of her bad looks and the desperateness of her father to get her married. This is why she rejected the marriage and silenced everybody else who called her shameless. This tells us that Bholi had grown in confidence and could very well speak for herself.
4. Bholi’s real name is Sulekha. We are told this right at the beginning. But only in the last but one paragraph of the story is Bholi called Sulekha again. Why do you think she is called Sulekha at that point in the story?
Sulekha was called Bholi because everyone considered her to be a backward child and a simpleton. The name Bholi thus symbolises her under confidence and ignorance. After mentioning her real name at the beginning of the story, the author mentions it again only in the second-last paragraph. This is a deliberate attempt on the part of the author to show that Sulekha has finally attained her true identity by literally throwing aside the veil that hid her personality.
5. Bholi’s story must have moved you. Do you think girl children are not treated at par with boys? You are aware that the government has introduced a scheme to save the girl child as the sex ratio is declining. The scheme is called Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Save the Girl Child. Read about the scheme and design a poster in groups of four and display on the school notice board.
Do it yourself.
Talk about It
1. Bholi’s teacher helped her overcome social barriers by encouraging and motivating her. How do you think you can contribute towards changing the social attitudes illustrated in this story?
This chapter explains the social discrimination against a girl child, through a well presented story. The teacher, in this story, helps Bholi to overcome her fear and disability of stammering. In society, these evil practices still prevail. To futher my efforts in eradicating these practices, I will organise ‘nukkad natak’ with a theme based on that of the chapter. If I find any violence or discrimination at a place, I will report it to the concerned authority. Today, the government has initiated so many plans to empower women, to educate girl child, to act legally on dowry
cases, sanitation programmes, etc. I will volunteer for the drive for empowering women and will spread awareness among the people.
2. Should girls be aware of their rights, and assert them? Should girls and boys have the same rights, duties and privileges? What are some of the ways in which society treats them differently? When we speak of ‘human rights’, do we differentiate between girls’ rights and boys’ rights?
Girls should be aware of their rights and simultaneously they must be empowered to assert these rights. In today’s scenario, our society is taking a great leap to bring the discriminatory wall of notions down and thus removing the barriers from a girl’s life. The ways in which our society treats the girls differently are, not allowing the girl cadet to fly a fighter plane in combat, not allowing them to step out in night, not giving them a right in paternal property. But above ways are changing now. The Indian Air Force has recently got its first all women fighter crew, recently a boat of all women crew of Indian Navy sailed the entire globe and now there is a legal right which a girl has in her paternal property. While speaking of ‘human rights’, boys and girls are all equal for the constitution, hence the rights are same for both.
3. Do you think the characters in the story were speaking to each other in English? If not, in which language were they speaking? (You can get clues from the names of the persons and the non-English words used in the story?)
The characters in the story were not speaking in English, rather they were conversing in Hindi. This can be seen from various instances in the story, like, names of the character, the places, names, the job position of the girl’s father and calling father by ‘Pitaji’.