The bull in the well

  • Hari Chand Aneja, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jun 14, 2014 09:34 IST

Once upon a time, in 1937 in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), we were confronted with an epic crisis. "The bull has fallen in the well," exclaimed my distraught classmate.

Our school hostel did not have any taps. We accessed water from a well in the compound. A bull was yoked to a mechanical apparatus, which went down into the well. As the bull rotated around the well, water was drawn.

The well did not have a wall circumventing it. Therefore, once when the ground was wet, the bull slipped and fell into the well.

The water from the well was our lifeline. We drank it, and bathed and washed our clothes with it.

With the bull dangling in the well, we worried how we would survive the next day. There was a commotion in the school. How do we lift the heavy bull out of the narrow well? Meanwhile, the bull was in agony and its bellows resonated in the well.

Finally, the school summoned men from Lyallpur, who came with thick ropes with which they entangled the bull. Then they hauled the shocked bull up. The embattled bull rested for a day and was back at work the next day.

Our high school headmaster, Mr Sapra, was a fine human being and an effective teacher. He had a unique way of making us heed him -- by appealing to our emotions.

An elegant garden of well-manicured green grass and beautiful flowers lay between our school and the hostel. There was also an earthen path to walk on between the two buildings. However, most of us would take a short cut and walk on the grass. We also merrily plucked the flowers.

Our headmaster appealed to us, "If you walk on the green grass, it is like you are trampling on my chest, and if you pluck flowers, it is like you are pulling the hair from my head." After his impassioned plea, all of us used the designated path. The dainty flowers were rescued. Thus, we received our first lesson in respecting the environment.

We dined in the hostel attached to our school. The food was simple but delicious. The daily meals comprised dal, vegetable and roti. Dessert was a luxury and served weekly. We were not served pickles or chutneys. Salads and poppadoms had not even been invented. The monthly expenses for food at the hostel amounted to Rs 3 only. Food and vegetables were low-priced in 1937. Today, this monthly budget, must read like a fairy tale.

Most of us received a monthly allowance of Rs 12 from our parents. The hostel food cost us Rs 3 per month. The school fees were Rs 4. The trips to Lyallpur over the weekends and sundry expenses came to Rs 3. Therefore, we managed comfortably on Rs 10 per month, with Rs 2 to spare.

When the day was cool and cloudy, it was termed a "fine day". Then we sought the headmaster's permission to have a holiday. If it was granted, we walked all the way to Lyallpur to savour the cool breeze.

Our school days were simple and pleasant. We did not know movies, discos, computers or the internet. However, we had very dedicated teachers. I remember them fondly even after seven decades.

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