The Thakur's Well

(This is only a poor translation of "Thakur ka Kuan" by Munshi Premchand. The objective is to urge readers to read the original story or better translations. We have included a summary of the story on the last page.)

When Jokhu touched his lips to the pot of water, a stench hit him.

"What kind of water is this?" he asked Gangi. "It smells so horrible; you can't drink it. My throat is dry of thirst, and you have given me this rotten water!"

Gangi fetched all the water they needed from a well every evening. She could not visit the well frequently because it was far away. The water had not smelt bad when Gangi brought it last evening; why should it be stinking today? She lifted the pot to her nose. Yes, it was very smelly. An animal might have fallen into the well and died.

But from where was she to fetch more water now? She wouldn't be allowed to draw water from the thakur (landlord)'s well. The landlord's servants would shoo her away if they caught sight of her. The well belonging to the sahu (merchant-moneylender) was at the other end of the village. But she would not be allowed to draw water from there as well. There wasn't a fourth well in the village.

Jokhu had been ill for the past few days. He lay quietly for some time, trying to suppress his thirst, but not for long. He said, "I can't bear it any longer. Give me the water; I will pinch my nose and take a sip."

Gangi did not give him the water. She knew that if Jokhu drank the contaminated water, his illness would become more severe; she did not know that if she boiled the water, it could become fit for drinking.

"How can you drink this water?" she said. "God knows what animal has drowned in the well! I will get fresh water for you."

Jokhu looked at her in surprise. "From where will you get fresh water?"

"The landlord and the moneylender each have a well; won't one of them allow me to draw just a pot of water?"

"You will only break your hands and legs but get nothing. Don't go anywhere; sit here quietly. No one understands the misery of the poor — Lord Brahma only gives them his blessings, the landlord hits them with sticks, and the moneylender recovers five times what he has loaned. If we die, leave alone offering to serve as a pallbearer, no one would as much come to our doors to inquire. Do you expect such people to allow you to draw water from their wells?"

There was bitter truth in what Jokhu said. Gangi had no answer to his question, but she did not allow him to drink the foul water.