The lesson "Bholi" was written by Abbas. The lesson opens with the narrator introducing a young girl to the readers. The young girl's name was Sulekha. Since childhood, everyone has called her Bholi, the simpleton (a foolish person who cannot understand what others speak). Bholi was the fourth daughter of her parents, and her father was Numberdar Ramlal.

The narrator then narrates an incident which made Bholi become a simpleton. When she was ten months old, Bholi fell from the bed. While she fell, her head hit on the floor. As a result, some part of her brain was damaged. This was the reason behind her becoming a backward child. She understands and learns everything slowly compared to the other children of her age. This was the major reason she was known to be Bholi, the simpleton.

The narrator then tells readers that Bholi looked very fair and beautiful when she was a newborn. Then he says that when she became two years old, she was affected by smallpox (a viral disease with a fever that usually leaves permanent scars). The entire body was deformed by smallpox, and the only place saved from the pockmarks was her eyes.

The narrator then says that the little Sulekha (Bholi) did not speak until she was five. When she started to speak, she stuttered with words. While hearing her sudden pauses and the difficulty in speaking, the other children of her age made fun of her and mimicked her. This made her stop speaking to others.
 
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Bholi, the simpleton (at her young age)
 
The narrator then describes Bholi's father, Ramlal. He had seven children. Among the seven, three of them were sons, and four of them were daughters. Bholi was the youngest and the last child of the seven children. As the farmer's family was wealthy, there was a lot of food to eat and drink. The narrator then says that except for Bholi, all the children in the family look healthy and robust.
 
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Bholi's father Ramlal

The narrator then says that all the sons in Ramlal's house were sent to the city to complete their schooling. After finishing their schooling, they were sent out to pursue their degrees. Among the four daughters, Radha was the eldest and had been married to someone already. After arranging the marriage of his second daughter, Mangla, Ramlal turned his attention to his third daughter, Champa. In addition, those three girls look beautiful and healthy, and have no difficulty finding bridegrooms. But the father was much worried about Bholi. She was not good-looking, and she lacked intelligence. As his three daughters were beautiful, he had a notion of finding bridegrooms quickly, but while considering Bholi, he had a negative thought. It shows the societal thought of his father.

Bholi was seven years old when her sister Mangala was married. That same year, a primary school was opened for girls in their village. The Tehsildar (district collector) visited to inaugurate the primary school.
 
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Village Tehsildar

Tehsildar then asked Ramlal to send his daughters to school. He asked him to do it because, as he was the revenue official, his act of sending his daughters to school would set an example for the villagers.
 
After hearing the Tehsildar's words, Ramlal spoke to his wife that night. He told her about Tehsildar's suggestion. After hearing that, Bholi's mother shouted at her husband that if girls went to school, who would marry them. From Ramlal's wife's words, one can get a clear picturisation that in their village, females were not permitted to go to school and were married early.
 
Even after hearing his wife's concern, Ramlal could not listen to her words. The primary reason was that he had a great name in the village and had no courage to disobey the words of the Tehsildar. Once Ramlal's wife knew about the Tehsildar's suggestion, she told her husband to send Bholi to school. She says there is less chance of Bholi getting married because of her ugly face and foolishness. In addition, she told him not to bother her and let the school teachers be concerned about her.
 
From the above paragraphs, one can see the arrogance of Bholi's mother. Since she was a female, she didn't even care for her daughter. She, too, degraded and insulted her daughter by her appearance. Her mother's behaviour toward Bholi portrays her cruel character.
 
Ramlal held his daughter's hand the next day and asked her to come with him. He told Bholi that he was going to take her to school. On hearing that, Bholi was scared. She did not know what a school would be like. Since the girls in the village were not sent for schooling, she was unaware of it. Bholi was reminded that their cow, Lakshmi, was sent out of home a few days ago, and her father gained money in return for that. She thought that she was about to be sold like Lakshmi. She then shouted in fear and pulled her hand away from her father's hand.
 
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Bholi's cow Lakshmi
  
When Ramlal saw Bholi cry, he shouted like hell. He scolded her by calling her a fool. He asked her why she was crying in such a way. He then said he was taking her only to school and not anywhere else. He then told his wife to make her wear a good dress as he had a good reputation in society. Here, one can find discrimination. For fulfilling societal needs and showcasing his dignity in front of society, he asks his wife to send her daughter in a decent dress. He told his wife to dress up his daughter nicely or else the teacher and the other students would think poorly of them.
 
The narrator then says that Bholi never used to wear new clothes. Her father and mother never bought her any new clothes. Instead, she received her sisters' old clothes from them. In addition, he says that no one would stitch her torn clothes or wash her dress. It was the first time that Bholi got clean clothes to wear, although it was her elder sister Champa's worn-out dress. She was then bathed, and her messy hair was washed and oiled. The such treatment made her believe she was going to a better place than her home.

When Bholi and her father arrived at the school, they saw that the students were already seated in their classes. After handing Bholi to the headmistress, Ramlal departed the premises. Bholi's eyes were filled with fear. There were several students in each of the various classrooms. They were sitting on the carpets, writing on the slates or reading from their books.
 
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Bholi's eyes filled with tears

The headmistresses led Bholi to a classroom. Bholi was told to take a seat in the classroom's corner. Bholi was happy to see so many girls who were close to her age, even though she had no idea what a school was like or what happened there. She hoped that she would become friends with one of these girls.
 
The teacher in the class started saying something to the girls. While hearing that, Bholi couldn't understand anything. We learnt earlier that Bholi was not like other children of her age. She used to stammer while speaking and was habitually observing everything late. She then looked at the pictures on the walls. The colours on the wall attracted her. The horse which was drawn on the wall looked brown. It seemed like the same horse which the Tehsildar used to visit the village. At the same time, while seeing the paintings, Bholi compared things. This incident also shows that she can understand and remember things.
 
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Bholi's teacher
  
Then Bholi saw the next picture on the wall. It was the picture of the goat. The goat was black, and it seemed to be like that of their neighbours. Then she saw the parrot. The parrot seemed green in colour, like that of the parrots she had already seen in the mango orchard. Then she noticed a cow picture on the wall. It reminded her about their cow Lakshmi. After looking at all the pictures on the wall, Bholi suddenly encountered that her teacher was standing nearby her and smiling at her.
 
The teacher politely asked Bholi's name. After hearing that, Bholi tried to tell her name, but she stammered in between. As a result, Bholi started crying, and tears came out of her eyes like a flood. She then kept her head down and sat in the corner. She didn't look at any of the girls whom she knew already. The other girls looked and laughed at her.
 
Bholi felt uncomfortable facing the other children. The narrator then says that when the school bell rang, all the girls rushed out of the classroom. Bholi did not leave her place. She still sat by lowering her head and was crying. It shows how she was disturbed in her classroom. The teacher then called out her name in a soft tone. The teacher's voice was very pleasant. She had never been called in such an innocent way. While hearing her teacher's gentle call, she felt a lot, and it touched her heart.
 
The narrator then asked his readers whether her stammering tongue would again make her into trouble or deceive her. The teacher then decided to make an effort to make Bholi speak in a clear way. She took the effort to make Bholi feel very comfortable. The teacher had a soft voice, and she didn't laugh at Bholi. After seeing the teacher's confidence level, Bholi again started to speak. She again spoke in the way of stammering.
 
After hearing Bholi's stammered name, the teacher encouraged her to continue with her name. She asked her to tell the full name. Bholi again tried telling her name. At last, she said it clearly and felt she had achieved it. After hearing the clear voice of Bholi, the teacher appreciated her. The teacher patted her shoulder gently and in an affectionate way. She asked her to take the fear out of her heart. In addition, she encouraged her that she could speak like everyone.
 
After hearing her teacher's encouraging talk, Bholi looked up at her and asked whether she could talk like everyone. The teacher then replied that it would be an easy task. In addition, she says that Bholi should come to school every day.

Then the teacher asked her whether she would come every day. After hearing that, Bholi nodded her head. The teacher then asked her to tell it louder. She started stammering and ended up giving a clear response. Finally, Bholi realised and was surprised that she too could say it without stammering. The teacher then asked whether she had told her something. Here she tried to talk about a book. She asked her to take the book. The book which Bholi took was full of nice pictures. All the pictures were in different colours. The book included a dog, cat, goat, horse, parrot, tiger and a cow. The cow in the book had a resemblance to her cow Lakshmi. The pictures in the book were represented with big black words.

The teacher then says that Bholi can read the whole book monthly. After telling her that, she said she would give her another big one once she finished this book. After completing that book again, she would give her a bigger one. Here one can find that the teacher was motivating her to read books. Depending on her level, the teacher increased the difficulty level to make her comfortable reading it. The teacher then tells her why she asked her to read the books. She told her that after the completion of reading books, Bholi would become the more knowledgeable girl in the village. She would get to more than any other girls in the village.

The teacher then says no one will laugh at her once she knows everything. In addition, she says that once she learned many things, people would give her respect, and she would speak them without stammering. The teacher had made all the plans to build courage in her and make her shine in front of society. After telling everything, the teacher asked Bholi whether she understood everything. After telling her that, she asked her to go home and come to school the next morning.

While hearing her teacher's motivational words, Bholi felt happy. The narrator then describes the situation of Bholi. She felt like all the bells in the village temple were ringing. The trees in front of the school-house had blossomed into big red flowers. This statement implies that her prayers to God were answered, and her life flourished again because of her class teacher. Later, her heart yearns for a new life, and she gets new hope.

Later years passed. The village had turned into a small town. It shows the development of the town. Her primary school then became a high school. There was a cinema under a tin shed and a cotton grinning mill opened in her town. Even the mail train started to stop at the village railway station.
 
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Bholi's high school
 
Then one night, after dinner, Ramlal was discussing with his wife that he had a marriage offer for Bholi. He says to his wife shall he accept the marriage proposal of Bishamber. After hearing that, his wife agreed to that proposal. Bholi's father says she would be lucky to have such a wealthy bridegroom. He then says that he heard the bridegroom had several thousand of money in his bank account. In addition, he says that the wealthy man was not asking for any dowry. The term "dowry" means an amount of property or money brought by a bride to her husband during their marriage. Since dowry is considered to be an illegal thing, many families were still promoting the dowry system.

Bholi's father then said that Bishamber was not so young and almost of his age. Also, he had limps (a person who feels difficult while walking). In addition, he was already married and had children with his first wife, who had already grown up. After hearing that, Ramlal's wife said what the problem was. Then she says that forty-five or fifty is not a big age for a man. In addition, she says that they were lucky because the bridegroom is from another village. The reason behind her statement was that they did not know much about Bholi. As Bholi was attacked by smallpox, the bridegroom did not know about her scars and her lack of intelligence. Then she says that if they did not accept the marriage proposal, Bholi would remain unmarried.

After hearing his wife's statements, Ramlal said he knew it very well, but he was unsure what Bholi would tell. Here, Ramlal gave value by telling his wife whether she would accept this proposal. Ramlal's wife then says what does that fool will tell. Later she says that she is like a dumb cow who will not understand anything that others would say. After that, Ramlal agrees to his wife's words.

While Bholi was lying on the bed in the other corner of the courtyard, she heard her parents' conversation. The bridegroom who was chosen for Bholi was Bishamber Nath. He ran a grocery shop where he used to sell food items and household items.

Bishamber Nath had a good business. On the wedding day, the bridegroom came with his family and friends. They were accompanied by a brass band playing popular tunes from Hindi movies. The bridegroom came over on a decorated horse. Bholi's father was delighted to see all the happenings at his daughter's wedding. Bholi's father had never imagined such a grand wedding for his fourth daughter (Bholi). Her elder sisters felt jealous of her good luck. It might be because they thought they were more fair and beautiful than Bholi. So while seeing the good luck of Bholi, they might have felt jealous.
 
The most awaited Bholi's wedding day had come. On her wedding day, the priest asked to bring the bride. She was dressed in a red silk saree. Red silk was the most commonly used silk saree by most brides at their weddings. Bholi was then asked to sit near the bride's place. He was sitting near the sacred fire, and Bholi was asked to accompany him. While Bholi was sitting near the bridegroom, one of his friends asked him to put the garland on the bride.

As the bridegroom was about to put the garland around Bholi's neck, a woman standing nearby removed the silken cloth covering the bride's face. When the cloth was moved, the bridegroom took a quick glance. On seeing her face, the bridegroom stood still. He didn't put the garland around her neck. After seeing the bridegroom's expression, Bholi slowly pulled the veil over her face. She did it to hide her face.

The bridegroom then asked his friend nearby whether he had seen the bride's face. In addition, he asked him whether he noticed the scars on her face. After hearing that, the bridegroom's friend asked what's the problem. In addition, he said the Bishamber was not too young to comment on her face. After hearing that, he wouldn't accept things. Then he made a deal with Bholi's father to pay five thousand rupees if he wanted to marry his daughter.

Ramlal was so upset by the bridegroom's demand that he walked to him and kept his turban at his feet. He asked him to be kind and accept two thousand rupees as dowry rather than five thousand. Bishamber was adamant in his choice, telling the man that he may keep his daughter at home.

Ramlal then asked the bridegroom to stop doing this since it would hurt his pride in front of the entire village. However, Bishamber remained persistent in his demand for five thousand rupees. Ramlal entered the house, took five thousand rupees from the safe, and gave it to Bishamber. The bridegroom was now joyful since he had won the bet. After winning the bet, the bridegroom asked for the garland.
 
Bholi's veil was slipped back once more from her face. Her eyes weren't sad or hopeless this time. She raised her head and fixed her gaze on the groom. She had neither fury nor hatred in her eyes. The groom then raised the garland over the bride's neck.

Before Bishamber was about to put the garland, Bholi stuck his hand as fast as a streak of lightning. The garland then flew and fell into the sacred fire. She then threw away her veil too.

Bholi then called her father "Pitaji" in a loud, clear voice. While hearing her loud voice, Bholi's father, mother, sisters, brothers, relations and the neighbours who came to attend the meeting were shocked. She didn't even stammer while she was calling him. Bholi then asked her father to get the money back from the greedy bridegroom. She also said that she was not going to marry him.
 
After hearing Bholi's statements, her father seemed astonished. Even the guests who came to attend the function started to murmur about Bholi. They said that she was behaving in a shameless and ugly manner. Bholi's father then asked her whether she was mad. Then he says that whether she wants to lower his family status. He then tells her to give respect for their family reputation. Here, one can find that Ramlal did not react to the bridegroom's reaction. He pleaded with him and asked him to marry his daughter. But when Bholi raised her voice against the evil things, her father asked her to shut her mouth. Here, one can picturise that her father was only focussing on family reputation, and he didn't bother about life after her marriage.

Bholi then says that because of her family's honour, she had accepted the marriage. In addition, she says that while thinking of his reputation, she decided to marry the lame old man. She then says that she will not marry such kind of coward and greedy fellow in her life.

While Bholi was speaking to her father, an old woman said, "What a shameless girl". The older woman used this term because she spoke in front of everyone. Even though everyone says that women are independent in doing everything, they are rarely allowed to make their life decisions. Mostly when it comes to marriage, they were not allowed to take the most important decisions in their life. The same happened with Bholi. She, too, accepted the marriage because of her family.

The old woman then said they thought her a shameless dumb cow. The neighbours and her family members thought that she wouldn't open her mouth in front of others because of her stammering and lack of knowledge.

Bholi became enraged on hearing the old woman's statement. She then said that whatever the old woman said was right. In addition, she said that they all thought of her as a dumb cow, and they thought of marrying her to a greedy and selfish fellow. After telling that, she said the stammering, and the fool started to speak. She asks the old woman whether she wants to hear more from her.

While seeing the entire situation and the girl's attitude, the bridegroom decided to stop the wedding and return to his home. The bandsmen who were watching the entire situation thought that the marriage was not going to happen, and they were struck by playing the closing song. After seeing the entire situation, Bholi's father felt sad. He bowed his head low with the feeling of shame and sorrow.
 
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A bandsman

After that, the sacred fire's flames gradually went out. Everybody had left the wedding hall. Bholi's father then turned to Bholi and asked her what she would do then. In addition, he says that no one will marry her and asks what they would do with her. Here, Bholi's father was trying to tell her that as her marriage was stopped, no one would marry her anymore.

After hearing her father's concern, she said calmly not to worry about her. She told her father that she would take care of him and her mother. In addition, she says that she would teach the children in the same school where she studied. After telling him that, she asked her teacher, who was standing nearby, whether she did right.

The teacher was also invited to Bholi's marriage. She also watched the entire scene standing in the wedding hall corner. After hearing Bholi's question, she says that it was right. She approved Bholi's statement. The teacher was deeply satisfied with Bholi's response to the whole situation. It was similar to the way an artist feels when his masterpiece gets completed.

From this story, one can understand that Bholi had made a wise decision in her life. If she accepted the greedy man and lived with him, her life would be more horrible than she led in her own house. As she had received proper education, she could survive in this universe by becoming a teacher. It is not only a story; it should be a greater lesson to all the children in the world.

Whether you are a girl or boy, getting dowry and giving dowry and insulting others by their looks is a crime. We should treat others will love and care like the way we treat ourselves.