People living in the multistoried apartments would perhaps not have an idea as to what a well is. They might be aware of sumps, water tanks, borewells etc but not a traditional type of well, some built for public and some for private use. The wells of yore dug on the roadside not only helped to quench the thirst of the weary travelers on the road, but they used to be gossip centres for the nearby villages too. Whatever they were, they certainly provided an alternate source of water and were treasured for their art and utility. On the minus side, a well would be a matter of great contention as the ‘lower’ caste people were not allowed to use the wells belonging to ‘upper’ caste.
There was a method to dig wells. A water diviner would be employed to detect the best spot for digging it. He would set out with a Y-shaped twig. He would be holding on to the two legs of the inverted Y. As he approached the subterranean water table, the twig would vibrate violently thus pinpointing the best spot for digging.
At my in-laws’ place, the well had been situated in the open courtyard. The wall was high enough not to allow kids to fall into them accidentally, but not high enough for them to throw things in blindly. This well had not been provided with shutters which would have kept birds and things out. Only the regular use of “patala garadi” –a multi hooked iron gizmo would fish out the things thrown into the well at regular intervals by the children. Apart from the pulley fixed to the slab on top to draw water using a rope, an electric pump fitted to the well would bring water into all the taps in the house when switched on.
The area around the wall had been concreted well. The steps leading to the well with a cement bench and parapet walls provided an ideal place to sit and gossip in the evenings, which our brothers-in law and their cricket friends would make best use of to do the postmortem of that day’s game.
Once, my 3 year old son (a deadly age) threw my daughter’s notebook into the well. His budding engineering brain had connected the well with the water coming in the taps. He mocked her, “I have thrown your book into the well. It won’t even come out of the taps when the pump is switched on!”
The next generation was even more action oriented. Once my aunty wanted to purchase big jari bordered thick Kanjeevaram silk sarees for her three daughters and herself. The owner of the best known shop in Bangalore being a friend of theirs had sent the sarees and a few more to provide them a wider selection.
All the sarees_ selected and others had been stacked in card board boxes, pending billing, and kept on top of a steel almirah, out of reach of everyone.
But not to their three year old grandson! When everyone in the family was enjoying a siesta, the highly motivated child got on a stool, reached the boxes, carried them to the well and threw the whole lot in! By the time the missing sarees were traced and retrieved, they were sopping wet. Courtesy demanded that they buy the whole lot of sarees! One consolation was, their shop owner friend empathized with the situation and allowed them maximum discount possible over the already exorbitant prices.