English CBSE Class 10 NCERT Footprints without Feet Chapter 9 Bholi Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words



Her name was Sulekha, but since her childhood everyone had been calling her Bholi, the simpleton.

The story is about a girl whose name was Sulekha. But since her childhood everybody had been calling her Bholi. The meaning of Bholi is a simple lady or a simple girl.

She was the fourth daughter of Numberdar Ramlal. When she was ten months old, she had fallen off the cot on her head and perhaps it had damaged some part of her brain. That was why she remained a backward child and came to be known as Bholi, the simpleton.

Word Meaning
Numberdar A government officer
Backward Unintelligent, Innocent

Bholi was fourth daughter of Ramlal who was a numberdar. When Bholi was ten months old, she fell from a cot. She received injuries to her head. Probably some part of his brain got damaged. So she remained an unintelligent child. Everybody started calling her as Bholi.



At birth, the child was very fair and pretty. But when she was two years old, she had an attack of small-pox. Only the eyes were saved, but the entire body was permanently disfigured by deep black pockmarks.

Word Meaning
Pretty Beautiful
Small-pox A disease
Disfigured Damaged
Pockmarks Spots due to disease or injury

When Bholi was born, she was of fair colour and a beautiful girl. When she was two years old, she suffered from disease of small-pox. The disease did not affect her eyes. But there were permanent deep spots on her entire body due to small-pox.

Little Sulekha could not speak till she was five, and when at last she learnt to speak, she stammered. The other children often made fun of her and mimicked her. As a result, she talked very little.

Word Meaning
Stammer Speak with pause in between
Make fun of Tease
Mimic To copy the style, Imitate

She could not speak anything till she was of five years age. She used to stammer a lot when she started speaking. The other children often teased her. They would copy her way of speaking to tease her. Therefore she used to speak very little.

Ramlal had seven children — three sons and four daughters, and the youngest of them was Bholi. It was a prosperous farmer’s household and there was plenty to eat and drink.

Word Meaning
Prosperous Rich
Plenty Enough, Good quantity

Ramlal had seven children – three sons and four daughters. Bholi was the youngest child. Ramlal was a rich farmer. Enough food was available for all the family members of the house.


All the children except Bholi were healthy and strong. The sons had been sent to the city to study in schools and later in colleges. Of the daughters, Radha, the eldest, had already been married.

All children other than Bholi were healthy and strong. All the three sons had gone to city to study in schools. After schools they studied in colleges. Radha was the eldest among four daughters. She was already married.

The second daughter Mangla’s marriage had also been settled, and when that was done, Ramlal would think of the third, Champa. They were good-looking, healthy girls, and it was not difficult to find bridegrooms for them.

Word Meaning
Good looking Beautiful

Mangla was the second daughter. Her marriage had also been fixed. After marriage of Mangla, Ramlal would think of marrying his third daughter Champa. These three daughters had good health and they were beautiful. It was easy to find bridegrooms for these three daughters.

But Ramlal was worried about Bholi. She had neither good looks nor intelligence.

But Ramlal was worried about Bholi. She was not beautiful. She was not intelligent.



Bholi was seven years old when Mangla was married. The same year a primary school for girls was opened in their village. The Tehsildar sahib came to perform its opening ceremony.

Word Meaning
Tehsildar A government officer

When Mangla was married, Bholi’s age was seven. A primary school for girls was opened in their village in the same year. The Tehsildar of the area inaugurated the school.

He said to Ramlal, “As a revenue official you are the representative of the government in the village and so you must set an example to the villagers. You must send your daughters to school.”

Word Meaning
Revenue official Tax collecting officer

Tehsildar told to Ramlal that he was the tax collecting officer of the village. Therefore he was representing the government in the village. So he must set an example to other villagers by sending his daughters to school.

That night when Ramlal consulted his wife, she cried, “Are you crazy? If girls go to school, who will marry them?”

Word Meaning
Crazy Mad

That night Ramlal took advice of his wife. She asked in loud voice if Ramlal had become a mad person. She said if girls go to school nobody will marry them.



But Ramlal had not the courage to disobey the Tehsildar. At last his wife said, “I will tell you what to do. Send Bholi to school.

But Ramlal did not have courage to disobey orders of Tehsildar. Finally his wife suggested to send Bholi to school.

As it is, there is little chance of her getting married, with her ugly face and lack of sense. Let the teachers at school worry about her.”

Word Meaning
Little chance No chance
Ugly Not beautiful
Lack Shortage

There were no chances of Bholi getting married. Because she was not beautiful and she was unintelligent. School teachers should take care of  her in the school.

The next day Ramlal caught Bholi by the hand and said, “Come with me. I will take you to school.” Bholi was frightened. She did not know what a school was like. She remembered how a few days ago their old cow, Lakshmi, had been turned out of the house and sold.

Word Meaning
Frightened Became afraid
Turned out of house Taken out of house

Next day, Ramlal caught hand of Bholi and told her that he would take her to school. Bholi got afraid. She did not know anything about school. She knew that some days ago, their old cow Laxmi was taken out of the house. The cow was sold to somebody.

“N-n-n-n NO, no-no-no,” she shouted in terror and pulled her hand away from her father’s grip.

Word Meaning
Terror Fear
Grip Hold

Bholi shouted no, no, no because she got afraid. She pulled her hand away from the grip of her father.

“What’s the matter with you, you fool?” shouted Ramlal. “I am only taking you to school.” Then he told his wife, “Let her wear some decent clothes today, or else what will the teachers and the other schoolgirls think of us when they see her?”

Word Meaning
Decent Nice
Or else Otherwise

Ramlal shouted at Bholi and asked why she was behaving like a fool. He was trying to take her to school. Ramlal told her wife that Bholi should wear some nice clothes. Otherwise teachers and other school girls will have a bad opinion about us.



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.

Word Meaning
Mend Repair

Bholi never got new clothes. She received old dresses of her elder sisters. Nobody bothered to wash her clothes or to repair her clothes.

But today she was lucky to receive a clean dress which had shrunk after many washings and no longer fitted Champa. She was even bathed and oil was rubbed into her dry and matted hair. Only then did she begin to believe that she was being taken to a place better than her home!

Word Meaning
Shrunk Became smaller in size
Matted hair Uncombed hair

But today she received a clean dress. This dress had become smaller after washing it many times. Now this dress did not fit Champa. She was given a bath. Oil was applied in her dry and uncombed hair. Then she started believing that she was being taken to a good place and that place would be better that her own home.

When they reached the school, the children were already in their classrooms. Ramlal handed over his daughter to the headmistress. Left alone, the poor girl looked about her with fear-laden eyes.

Word Meaning
Looked about Looked around
Fear laden Full of fear

All other children had gone to their classes before they reached the school. Ramlal handed over Bholi to the headmistress and went out of school. Now Bholi was alone. She looked around her with lot of fear.



There were several rooms, and in each room girls like her squatted on mats, reading from books or writing on slates. The headmistress asked Bholi to sit down in a corner in one of the classrooms.

Word Meaning
Squatted Sat

The school had many rooms. In each room many girls were sitting on mats. They were reading books or writing on slates. The headmistress asked Bholi to sit in the corner on one of the classroom.

Bholi did not know what exactly a school was like and what happened there, but she was glad to find so many girls almost of her own age present there. She hoped that one of these girls might become her friend.

Bholi did not understand anything about the school. She did not know what happens in the school. But she was happy to note that there were many girls of her own age. She was hopeful that one of these girls would become her friend.

The lady teacher who was in the class was saying something to the girls but Bholi could understand nothing. She looked at the pictures on the wall.

In the class, the lady teacher was saying something to the girls. But Bholi could not understand anything. She started looking at the pictures on the wall.

The colours fascinated her — the horse was brown just like the horse on which the Tehsildar had come to visit their village; the goat was black like the goat of their neighbour; the parrot was green like the parrots she had seen in the mango orchard; and the cow was just like their Lakshmi.

Word Meaning
Fascinated Impressed
Orchard Garden of fruit tress

She liked colour of the pictures. The picture of horse was brown same as the horse of Tehsildar. Colour of goat was black same as goat of their neighbour. Colour of parrot was green same as parrots she had seen in the mango garden. Colour of cow was same as that of Lakshmi.



And suddenly Bholi noticed that the teacher was standing by her side, smiling at her.

“What’s your name, little one?” “Bh-Bho-Bho-.” She could stammer no further than that.

Word Meaning
Standing by her side Standing near her
No further No more

Suddenly Bholi noticed that the teacher was standing near her. She was smiling at Bholi. The teacher asked her name. Bholi stammered but could not speak her full name.

Then she began to cry and tears flowed from her eyes in a helpless flood. She kept her head down as she sat in her corner, not daring to look up at the girls who, she knew, were still laughing at her.

Word Meaning
Not daring to Not having the courage to

Then Bholi began to cry. Lot of tears started coming out of her eyes and flowed down her cheeks. She kept her head down. She continued to sit in the corner. She did not have the courage to look at other girls. She was aware that other girls were laughing at her.

When the school bell rang, all the girls scurried out of the classroom, but Bholi dared not leave her corner. Her head still lowered, she kept on sobbing.

Word Meaning
Scurried Moved in a hurry
Dare not Did not have courage
Kept on Continued
Sobbing Weeping

After ringing of school bell, all girls moved quickly out of the classroom. But Bholi did not have the courage to move from the corner of the classroom. She was keeping her head low. She continued to weep.

“Bholi.” The teacher’s voice was so soft and soothing! In all her life she had never been called like that. It touched her heart.

Word Meaning
Soothing Calm, Gentle
Touched her heart She felt very good

The teacher called out name of Bholi in a very soft, calm and gentle voice. In her life Bholi had never been called so nicely by anyone. She really started feeling good.

“Get up,” said the teacher. It was not a command, but just a friendly suggestion. Bholi got up. “Now tell me your name.”

Word Meaning
Command Order

Teacher asked Bholi to get up. It was not an order but told in the form of a suggestion from a friend. Bholi got up. Teacher asked Bholi to tell her name.

Sweat broke out over her whole body. Would her stammering tongue again disgrace her? For the sake of this kind woman, however, she decided to make an effort. She had such a soothing voice; she would not laugh at her.

Word Meaning
Disgrace Insult

Sweat came on her full body. Bholi thought if her stammering voice would insult her once again. But for the kind woman (teacher) she decided to make one more attempt. The teacher had asked Bholi in a very gentle voice. So Bholi was sure that teacher will not laugh at her.

“Bh-Bh-Bho-Bho-,” she began to stammer. “Well done, well done,” the teacher encouraged her. “Come on, now — the full name?”

Bholi treid to speak her name but she stammered and could not speak her full name. The teacher appreciated effort of Bholi and encouraged her to speak full name.

“Bh-Bh-Bho-Bholi.” At last she was able to say it and felt relieved as if it was a great achievement.

Word Meaning
Relieved Happy

Finally Bholi was able to speak her full name. She felt very happy. She thought it was a great achievement for her.

“Well done.” The teacher patted her affectionately and said, “Put the fear out of your heart and you will be able to speak like everyone else.” Bholi looked up as if to ask, ‘Really?’

Word Meaning
Well done Appreciation for good work
Affectionately With love towards younger one
Patted Repeated touched by hand to appreciate

The teacher lovingly appreciated good effort of Bholi. Teacher patted Bholi. Teacher told Bholi to remove fear from her heart. Then she will be able to speak similar to every other person. Bholi looked at the teacher as if to ask if that could really happen.

“Yes, yes, it will be very easy. You just come to school every day. Will you come?” Bholi nodded. “No, say it aloud.”

The teacher said speaking is very easy. She asked Bholi to come to school every day. Bholi nodded. Teacher asked Bholi to say it loudly.

“Ye-Ye-Yes.” And Bholi herself was astonished that she had been able to say it. “Didn’t I tell you? Now take this book.”

Word Meaning
Astonished Surprised

Bholi this time could speak yes. She was herself very surprised that she could speak. Teacher said that she had told that Bholi would be able to speak. Teacher gave a book to Bholi.

The book was full of nice pictures and the pictures were in colour — dog, cat, goat, horse, parrot, tiger and a cow just like Lakshmi. And with every picture was a word in big black letters.

The book had many nice pictures in it. All were coloured pictures. It had pictures of various animals. A word in black letters was written for every picture.

“In one month you will be able to read this book. Then I will give you a bigger book, then a still bigger one. In time you will be more learned than anyone else in the village.

Word Meaning
In time After sometime
Learned Knowledgeable

The teacher said that Bholi can complete reading the book in one month. Then she will give another bigger book to her. After that she will give another still a bigger book. In some time Bholi will become more knowledgeable than any other person in the village.

Then no one will ever be able to laugh at you. People will listen to you with respect and you will be able to speak without the slightest stammer. Understand? Now go home, and come back early tomorrow morning.”

Teacher continues to speak to Bholi.

Then nobody will laugh at you. People will give respect to your thoughts. And you will be able to speak without stammering. Now please go home and come back early tomorrow morning.

Bholi felt as if suddenly all the bells in the village temple were ringing and the trees in front of the school-house had blossomed into big red flowers. Her heart was throbbing with a new hope and a new life.

Word Meaning
Blossomed Growth of flowers on a tree, Developed
Throbbing with Full of

Bholi felt that suddenly all the bells in the temples of the village had started ringing. And trees in front of the school had lot of big red coloured flowers. Her heart was now full of new hope and a new life.

Thus the years passed. The village became a small town. The little primary school became a high school. There were now a cinema under a tin shed and a cotton ginning mill. The mail train began to stop at their railway station.

Word Meaning
Ginning Separating cotton from seed
Mail train Express train

Many years passed. The village was now a big town. The small primary school was now a high school. There was a cinema theatre of tin shed. The village had a cotton ginning mill. Express trains started stopping at the village railway station.

One night, after dinner, Ramlal said to his wife, “Then, shall I accept Bishamber’s proposal?” “Yes, certainly,” his wife said. “Bholi will be lucky to get such a well-to-do bridegroom. A big shop, a house of his own and I hear several thousand in the bank. Moreover, he is not asking for any dowry.”

Word Meaning
Well to do Rich
Moreover In addition to, Also

One night after dinner Ramlal asked his wife if he should accept the proposal of Bishamber. His wife said yes. Bholi will be lucky to get such a rich bridegroom. He has a big shop and his own house. His wife had heard that Bishamaber had several thousands of rupees in the bank. In addition to these, he is not asking for dowry.

“That’s right, but he is not so young, you know — almost the same age as I am — and he also limps. Moreover, the children from his first wife are quite grown up.”

Word Meaning
Limps Walks as if leg is injured
Grown up Have become adults

Ramlal said that all this is correct. But Bishamaber is of the same age as that of my age and he limps. In addition to these, children from his first wife are now grown up.

“So what does it matter?” his wife replied. “Forty-five or fifty — it is no great age for a man. We are lucky that he is from another village and does not know about her pock-marks and her lack of sense. If we don’t accept this proposal, she may remain unmarried all her life.”

His wife told that this was not a cause of worry. For a man, forty five or fifty is not a big age. We are lucky that Bishamber is from another village. So he does not know about pock marks on the face of Bholi. He also does not know that Bholi is not intelligent. If we do not accept this proposal, Bholi may remain unmarried throughout her life.

“Yes, but I wonder what Bholi will say.” “What will that witless one say? She is like a dumb cow.” “May be you are right,” muttered Ramlal.

Word Meaning
Witless Not intelligent
Dumb cow Simple and stupid person
Muttered Whispered, Murmured

Ramlal asked her wife what will Bholi say about this proposal. His wife said that Bholi is unintelligent person. She will not say anything. She is a simple and stupid person. Ramlal whispered that probably his wife was correct.

In the other corner of the courtyard, Bholi lay awake on her cot, listening to her parents’ whispered conversation.

Bholi was lying on her cot in the other corner of the yard. She had listened to all the low voice talks between her parents.

Bishamber Nath was a well-to-do grocer. He came with a big party of friends and relations with him for the wedding. A brass-band playing a popular tune from an Indian film headed the procession, with the bridegroom riding a decorated horse.

Bishamber Nath was a rich shopkeeper. He came for wedding with a large number of friends and relatives. A band was in front of the wedding procession. It was playing tune of a popular song from Indian film. The bridegroom was on a decorated horse.

Ramlal was overjoyed to see such pomp and splendour. He had never dreamt that his fourth daughter would have such a grand wedding.

Word Meaning
Pomp Display
Splendour Magnificent, Grand
Dreamt Imagined

Ramlal was extremely happy to see such a grand display. He had never imagined that his fourth daughter will have such a grand marriage.

Bholi’s elder sisters who had come for the occasion were envious of her luck. When the auspicious moment came the priest said, “Bring the bride.” Bholi, clad in a red silken bridal dress, was led to the bride’s place near the sacred fire.

Word Meaning
Envious Jealous
Bridal dress Dress suitable for bride
Sacred Holy

Elder sisters of Bholi had come to attend the marriage. They were jealous of her luck. At the auspicious moment, the priest asked to bring the bride. Bholi was wearing red silk sari suitable for a bride. She was brought up to the holy fire.

“Garland the bride,” one of his friends prompted Bishamber Nath. The bridegroom lifted the garland of yellow marigolds. A woman slipped back the silken veil from the bride’s face.

Word Meaning
Prompted Requested, Suggested
Veil Cloth used to cover face

One of the friends advised Bishamber Nath to garland the bride. He lifted the garland made of yellow marigold flowers. A woman slid back the silken veil from Bholi’s face.

Bishamber took a quick glance. The garland remained poised in his hands. The bride slowly pulled down the veil over her face.

Word Meaning
Glance Look
Poised Stopped

Bishamber took a quick look at the face of Bholi. The garland stopped in his hands. The bride had pulled down the veil over her face.

“Have you seen her?” said Bishamber to the friend next to him. “She has pock-marks on her face.” “So what? You are not young either.” “Maybe. But if I am to marry her, her father must give me five thousand rupees.”

Bishamber told to a friend who was  next to him that the bride had pock marks on her face. The friend replied that Bishamber should not bother about it because he was himself not young. Bishamber replied that it was true. But he demanded that her father should give him five thousand rupees to marry Bholi.

Ramlal went and placed his turban — his honour — at Bishamber’s feet. “Do not humiliate me so. Take two thousand rupees.” “No. Five thousand, or we go back. Keep your daughter.”

Ramlal went to Bishamber. He placed his turban – his honour – in Bishamber’s feet. He requested Bishamber not to insult him. He requested Bishamber to accept two thousand rupees. But Bishamber demanded five thousand rupees. Bishamber said that Ramlal should give him five thousand rupees otherwise he would go back without marrying Bholi.

“Be a little considerate, please. If you go back, I can never show my face in the village.” “Then out with five thousand.”

Word Meaning
Considerate To be Kind, Show mercy

Ramlal requested Bishamber to show some mercy. He said that if Bishamber went back, he would not be able to show his face in the village. Bishamber demanded to give him five thousand rupees.

Tears streaming down his face, Ramlal went in, opened the safe and counted out the notes. He placed the bundle at the bridegroom’s feet.

Word Meaning
Streaming down Coming down, Rolling down
Safe Almira, Locker

Tears started rolling down the face of Ramlal. He went to his house, opened his almira and took out five thousand rupees. He put the bundle of notes at the feet of Bishamber.

On Bishamber’s greedy face appeared a triumphant smile. He had gambled and won. “Give me the garland,” he announced.

Word Meaning
Triumphant smile Smile of victory
Gambled Took chance

On the greedy face of Bishamber there was smile of victory. He had taken a chance and he had won. He asked to give him garland.

Once again the veil was slipped back from the bride’s face, but this time her eyes were not downcast. She was looking up, looking straight at her prospective husband, and in her eyes there was neither anger nor hate, only cold contempt.

Word Meaning
Downcast Looking down, Polite
Prospective husband Would be husband
Contempt Disrespect

Once again the veil was slid back from the face of the bride. But this time her eyes were not looking towards ground. Bholi was looking up straight at her would be husband. She was not angry. She was not looking at Bishamber with hate. She had disrespect towards him.

Bishamber raised the garland to place it round the bride’s neck; but before he could do so, Bholi’s hand struck out like a streak of lightning and the garland was flung into the fire. She got up and threw away the veil.

Word Meaning
Struck out Came out, Moved
Like a streak of lightening Very quickly
Flung into the fire Thrown in fire

Bishamber lifted the garland to put around the neck of Bholi. But before he could do so, Bholi very quickly took out his hand and she threw the garland into the fire. She got up and removed her veil.

Pitaji!” said Bholi in a clear loud voice; and her father, mother, sisters, brothers, relations and neighbours were startled to hear her speak without even the slightest stammer. “Pitaji! Take back your money. I am not going to marry this man.”

Word Meaning
Startled Surprised

Pitaji, said Bholi. Her voice was loud, clear and without stammering. Her father, mother, brothers, relatives and neighbours were surprised to hear her clear voice. Bholi asked her father to take the money back. She declared that she would not merry Bishamber.

Ramlal was thunderstruck. The guests began to whisper, “So shameless! So ugly and so shameless!” “Bholi, are you crazy?” shouted Ramlal. “You want to disgrace your family? Have some regard for our izzat!”

Word Meaning
Thunderstruck Shocked
Disgrace Insult
Regard Respect

Ramlal was shocked. Guests began to whisper that Bholi was shameless and ugly. Rmalal shouted and asked if Bholi had become mad. Why do you want to insult your own family.? He asked her to have some respect for their prestige.

“For the sake of your izzat,” said Bholi, “I was willing to marry this lame old man. But I will not have such a mean, greedy and contemptible coward as my husband. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t.”

Word Meaning
Lame Limp
Mean Low thinking
Contemptible Disrespectful

Bholi said that she had agreed to marry that limp old man for sake of her parent’s prestige. But I will not have such a low thinking, greedy and disrespectful coward as my husband. I will not marry such a person.

“What a shameless girl! We all thought she was a harmless dumb cow.” Bholi turned violently on the old woman, “Yes, Aunty, you are right. You all thought I was a dumb–driven cow.

An old woman told that Bholi was a shameless girl while they thought she was a simple and stupid girl. Bholi angrily looked at the old woman and told that aunty you are right. You all thought that I was a dumb cow.

That’s why you wanted to hand me over to this heartless creature. But now the dumb cow, the stammering fool, is speaking. Do you want to hear more?”

For that reason who wanted to hand over me to this animal who does not have a heart. But that dumb cow and the fool who used to stammer is speaking. Do you want to hear anything more from me?

Bishamber Nath, the grocer, started to go back with his party. The confused bandsmen thought this was the end of the ceremony and struck up a closing song.

Shopkeeper Bishamber Nath started going back to his town with his wedding party. The people of band got confused and thought that marriage ceremony was completed. So they started playing the last song of the evening.

Ramlal stood rooted to the ground, his head bowed low with the weight of grief and shame.

Word Meaning
Grief Sadness

Ramlal was not able to move from his place. He just stood there. His head was down with sadness and shame.

The flames of the sacred fire slowly died down. Everyone was gone. Ramlal turned to Bholi and said, “But what about you, no one will ever marry you now. What shall we do with you?”

The sacred fire slowly stopped burning. Everyone had gone from there. Ramlal came to Bholi and asked what will happen to her. Now no one will marry her. What shall we do with you now?

And Sulekha said in a voice that was calm and steady, “Don’t you worry, Pitaji! In your old age I will serve you and Mother and I will teach in the same school where I learnt so much. Isn’t that right, Ma’am?”

Sulekha spoke in a calm and steady voice. She said not to worry pitaji. In your old age I will take care of you and mother. I will become a teacher in the same school where I have studied and learnt so much. Then Bholi asked her teacher if she was right.

The teacher had all along stood in a corner, watching the drama. “Yes, Bholi, of course,” she replied. And in her smiling eyes was the light of a deep satisfaction that an artist feels when contemplating the completion of her masterpiece.

Word Meaning
Contemplating Thinking
Masterpiece Outstanding

Throughout these events, the teacher was watching while standing in a corner. She replied yes, certainly Bholi, you can become a teacher. The teacher had a smile of great satisfaction. It was satisfaction of an artist who thought that her best student had become an outstanding person.



Important Links
Bholi – Textbook Q&A Bholi – Extra Q&A
The Hack Driver – Explanation The Book That Saved the Earth – Explanation
The Hack Driver – Textbook Q&A The Book That Saved the Earth – Textbook Q&A
The Hack Driver – Extra Q&A The Book That Saved the Earth – Extra Q&A
Re-arrange Exercises Error Finding Exercises
Active-Passive Rules Gap Filling Exercises
Passages Direct-Indirect Speech Rules
Story Writing Tips Letter Writing




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