This story is about a young girl named Sibia who one day goes to the cliffs with her mother and other women to collect paper grass. On her return journey she gets left behind. In order to get home Sibia has to cross a river. She was too tired so she stopped to take rest. She sees a Gujar woman getting attacked by a crocodile. Sibia rushes to help the woman and she stabs the crocodile in the eye with a hayfork. Sibia takes the wounded woman back into the village. When she returns to the river to get her hayfork she finds a blue bead lying in water. In the end Sibia doesn’t tell her mother about helping the lady because she is excited about finding the blue bead for her necklace.
“Timber was being floated down … breathing the clean sunny air.”
Question (i): What are sleepers? What made the timber float down the river?
Answer (i): Sleepers are rectangular pieces of timber which are specifically cut for construction of building and railway tracks.
Trees in the forest further up the great Indian river were being harvested by industries and the river was used to transport the timber.
Question (ii): What is meant by dislodge? How can the sleepers be dislodged?
Answer (ii): Dislodge is an act of forcefully removing something from its position.
Sleepers that are lying stuck in the stones can be dislodged by delivering sufficient force, manually or mechanically, to the sleepers using a lever like contrivance. Also, floods can lift them and jostle them along.
Question (iii): From where did the crocodile come? Why did he come? What was he doing in the shallow waters?
Answer (iii): The crocodile had come from deep black water of the river where the flowing streams produced whirlpools.
He had come to glassy shallows of the river to rest.
He balanced his body on tiptoe on the rippled sand so that only his eyes and nostrils were visible above the water. He lay in the water motionless breathing clean sunny air.
Question (iv): Why did the crocodile raise his eyes and nostrils out of water?
Answer (iv): The crocodile raised his eyes to get a clear sight of the area around the stepping stones and raised his nostrils to breath easily, this enabled him to lay motionless and concealed, in ambush, for prolonged duration.
Question (v): The author says, “Now nothing could pierce the inch-thick armoured hide”. What does she mean by the sentence given above? Why does she say so?
Answer (v): Over the years, the crocodile had grown, from a baby crocodile vulnerable to birds of prey and carnivorous fishes, into a juggernaut so ferocious and formidable that nothing could pierce his inch-thick armoured hide. The author is suggesting that the crocodile is invincible as he is covered with thick armour-like hide which weapons cannot pierce.
The author is describing the strength of the crocodile in detail as foreshadow of violent conflict which was going to take place between crocodile and Sibia later in the day. And, how brave Sibia uses her presence of mind to overpower the crocodile and save the Gujar woman’s life.
“The mugger crocodile … a throb in his throat.”
Question (i): What is a mugger crocodile?
Answer (i): A mugger crocodile is a species of freshwater crocodile with a short snout found throughout the Indian subcontinent.
Question (ii): Give the meaning of:
(a) An antediluvian saurian:
Answer (a): It means a large reptile which is very old as if it belonged to the times before the biblical flood.
(b) Prehistoric juggernaut:
Answer (b): Something which has been in existence from very old times and is huge and powerful and moving with overwhelming force that cannot be stopped.
Question (iii): Describe the appearance of the crocodile. What made him move?
Answer (iii): The crocodile with a huge tail was twice the length of a tall man. His colour was blackish brown on above and yellowy white on underside. A throb in his throat, his mouth was closed and fixed in evil bony smile, ran almost the whole length of his head and was tinged with green where the yellow underside came up to it. His hide was one inch thick and nothing could pierce it.
The crocodile used unimaginable and irresistible power of his huge tail to move in water.
Question (iv): How can you conclude from the extract that the crocodile was a strong and dangerous animal?
Answer (iv): The crocodile is described as “an antediluvian saurian, a prehistoric juggernaut, ferocious and formidable, a vast force in water, propelled by unimaginable and irresistible power of the huge tail”, suggests that he was a strong and dangerous animal.
Question (v): How did the crocodile rest in the shallows?
Answer (v): The crocodile balanced on tiptoe on the rippled sand of the shallows with only his eyes and nostrils raised out of water so that he could see and breathe easily.
“From the day, perhaps a hundred … his brainless craft and ferocity.”
Question (i): What is said about the birth of the crocodile? How can you say that the crocodile was very active even before he was fully hatched?
Answer (i): The crocodile hatched from an egg, probably a hundred years ago, in a sandbank.
The crocodile was very active because as soon as he managed to get his head out of his shell he was looking around ready to snap at anything even before he was fully hatched.
Question (ii): What is meant by brainless craft and ferocity?
Answer (ii): It means making use of one’s craft and ferocity guided purely by natural instinct. The young crocodile could escape from predators by instinctively using his skills and fierceness.
Question (iii): What were the dangers facing the young crocodile?
Answer (iii): The young crocodile faced the dangers of getting eaten by birds of prey and great carnivorous fishes who fed on baby crocodiles.
Question (iv): How did the young crocodile get the food and stored it? What did the big crocodile feed on?
Answer (iv): The young crocodile caught the food and stored it in holes in the river bank.
The big crocodile fed mostly on fish but had also caught deer, monkeys, and ducks. He had also sometimes fed on pi-dog full of parasites and a skeleton cow. Sometimes he went down to the burning ghats and fed on half-burned bodies of Indians cast into the stream.
Question (v): How is the body of the crocodile strong enough to protect him? How was he vulnerable to an attack?
Answer (v): The body of crocodile is protected with one inch thick layer of armoured hide on the above. Nothing can pierce it, even rifle bullets would bounce off.
His eyes and the soft underarms made him vulnerable to an attack.
“It was not a gem; though … dressed in an earth-coloured rag.”