1. The river flows on. but sluggishly. Its surface is calm and smooth. It turns a bend at a clump of bamboo, gently passes a grove of coconut, and now drifts along with scarcely a murmur. It is wide, too. The engineers had needed unspeakable amounts of concrete and rupees to build a. bridge across and when that went into disrepair with age and neglect, they had needed even more to build another.
2. A white flock of river terns appears. The terns energetically flap their pointed wings but mill around in an effort to go slow with the flow. They swoop and pick off the surface of the river small silvery fish, floating strangely immobile on their side. It is easy work, for the fish are already dead. Dozens of dead fish follow, sprinkled and sparkling on the river, killed by poison or by the shock of a dynamite blast upriver. Some feed the terns, others drift here and there and below the culverts and into the nearby fields.
3. The waters had travelled far to get here. Blown by winds from across the ocean, meeting the great escarpment of the Western Ghats, rising as vapours and clouds, and bringing wafting mists and torrential rains, they had drenched the slopes of the mountains a hundred miles away. Not all the rain had travelled to the ocean, though much had arisen from the forest itself, ascending of roots and stems and transpiring through billions of leaves and leaflets. The forests pump hundreds of thousands of litres of water into the air, and the air returns some of it, falling as rain condensing as dew.
4. Some water flows overland, much sinks in, sponged by the leaf litter and soil. Below the surface, the water travels through pipes and aquifers far and wide, recharging ground waters, emerging as springs, and draining into streams feeding the wide river.
5. The clear waters from the forest join other waters; waters that gather the dust and carry the soil from the road–scars and the mine–wounds on the hill slopes. Waters deadened by passage through dams and reservoirs, through stagnant pools and ponds with hyacinth and algae. Waters carrying earth from furrowed and exposed soils under alien plantations of acacia and eucalyptus and from forests whose litter–blankets are harvested to enrich the nearby fields with nutriment. Waters course in with the wastes of villages, towns, and cities, the effluents of factories and the oil and fuel spilled from lorries washed on the banks.
6. The river passes a rice mill. The mill faces away from the river, with a neat garden in front and a mound of waste dumped at the back, on the banks.
7. The story of the river seems so familiar. The river gives us water for irrigation, drinking, washing, bathing, navigation, and power. It provides us fish and fertile plains, reeds and recreation. But, does the river really give to us all this or do we just take it? And what do we give back, if anything?
17.1. On the basis of your reading of the passage, answer the following questions in 30–40 words each:
(a) What is the course that a river takes?
River flows on its own slowly, bends here and there, passes across trees and groves and then widens on to the plains.
(b) What are terns? What do they pick from the river that is strange?
Terns are water birds which come in flocks to the river. Their food is the fish. They swoop over the river and catch the fish. The strange thing in this case is that these fishes are dead.
(c) The river is a combination of different waters. What are these?
There is the water that comes from the mountain clear and pure, goes into the forests, around trees and then there is the rain water. To this gets added water that comes as effluent from factories, waste from villages and towns and then this becomes impure.
(d) The writer says at the end ‘whether the river gives us or we take it. What is the difference between the two?
When somebody gives something to us we will take it with respect, gratitude and reverence. But ‘Man’ believes in taking, we take water as we need it for everything but never show respect to it.
17.2. On the basis of your reading of the passage, answer of the following:
(a) In para 5, the synonym of ‘motionless’ is _________.
Correct Option is (iii) stagnant
(b) In para 5, the antonym of ‘deplete’ is __________.
Correct Option is (iv) enrich
(c) The strange thing in case of the water birds, terns is that they catch only those fish which are alive. (True/False)
(d) The river not only gives us water for irrigation, drinking, bathing, power, etc. but also provides us ___________.
fish and fertile plains, reeds and recreation