For my sociology class we had to write a 2 page paper about sociological aspects of a song or poem. It had to touch on 2 different themes we had talked about in class. I chose this song as it had to do with class/caste and religion. Today I’ll be playing the song for the entire class 🙂 . Here’s page number one: the interpretation. If you are interested in page two: how it relates to what we read in our book, I can post that as well.
“Share the Well” is a song about inequality in the caste system of India. In India, the Dalit are the Untouchables. They are treated as less than human and shunned by the rest of Indian society.
This song specifically reflects the fact that many, if not all, of the Dalit live in their ostracized villages with no well of their own from which to draw water. These downcasts are forced to take their empty jars and beg at the well of the upper caste in hopes that some kind soul will share water with them. The Dalit are not allowed to use the upper caste’s well themselves as others would then consider the well to be defiled. Sometimes the Dalit may travel many miles on foot away from their homes just to sit by a well all day long looking for a handout that may not even come. Other castes are not prone to associate with the “Untouchables”, and many well users may come and go without giving any heed to the beggar sitting at their feet.
This song challenges the idea, though, that this is acceptable or even natural. “Do you think the water knows…” Obviously the water itself does not care who drinks it or what village it is consumed in. If it were unnatural for anyone to have access to water, then water would naturally shy away from him or her. To this some would say “there is no water in their village, therefore they are not supposed to have any.” However, the Dalit live without water because they are shunned from water-rich areas, not because the water avoids them. Why should anyone be “cast aside and left to thirst” just because of the family they were born into and nothing more?
“All God’s creatures share the water hole…” This line reflects that, in the animal kingdom, even mortal enemies will share water if they have been without for extended periods of time. The lion will drink from one side while the zebra drinks from another. At that moment they are thankful (as much as animals can be) that they even have water and are not worried about the natural order of the food chain (plus, what lion would choose to eat a dehydrated zebra over a healthy one?). Are people so less advanced than animals that they are unable to share water peacefully?
Finally the song challenges people’s perception that there is nothing they can do about this atrocity. If a person has money, there is some kind of relief effort they can donate to in order to make sure that other humans have access to something as simple, but absolutely necessary, as water. If a person has time, they can volunteer their abilities to the same or other efforts to relieve such inhumane conditions. And, lastly, if you have Living Water (the word of God) and are willing to share with others, not only can conditions be relieve, but the attitudes that lead to the conditions can be altered. If you donate water to someone like the Dalit, they only have what you give them for the time it lasts. Once it is gone they thirst again. If you share Living Water with them and others around them, the lives of all can change so that the higher castes will be willing to share anything, including water, with the lower castes. The next time a Dalit is sitting by a well, a higher caste who has received and accepted this Living Water will be only too willing to dip down deep, haul up as much water as needed and share the well.