My maids have the biggest complaint against me – I ‘control’ them. Controlling what, you ask? The flow of water, of course! Yes, I am a control freak that way. So much so that I try to be in the kitchen when they wash the vessels. But it is of no use. The tap gushes on.
The housing society has thoughtfully installed water regulators in all kitchens for the express purpose of reducing this wastage by maids. And now the grumbling is louder: ‘The water is reduced so much. Why are you still complaining?’ she asks me.
One day I asked her in exasperation, ‘Do you get unlimited water in your houses?’ and she replied in the negative.
‘So why do you waste so much water here?’ I asked her.
‘Because we have to scrimp and save water at home. Here we can freely use the water to wash and clean,’ she replied stumping me!
I then tried telling her that since water was a shared resource unless we all used it prudently it would affect them more than us apartment dwellers. Of course she couldn’t understand that. How many of the educated amongst us can be socially responsible in terms of conserving natural resources for the larger good of humanity? Isn’t it always, ‘I can afford it/I pay for it?’ It is as if that gives them the freedom to waste precious resources.
This video by GE tells the chilling story.
Needless to say, I am paranoid about water scarcity and have my own system of rationing it, even when there is plenty of water to go around. Never have I been tempted to keep the tap running as I do chores or even brush my teeth. I try to recycle as much water as possible.
Childhood experiences can leave an indelible mark on one’s mind, they say. I would add that it is especially true if those experiences were bad. Perhaps it has something to do with my brush with water shortage at that age that I became a water-miser as an adult. Perhaps it is the awesome responsibility that each one of us has to conserve water for the future of humanity that weighs down on me. Or maybe it is my water karma!
Water shortage has dogged me all my life, no matter where I have lived. Most of the 50+ houses in various cities across the country have had some form of water shortage. Incidentally, we didn’t stay long enough in the houses that had good water supply. Limited hours of supply, no overhead tanks, bore-well water, common overhead tank, independent overhead tank – you name it and I have lived in houses with one or the other type of water supply. Even when we had a bore well in one of the houses, the motor used to conk off periodically plunging me into despair for days.
How I have longed to live in a house with a well to draw water from, especially when I remember how the well-owners of my childhood neighbourhoods lorded it over us when we were parched for water!
Back then, running water and overhead tanks were only heard of in affluent colonies or in big cities like Mumbai. My grandparents’ house had a big tank with a tap under which vessels were washed. At that age, I used to think it was the ultimate luxury, for at home the taps were merely there for ornamental purposes as the pressure from the corporation water supply was too low for them to run in our upstairs home. We had to use buckets and mugs, the latter being as small as mother could find in the local market!
My elder brothers and I used to spend anywhere between half-an-hour to an hour every morning, depending upon the water pressure, filling up the water drum in the first floor house we lived in. I would go down to the owner’s house and fill up water in buckets which were then pulled up by my brothers as from a well. My elder sister would quickly wash clothes and vessels while we filled the water so that the drum would be full for use till next morning. We had a smaller drum where she poured the water saved from washing clothes to use for flushing the toilet.
During summers water would come in a trickle and some days not even that. In those days many houses had wells; ours didn’t. So we had to try our luck with someone willing to share the well water with us. Sometimes they would refuse since the water levels were too low and they themselves needed it. It used to be a sight with so many of us roaming around with empty buckets in the neighbourhood. Do you wonder why a well was the ultimate dream in my life?
We looked forward to the summer showers that gave us more water than the corporation water taps ever did. We used to keep the terrace spotlessly clean every day since the showers were unpredictable. When it began raining, we would rush to fill up buckets of water from the drainage pipes that poured water from the terrace. The water used to be clean enough to even wash clothes!
All this meant strict rationing of water. We learnt the art of washing loads of vessels in as little water as possible; wrung out all the soap water before rinsing clothes so that we used half the quantity of water (what the washing machines do today!), judiciously bathe in less than a bucket of water and so on and so forth.
Thank god, we didn’t have the water guzzling western-style toilets those days. This contraption among other things has managed to make entire generations of Indians inflexible in body even while flushing down the drain hundreds of liters of water every day.
I remember vowing at that time to never ever live in a house/city which didn’t have running water all year. Alas, I had reckoned without my water karma!
The other day I saw an article that gave ideas to harvest rain water in city homes. Click on the link to find one most suited to you.
They say the lakes of Mumbai and its suburbs are full this year, thanks to the extended monsoon, but I am not about to begin throwing water around, nor relax my ‘control’ over the maid.
I know many of us are mindful of water conservation and recycle water from RO systems, the washing machine and so on. But it is time we begin taking heed of the rain water flowing into the sea and see that every pond and lake is de-silted before the monsoon begins so as to fill them up and then take other doable steps to prevent wastage. Several years ago on a holiday to Meghalaya, I remember seeing women and children trekking over the mountain paths to fetch water in the once-world’s-wettest-place Cherrapunji. Apparently things are still the same going by this article.
What with the ice caps and glaciers melting, and groundwater depleting rapidly, not to speak of pollution rendering water non potable, there is going to be less and less water for the exploding population of Mother Earth and we might have to face the prospect of sinking cities and ‘water-trains’ in the not too distant future.
In such a scenario, there is need for more ‘water control freaks’ like me, don’t you think?
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