Water woes

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?

Homepage image: www.wikihow.com 


  1. Thank you so much for writing this one, Zephyr! I cry my lungs out to the girls the moment they turn on the shower. I have rarely used the shower because of the amount of water that it wastes. Thankfully, my current house help is a very thoughtful one and does not waste water like the others used to do. As you said, our childhood experiences have a lot to do with our personality. I have seen Mom and Dad carrying buckets of water to our third floor rented house which was an unauthorised construction and and hence did not have piped water supply. We used to get half a bucket of water to take a bath. When I got married and moved in with my in-laws, my mother-in-law did the rationing (she used to keep a tab on my drinking water as well) courtesy her disliking for me. And then we shifted some twelve houses and the Delhi Jal Board water supply in those areas were scanty. Right now, I do have two water tanks and enough water, but like you said I do control water usage. If all of us conscientiously adhere to water saving mechanisms we can survive better and longer. But many people have ‘I pay. I use. Why are you bothered?’ attitude. Pricks me a lot. The video was very insightful. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Whatever happened to my reply? WP indeed is acting strange!

      I had said that your girls will grow up into conscientious consumers of water 🙂 And I remember being experts in the bathing-in-half-a-bucket-of-water too. Not just that, but also in washing vessels including copper and brass ones in as little water as we could. Keeping tabs on drinking water??

      Thanks for sharing the post, Rekha!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. KP said it rightly that the third World war might be for water scarcity.

    Though I didn’t suffer much water problem in any of the houses we lived after marriage, but I remember carrying water from roadside tap in copper/brass pots when I was young. I have faced ‘water fights’ (thanni sandai) too!

    I too don’t like to waste water by running taps while washing vessels. I use washing machine mostly for washing bedsheets, jeans etc. 32 ltrs. of water for one load of clothes. Our normal day clothes are not soiled that much. Thank god, my maid does the washing of clothes in my house though all her other houses use washing machines everyday.

    My BP goes up when I hear the upstairs lady just leaves the tap open while cooking….I heard it and her maid confirmed it! She is highly educated, works from home mostly…..but no common sense.

    I wonder if the next generation will enjoy our luxury of having running water 24 hours a day.


    1. Education has nothing to do with social awareness and common sense. Which is why your maid is sensible and the lady upstairs is not! Wow! thanni sandai potteengala?? What fun! That is one thing I never did in any place. I hate being without water and so keep at least a bucket filled even when there is enough water. Talk of phobias!


  3. I am completely in sync in with you on this Zephyr ! Even I feel so strongly about water.. If push comes to shove I can manage all my water needs in half a bucket of water. Living with water shortage had taught us that !


    1. Experience is the best teacher, they say, right?

      Sorry for the delayed reply WP is not forwarding my comments to my mailbox 😦


  4. I’m a water freak too. I’ve actually stopped on the road to go and turn off municipal taps!


    1. You too? I call the attention of residents if their garden taps are running or leaking too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re both freaks. Beloo too, I’m sure. 😀


  5. vijayaa108 · · Reply

    Just returned from my annual pilgrimage to Janani Janma Bhoomi Ma Bharathi.
    Wherever I went I saw the endless wastage of water and my heart broke……..
    Each time I gave a ‘bhaashan’ in the very words of my husband,I felt a wave of terrible guilt as I was given glances by everyone around me as to why I was wasting my energy and time.

    At my brother’s place in Mumbai I stood like a ‘kotwal’ over the heads of the two maids (Bais) and requested them, cajoled them,pleaded with them and also showed them the ugly side of my temperament but hardly did I make a dent in their behaviour.
    My brother and sister in law have conspired to put in a device inside the inflow tube to inhibit the free flow of water.Let us hope they are successful.

    After my daily ‘harassment’ I suspect that there was a change in the ‘tone of water’ flowing from the taps a tad bit.
    In all the high rise apartment buildings with so many on the increase how much water consumption takes place and I do wonder how many of our people are aware of the propensity and gravity of water shortage in the very near future!
    Each person will have to handle individually and also unitedly to prevent water wastage.
    I recall my dear mother and grandmother all telling us children how one drop saved by us could be of help to someone somewhere.This saving attitude was also for electricity,food and other natural resources.
    May good sense prevail and let us save water for indeed Water is Life !


    1. The water regulator is the bane of the bais and they protest vociferously. I have heard that some of them even quit the houses with these devices. My maid is attached to me and stops with just cribbing and listening to me periodically 🙂 I have seen people wash their cemented front yards and give a long shower to their cars even during peak summer when there is scarcity of water. Their excuse? They pay for the water, so they can afford to waste it. Those of us who grew up with scarcities of any kind were also trained to use things judiciously. Unfortunately this generation and the future ones might not understand or appreciate the value of natural resources if their parents are careless.


  6. That video is scary, BM. I think we all need to be Water control freaks if we have to save anything for our future generations. I have been blessed with plenty of water all my life except for the couple of yrs I lived in HYD. And I have done many of the things you did too…saving soap water to flush toilets etc..My grandma used to yell if she sees water flowing. She would say, how much ever water you waste, that much more money you are going to waste in life. Here in the US, I don’t think ppl care as much..but in California, there has been drought for past few years and people are rationed to use water wisely. I know families who had been fined by the City as they watered their lawn on the wrong days..I think it’s there in Dallas too…ok..let me stop it here and you keep controlling the maids 😀


    1. I tried telling my maid that she would have lots of debts if she wasted water. She reduced the flow a bit for a few days but then it went on as before 🙂 In our housing society, the cars are washed with the bore pump water and one small bucket per car is the allowed ration 🙂 The car-cleaning boys got felicitated during the annual function of the society too. That is good incentive, isn’t it?


  7. Very very nice post, this is घर घर की कहानी even my maid waste lot’s of water, as soon as she enters the kitchen she opens the tap, then she cleans the slab, if i close the tap she says आप क्यों नल बंद कर रही हो यहां तो बहुत पानी आता है when I tell her many people are not getting water and you are wasting here, she don’t understand, very innocently one day she asked me, if we will save here, how will they get there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I said, they like to keep the tap running to make up for not having water in their houses! I can’t blame their ignorance, when educated and seemingly intelligent folk can’t understand how by wasting water the whole nation suffers. They think that since they have the money to buy tankers, they can afford to waste water too.


  8. As a fellow water-control freak, I am with you all the way. 🙂


    1. 😀 Am I glad I am not a landlady because that would mean that I would have no tenant, as my controlling of the spouts would drive potential tenants away double quick!


  9. I am afraid the third world war may be on the scarce water.
    We are witness to,how this scanty resource dependant on rain which again is subject to the way humanity preserves the eco system, can make neighbour states and countries enimical

    I could relate to many of your experiences on usage of water with landlords of different dispositions.


    1. Water indeed could become the burning issue sooner than we think, as we just see it already beginning to happen. Living with landlords can be the biggest problem because somehow they tend to think that they are entitled to waste as much water as they like but the tenant should scrimp and save. I prefer the apartment system of housing any day.


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