The Wealth of Water

When I was a kid, I remember a huge tin drum standing right next to our kitchen sink. It was taller than I was and was used to store water. Water, precious water, worth everything in summer.

Do I exaggerate? I was around 5 or 6 then. Old enough to feel the shortage, too young to do anything about it since I couldn’t even lift a full bucket by myself. Moreover a thick pall of gloom lay over the household. Mum, harried at the thought of having to fit cooking, cleaning, drinking water and the household’s other needs within a limited water budget. Dad, brooding over the questions of plumbing, drainage, borewell fittings and tankers, not to mention having to rush to work.

Everyone woke up early to catch the running water before it ran out. Vessels were scrimped on to avoid washing. Clothes were doled out as per strict hygiene requirments to save on laundry water. I also remember tempers flying high and getting scolded for a lot of things that never otherwise bothered the adults. Water-shortage time was always a period of suffocating, dark, depressing gloom.

What a sweet, unparalleled relief it was, the day the water shortage ceased and we were back to having 24-hour water supply! In the years to come, the water supply and plumbing systems evolved. Water shortages were less common. Except on my vacations in Delhi and Chennai where the water-rationing seemed to be the severest, especially stretched over a gaggle of kids. I marvelled at how lucky we were in Mumbai and despite their bigger houses, I felt richer than my cousins.

In the past few years, we’ve faced water shortages again. Despite having overhead tanks and new bores being drilled, the needs of the city have also grown. And ours. The feeling is exactly the same. That thin veil of tension that could snap any minute. Annoyance over trivial issues heightened by the sweltering heat and the thought that cool water – the panacea for all heat evils – must be conserved.

Showers became a part of my daily routine a good number of years ago. But my earliest memories are of a bucket of water and the accompanying mug hung over the side. Old habits die hard and to this day, despite all of us having moved to showers, a bucket and mug are permanant fixtures in our bathrooms.

Gaurav’s project examines what we consume and what we need and it also sets us thinking about how dependent we are on consumption for our happiness. I realised just recently how much more water one uses in a single shower than a normal bath. There are parts in the world where people walk for miles to get water. There are places where the average consumption is one bucket a day per person. One bucket! Cooking, personal hygiene, drinking, household cleaning…and all of it in a single bucket of water. In a bid to conserve, I’ve gone back to the bucket-and-mug routine. 

This morning, during my bath, I turned the tap on, letting it run into the bucket while I scrubbed my face. It was then that I realised that I had a precise tangible feeling associated with that moment. Eyes closed, the sound of water gushing out of the tap, one ear cocked in its direction to guage when the bucket would be full by the sound the water made hitting the surface, I felt…bountiful. Prosperous. Able to have all the running water that I wanted and choosing to be prudent in its use.

Feeling wealthy isn’t just about having money. It is that exact feeling of knowing that you have enough and more, of that which brings you peace of mind.

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13 thoughts on “The Wealth of Water

  1. rambler April 24, 2008 at 14:52 Reply

    we still continue to get water once in two days..and its a pain “Catching” watr early in the morning..some how paying for the mineral water, and huge cans of them for drinking purpose is not easily acceptable in the middle class families

    rambler’s last blog post..A lovely Quote and a tag


  2. arZan April 24, 2008 at 20:52 Reply

    Very well written. You brought about a blast of nostalgia…..

    arZan’s last blog post..Let’s Talk About Sex


  3. arZan April 24, 2008 at 20:54 Reply

    U know what….as a kid i also remember….seeing the Lyril lady singing under the waterfall…..and ….forget the pre-teen naughty thoughts…what I always thought cool was how cool is she to have a bath under everflowing water.

    arZan’s last blog post..Let’s Talk About Sex


  4. Banno April 25, 2008 at 05:06 Reply

    Really good post. Water is so precious, and it always appalls me how
    easily so many of us take it for granted. All of us need to do our bit
    to consume less.

    Banno’s last blog post..The Poets


  5. IdeaSmith April 25, 2008 at 06:17 Reply

    @ rambler: That’s appalling. What’s the point in all the other luxuries when the basic necessities stay elusive?

    @ arzan: Thank you! And yes, I remember the Liril ad too and thinking that it had to the ultimate cool experience (cool by temperature and not as a measure of trendiness)!

    @ Banno: Yes, it helps to remember how much we have in comparison to how little a lot of people have.


  6. 'nonnymous April 26, 2008 at 00:34 Reply

    The acute importance of water cannot be recognized till you are left robbed of it, even for a few short hours.
    And yet, the moment our tanks get refilled, our taps start running full, we forget how we scrimped on it, how we saved it just a short while ago.
    Most of us dont realize it, but water has already shifted status from necessity to luxury, or more accurately a necessary luxury

    ‘nonnymous’s last blog post..Who is me?


  7. IdeaSmith April 28, 2008 at 13:14 Reply

    @ ‘nonnymous: And from the look of it, a lot of people may not be able to afford this necessary luxury in a few years. What then?


  8. vetrimagal April 29, 2008 at 01:54 Reply

    Well said. It has become a luxury over the years. In USA, I used to feel bad to waste the pure water remembering the daily struggles to tap the water from underground pit.

    A little saving by everyone can go a long way. The older generation did not care to educate or follow water conservation. I am glad the younger ones are taking so much interest.

    I dont’ write much on my blog, but plan to do so soon 🙂



  9. vijay April 29, 2008 at 12:00 Reply

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  10. Melody May 1, 2008 at 07:15 Reply

    Nice one smithy… I think the old agage that one doesn’t truly realise what one has till one loses it works well here; though I’ve always been into water conservation – it took me a broken pipe & no water for 3 days – to fully appreciate the value of running water whenever I want it!

    Melody’s last blog post..So, let’s start with Husky!


  11. IdeaSmith May 5, 2008 at 06:04 Reply

    @ vetrimagal: We take for granted that which we’ve never had to struggle for, don’t we? At least those of us who’ve experienced it at some point can make other people conscious of it. And hey, do drop me a note with your link when you start posting, I’d be happy to check it out!

    @ Vijay: I’ve mailed you, do check.

    @ Melody: And more power to counting our real blessings!


  12. Asmita May 7, 2008 at 11:58 Reply

    We used to live in DDA flats where we would get water for couple of hrs in morning and evening. Our Outings etc were timed so that we could be back home to fill water. Its been almost 12 yrs since we shifted to a flat with 24 hrs running water, courtesy borewell and pumps, but the rush/the feeling of joy I feel when water flows on opening the tap has not yet subsided.

    It another matter that our help does not recognise the need to conserve water even though she faces immense hardship wrt lack of water almost everyday at her own home! No amount of logic, pleading etc has helped to change her attitude towards water wastage. After all she wasn’t asked to “pay” for water wasted. Gah! The attitude sucks.


  13. IdeaSmith May 16, 2008 at 09:08 Reply

    @ Asmita: Yes, I didn’t touch on that aspect but a lot of us also know that peculiar situation of timing our daily schedules around the water availability. Running water was the most important event of the day.


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