Pramod Hegde had to wait outside the gate as the water lorry poured water into the water tank near the entrance. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, waiting for the path to be cleared. About half an hour later, he was allowed in and his truckload of things followed.
It took him a few days to settle down in this new complex he was moving in to and make friends. Once he felt confident, he approached the secretary.
“I see we buy water…” he observed politely.
“Yes, that’s right. For your flat, the charge maybe around Rs. 1500 as of now. Of course, in summer, it could go up depending on the need. It invariably doubles due to demand,” said Sushant Mitra, the secretary, with regret.
“Oh! But how long can this last?” Pramod asked.
Sushant nodded, “You are right. But really, the situation gets pathetic in summers and even the government is unable to supply enough water. We have no choice.”
Pramod leaned forward. “But what are we doing about it, Sushantji?”
Sushant seemed taken aback. “What can we do? We pay taxes, but suffer even then.”
Pramod side-stepped the delicate issue of taxes versus services as he said, “There are certain things our forefathers were doing right – managing the water cycle for instance, to at least meet their needs. We must do it again.”
Sushant laughed. “Yes, of course. We must go back to the days of living in independent houses with kitchen garden and a bathroom in the backyard,” he said with the chuckle.
Pramod waited patiently for Sushant’s mirth to subside. When Sushant regained his composure, Pramod tried again. “That would be ideal. But we don’t have to go to such extents. We can do with what we have.”
Sushant raised an eyebrow and shrugged.
“Dig a well and direct the rainwater to that. It is easier to recharge shallow wells. You can also benefit from the rains and will have to depend less on the water lorries,” Pramod explained.
Sushant looked at him in disbelief. “And where will we find the space for the well? And how will we direct the rainwater?”
“You can do it even in the parking space. Use a removable lid to manage the well and connect it to the borewell,” he explained further.
“But that means new pipes and disturbing the pathways!” Sushant pointed out.
“You may not have to do much and it is only a short-term inconvenience, really, for a long-term benefit,” Pramod persuaded.
Sushant got up. “Sounds good, Pramodji. We will have to discuss in the EC before doing anything about it,” he said with clearly no interest.
“I can make a presentation. I have worked with others on this,” Pramod offered.
“Sure, but in apartments, it may not work,” Sushant said gently.
“There are more people to convince, surely, but since it benefits them, it’s worth a try…” Pramod persisted.
Sushant nodded and sent him off with a promise to initiate appropriate steps. Pramod waited, mailed to the residents’ group, offered to speak to the residents in a meeting… While there was much appreciation for his ideas, the question of expenditure and effort seemed to intimidate them.
He forced this on the agenda when the general body meeting came up just before the monsoon. “Do it now, the time is right,” he urged the members who looked scared at touching the existing infrastructure. There was several shower of words, of debates and discussions.
And then the skies opened to show what real showers meant. The city initially celebrated the rains, thinking that coming summer, they would not suffer from water shortage. But when the barrage continued relentlessly, fears and concerns rose at the speed of waterlogging. Damage to property, fear for life – enough to wish for the rains to stop. Only when the water was successfully drained into the sea bordering the city did everyone breathe in relief. Clear roads for the flow of traffic, for mobile phones to work, for the power to be switched on – basically, to get one’s life back!
That summer, when water shortage hit the residents of the city again, there was an uproar: ‘What did the government do with all the water?’
But it fell silent as the tankers brought water from villages to the apartment complexes to meet the residents’ demand for 24-hour uninterrupted supply.
As the sun beat down and the local water bodies ran dry, Pramod walked on the hard cemented pathways in the apartment complex in the evenings, feeling more of an island to the other walkers who wore earphones to cut off any communion with their surroundings.