July 01, 2009

Water Woes

I opened the newspaper today to news that water supply to the city might be restricted to every alternate day unless the south-west monsoons drop their load on the streets soon. The Met department would like us to believe that it may not rain as much this time around. I cannot be sure though.

Last week saw one heavy burst that brought parts of the city to a standstill before weakening to interspersing showers in between, nothing to bring the city to a halt, a sign that is taken to mean that water woes could be at our doorsteps.

It prompted a north-Indian tea stall owner where I had sheltered from the rains to remark, “Ab tho sab ka dimag thanda hoga.” (Now – that rains have arrived – minds will be at ease). This was last week.

The newspapers announced the coming of the rains to Bombay in large bold letters, a far cry from the months leading up to the monsoons.

“Cannot understand what is happening with our climate,” the taxi driver had reflected as we drove past a water supply truck backing up on a turn on a summer day.

“These days it is difficult to predict anything at all with the world,” he said while we waited, watching as a man directed the truck driver in negotiating the bend.

As March rolls in and temperatures begin to nudge upwards, sightings of trucks supplying water to neighbourhoods across the city are a common sight, more so in the mornings. March and April are crucial months in the city as water sources supplying much needed succour to the city deplete.

In late-April parts of the city, more so the ‘blue collar’ neighbouhoods packed tightly in narrow lanes, see acute water shortages. Bombay is no more a classless city than say Islamic countries are multi-religious. It is common to see high rises separated from ordinary tenements by only a lane, both sitting comfortably and laying an equal claim to the lane.

Supplying water is big business. On the arrival of a water truck the cry goes out in the chawls and in no time men and women, often in their night dresses stream out of their homes and queue up at the truck. All manner of utensils and buckets are employed in collecting water as the din pierces the early morning calm. Office-goers step past the din, observant but oblivious to it.

Children thrill in the morning activity that sees residents from the tenements gather at the water supply truck and exchange small talk, swapping stories while they await their turn at the tap.

Over time the morning ritual becomes an inedible part of their lives, like it once did my own in the rural hinterlands of India I traveled to in my vacations from school.


marja-leena said...

Another colourful and fascinating glimpse of life in your part of the world, thank you!

pink dogwood said...

I was in Bombay two summers ago and didn't think there could be water shortage. Hope there is some rain soon - but not too much :)

Amber Star said...

I was born during a 7 year drought and I have always loved rain and was so happy when the rain comes. Gappa posted yesterday or the other day about how we know when rain is coming. I had plenty to say, because my husband and I are just weather freaks. Today was so much nicer for us, because there was rain a bit north of us. We got the benefit of cooler temperatures, but not any rain to speak of.

There is nothing about rain I don't like...except when there is too much and people's homes are flooded...especially if it is mine.

Hopefully the monsoon rains will come soon for you all. It would not be a good thing to have to ration water like you said above. Sometimes we have to restrict watering our lawns, but I never remember having to ration water to our homes.

I'll rattle my rainstick for you and for us, too. I use it to call rain...it works sometimes. It is an American Indian thing. I bought mine in New Mexico. Sometimes it will rain if I leave the cushions in the chairs outside, and our droughts usually break around the time of my birthday at the end of August.

bobbie said...

Distressing news. I pray that it will soon rain and you will not have to endure these problems.

Weather everywhere in the world today is acting strangely. I'm afraid mankind has only itself to blame. We have not treated our world well, and it is now rebelling.

Darlene said...

Many moons ago we lived in the country and our well went dry. We had to haul water from the city for months before finding water in another place.

I know the hardship of not having running water, so I am always grateful when I can turn on a tap and see water flow.

Lori ann said...

I hope you get the rain you so desperately need! There is talk of rationing water where I live too. We are in a severe drought. Yes, strange weather...

Gauri said...

The rain God are sure blessing us this Saturday morning :) Your post reminded me of one of the rain checks our teams do prior to visiting any community in Mumbai, to purposefuly miss the "water time" read as "pani bharne ka time". Its something to stand there and watch, but if your expecting anyone to talk to you then ..forget about it ;)Well written post :)

Fishbowl said...

Nice post Anil.

Granny J said...

Our North American monsoon appears to have started quite early this year and Arizona has seen several rainy days, including one deluge here in Prescott in the mountains. My brother lives in Perth in Australia & we have noted that in years when our monsoon rains are good, Perth suffers drought -- and vice versa.

Sarah Laurence said...

I wish we could share our water surplus. I have never seen such a wet June in New England. The sun finally came back recently.

Merisi said...

Oh, we would have so much water to share with you! The clouds are rolling in again and again, heavy with rain, practically every day lately, the soil cannot take it anymore and floods ensue now at the littlest downpour.

I hope you do get relief soon!

Coffee Messiah said...

Back in the 70s we started to have to conserve due to the drought in Ca then.

I still do today, what I was taught then. I find it amazing people do not understand here about conservation, no matter what it is.

Hope you've received some rain since this post.


The Girl From Cherry Blossom Street said...

You should write a book!

I want to thank you for dropping by my blog and leaving a wonderful comment (back in May).
I am still on my break but I thougt I'd drop by to let you know I appreciate your visit.
You are a wonderful writer. In fact, you are one of my favorite bloggers.

Take care.

Kamini said...

What a shame that a major city should be brought to its knees because of appallingly bad water management. We have the same problem in Madras every now and again, and there is NO reason why it should be like this. It is not for a shortage of water, but just plain mismanagement.
I will pray for good rains!

karen said...

Hi Anil
I'm late here, so hoping that the monsoon rains did come in time! I found the brightly painted water trucks quite amazing, and the portrayal of a way of life far from what it's like here - living alongside a river, with relatively well organised flowing water at all times!

Mridula said...

So how is the water supply now in your part?

Gauri said...

Hi Anil !! Wanted to let you know that you've been nominated for the "Circle of Friend Award." Use the link below to view the post http://timesunlimited.blogspot.com/2009/08/circle-of-friends-blog-award.html