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Opting for a humble 'bucket' of water

india Updated: Jan 08, 2008 01:17 IST

Most of the problems, they say, are man-made. This is true to a great extent, if not completely. Whenever I cross the Escorts Hospital in South Delhi, I see the big hoarding giving a very apt advertisement from the Delhi Government to save water. "It is time you shower for less than 3 minutes" and "use bucket" was written in bold letters.

Every time I see it I make a resolution not to spend more than a bucket of water while taking my daily bath. My son mocked me for being so miserly for he loves to play while the shower is on. But I pity him for I am not sure how much water he will get when he is a young, married person. And more, how much water his son will have even for drinking, leave alone bathing and cleaning.

A gentleman joined of our organisation in Jaipur. For a couple of weeks, he shared our guesthouse. Before he arrived, there was hardly any problem of water, as the landlord provided enough to sustain four of us living there. Now, the first thing in the morning we face was cry over water.

The gentleman was an early riser. Being the in-charge of the guesthouse I had greater responsibility. Next morning, I woke up early and found the bathroom closed. Suddenly, I heard the huge splashes of water hitting the marble ground. I waited and waited.

The same gentleman came out fresh and smiling after a full 35 minutes! When I ran to the roof to check the overhead tank, there was just a little water left at the bottom, not enough to sustain four more persons.

My frustration touched a new low when I saw him taking bath in the evening as well. And he nearly took the same time! All of us except me respected his habit, as he was a new recruit. Before I could initiate a talk, he said he was going to shift to another place.

I would like this gentleman (and persons like him) to read the Delhi Government advertisement, at least for once. After a week or so, he complained to me that he was facing severe water crisis and wanted to return back to the guesthouse.

On being asked to explain the "severe scarcity", he said it was not enough for him, as it was habitual of him to take a “wholesome” bath. I said no. I was rude but I had to be, for some people don't learn by reading or a mere talk.

Incidentally, the man had written papers on water problems in India while pursuing research at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai!

I wanted to tell this gentleman that he must feel the scarcity in order to grasp the importance of preserving natural resources.

Years ago, I heard religious people say that on the day of judgment you will have to explain reasons before God for every drop of water you consumed while you were living on earth. I was scared then. With time, the fear faded away. However, the memory recurs whenever water supply stops in Delhi and I am left with not a single bucket in the bathroom.

Another advice comes calling, when a very good soul told me not take bath daily. Squeezing my burrow more with anger than surprise, I asked the reason. It was unbelievable, at least in the hot and humid conditions of Delhi, to go without a bath. He showed me the larger picture: he explained that if every person takes bath daily, it automatically means greater consumption, and more consumption meant more demand, which would ultimately affect supply. As a result, the prices of water would increase. And those who cannot afford to buy a Bisleri bottle will have to contend with water even if it is contaminated.

Why did this simple arithmetic not dawn on me before?

While in Muscat and Dubai, I used to buy water bottle every time I felt the need and throw the bottle with the remaining water, hardly caring about how in sultry summer days, a villager in remote Rajasthan would be struggling to fetch water from distance as long as two kilometers!

If half of the population, the man continued, does maintain a bathing gap of a single day, it means it spares water for another half of the population for a single day. As we adjust in DTC buses during the rush hours or go without bathing while travelling or ill, we can apply this habit while dealing with water in our day-to-day life.

Cleanliness is not about flooding our bodies with water. It is about using water slowly, yet fully. It is not about splashing jugs of water, which does not work on the body properly but pouring gently to allow it to pass through every pore of the human frame.

In practice, we can save water if we have the will to do so, as the government will not enter our bathrooms. Water abused in the bathrooms in Delhi or Mumbai will have its far-reaching impact on countless humans living across the nation.

It is high time we learned how to take bath for I am sure we have yet to learn how to use water.

MSR Khan can be reached at samsur.khan@gmail.com .

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