Water Wails

I haven’t had any experience of a ‘no water’ situation outside of India, except for once, in Chile. But that was during a massive earthquake where electricity and the water supply got cut off. While the electricity was restored quick the water supply took a day or two, I think. But in India, I’ve had a lot of water related headaches in Rajasthan.

In one city water was supplied for only about 2-3 hours daily. So we had to be on our toes. Store up drinking water, make sure the underground water storage tank was filling up. Then turn on the pump so water would be pumped up from the underground tank to the overhead tank at the same time. This way we could have full storage tanks and not worry. While this was an inconvenience, compared to the regular water supply, 24×7 running water, we were used to, it slowly became a part of our routine which ran smoothly without the initial hitches and glitches and mumblings and grumblings. Why, I even maintained a small garden with a lush green lawn. A thick row of red roses, many potted plants, and flowering hedges.

However, when we moved from this city to another one, we were shocked to learn that water was supplied every alternate day and here too, it would be for only 2-3 hours! And this city was called the City of Lakes! Our previous experience kicked in and soon we adjusted to the routine of storing up water on alternate days. In fact, it wasn’t even a problem in our daily life. It fit in comfortably with our busy schedules on weekdays. We never ran short of water. The overhead tanks were big enough to store enough. Of course, in both cities, we had to remember to store fresh drinking water as the stored water in the overhead tanks wasn’t fit to drink. But, even here, I had a garden bigger than the other one. A lovely lawn and even more plants.

The initial shock and stress we felt about the water supply system in these places were just our thoughts. It was an unknown situation and we imagined all kinds of problems and more difficulty. In reality, it wasn’t something we couldn’t surmount and live with comfortably too. 

The most difficult one was in a town in a desert area of Rajasthan. This was at the in-law’s family home. There was no water supply at all! Rain water was harvested if and when it rained! Rain was scarce there in those day. But in the recent past things have changed and this place has been flooded too by incessant rain!

To come back to the water story, the rain water that would collect on the roof of the house was channeled to an underground tank that was as big and deep as a small room. This was our ‘well’ and had a heavy, thick wooden lid covering the opening. Water would be drawn out with a bucket attached to a rope. Since rain water was scarce, water would be bought. One could ask for a tanker of water which would drive up to the house and fill up the tank… half full or full, depending on how much water one had paid for.

Since there was no running tap water, water had to be drawn for bathing too. In short water was drawn and filled in buckets in the bathrooms for one’s various needs.

The same water from the tank, would also be used as drinking water! I recall whenever I visited, my MIL would get drinking water from elsewhere and this would be stored in a separate matka (earthen pot). This was because I and my little sons would get tummy infections. I never got to draw water though I was keen to try it! I was scared to lean over the opening of the underground tank, I’d feel dizzy. So, hubby dear forbid me to ever even try doing it.

Since I didn’t live here, it wasn’t a major hassle for me. Water would be drawn for me. Though, I must admit asking for water to be drawn more than once or twice in the day made me a bit uncomfortable. These were all experiences in the years from 1979-1992. I do hope things have improved since then.

Now, many years later, when I have forgotten all about these woes, I came across this post posted in 2011. It isn’t a similar situation but it is about a water problem in a bigger and more modern city than the ones mentioned above. It brought back the panic I felt, especially when the rain water flooded the balcony and threatened to flood the house too! I lived alone at the time and with some physical restrictions in bending, lifting, pushing, and pulling, I was going crazy knowing that there wasn’t much I could do on my own to stop the water from getting into the house.

I recall how I brought out bedsheets and tried to create a dam so the water wouldn’t seep in under the door. How I stood in the balcony yelling out at the top of my voice for help.

That’s water under the bridge now, thankfully.

Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink…
August 22nd 2011

Hola! I’m back after one of those unscheduled breaks (from blogger) that keep happening despite my efforts at organisation and day agendas etc, etc!

The first thing that laid me low was a lesion in a lumbar disc, which I stupidly allowed to happen while I sat in an uncomfortable, unstable chair in a multiplex and refused to get up and leave because I was enjoying the movie so much (not to mention the money I’d paid) So bed rest it was….or so I thought!

The ongoing water situation (read: no water supply) which had started four days prior to my visit to the cinema hall, which the society supervisor had promised would get solved in three days, had not been fully resolved. However, complaints and necessity moved the people in charge to buy huge quantities of water every day. This came in water tankers and would then be pumped up to the overhead tanks. However they could not meet the desired level of need, so water was rationed and we had to be alert to fill up or then do without. Needless to say what happened to my back! The water situation continues, with hope gleaming on the horizon. A lot of drilling went on throughout last night…work is in progress, Hallelujah! I’m happy to report my back is doing better. I decided to leave everything on hold and fill water and rest…it worked!!!

(FYI, our side of modern Gurgaon uses groundwater. It seems that the original pump had not been drilled deep enough and in the eight years since then the water level had gone down)

I have also been on flood control duty…(hyperbole ha!) A few heavy showers during this period threatened to flood my dining room! The balcony, onto which the room opens out to, was getting flooded as both the outlet drains were clogged. Thankfully, help came in the form of the building supervisor and  one was cleared. Relief poured out as the rain water gushed down the drain.

I was worried about my potted plants. Rationed water left none for them…but the rains obliged so far. Let’s see how I manage to keep them alive and well.

I’ve visited a few blogs and will be reading the ones I’ve left. It’s nice to be back.

Well, some memory that was. Monsoon season, in India, can be punishing when it is in full swing. I wonder how many would relate to these situations. These are glimpses into different experiences we go through and how most are greater and more difficult in our minds. When we get to it, putting our fears and feelings of getting a raw deal away, we find that things aren’t really insurmountable problems that we can’t deal with.

Nanaji and the Dirty Fellas

A baby has a way of making a man out of his father and a boy out of his grandfather. ~Angie Papadakis

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We have specific names for our relatives, to make it clear how they’re related to each other and from which side of the family they belong. For instance, paternal grandparents are Dada (grandfather) and Dadi (grandmother). So the moment a child refers to someone as Dada or Dadi, everyone knows it’s the son’s child. And if Nana (grandpa) or Nani (grandma) are used, everyone knows it is the daughter’s child.

The same goes for other relations. They are easily recognized as paternal or maternal relatives by the terms used to address them. There is no confusion about any relationship, unlike the common terms uncle and aunt or grandma, grandpa, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, etc. Each of these relatives is referred to by different names that make it clear how they are related to you.

To come back to my father and a few memories of our kids’ interactions with him. When he became a Nana, my kids and my sister’s kids called him Nanaji. The ‘ji’ is suffixed as a sign of respect for elders. As a father, he was a strict disciplinarian and had grown more reserved with the passing years. Everyone was still in awe of this man, who though mellowed with age, yet held a commanding demeanor, and a sarcastic sense of humor. 

My two boys learned to talk rather early, so their interaction with Nanaji began early too. By this time, Daddy had already transitioned to the grandparent level courtesy my elder sister’s son.

Daddy would use all his sarcastic humor on the kids, who just loved it! They were quick to retort and he would have his laugh. They often got into little ‘kiddie’ fights with him, and when we’d hear, “Dirty fella, I’m not talking to you,” we knew we would witness a wonderful, funny incident soon.

The First Grandson: Forgive and forget

One day, Daddy had a falling out with my elder sister’s son Hemant (pet name – Chiku). Chiku was three and a half then.

“Go away, I’m not talking to you, dirty fella!” says Nanaji to the scowling boy. 

Both walk off in a huff to their rooms; the grey-haired one hiding a broad grin and the younger one certainly miffed.

A few minutes later, a chubby face peeked into Nanaji’s room. He was ignored. The second and third attempts to reconcile were also met with a royal ignore! The fourth time, he came with a bunch of grapes as a peace offering. Nanaji refused to accept it, closed his eyes, and appeared to have fallen asleep.

Chiku stood and stared at him for a while. Then he decided it was too much. Enough is enough! He plucked two grapes off the bunch. Kept the bowl on the bedside table. Daddy was observing all this through his eyes that were closed to slits. He did not expect Chiku’s next move and thought the little guy had decided to eat the grapes himself. But his grandson had other plans. Before Nanaji could say, “dirty fella,” he deftly stuffed them into Nanaji’s nostrils and scampered out like a grinning monkey!

Thankfully, the grapes weren’t far in and he could snort them out easily! Then, he was in splits. He laughed so much. I can’t say what the dirty fella had expected, but I’m sure he hadn’t seen this coming. He crept back, confirmed it was a truce, and stepped into the room.

A while later, we saw them sitting together and eating the rest of the grapes.

The Second Grandson: Dirty is not good

Daddy would sit in the back verandah or in the back lawn and write when the weather was cooler in summer or warmer and sunny in winter. On one such day, Nanaji had an encounter with another three-and-a-half-year-old Ranjit (pet name Tintin), the elder son of yours truly.

Nanaji was immersed in his study and writing while Tintin played with his toys. Nanaji had an old, in fact very old, Bible which he loved, and in which he had written many notes on pages specially inserted into the binding. It had a thick, hard leather cover that was faded, well-worn for use, and cracked in places. It was open and lying face down on a table beside him.

Tintin sauntered over and looked at it. Apparently, he didn’t like the look of it. He screwed up his face and asked what book it was. Nanaji answered him without interrupting his work or looking up. A few moments later, he needed to refer to something in the Book, and well, it wasn’t on the table! he looked around and what do you think he saw?

“You dirty fella, what are you doing?” he exclaimed and jumped out of his chair to rescue his precious Bible from a washing.

Tintin had carried off the heavy, thick Bible and dunked it into a tub full of water, that was kept for two small tortoises Nanaji had bought for him. He was just getting into the washing part when it was retrieved.

“What are you doing, you dirty fella? Why did you put it in the water?”

“It was dirty so I was washing it,” replied the “dirty fella” blissfully unaware of the damage he could have caused.

Nanaji found the explanation quite plausible, and though he was worried about the Bible, he couldn’t stop laughing.

Once again, this little escapade didn’t cause major damage. Except for some notes pages getting smudged with ink (he used fountain pens which had to be refilled with ink poured out from a bottle!), so a wet page meant the ink would smudge. And, of course, a loss of Daddy’s personal notes. Apart from this, the Bible was not irretrievably damaged. We just needed to dry it out. This took a long time given the volume of pages! Thankfully, we had a few sunny days!

This was one time when the grandson antics got me a bit worried. I knew how much that antique Bible meant to Daddy. Besides its worthiness in its antiquity, it had been his companion and guide for many years. I thought that this time, the ‘dirty fella’ and his mom would have to bear the brunt of some annoyance if not anger!

I shouldn’t have worried and trusted the Daddy I’ve known since I was a girl. 

Though some note pages and notes had gone, Daddy didn’t worry much about that. He could rewrite them. But after drying out, a few of the pages were a bit crinkled like an unironed shirt and the cover looked more thumped and weary than it did before!

The third Grandson: A Lesson in Etiquette

Nanaji got a lesson in etiquette and right practice from yet another of his dirty fellas when he came on a holiday to Rajasthan. This time, it was Vineet (pet name Viny), not quite three yet. He is my younger son.

The days passed off fast, and Nanaji and the boys had a rollicking time. Then, it was time to leave. Our little one was over-eager to help. He tried to push and tug bags to a waiting taxi. Everyone was mightily impressed by the offer of help, as all the bags were too big and too heavy for him to even budge a centimeter.

Yet, he was lending the proverbial helping hand. He’d place his little hand on a bag being carried or rolled out! He hung around Nanaji, who once again saw through all the show, and was waiting to get his last laugh before leaving.

All the bags were stowed in the trunk. Mum was in the taxi and it was time to say the G’byes. Nanaji got into the taxi, but he didn’t close the door. Instead, he kept making small talk with his “dirty fellas.” We tried to hurry him but he kept stalling. Finally, what he was waiting for happened. Afraid that it would be too late, Viny took the initiative to inform his Nanaji about Rajasthani customs.

“Nanaji,” he said seriously, “jab koi jaata hai na, woh kuch de kar jaata hai.” (Trans: Nanaji, when someone leaves, he gives something and goes.)

Nanaji was thrilled. He got his laughs. He dug into his pockets and handed both the boys some money. It was customary, in those days, for elderly relatives to give the kids some money before they left. Needless to describe the glee with which the cash was handed over to mother dear (me!) as Viny rattled off all that he would buy with it, including a car.

I didn’t spoil his joy by telling him that he would fall a bit short of cash for a car!

Just for the record, he was thinking of buying a real-life size car… LOL

So #grateful for the memories.

“Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave another.”~Richard Garnett

 

 

 

Running Away

After all, it’s one thing to be running away when someone’s chasing you. It’s entirely another to be running alone.”~Jennifer E. Smith

Daddy was a restless boy. He had an overactive #imagination and was forever up to some prank or making an endeavor to live out his dreams. This was one side of the dreamer, poet, artist, and fun-loving boy. However, buried, not far beneath, in his soul, smoldered a terrible #temper; perhaps an accumulation of all the unspent energy and also the frustrations he had. He was impetuous and reacted, often, very irrationally when in a rage. Usually, it meant beating up someone or being destructive in some way. Though, to him, it wasn’t destructive at all; it was justice. Either righting a wrong or defending one who’d been wronged.

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One day, when he couldn’t get his way with his mother and couldn’t convince her to see things his way, he decided to run away from home. He must have been about thirteen or fourteen then. They lived in a small town where my grandfather was a teacher in the Government School. Daddy didn’t have any money nor did he have a plan in mind. So when his temper cooled down and he realized that running away from home wasn’t the wisest thing to do, he was already quite far away from home.

“Running away was easy; not knowing what to do next was the hard part.”~Glenda Millard

#Hunger and #fear weren’t making things any better. He kept walking and sat down only when his legs couldn’t hold up any longer. He was sitting near a watermelon rehri (cart) and one can only imagine how much his mouth must have watered and his tummy growled for a bite. He was #miserable and wanted to go home, but being #arrogant, he did not know how he’d face not only the beating he was bound to get but also the humiliation of defeat. He found it harder to say, “Sorry,” and accept his fault than sit out his hunger and fatigue.

At one point, he did come close to giving up and going back. It was Summer and the Punjab summers are extremely harsh. Perhaps he would have swallowed his pride and turned homewards but someone approached him. It was a eunuch.

On any other day, he wouldn’t have responded nor entertained conversation with this person. This day wasn’t any other day. Daddy didn’t bother to dwell on the social stigmas that surrounded eunuchs; it was a relief to have someone #sympathetic talk to him. He spilled out his story and didn’t feel ashamed to cry. The eunuch consoled him and gave him slices of watermelon which he walloped down.

With his hunger and thirst satiated, he expressed his desire to return home, worried now that his mother who loved him very much would be sick with worry and crying. But the eunuch talked him out of it. Daddy reluctantly acquiesced to what he said more from a sense of #gratitude than #conviction. So he quietly went along and they reached Karnal, a town very far from Daddy’s home. Here he was made comfortable in the eunuch’s shack and told to rest as it had been a tiring journey. The eunuch went off to earn his living singing and dancing dressed as a woman.

Back in Daddy’s hometown, his parents were stirring up search parties. Everyone known to anyone in the family was out looking for him. The news of Daddy’s disappearance reached Melzhar Gilani, who later went on to become a Judge, and he swung into action. Fortunately, his contacts proved to be excellent detectives and Daddy’s whereabouts were traced to Karnal. Before the day was through Uncle Melzhar went down to Karnal himself and rescued Daddy from the eunuch. Uncle Melzhar Gilani belonged to an influential and rich family, and it was enough to warn the eunuch not to try and come anywhere near Daddy again.

Contrary to Daddy’s fears, he was received with tears of joy and relief. 

“Questions from earlier circle like buzzards. Am I running away or moving forward?”~Doug Cooper

One would think he had learned his lesson; he had in a way, but it wasn’t that running away wasn’t the solution. About four years later, he ran away again. This time, however, he knew where he was going and what the purpose of his mission was, and he carried some money with him. It seems that the lesson he had learned was that running away was fine if one had a destination, plan, and a constructive purpose for it.

I fancied the #adventure and thrill attached to such stories, but I could never be fully convinced that this was the right way to achieve one’s goals. There are other ways, which perhaps might mean #confrontation, but they serve to guide you and also provide you with other viewpoints and better #options.

Maybe, that’s why, though I dreamed of running away as a 6-7-year-old, and even kept a few of my valuables bundled in a handkerchief, tied to a stick a la vagabond, I never did want to ever leave home that way! This is the humorous side of my take away as a child.

Very early in life, I learned where to draw the line and also to distinguish which fantasies could be realities and which only made for good play-acting and dreaming.

Daddy didn’t advocate running away as a means to an end. His mistakes were youthful ones, made in haste and perhaps regretted bitterly in quiet moments. He never admitted it openly, but I can safely draw this conclusion from the way he guided me with lessons on #perseverance, #determination and going through rather than around. His main stress always lay on getting a sound education as the way to achieve one’s goals.

In the final analysis, Daddy had learned some valuable lessons from his #shenanigans and he passed these on to me. What I marvel at is the way he taught me; by recounting tales of his successes and mistakes. He never hid his escapades and neither did he conceal the negative outcomes. He blamed no one for the adverse consequences of his actions and gave credit, where due, for his achievements.

He neither denounced his actions nor praised them. He left it for me to work out. I had questions which he never fended, answering each honestly. I had to seek my own ‘Truth,’ he only showed me the way to the ultimate truth. From him, I have learned to live my life with courage and a firm belief in God.