Water Conservation: the ‘Marwari’ Way

“Will a village go thirsty? You decide,” is the catch line of a Hindustan Unilever Limited corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative on water conservation. The video, available on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5npuHpHDLE0) conveys a strong message, at least to those who care. The message––as well as the graphics (in the end)––that leaves a lasting impression reads: “start a little good.”

Another video (one of the many), doing the rounds is about the water crisis in Cape Town last year: “Cape Town Is 90 Days Away From Running Out of Water” by Aryn Baker January 15, 2018  (http://time.com/5103259/cape-town-water-crisis/).

Videos of this ilk have the power to scare the heavens out of the timid and make the well meaning sapiens wonder, “What can be done to avert the scary situation?” Needless to say, doomsday is not round the corner; but would be knocking at the door soon enough, unless the wake-up calls are responded with concern.

As is often the case, the well-meaning-and-the-concerned on the social media point (and rightly so) at what South Africans did to overcome the crisis. Others direct the gaze at what the Israelis do to make the best use of their limited water resources and to conserve them. It is perfectly fine to emulate the best practices from wherever possible. Of course, copypasting water management techniques from other parts of the world would require certain amount of tweaking to suit our conditions.

How about looking at and learning from people and communities within India who are known to manage water efficiently? The canvas is large. Here is, but one, simple example to illustrate the possibility.

Marwaris of India are known for their thrift. A typical Marwari of yore (say, half a century ago) used to take only as much food as he would want to eat. He would rather take a second helping than waste even a grain. He would wipe his plate (thali) with the last bite of roti. He would then rinse his thali with a quarter of a pint of water and drink it––leaving his thali sparkling, literally. Normally he would also have a grandchild (or two) sitting and eating from the same thali. The person designated to clean the utensils would then scrub them using the dry ash from the hearth (chulah). The utensils would then be wiped with a clean cloth to remove all the ash. One could term the process: Dry Cleaning. Very little water would be used to rinse the utensils just before being put to use again.

Those who find this idea of drinking the water used for rinsing the thali repulsive would appreciate that this used to be the situation in villages where the ladies had to travel miles in the hot sand to get water for all the needs of a typical household.

Straying away from the Marwari for a bit. Reportedly, a thirsty Yasser Arafat drank his urine once, when his aircraft crashed in the Libyan Desert and he could not be found and evacuated for long hours. Recently, Marcelo Balestrin, pilot of a crashed Brazilian aircraft, survived similarly.

Desperate times demand desperate measures.

What can a conscientious sapiens do when times are not (so) desperate? The answer is simple: Do what a Marwari of yore would do if he were to travel in a time machine and be with us today––use water as if it were the last sip one had.

Here are some very simple tips––a drop in the ocean:

  • Use least number of utensils while cooking/ eating food, and wipe them clean with a (used) tissue before depositing them in the sink. Rinsing/ cleaning them before they dry up would save water.
  • Use a single tumbler to drink water through the day; every glass deposited in the sink adds to requirement of water.
  • Children returning from school could empty their water bottles into the flowerpots or flowerbeds rather than throwing the leftover water into the kitchen sink.
  • Bathing (or washing a car) with water from a bucket consumes far less water than from a running shower (or a hose).
  • Send clothes, towels and sheets to laundry when they need cleaning rather than after each use. Hotels have already begun making a similar suggestion.
A Marwari knows the true worth of water

This, last one, might sound bizarre: ‘Bathe if, and when, you must––not daily or twice a day as a matter of habit.’ I know a person who was so genuinely concerned about water conservation that, for last seven years of his long and meaningful life, he stuck to sponge bath… only when necessary. His skin was glowing when he passed away (at 93), and his body was offered to a medical college as per his last wish. He would have been a role model for Hindustan Unilever.

He was a Marwari. He was my father.

16 thoughts on “Water Conservation: the ‘Marwari’ Way

  1. You have certainly driven home your point at the end of the write-up.

    All your suggestions on conserving water on a daily basis acquire a different dimension of importance, coming from one who has obviously been used to the concept from childhood.

    Like

  2. Very beautifully written and concluded life lessons from an indian father. Yes my grand father still finishes his food the same way you illustrated.

    Like

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