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My Indian summer water duties!

When I think of summer, I think of the many “water duties” that one had to endure during hot and humid months while growing up.

The water cooler needed to be filled more than once a day. The plants needed to be watered twice a day too. As for the drinking water bottles, they needed to be refilled every now and then. When I think of summer, I think of the many “water duties” that one had to endure during hot and humid months while growing up.

Do you recall the time of fun squabbles with siblings over such duties? As much as I dreaded that silly allocation — and the haggling that followed — of these chores, I loved how, during those months, we collectively, as a family as well as a community, focused on that humble essential: water.

The clamour started early in the morning as adults at home worried over whether the rationed water for the day would flow in the tanks. Neighbours gathered on staircases, parks, and markets to discuss the responsibilities of the municipality. Inevitably, it ended with the president of the Residents Welfare Association calling for private water tankers for the community. Everyone paid up for their share of water—after some genuine complaining— and the discussions ended for the day, only to be continued the next morning.

As children, we learned how demand and supply worked. We were advised to be careful: fill up the bucket beforehand, say no to showers, take tap baths only, and stay alert to switching off the motor (the one that pumped the water from the underground water tank to the overhead one) to ensure zero spillage and more. It takes a village to raise a child but it takes a neighborhood to save water. This was true then and is truer today

On returning home from school, we knew that if we needed cold water to drink during the rest of the day, we had to filter the water and refill all the bottles. And so we started by gathering the many water bottles scattered all over the home and then patiently waited for the water filter to do its work—and yes, it worked at quite a low speed. Empty ice trays were another item that awaited us—the one task that involved precision. Filling up the tray with water isn’t an easy task, and placing it in the freezer without spilling is tougher. I am sure you know that if you’ve done it as a child.

How the water cooler emptied out so fast was something I never understood. The time spent unrolling the hose pipe to fill the cooler and then keeping a close eye on it filled was another responsibility that I shared with my sibling. We didn’t like it that much because once the hose pipe was out, Dad asked us to start watering the plants! And just like that, we ended up spending another hour attending to the pots lined up on the balcony, staircase, and even terrace. And in the process, even though we tried hard to avoid it, we created a mess of puddles on the terrace.

The evening ended with our thirst quenched as we patted ourselves for acting grown-up, ensuring that there had been no wastage, and managing the perfect utilization of resources. The next day, we did it all over again, and again—until the autumn breeze flowed in.


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