by Padmaja Menon
It was terrible. There was hardly a trickle of water in the taps.
Mrs. Chandra could not believe it. Oh dear, what could have happened? She had been in that area for the past 2 years and so far had not had to face a water crisis. And to be made aware of the shortage at the eleventh hour. She should have been more careful. Now what could be done? Her children would be home soon. And first they would rush to the bathroom. Oh, dear, may be the sump
(underground water reservoir) would have some water. She should be able to lift some water.
The recent power cuts and short supply of corporation water should have warned her impending water shortage. She should have realized something was wrong when her servant had asked her for water to carry home. Also her neighbors had taken water from her. What a dumbo she was! Wearily she raised the sump lid and her heart sank, sank as low as the water level! At the most she would get two buckets. Anyway that would temporarily solve matters. And if in the evening corporation water came, fine. Otherwise?
The children wasted such a lot of water when they brushed, tap would be running, when they bathed shower would be continuously running. Oh, so many times she had warned them but they had been nonchalant. Now what would they do?
She went out and saw women carrying plastic “kodams” something like “matkas” and running hither and thither in search of water. It seemed that for the past three days there had been no water supply – only those with sumps had survived. It was all in the papers too. Didn’t you know? Power shortage – so no water pumping etc. How long it would go on? No idea!
A dejected Mrs. Chandra cooked some lunch and waited till the children came. She explained the situation to them and patiently listened when they let out a tirade of accusations at her. “Keep on supplying to the “mohalla” and now what will we do? Who will give us water?” asked Rashmi, the wise one. Rattan remembered how many times Mom had asked him to save water. And he had not listened. He would just stand under the shower for hours together. He would keep on washing his cycle with more water than necessary, he had even tossed water all over the walls of the bathroom, just for fun. Rashmi also had similar thoughts in her head.
That day they managed somehow with the two buckets. They did nor bathe. Mom did not wash clothes either. The rabbits were given only a pot of water. Their hutch could be washed later. Some water had to be saved for the next day from the two buckets!
The next day, a holiday, found Rashmi awake at dawn, she was peeping into the sump. No water. The meant, anther dry day. Mom was desperate. She decided to go over to one of their relatives and spend the day there. After bath and lunch they returned with a bucket of water. As a safety measure. But that day also there was no supply of water. Next morning the servant had no water even to wash vessels. Mom asked her not to come till water came. But Pattamma said she would manage some water from a bore well. So within an hour Pattamma and her daughter trooped in and out with three four kodams of water, finished their work and left behind two kodams of water for emergency. “You have always given me water Amma, I can’t forget that.” said Pattamma. Mom looked at her children who looked abashed.
“At least today we should have come water” predicted Pattamma when she left.
The rabbits were also looking sorry for themselves by mid afternoon. The heat was unbearable. The fan was on at full speed, the children sprawled on the floor reading when suddenly Rattan jumped up. He had heard the sound of water. “Mom”, he screamed. Mom came running. The children were lifting the lid of the sump. And sure enough, water, a thin trickle but water oh heavenly water was falling!
“Hooray, at last –at last,"-yelled the children thankfully. The rabbits hopped up and down. Mom sat down heavily –in relief. She hoped that the problem was solved.
“I will bathe first” said Rattan hopping with the rabbits. “OK, get ready soon, we will celebrate today” smiled Mom.
“Good old Mom” cheered the children and laughed when Mom chided “old? Who is old?”
They hugged her tightly and rushed to get ready. Mom was pleasantly surprised to find them ready in a trice. No lingering or singing in the bathroom. No wastage of water either. May be her children had learnt their lesson – the hard way. Oh well, every cloud had a silver lining. And may be the past troubled week had been worth it. She was sure of it when they knocked at the bathroom door and cautioned her “Mom don’t waste water. Fill up the bucket and mug and use water from that and not directly from the tap. OK!!! Well…. Well……"