When I learnt to practice what I preach…

Last week all of us went for our family vacation to our village in Himachal Pradesh – a village called Chachian in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. My father – in- law, now 76 years old, lives there alone.The village is beautiful – and our home – even more so. Our home – a small cottage on the mountain slope, is on the fringe of a forest of pines through which you can see the snow capped mountains.  All sorts of animals, birds and insects stroll in at all times – scorpions, large spiders, chameleons, moths of a hundred types, beautiful birds, grasshoppers in green, blue, red and yellow, ladybirds, mongoose, snakes even wild boars and panthers! (Do check out some pics here…)

But even in this idyllic hamlet, the spectre of Water Scarcity did not leave us. Piped water supply in the village has always been poor, but, to my horror, we did not get a drop of water for 5 continuous days in my holiday week! We needed water for drinking, cooking, cleaning of vessels, home, bathing, washing clothes and toilet – I just didn’t know how we’d manage!

….But I did manage…by practicing the Water Wisdom that I talk about so much….

Unlike here in Delhi, where one type of water serves all needs, I realized I could reduce the effort required to fulfill all water needs by using different types of water for different needs.


So I started grading the water sources. Grade A was clean potable water (at least visually!) There were only two sources for that – branded bottled water from the shops and water from a‘bawadi’ (a miniature step well where groundwater percolates up to the surface and then flows as a stream) about 1 km from home.Grade B was clean water, but its potability was doubtful. This was rainwater from the rooftop or water from a ‘khudd’ -mountain stream flowing nearby or from another bawadi closer to home where the water was slightly muddy (the bawadi was drying up). Grade C was water from a Kul’(Click here to watch a ‘kul’ in action!) flowing in our backyard (a smaller rainwater channel that carries rainwater quietly down the mountain slope and finally empties into the ‘khudd’. (The ‘kul’ water is usually used for irrigation. Till last year this Kul’s water would have been grade B but its quality has deteriorated now). Also water that had been used once – like for washing clothes, washing vegetables – was Grade C water

For each of these 5 days, we got bottled water for drinking ( Am ashamed – we behaved like NRIs! The rest of the village drank water from the bawadi). We drank straight from the bottles to avoid leaving ‘undrunk’ water in tumblers. And to save water needed for washing tumblers. For all cooking, washing of vegetables etc, my husband huffed and puffed and brought back 1 bucket of water a day from the Bawadiabout a km away. For washing of vessels, bathing etc he brought 2-4 buckets a day from the mountain stream or the bawadi that was nearer home.


(There used to be a handpump giving saline water near the house but it had dried up because the village upstream had installed a motor in their handpump. For the first time in my life I knew what it felt like to hate motors !) I learnt how to bathe in 1 quarter of a bucket and my husband in half. My daughter junked the idea of bathing all together and I learnt to live with oily, unwashed hair for four days! (My vanity didn’t suffer too much because my hair was always covered with my dupatta anyway!) I also learnt the virtues of being prompt – if you washed vessels immediately after having food, you needed very little water and absolutely no detergent to clean them. Washing of clothes was postponed – if water supply was not restored, we decided that like professional dhobis, we’d tie clothes in a bundle and take them to the stream for washing. Grade C water from the kul – that was most conveniently located – was used for flushing the toilet. So, thankfully, going to the loo was a luxury we did not have to surrender! The same water was also used for mopping the floor.

It was serious deprivation but it also gave us great moments of fun and…. beauty tips. One day while washing a milk vessel, I remembered reading that milk was a skin cleanser. The next few minutes were a riot – with me chasing my terrified daughter and husband with that milky water trying to get them to do a Cleopatra bathing act! Also, after 5 days of soap free bathing (if any!), our skins were all shining bright like the morning star!

The best was when it rained on the 5th day. By that time we had learnt our Water Wisdom lessons and had felt the pain of the ‘Walk for Water’ of the rural women. Counting every drop of water is an exhausting task!

So when it rained, we went berserk! First we pulled out every spare bucket and vessel and placed them strategically at the points where water from the rooftop was falling – Rainwater Harvesting for direct usage

Then, in a flash of brilliance, I realized I could wash Daddy’s clothes in the rain! So my daughter became the umbrella holder, my husband the cheer leader and I the chief washer woman. Every once in a while my father in law would peep out, look worriedly at all of us like we were a bunch of deranged monkeys and rush back in when he could not bear the sight any more! I wet the clothes in a pool of rainwater, my daughter soaped them, I scrubbed them and then we just hung them on the clothesline and let the rain rinse them automatically! In the process I also washed my hair and got a natural pedicure / manicure!

…But the flip side of the story ….a beautiful village with an ugly water shortage ; the inhabitants of the Himalayas that give India its rain – living without water….

The scarcity I lived with, taught me Water Wisdom.

But power blinded cities like Delhi, that suck in water from the mighty mountains and villages with tubewells, that suck out water from the depths of the earth – how will they learn? Do we need to impose Water Scarcity on them or should we just wait for the eventuality when our foolishness brings it on ourselves?


Pray for those who are suffering

Pray for those who are suffering

Jyoti Sharma, President FORCE posted this in Environment Protection, Jal Rakshak, Uncategorized, Water Wisdom on September 22nd, 2010

Oh God! I’m feeling miserable!



It’s 12.30 in the night, as the rain pours incessantly, suddenly the sight of those black polythene sheet covered hutments that I had seen just last week, flashes across my eyes. In my mind I saw the old man telling me about daily wages in UP,  the young kids playing around and begging to be photographed , the goat chewing placidly and the young men teaching us how to steal the pavement hand-rails…..and suddenly it hit me…….this was a tragedy I was watching unfold.



I remembered that long unending row of polythene sheet rooftops flapping in the wind – on the bank of the floodplain near Mayur Vihar. I remembered those thousands of the city’s poor trying to somehow hang on till the Yamuna let go of their homes on its river bed…….and it scared me. I wonder how they are coping right now – with the river lapping at their feet and the rain drumming on their heads.



I love the rain…….I respond to it like a flower does to dewdrops. It energises me, excites me, makes me feel satiated…..And yet, today, when I remember those faces, I  find myself torn between my love for the rain and fear of the havoc it has created.



Today, I feel the fear of someone who has nowhere to go. I am now sitting in my bed  cuddled up with my family, praying with all my heart that all those I love so much, should never have to face such trauma.



So my delightful rain, and my beautiful river, it breaks my heart to say this –  but please, please will you go away? You’re angry, I know…..but must you make the poor innocents suffer? They are as much victims of greed & apathy , as you are. Take care of them, my dear …for they share your fate.



Jal Rakshaks – let’s pray for an end to this suffering.  And, when many honest hearts cry out for God’s help – with their prayers – He cannot help but answer.



Wherever we are, at 2 pm everyday, let us all take 2 minutes out to pray – and ask God to placate Nature’s fury.



Don’t forget – 2 pm – let us all rise and pray.



…… and tell all  those around you to do the same



Take Care


Jyoti Sharma, FORCE

My dearest Chulbuli Pandey – a letter to the Yamuna river in flood


Jyoti Sharma, President FORCE posted this in Civic Planning, Environment Protection, Uncategorized, Water Management, Water Wisdom on September 14th, 2010

My dearest Chulbuli Pandey,


Aah! Yamuna meri jaan – kya dabangg cheez ho tum ! Ekdum se aisa jhatka de diya, ki sab ko hilaa kar rakh diya!  Kyun chhamiya – itna gussa kis baat ka ??


Like Shahrukh ‘Don’ Khan’s ‘Junglee Billi’ –  in one fit of anger you’ve demolished all delusions we had about being your masters!


We thought we’d tamed you – we Zero sized you, by damming you up; weighed down your frail body by dumping all our kachra in you – and sat happily in our ivory towers thinking – bhookhi billi kya panja maregi??


Your long time, and some part time, lovers shouted themselves hoarse  trying to warn  us. They said, “ She might look emaciated and incapable of even looking after herself, but don’t forget – she’s basically a big boned woman! The day she gets a proper city woman’s diet of double the dose she actually needs – she’ll plump out nicely. She’ll spread out of the little black dresses, you’ve been force-fitting her into, to embarrass the living lights out of you !”


They told the honble judges and the honble leaders and the honble babus, that you’re not so honble… and so you need a big bed to sleep on. They  pleaded and fought and drove all the know-alls, bats, with their antics to stop anyone from sitting on your bed ! But the honble types looked on pityingly, and said – “ pyaar mein paglaa gaye hain bechare. Bolne do – inke dil ko sukoon milega. Phir bhool jao – apna apna kaam karo”  So they sat on your bed in droves – the unwanted poor of the city; the much hunted, but never found, Gods; and an entire city that came up for sportsmen who – now – would give away their gold medals to be anywhere but in this spanking new city!


Ok…ab samajh mein aaya – tujhe gussa kyun aaya – Tere aashikon kaa mazaak jo udaya ! Tabhi tune socha,, “chal bachchoo ek baar zara izzatdar logon ko, thodi beizzati ki jhalak dikha doon.” So first you put on all the weight you could – became this well-fed, poorly exercised, rich city woman- and then….you sat on your bed! You sat your big fat backside on all those who thought your bed was available for all.


Arre meri kadakti bijli – ab toh sab ko set kar diya hai na tune! Tere dar se aaj kal Chief Minster ko neend nahi aati – tu zara phailti hai, toh woh bahut sikudtin hain! Aur to aur aaj kal sare honble babu, Walkie Talkie, le kar ghoomte hain – tu aur chaudhi hokar, saari duniya ke saamne unki izzat ka aur falooda na kare, is dar se, teri diet par minute minute ki khabar rakhte hain !


Chal yaar, ab gussa thook de. Bahut dukhi hain bechaare. Hum bhi tere aashik hain puraane – zara hamari bhi sun le!


So, hello there…. all you honble types – how’bout striking a barter – Chulbuli Pandey has agreed to save you from international disgrace….. will you now, give her back, what is RIGHTFULLY hers?? .


Jyoti Sharma

The Annual Monsoon Mess – Can we do something to prevent this?



Jyoti Sharma, President FORCE posted this in Environment Protection, Jal Rakshak, Water Management, Water Wisdom on August 20th, 2010

Dear Jal Rakshaks


Indians down the ages have celebrated the first showers of the Monsoon rain. It brought with it the promise of a bountiful yield, joy and prosperity all around. It has been a major source of inspiration for Indian folklore and creative arts.  Even today, it has the power to make or break governments and economic indices in India.


From time immemorial, the monsoon has been coming every year – and yet it always seems to catch us unprepared. Infact, it seems that planning for the monsoon excess was better in the ancient times than it is now!


Today, monsoon reports are all about water logging, traffic jams, floods and droughts – the pleasure and poetry of this life giving rain is all gone!


It’s time for some honest introspection. Who is to blame – the government, the people, God or all us ??


Ultimately, it is us …the citizens…who suffer.


What do you think, we can do, to save ourselves from this misery ??

Click on the URL below to join in the Facebook group discussion on ‘ The Annual Monsoon Mess – Can citizens do something to prevent this?’


Did you read the newspaper today?


Jyoti Sharma, President FORCE posted this in Jal Rakshak, Water Management on June 14th, 2010

Did you read the newspaper today?

There were 2 articles that caught my attention—one was the  shutting down of water supply from UP to Delhi by 10,000 protesters in Ghaziabad to force the government to accept their demand for reservation ( Complete Story )


The other was a ‘Water Donation’ drive by residents of different localities in NOIDA and Delhi. ( Pg 8, Delhi Times TOI June 14, 2010 ). Residents ‘donated’ atleast one litre of water each which was collected in a mini-tanker and distributed in nearby slums.


The first was a bolt of thunder—to jerk us out of our complacence. A rude assertion of Water as a political Force , a blackmailing device….exposing the extreme vulnerability of a powerful city to an odorless, colorless liquid.


FORCE has been espousing the Gandhian model of ‘ WATER SECURITY’  – where every locality, village, district , city , state & Nation is sustainably self-sufficient in its water requirements. Each must create its own unique formula of demand supply balance that minimizes its dependence on external sources of water. Hopefully today’s protest will galvanize us all into immediate action on this.


The second article was diametrically the opposite of the first. This was a group of well provided for citizens who empathized with the water needs of the not so fortunate. They saw water as a Gift of God to be VOLUNTARILY SHARED with all.


As its scarcity increases, water is becoming like Nuclear Power—in the right hands, it can be life giving; in the wrong, it can cause unparalleled misery. It is up to us now to decide the direction our lives will take.


Take Care …..Jal Rakshaks…….SAVE WATER, SHARE WATER

When Water Hyacinth Becomes A Visual Delight !

When Water Hyacinth Becomes A Visual Delight !

Jyoti Sharma, President FORCE posted this in Jal Rakshak on June 4th, 2010

Dear Jal Rakhsaks,  Advisors & Partners



Yesterday, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, came to the Neela Hauz lake to check on the status of its revival.  She walked around, peeped over the flyover’s handrail and said – this looks nice and green. But where’s the water?



The water was under the ‘nice and green’ – the hyacinth that was choking the lake! When she was told this, she took a snap decision – “till the Commonwealth games, don’t touch the area -let the hyacinth be – atleast it makes the area look green. Let DDA make its detailed revival plans and then work on it.”



…..And with that one pragmatic statement – made for the visual pleasure of people who couldn’t care less for us – she condemned the living lake to another year of slow asphyxiation.



Then she looked around, a little puzzled, and asked to be driven around to look for something –“ a lovely curving road that went through the jungle. “



We tried to tell her that this bridge had been made to replace that same road. She refused to believe it – till, we showed her the google map, with that lovely winding road; and then drew on that map the new bridge cutting across the heart of the lake.



I cannot forget the expression on her face, as realization finally hit home. A mishmash of regret, genuine loss, helplessness but stoic acceptance….



Dear Madam CM, can I ask you a question ? Can we really right a wrong that has been committed? Can we ever give back to the Neela Hauz, and others like it, its innocence, and pristine, untouched calmness?



I remember, many moons back, dragging along the then Deputy Commissioner of Vasant Kunj to the Neela Hauz.. I made him stand on a DJB pipe cutting across the lake – in the hope that seeing such an oasis of peace in this concrete desert, might arouse in him, the desire to protect its innocence.  I do not know whether he tried, but if he did not, I’m sure that when he sees the lake today, the memory of that moment will come back to haunt him.



The Neela Hauz will live… but as a sad shadow of itself. A symbol of the uneasy truce between man and nature. Does it have to be this way??



Jal Rakshaks, on World Environment Day tomorrow, let’s take a pledge… To create a society that re-learns to live simply, in harmony with all other God’s creations. Where destruction is a function of need – not of an unbridled desire to conquer all.



Jal Rakshak Advisors & Partners, It was one stroke of a pen that sanctioned this Neela Hauz bridge – and condemned the lake to a slow death. With just one stroke, you can destroy… or preserve forever!  So, will you take a pledge too – to always listen to the silence of nature before making that stroke??


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