Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thirsty Throats and Water Woes of India

Some 15 years ago, as a small kid I saw my grandfather start a change. Moved by the plight of the heat stressed and water starved people of our native village, in the desert state of Rajasthan, he installed a water cooler from his pension money and hard earned savings. Closer, in the balcony of our home, he always kept a plate filled with water for the thirsty birds outside, never ever letting it go empty.

It is said that the things you see as a child are the ones that carve deep impressions on your mind eventually forming your character. It is true. Today, if there is one social issue that I feel for strongly, it isclean drinking water or the lack of it.
 

Lack of drinking water in villages and rural areas

In the course to development, one of the biggest hurdles that comes in the way of India is a rapidly worsening water crisis especially in the rural and tribal areas. The cruel blow of water shortage has struck a big chunk of the Indian population leaving a lot of villages in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and many other states reeling in pain. Rising population, a parched farm belt, indiscriminate use of water and natural calamities like drought have made water meager in some places and dirty in others. Either of these situations creates a crisis that is not only difficult to resolve but also aggravates with time.

To understand what I mean, walk in one of those drought-prone villages of India or better still, simply look at this visual.

Parched land and farmer in Village, India
(Image courtesy: ki-media.blogspot.com)

More than 700 million Indians do not have adequate sanitation,
let alone safe drinking water.

The consequences are there for all of us to see and ponder. Life for the villagers is a battle each day, plagued with a multitude of problems, significant amongst them being the lack of safe drinking water – a problem which threatens the very survival of the populace. It is disheartening to know that a glass of water which, for most of us reading this right now, is simply a few paces away is miles and miles away for many!

Women are left with no option but to trek long distances just to get that one bucket of water that would seemingly suffice their domestic needs for the day. And many times this is their only job, to collect water in the day and store it for their family! In Rajasthan, the desert state of India, a rural woman, on an average,  walks more than 14000 km a year just to fetch water. Slogging bare feet in the scorching heat over deserts traversing difficult terrains and jagged territories, these womenfolk paint nothing but a sorry picture. They live a life of utter drudgery yet make sure to hide this melancholy beneath a warm and welcoming smile. The harsh situation of water is best illustrated by a saying in Bundelkhand, a water stressed region in Uttar Pradesh,

Let the husband die but the earthen pot of water should not be broken.

Women facing water scarcity in villages of India - summer
(Image courtesy: http://wh2ojournal.com)

According to a U.N. report,
about 2.1 million children die every year, largely for lack of clean water.

The children aren't left behind either and get dragged into all this, often involuntarily. This directly impacts their pursuit to education and hampers their formative growth. They bunk their schools and classes, if there is one that is, and roam around with containers on their heads when all that they should be having are pencils in their hands and smiles on their faces.

This is how the entire vicious cycle starts with poverty -> lack of basic resources -> no time to learn -> unemployment and ends in poverty again. Trapped in this fold, a child is not only robbed of his childhood but is also effectively pushed into an uncertain future.

People in some regions are obligated to drink contaminated water from the same ponds and lakes that are being used by the animals and birds of the nearby forests and jungles. The epidemic of waterborne diseases are another curse of this crisis.

What the NGO’s are doing?

There are many NGO’s supporting this cause and one amongst them of which my mom is also a member is Narayan Seva Sansthan. Established in 1985, it is a non profit charitable organization rendering a heap of services for the needy, especially from the tribal belt. Amongst these services, is provision of water in the rural areas.

Here’s a look at the proposed solutions -
  • Installation of hand pumps and digging bore wells at proper places.
  • Researching more on water harvesting using various innovative techniques.
  • Construction of ponds and installation of water harvesting systems with the help of panchayats and other administrative bodies.
  • Collection of rain water that can prove to be of great respite to the natives when peak summer arrives before the monsoon.
They are trying to change the scenario. But change requires force and force requires people.

What can we do to reduce this crisis?


A lot! Remember that saying, where there is a will, there is a way? For starters, lets build ourselves through a strong resolve. A resolve of not wasting water.
  • Turn off those taps while not in use. Use the bathroom shower thoughtfully. Use the toilet flush only when necessary.
  • Fix your leaky taps.
  • Wash cars and bikes with a bucket of water and sponge instead of a hosepipe.
What's more, even the biggest hindi movie superstar Amitabh Bachchan has come forward and urged people to conserve water by playing a dry holi this year!
Amitabh bachchan tweet for dry holi

Remember, every drop counts. Who knows, the water you are saving today might be the source of life for someone tomorrow?

It’s true that the government and other administrative bodies need to do their part in implementing schemes and effecting solutions as well but let’s, for once, stop blaming them. Instead,
let’s just be a little more sensitive and rational and pledge to start the change with ‘I’ this time.

IndiBlogger has come up with an initiative called - IndiChange, Harnessing the collective power of blogging to fight evil – where we can join hands and show that we care. A day will come, all things we collected and treasured will be lost and passed onto someone else. Everything will shrivel to irrelevance one day. It will not matter what you owned and what you didn’t. What will matter are our deeds. So why not start sharing whatever God has given to us with the rest of humankind. After all, water is not a need nor even a demand, it is a basic human right, just like air! And if we are having the access to this right to life.. why not the others?

Even today whenever I get a chance to visit my native village, I make it a point to drink some water from my grandpa's water cooler. There is something in that water. It gives me positive energy. It gives me the inspiration to do my duty towards the betterment of the society.
It gives me, the strength to be the change...

I alone cannot change the world,
but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. 
~Mother Teresa

---------------------- X ------------------------- X ------------------------- X ----------------------

This entry is my effort to IndiBlogger's campaign - ISB iDiya for IndiChange - with  http://www.isb.edu/idiya/ under the topic -

Blog about any social cause you are passionate about, and its potential solution. If there are any inspiring people or organizations working towards solving it, blog about them as well. INR 30000 goes towards an NGO of your choosing!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Sayonara, Japan: A final postcard

It’s been long... almost 1 year since I came back from Japan and close to 7 months since I started blogging all about it. Today, 40 posts later, as I finally get down to drawing the curtains on this virtual journey of ours... there is a feeling of content and happiness but at the same time, there is also a strange feeling of parting that is hard to ignore.


The flight of time has done its job and today, I'm back in the busy sprawling metropolis I call my home, yet... a small piece of my heart continues to beat, loud and clear, for a sanctuary, some 4190 miles away from it all.


Seeped in silence and serenity, I know this sanctuary is there... waiting, to welcome me again with open arms, loving smiles and heartfelt gestures...


Oh, Japan! How I wish I could tell you, how much I miss you!


Love is not written on paper, for paper can be erased.
Nor is it etched on stone, for stone can be broken.
But it is inscribed on a heart and there it shall remain forever.
~ Author Unknown



Sayonara, Japan!

The Complete Japan Yatra Posts Compilation 

The complete Japan series saw nearly 40 posts spread over 7 months. To help easy accessibility and facilitate trouble-free reading, I’m packing all the posts in one place, here so that we have it all in one single place.

Before the trip – A contest post, winning it and planning the trip


The entire trip of 6 days in 36 posts

DAY 1: Flight to Tokyo, a visit to the Expedia office and night halt.


DAY 2: Exploring the city of Tokyo with a night view from the Tokyo tower.


DAY 3: Exploring Tokyo again, includes a visit to the ISKCON temple.


DAY 4: Transit to Nara through the bullet train, introductions to blogger friends and attending a tea ceremony.


DAY 5: Exploring the ancient town of Nara, includes playing with the deers (Night halt in Kyoto).


DAY 6: Exploring the various temples of Kyoto.


Day 7: Back to Mumbai


Thank You Everyone, for Japan!

A very special thank you goes out to IndiBlogger, my IndiFamily, You actually made this trip possible! Thank you, Expedia for sponsoring the trip and organizing it so well. Thank you, Nara bloggers for your amazing warmth and hospitality. And last but definitely not the least, thank you... ALL of you.

Japan, as a trip, would never have been mine if not for YOUR inspiration, love and support. My sincere and heartfelt gratitude goes out to each and everyone reading this right now, you have been the reason I've enjoyed every moment of this yatra, you are the one who made this so special for me. Thank you for all your good wishes and unconditional love, these are things I cherish most and always hope to have in all my future yatras as well.

Just a quick note

I am happy to share two humble recognitions that were accredited to My Yatra Diary... recently in addition to a travel feature. Please have a look -


Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Mount Fuji Moment in Japan

I loved Japan. But did Japan love me too?

In the 6 days that went by, Japan floored me. Completely. With it’s beauty, it’s artistry, its originality and it’s way of doing up things. And now the time had come to return back to my country, India.

The landscape outside had been consistent for a while with a thick fog of cloud cover underneath - white was all that my eyes could see. A
ll of a sudden, the clouds cleared giving way to an unusual tapering structure protruding out from the dense misty cover.

What was it?

Mt. Fuji - Japan

It was Mount Fuji - Japan's highest mountain
and the sacred symbol of the country!

Speechless, I gaped outside. At 3776 meters, Mount Fuji (or Fujisan) rendered a beautiful medley of all that Japan was - calm, composed, elegant, graceful and enigmatic – all in one single phenomena. It was such a beautiful sight to behold. I stared and stared, never blinking for a moment till I saw it no more. The clouds curtained it again, just a few moments of flash and poof! It was gone!

They say, you are really blessed if you can spot and get a clear glimpse of the generally shy Mount Fuji. Just like they say it for the Neelkanth Peak in the Garhwal Himalayas.

I loved Japan. And yes, Japan loved me too.


Friday, March 1, 2013

To all my Nara friends ~ With love

Nara in Japan was a different trip.

It was a different world, a small place – with a lot to see and even more to feel. It was about people, people who taught me how to be generous and trusting of strangers. They shared their breads, laughters, joys and stories with us. They allowed us to sleep on their beds while they slept on tatami mats on the floor. They walked miles braving the harsh sun just so that we could have meals of our choice.  They did all that, that made us feel at home when the only thing we had to offer were words like ‘Thank you’ and ‘That is very kind of you’.

This is an open letter to all those awesome people of Nara, my blogger friends who saw to it that my trip pans out exactly in the way I always imagined it to be, memorable and unforgettable.

------------------------------* ------------------------- * ------------------------------

Hello snowwhite, redrose, sarah, stardust (yoko) and cosmos,

How are all of you?

It's been almost a year since we met, but as I sat down writing one of my posts and thinking about all of you, I realized that all the lovely memories of the times we spent together have only gotten strong and more colorful today.

Snowwhite, thank you for being the eloquent guide to us... We enjoyed taking our tour with you. You patiently explained all about Japanese culture and history, about Buddhism and waited for me till I finished taking down my notes. It was fascinating to know more of the similarities in our concepts and cultures.

Redrose, whenever I remember you, your bubbly persona and energetic spirit pops up in my mind in no time.And yes, how can I forget your candy chocolates in the Todaiji temple, they were so tasty! After having them, we even bought some from Japan back home!

Together, we fed the deers and ran behind them, I remember how some of them were even pulling red rose’s bag in a bid to get something out of it. Haha.. It was fun, isn't it?

At Naramachi, though you both were yourselves tired and hungry and could have eaten at any place, still you chose not to. You left no stone unturned to find an appropriate eating place for us so that we all could eat together. Something that we highly appreciate.

Sarah and cosmos, the overwhelming memory of both of you standing with a placard of 'Welcome Arti' is very much still fresh in my mind. Those first moments had meant a lot to me, my first introduction to Nara, something I had been so anxiously waiting for. Thank you for giving me those moving moments of welcoming... they were, simply special. The placard coupled with your friendly smiles quickly drove away all the butterflies of anticipation and nervousness I had in my stomach and made me feel at home.

Yoko, sarah and cosmos, Thank you for the sumptuous and lavish spread you prepared keeping in mind our dietary preferences that evening. Though I apologize for being a bit fussy with my plate, but I relished all that I ate because it was prepared and served with a lot of love. To have it all in all your company was a thing of pleasure and deep honour for me.

Though all of you were years elder to me, but in your entire cheerful milieu, you were the ones who inspired me to be a child again, to shred my inhibitions and laugh, merrily and heartily. When I close my eyes I can still hear all our laughters, our giggles and soft conversations.. that was a truly memorable time all of us spent in each other's company, a home away from home and I thank you for that wonderful evening from the bottom of my heart.

Cosmos, It was a pleasure and a privilege to have gotten an opportunity to homestay with you. We’d like to convey our sincere thank you to you and your family for you'll were wonderfully warm hosts and we (both me and otousan) cherish the wonderful times spent in your loving company.

The only regret that I have carried back, if I can say, is not being able to make Indian chai for you. So that is something that remains due from my side to you once you come to India.

By the way, how is Koo? I can so imagine him shyly running away and hiding himself in one of those paper bags. Haha, how cute and adorable!

1 year on... the past is bearing down on me today. Under it's weight, I can see my window to the world of friends and friendship yawning awake. Behind it, a few muffled sounds of bonding laughters emerge from the mists of time. The peace and the quiet, the delight and the fun, the simple joys of life... ah! Thanks to all of you, Nara, for me, was, still is and will always remain - a world within a world.

I had gone there as a virtual friend but feel very much a part of family today. Arigatou Gozai mashita for everything :) and we sincerely hope to meet all of you one day... perhaps in India
once again.

The weather here has been getting warmer with each passing day, with day temperatures hovering around 25 degree cel., we are soon to step into the summers. Hope, Nara is doing pleasant.

A lot still remains to write, but will rest my pen until next time. Please accept warm regards from me and Otousan both.

PS: Please find attached an origami bird with this mail, my humble attempt while trying to utilize one of Yoko's origami paper, my gift :)

Take care,

Arti

My hand made origami bird, my priceless possession



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