One woman’s treasure is...

When in

Water, water everywhere? So you think

However vigorous a campaign be, its success depends on the people.

Take, for example, the case of water conservation. There’s no dispute: water is divine; one has to spend it judiciously. But ‘how’ judiciously relies on the psyche of the user, and more so, on where she comes from.

I have a neighbour, a stauch supporter of water conservation, who was born and brought up in Chennai. My habit of taking bath twice a day itself shocks her:

“Why should you do that, aunty?”

My mumbling, “Because I am from Kerala, and because we have water,” doesn’t convince her, though.

This principled stand has put her in many a difficult situation. We shared the same housemaid. In fact, she had appointed the latter on my recommendation. After one week, my young friend made a surprise visit.

“Aunty, did Nagu tell you anything?”

“No.”

“Well, I don’t think she’ll remain with me for long. I am not happy, and neither is she.” I didn’t probe further; experience has taught me that time always reveals. It did. Two days later, Nagu announced in a dramatic fashion that she had quit. “Who can work with such people? Always telling you ‘don’t do this and don’t do that!’ was her explanation.

I got the full story from my neighbour herself. “She’s using so much water, aunty! How can one waste such precious resource! She should go and see how it’s in Chennai! They spend a fortune on water tankers! Nagu would keep the tap running all the time… can’t tolerate it.”

Water had put a wedge between them. I was impressed, though I couldn’t appreciate such fierceness even at the peril of losing one’s help. After all, this is not Chennai, I justify my stand to myself. There has been no water scarcity so far, and there has been no need for us to buy water on a large scale.

My young friend’s constant concern is about conservation while ours is more about consumption. There are about 30 families in our building and most of us grumble about not having enough water. We all naturally wanted Corporation water and were always clamouring for it.

My neighbour was thankful that she was getting at least clean, borewell water without any hardship. Not happy with the borewell supply, almost all of us are buying ‘packaged drinking water’ from McDowell’s, Aquarian, Bisleri or Kinley on a weekly basis.

Chennai has taught her otherwise. She RO-es the borewell water and uses it for even cooking and drinking, whereas most of us use it only for washing and cleaning. Her reason: “Not much difference between the two, aunty. Why waste water from the underground again and again?”

Not all seem to agree with her. “Do you mean to say that you are using the water from borewell for washing your hair?” My beautician friend, a Malayali to the boot, explodes. “No wonder your hair is falling so fast. If this continues, you will soon be bald and beautiful!” I look at her in consternation. She pats my head. “Don’t worry. You are buying mineral water anyway. Use it for washing your hair, too.” I can see my Chennai-born padosi in a faint.

One woman’s treasure is another woman’s trash.

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