Monday, September 19, 2016

Touched by Water: A water travelogue

Water Politics

They immediately caught my attention, not just mine, probably of all the people around in the boggie. This 'big' family, two coupé across mine were all happy and seemed to be on the merry ride. 
Another 'large enough' family, soon joined us and occupied the seat right behind mine. They were a group of serious looking people bound together for some family obligations. They were busy settling their books for the trip. 
The 'big family' , all in black, soon got busy sharing what they had packed for lunch. The limited settings of the second class compartment did not seem to limit the spread of the lunch. 
One man apparently in command of the company behind, stepped forward with an empty 'chaai' cup and extended it towards a girl in the other group, gesturing to pour some from the bottle of ' Bisleri' water she was drinking from. Though surprised, she poured some. He moved on to the open door of the train and threw the water as he washed the cup. ' How rude? said I, but to myself, and so did  the young fair girl's expression. My eyes were rolling around three foci; one the indifferent man; the surprised girl and then the pack of five or so bottles of 'Bisleri' water that was stocked by the girl's family on the overhead carrier. I was surprised of why did not they carry 'their own water' along with the grand spread they had with them. May be they had forgotten and then spent a hundred rupee or so to have 'their own water' in stock.
Interrupting my mind's wander, rather to my surprise, the man, with the washed cup, walked back to the girl and then.. extended the glass once again.
Perplexed was she as she poured a full glass of 'her own Bisleri water'. Quite indifferently, as if a word of gratitude was not due, the man walked away and fed the water to his kid. 
What happened next was magical, just to me, or may be to a few more ill/logical souls as mine. A lady in black, quite possibly the girl's mother, stared a glaring stare at the girl, as if she had done something insane. Not even a word spoken, more people in the 'big family' got involved, none spoke a word, but all seemed to have clear intentions. Taking it all, the girl, shy in nature, but now with conviction, walked up to the man and his family. She seemed to be in complete command now. She extended the 'bottle of 'Bisleri water 'and asked "would you like to have more?. "
Now perplexed was the man, but in a loving Kasarkode accent she insisted 'Ithu Vacholi'. 
The water now passed from hand to hand amongst the man's family, each of them taking a sip of it. The man's dilemma rose as the bottle passed on gradually losing its content and more importantly it's identity.-From 'their' to 'everyone's'. Reassuring him was the girl with a very satisfied smile and adding more to it came the comments, do not know from where; 'after all its water' and 'they have more water for themselves". 
Now, what am I doing in this train,
watching the water metamorphosis -from 'mine' to 'their' and then to 'everyone's'?. 
I have been rerouted changing from rail to road and then from road to rail, because out there 'they' were killing the 'others' because they took the water which was not 'their'
Good that I rerouted myself, as now I read Menu's, Ann's and Dhanya's Whatsapp messages that, "it's still not safe out there".
Well there"s more 'my own Bisleri water' left with me for the rest of the journey.

The Bottled Hospitality

 (picture courtesy: Painting by: Dhanraj Keezhara)

“The fingers of thirst wither away while probing for edible beans
And man seeks compassion in a devastated body
The earth's mouth opens wide as a begging bowl
"What a marvellous sight it is to watch your secular regimes wagging their tail!
You will draw water upstream
And we downstream
Bravo! Bravo! How you teach chaturvarnya even to the water in your sanctified style!”
Lines by Namdeo Dhasal, translated from Marathi -Paani- by Dilip Chitre