Mom and child. Drinking water storage at a Chai tapri, Parla.
Drink a glass of water, neat.
10 years back, a copywriter friend who used to write ads for a bottled water brand told me that when you are trying to sell a bottle of water to an Indian housewife, the biggest problem is telling her that the water she boils everyday for her family, fills in the water bottle her children takes to school, is not safe to drink.
Crores have been spent since then to push bottles and cans of bottled water and many mothers who can afford it have moved to these packaged water brands or at least consider ordering a Bisleri when they visit a restaurant. The rest have bought water filter of the kind that fits their tight pockets.
Water stored in steel pots in a fisherman's home on Madh Island
The water in each place has its own taste. One thing that I’ve realised is that the tap water that the BMC supplies in Mumbai is one of the tastiest I have had. However, the water that is supplied by water tankers in Mumbai do not come anywhere close in taste because they are mostly from bore wells. But the taste would be considered divine for anyone from the Deccan Plateau where water usually tastes from bad to the bizarre.
The water in each city and village has its own taste, salt and suspended particles . However, the most colourful water I have seen flowing from the tap was not in the plateau but from a part of India that recently rose from the sea - Bhuj in Kachch. It had the colour of heavily watered down Sol Kadi.
The water story of Bhuj is one of the most unique in India.
Read the The 16th Century Water Harvesters of Bhuj.
Also, wherever you are, look for places where the water is stored. From Gujarat to Kerala the new Indian standard for storing water is blue chemical barrels. They line the streets in crowded localities and occupy most of the bathroom or rooms in larger homes.
The following image is from the city of Malegaon in Maharashtra. This is a typical malegaon home with three generations of water storage barrels - metal, concrete and plastic.
The next time you travel someplace away from home in India, taste the water that the people of the place drink every day,ask them where it comes from and who knows what interesting trivia you will learn about the place!
These pigeons get their daily dose from the water that drips from an air conditioner.
How to wake up a person with a water pipe.
Water is also the largest cause of insomnia is the country and in Mumbai. More than half the population of India receive water between midnight and 5 am, not every day and never at the same time. Ghosts will never have a chance in Mumbai chance where queues of pots and when the tanker arrives, people can be found at all unearthly hours filling water.
In Bangalore it’s worse and I don’t blame the residents for doing this puja. But it’s better than having riots like they did in the early 90s over water.
Water Pipe Puja- Ashok Nagar, Bangalore.
This post will not be complete without mentioning Mangesh Someshwar, who works Ogilvy Mumbai. He does not remember the last time he drank a glass or bottle of plain water. It's always a cola or water with some such additives. Mumbai main aise bhi log hote hain. And I'm not kidding.
Suggested reading: Nithya Jacob's Jal Yatra