Posted tagged ‘NY Times Lens Blog re Water’

Water Water Not Everywhere Nor Any Drop To Drink

March 22, 2010

Masterful Water Drinker

Today, March 22nd, is “World Water Day”.   The New York Times “Lens” blog posts a couple of photographs showing a very polluted-looking Yamuna River passing by New Delhi, and  a drought-stricken area of Orissa, in Eastern India, where the surface of the earth looks as cracked as an unrestored Old Master.

A U.N. report published today says that more people are killed by dirty water each year than violence.

It seems apt (to me at least) that photographs illustrating water issues are taken from India.   Everyone loves water, but I remember being struck on my first trip to India, almost (gulp!) thirty years ago, how particularly involved Indians were with it.  I was amazed, first, by how masterful they were at its consumption:  just about everyone I saw could hold a metal cup  of “panni” appreciable inches from their faces and still manage to pour every single drop inside their mouths in a seamless, non-choking arc.

Then, there was all the bathing.  Real or ritual baths seemed a major part of daily life.   Even very poor people, people who lived in the street, would sit down with a jug or tap, carefully working their portion of whatever water they happen to get over arms and limbs.  (Baths taken while semi-clothed are no less baths.)

Cans of water were kept ready by fruit and vegetable sellers to douse cucumbers or fruit salads, heightening their appeal with regular applications of glisten and dewdrop.

Sacred rivers were jammed, but even less important pools were active.  Boys cooled off, water buffalos watered, jugs filled, clothes, endless clothes, were scrubbed and twisted and thwacked.

I particularly remember Udaipur (Rajasthan), a city famous for its beautiful lake and, especially its lake palace (which is a famous hotel now, also the site of the James Bond movie, Octopussy).  I was touring something, a fort turned into museum, and heard through the thick walls the thump thump thump of what sounded like an immense heart.  (Dobis, washer women, pounding clothes by the shore line.)

I have been told recently that the lake in Udaipur is almost completely dried up (at least during major portions of the year.)   On a recent trip, I saw the Yamuna River (shown frothy with chemicals outside of New Delhi in today’s Times) shrunk to about half its former size as it passes the back of the Taj Mahal in Agra.   And some of those smaller bodies of water, pools outside towns and villages were scummy with a toxic bright green, edges clogged with polyurethane.   Do people still use this water?  What other do some of them have?

Shrunken Yamuna River behind the Taj Mahal