Category Archives: Water Conservation

The Way It Is

I’m not going to say ‘only in India’.. but sometimes that phrase does feel appropriate and today.. well – I had interesting experiences at the carpentry shop!

We are in a big town called Nizamabad – staying at a lodge right in the middle of the market area.  The Deshpande Foundation conference is happening day after tomorrow .. and we have come for that.  I am happy – we have found a lodge which is not only cheap but also clean.  Joy.

So today after lunch downstairs – which got invaded by 12 Indian Ladies having a ‘kitty party’ and making an incredible racket while playing some sort of bingo type numbers game – we headed off through the street markets.  We were on our way to  supervise the building of a wooden model of the bore well recharge process.

The carpenter shop was a small structure filled up with bits of wood, and rough sawdusty chunks of shavings.  Out the front partially on the street lay the beginning of our ‘model’.

I asked Sikandar – ‘Do you have a drawing’ – he looked at me and grinned and said “Yes” but I immediatley knew the drawing was in his head!  He said pointing to the young man who was busy chiselling out a chunk from a board – “I transferred it to his head”.   And so he had.. and the model continued to grow.

I was given a chair and perched there between the shop and the fairly potent drain – played on my phone and watched proceedings.  The ubiquitous chai came – delivered by a small man who when I smiled and thanked him, broke open into a beautiful reply smile.

I caught that one in my head.. not on my camera!

But now its getting too hot.. the sun is sinking and the rays are full into the shop now – so .. the head guy picks up two of the hand made chairs – carts them across the road to a space – plonks them down and invites me and Sikandar to sit there.. across the street in the shade.

The perfect spot to view proceedings.  We sit there watching the passing parade who by the way are also watching us.  The weird foreign lady and her companion – sitting as though in their living room by the side of the busy road.

And the model grew and a couple of hours later it was declared complete and  a success.  Drawings or no drawings – it turned out the way it was planned.  Sikandar and I headed off to find me a new pair of sandals… another story.. for another day.


Miracles in Pathoda Village

Pathoda Village in Maharasthra India – has experienced miracles.

And while there yesterday I was privileged to witness three of them.

The first and most astounding happens nightly in a small corrugated iron house in this remote village. Here there is an altar dedicated to the late Satya Sai Baba where there are several big photographs of the holy man. When one of Sai Baba’s photographs suddenly began to produce copious amounts of vibhuti (holy ash) each night, the humble home was dedicated to the Master – and the family moved to another small place nearby. From that time, the small house, little more than a shed – became a shrine to Sai Baba and regular Bhajans (sacred singing) are held there.

Yesterday as we visited on our Road Trip for Water I saw for myself the clear evidence of the vibhuti almost covering the photograph of Sai Baba. There was plenty of it in a bowl as well, placed in front of the photo, freely available to any who wished to connect with it. During the lifetime of Satya Sai Baba this grey powdery holy ash used to fall from his hands.

This was the first miracle.

Drinking Tea at the Sai Baba Miracle House

The second involves water.

Two years ago – Sankalpa Rural Development Society did some work with recharging the dried up bore wells in the village. This work was funded by the Satya Sai Baba Trust, so also carried the blessing of Sai Baba. Sikandar Meeranayak of SRDS carried out the implementation of his technology together with some labourers and villagers.

The second bore well sprang to life

They worked on an almost dry bore well within the compound of the local Hindu Mandir (temple) and directed the rooftop rainwater run off through piping to channel it into an existing bore well. The village area has little rain, but what did come went directly into the aquifer below the ground through the bore well recharge. Until that time, the villagers relied on erratic water supply and expensive tanker water during the dry hot summer months.
There are 7000 people in this village – and today 1000 of those people are supplied by this now fully flowing bore well and here is the miracle.. just outside the fence – a second totally dried up bore well suddenly sprang to life – recharged by the very same system from the first bore well.

Village kids checking the fish in the holding pond

Another nearby bore well was also implemented with a recharge system – but until now the people have had no need to use that water – even though it brims close to the top as there is plenty from the first two which are producing well.

Close by, just outside the village of Bharangou a third bore well next to a small river was also recharged. This was done with the help of a check dam on the stream and is a briliant success giving heaps of water and the recharge has even affected the three nearby bore wells which began to produce much more water than before.

A miracle?  I certainly thought so!

The miracle baby calf.

And now for the third miracle.

This pure white calf just born appeared as a miracle to me – so sweet – so quiet, so clean. Is it not true that all babies born are miracles in their own right?

Pathoda – the village of miracles!

Evolution – or re-volution cometh – as it must…

I am taking the liberty of offering these words of wisdom from a friend and exceptionally well informed and thoughtful person Vishwanath Srikantaiah.  His writing and photography documenting the situation with the water crisis here in India is profound – please read and comment if you wish.  The facebook link to his photographs which accompany the  original post is here.


He said:

A way of life ends. It does so sometimes subtly, sometimes brutally . Rural India as I see it is in profound crisis. There is great hunger even now. Land reforms never really took off and much of the people are therefore landless labourers and small farmers. Especially in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh , Madhya pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and West Bengal. There is no living to be made in small farming and none whatsoever for landless labourers. NREGA (Government scheme for employing labour in the rural sector) was a salve and just that. The only escape route is the city , de-humanising, brutal and insensitive but all the young men have left , the young women will follow and the children too. Brazil went from 30 – 70 urban rural mix to 80-20 in about 30 years.

China is following perhaps not at the same pace and India too will follow. The industrialization-urbanization-make in India model , the 7.50 % GDP model.
Profound inequity, wealth in the hands of a few, ecological degradation , scarce resources and even scarcer opportunities , great swathes of people are moving – out of Syria, Libya , Yemen , Iraq, Afghanistan to avoid war brought about by either water as a resource running out or too much oil.

In India , the movement is relatively peaceful yet not as brutal. 40 million or thereabouts displaced by dams, mining and so it goes. Then the great dependence on groundwater. 33 million bore-wells pumping out 250 of groundwater , reaching depths of 2000 feet . When groundwater runs out , farming is simply impossible. Now the fight over river waters …inexorable the lure of the city and the desperation of the village.
Here are people, technologies and water struggling to remain relevant . In a span of 24 years liberalization of the economy has done what 5000 years of history had not done. The changes are profound and searing . We must get our cities to become more welcoming to the people who will arrive mostly in distress , mostly without a safety net , mostly working in the informal sector, mostly occupying slums .

There are 3 people whose idea of India is under test Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar. Gandhiji is losing . It is an Ambedkar victory through and through. ( )

Nostalgia is not what it used to be.

When I read his post I cried.

Is that helpful? No – I do not believe so.. but emotion is a real response and frankly unless at some point we feel the situation deeply enough to elicit tears, we are unlikely to act.  As Spiritual Teacher Andrew Harvey has said – out of heartbreak is born: “Sacred Activism – the fusion of the deepest mystical knowledge, peace, strength, and stamina with calm focused and radical action”.

My personal sacred activism takes the form of Service to Mother Earth and in particular that of bringing water.  This work has arisen from heartbreak as I looked around me with clear eyes and began to see what is really happening on our beautiful planet.

The heartbreaks do not stop – they come in waves – and will continue to do so until such time as we wake up and together initiate profound change in the way we treat our world and our neighbours and those who are members of this vast sea of humanity – all who are our brothers and sisters.

There are times when I feel the desperation of how may it ever be possible to stem the tide of the take-over by the corporations and the greedy and the manipulation of our lives at all levels – and I ask that painful question: “Why am I bothering to do what I do? What is the point of these infinitesimal actions against the power and the strength of those who would swallow our freedoms?” –  but deep inside me I know that each small action can initiate a ripple that spreads we know not where.  So I keep on throwing the pebble into the proverbial pond and trust that what I have been asked to do has meaning beyond all that I see.

So too I ask of you – take heart – know that you are only asked to do what is possible – never more – and know also that when you are on purpose and are clear in your actions, your work has meaning and power far beyond that which you see.  Don’t stop, don’t give up – hold the hand of your friends seen and unseen and move forward in gratitude and trust.

Our planet may choose for us – but change will come – the pendulum must swing – the laws of the Universe (and physics) will not allow this state of imbalance and destruction for very much longer.  Stay awake – for the change is close at hand.

Another world is not only possible. She is on her way.  On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.
– Arundhati Roy


Patience – a poem for Tirzada

Patience – learning in Tirzada.

Patience, relax, sit down, breathe,
it will all happen
in its own good time
western mind cool
western mind chill
western mind sink
sink into the soul
and ignore the rats of impatience gnawing at the wall

Laughter – the workers –
arriving late ..slouching in
ha – there is the mad foreigner
impatience hovering around her
ha – we will go at our good time
too hot
too heavy
too thirsty
worker head
almost stopping
standing to stare
watching each other
who will move first?
not me
not me
not me
oh perhaps I shall

ah the boss is yelling..
lets shift
a rock
a bag of cement
pick it up
help me
time for water


Mad Foreigner Chapter 2 – Gratitude

I am back in Australia.  I am almost over my culture shock! Finally I seem to have thrown off the layer of grief that I have been carrying around.  I can connect again with the joy and feeling of special privilege I have had working on this crazy dam project that we did in Tirzada.

Clearly this chapter has to be about gratitude.

Gratitude for the privilege that I was given daily of just being there.  The hospitality and generosity of so many of the villagers – who invited me into their homes  – offered chai  as their welcome to the village.

Thee villagers seemed to be honoured that I went to their home.. but the honour was all mine despite the over dose of chai!!

Gratitude for the simple pleasure of just sitting under the tree at the dam site .. on a rock that was made for my seat.  Yes – the men said:  “Oh be careful there are snakes” .. but each day I made ‘clumping’ noises as I entered that creek area and I figured the snakes knew I was there and they are generally shy so they didn’t bother me.

farmer ploughing his field with bullock
Ploughing the Field

And sure – there were plenty of moments all up and down the scale.  From complete joy and fulfilment to tears of frustration and grief.

The tough times when I had found out that some of the key players had ‘lied’ to me.. or at least ‘not entirely spoken the truth’.

I still grapple with whether that is right or wrong.. but in the bigger scheme of things – does it really matter?  When I step back from judging it – the people behind the ‘lies’ are only acting out of a sense of ‘this is the best thing to do.. some of the reasoning being – “Shazar doesn’t really need to know this.. she will only get upset!” 🙂 or otherwise – the ‘truth’ that seems best at the time.

Go figure!!

But all that said  gratitude is the overall feeling that remains.  How many people like me have the chance to spend three weeks in an Indian rural village.  Hosted by the most generous and loving family that I could possibly have wished for.  This family who opened their home and their hearts to me.

The food and care was wonderful. Their place was a little haven.  It was hot in Tirzada – but we came home each evening to fresh water in the bucket to wash the dust off,  treats in the form of ‘pepsy’ a small plastic pouch filled with an delicious orange cordial and frozen.  (You snip the corner off with your teeth, suck and enjoy.)   Or perhaps special fried things.. crunchy and tasty and of course always the cool water proffered immediately you arrived, followed by sweet strong chai in a small china cup.

The family I stayed with in Tirzada
The Generous Family Who Hosted Me

Rajendra, Amrapali and their three children took me into their small house as family. Not  the traditional cow dung and mud style house.  We were ‘up market’ with a concrete floor – fans, and even for the hotter times a big noisy rattle trap ‘cooler’ which blew air through a water soaked wall of fibre to cool the air.  This ran all night along with the fan .. also noisy – which was designed to blow any errant mosquitos away. My itches told me it didn’t always work.

Lady doing the family wash by hand
Amrapali doing the family wash

With three basic rooms in the house, – the kitchen – a small bedroom / dressing room – with one bed – and a general living area where we ate and five of us slept – where I as honoured guest – was given the day bed.  Each night Rajendra would spread the mattresses and bedding out for us all – and every morning he would pack it away again into a strorage area.

Scene of village street
The village street

In the early morning when I got up with the rest of the family I would take up a place on the front porch – to write and read and have quiet time.   Rajendra unfailingly came and asked me.. ‘Brush?” meaning .. have you brushed your teeth?  Quite a ritual for all in the morning – a vigorous brushing and often a clearing of the throat that to us foreigners sounds painful and distressing.   I was a little puzzled as to why Rajendra would ask me if I had brushed my teeth as if I was a child… until one day I realised – “Ah ha .. he is asking me because he wants to bring me chai”  and is checking to see if I am ready for that. What a sweet and wonderful man he is.  He cared for me so much as did his wife and his whole family.

And there is more gratitude for that time:  The quiet.   The bells of the cows, the bleating of the goats – the walk each morning to the dam site – through the village – smiles and calls of ‘Mam Mam” from the village kids, through the fields, and down into the small river to where the labourers were gathered – then the hours in my favourite spot under the shade of the water trees, sitting on a comfortable rock or lazing on the mat that they brought for me to rest on.   Writing – thinking, chatting to the boys and emerging every now and then to take some photos of the progress and the on going work.

Pace in the village is slow – people take time to say hello – people hug you – people are intensely generous – they have little – but would share the last with me – the mad foreigner who is building a dam.. for what?

They ask: “For us?”


“What is she getting out of it?”

me: Gratitude and Blessings.  and a learning about life that just fills my heart.