Tag Archives: water

Don’t drink the water – on your first day back!

Being sick in a different land has its own challenges.  A wretched persistent UTI coupled with a dose of Hubli well water runs.. mmm.

Sometimes I am glad of the medical world.  Despite my gung ho attitude about all things pharmaceutical at most times.  Tonight after a day of being pretty much flat on my bed, Umesh – our young accountant from SRDS (where I am working) organised a trip to the Dr for me.  First, he took a token – Number 30 – at the doctor’s clinic around the corner.  The one who’s office waiting room is always overflowing.  An hour later he went back to see how things were progressing. There had been no progress and the Doctor, in fact, had not arrived as yet.  The crowd was even greater than usual.  “Come back at 9,” they said (it was 6.30) so he traipsed to 4 other clinics in the area – all were either not there or similarly packed.

“Ah but let’s try Dr Nayan the lady doctor.”

We hopped on the bike – me a little gingerly – tucking my long Indian style overshirt up so as not to get caught in the wheels and set off in search of this highly recommended lady doctor.

The waiting room was lit by a bright light – two rows of plastic chairs facing each other.  A drug company calendar on the wall, a big notice pinned to the door warning of the dangers of breast cancer.  And a small tasteful drawing of a lady holding a baby gently – with a sign which said “Save The Girl Child”.

After some time the door opened and a pretty woman in a bright sari – Ashwini – ushered me into the Doctor’s office.

Dr Nayan was a gem.  An older lady who had been practicing in that tiny clinic for 32 years.  She questioned me with interest about my purpose here – congratulated me on doing the work ‘at my age’  and gave me a thorough examination on her narrow bench.

Toward the end her husband arrived – (a Pediatric Doctor) we were duly introduced and he expressed great interest in our work of rainwater harvesting.  I should have given him a card – sometimes we forget simple connections like that.

Duly laden with pills and potions in a nice enviro bag I paid Dr Nayan the huge sum of
Rs 410 – less than $10 for a consultation that I was entirely satisfied with.  She has made a fan.  I know where I shall go if I need a doctor another time.

We rode back home – bananas and curd (yogurt) for dinner followed by my first dose of pills.

Work fast please – I have work to do.  And yes right now it is time to rest.

(Update two days later.. better.. rested.. ready for work tomorrow.)

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 cu.km. 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. (http://www.allresearchjournal.com/archives/2016/vol2issue6/PartF/2-6-32-147.pdf )

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


After the storm

Storm clouds gathered, the winds picked up and then the rains battered the windows of my soul.  Release came with the emotional rains – an outpouring that was delivered to those I felt may hear me.  And they did.. and the energy began to reverse and flow back toward me …

This week has been a special one for me.  I found a place in myself where I could no longer hold back and allowed myself to say what was in my heart and in the pain that I was going through.  The results for me have been almost overwhelming.  I felt from so many, so much support care and love .. it affirmed deeply my being.. not only what I am doing but also who I am here.  It affirmed that whatever I do .. on whatever track I place my feet that when I am true in myself .. open and honest – I have friends in many corners of the world.

Some were able to give support in a financial way – that was so very welcome – some wrote heartfelt notes to me – and some simply sent me energy in a way I could feel without any actual connection.  The wave of energy lifted me up – and sent a fire through my actions.

Everything shifted direction and moved.

As a result – our water supply is back on track at the kids shelter, we f inally have built the incinerator for the rubbish and to make hot water.

the incinerator

Some contractors  we owed money to were repaid, some staff received some welcome back pay – we have new taps, we have a good pump, and now we have also a repaired borewell pump.  I can go on with all the things that have been done and started and actioned this week.. but just really need to say that the floodgates opened and everything shifted.  One of our supporters has even started a CrowdFunder for the Shelter and our work here.. this is the  link  if you would like to help out.

So thanks to you my friends.  You cannot really imagine how special this week has been to me.. feeling your love across the winds .. and knowing that people care about me and us!

Oh and my mind isn’t turning on at 4 in the morning any more!  YES!


The Mad Foreigner in India

I haven’t been writing for a while because I have been struggling with the need to say what really happened on my dam building project in India.  How I really feel.  I realise I have been afraid to do that because I didn’t want to make a ‘mess’.  Say the wrong thing – put people off side.  And lose the support that is so important to me.

Without you – my friends, and my family and beyond who support what I am doing –  if all of you decide my work is not worth the effort .. where will I be?

the river bed upstream from our dam
This is what it looked like before we came along

I set out to do something – something big and grand and almost beyond imagining for me.  I wanted to build a check dam in a remote rural village in India.  I wanted to protect the environment.   To bring water back to the land and the farmers.  To make a dent, even if only a small one in the rate of farmer suicide that I saw happening.

I started out with what I thought was an attitude of humility, of openess to change, of honesty.  I studied, I read, I asked other people with experience.   And I plunged right into a world where I thought I had at least a glimmer of knowledge – some ability to discover and create beneficial change.

Shazar standing by the dam wall
The wall before completion. Hot days!

You – well you all helped me do this.. you trusted me. You gave me money – you supported my crazy ideas.

And the dam building began.  Three weeks later – and all of my pre-dam notions had been turned on their head.

I believe I am now qualified to write a book titled:  “How Not to do Helpful Work in an Indian Village.”  or it could be .. ‘Many Stuff Ups Later We Now Might Know How to Do it Next Time.”

My last post on our Water Harvest Foundation blog stated openly that the most important thing was to keep the trees.  That beautiful old water tree pictured right there on that page  is no more.  Gone.  bulldozed with all its life force thrown onto the heap.

The huge digger that did all the damage
The Beast that destroyed trees and dug and dug.

That’s what made me cry.  It was supposed to be a celebration – but it wasn’t.

Yes we made a dam – yes it is completed, and yes sometimes things have to be destroyed for other things to arise.  So the money we raised has been spent in an ethical and proper way – but so many things didn’t go according to plan.  Come to think of it – where was the plan? Did we really have one?  But that is another part of the tale!!  Perhaps Chapter 2!

The upstream side of the dam
The upstream side of the dam

I learned a LOT.  Most of it was how NOT to work in rural India as a foreigner – much of it was lessons that are engraved on my heart for a next time –  now I have stepped back from it a little I can finally write about it.  I can finally tell you .. those who have supported in this crazy venture what really happened.

Stay tuned.. as I turn my heart inside out to tell you the real story of how it was to be – the mad foreigner in Tirzada – miles from anywhere – scaling the emotional rollercoaster up and down from top to bottom all in the course of a day, a week, a month.

Building a dam – in India.