Abid Surati was not known outside his close circles. He came to be known in a limited circle of media friends because of his biting satire in his cartoons. It was not a regular hobby that got him a permanent job. It depended on his will and mood. He had written around 80 books. A few years back he had even won a national award. He was invited to attend the award ceremony to be held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It was obvious that it was to be given by the President of India. It was a great honour but Abid was not impressed nor did he hanker after such honours. He declined.
Abid was very sensitive soul. He became restless after he read a striking note in an interview of the United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali. He was deeply struck by one prediction by the Secretary General of the United Nations. He had warned that by the year 2025, nearly forty countries of the world would experience water crisis. It was a stunning warning to a sensitive soul who had heard his mother often yell at him if he did not finish his glass of water.
Abid had seen time and again water taps leaking. Not much but a drop every few seconds. No one bothered at seeing these drops from leaky taps. However Abid was aghast when he read in another column that a small drip a second can collectively become a thousand litres of water a month. Abid had a tendency to ignore matters that did not appear to be relevant to his immediate life. But the water crisis coming in 40 years and wastage of a thousand litres per month through a leak of a drop a second, stuck in his mind so much that it disturbed his sleep.
It was apparent that poor countries and its people would suffer more. Rich may manage by converting sea water into potable water but what can poor countries do. Sensitive soul Abid had heard his mother often telling stories how women of Kutch had to go every day five kms or more and walks back home with three to five water ewers on their head. The largest contained 150 litres of water and they begin to taper off in sizes so five could be put on a head. Some strong women also carried two ghadhas in their hands under their armpits.
After several restless nights, Abid spoke to a few friends who knew something of plumbing. But Abid got a real plumber to walk with him on his new mission of life. They decided to visit the apartment complex in Mira Road. They would ring the bell and explain their mission for inspecting their water connections in the apartment. If anyone was leaking even a drop per two seconds, the team would replace the washer ring so that the dripping stopped. At the start of their movement, they had encountered considerable resistance. Some even suspected their mission. Anyone coming in a team to stop their tap leakages was a novel idea. Some even suspected a nefarious design but soon stories got into circulation from one apartment complex to another.
Mira Road has more residential high rise building complexes than any other suburb around. The campaign was novel but also welcome, not only because of the underlying thought of saving the world from water crisis but also it helped their household. Getting a plumber to come to stop the leaking taps cost most people a lot. They awaited for a larger problem to crop up so expenses for plumbing could be justified. The team that was on a visit of apartment complexes was lead by Abid Surati, his friend and plumber Riyaz and volunteer Tejas. The presence of a young woman in the team became the asset as it set to rest all kinds of suspicions about the real motive. By the year end the team had visited 1533 apartments, small and big in the area and set right their leaky taps.
Abid Surati is a satirist by heart. The name he chose for his non governmental organization gives way his satirist nature. It is named ‘Drop Dead’. The implication is save each drop of water or drop dead. Such unusual nature of his work could not remain confined to the small obscure suburb. The mass media did not notice it but media of masses was alive. Stories of his work spread like wildfire though few comprehended the immense importance of this timely action.
Among the first persons to realize the importance was Shekhar Kapoor, film maker. He wrote him a congratulatory note. Another sensitive soul was Shah Rukh Khan. These congratulatory messages were conveyed a decade earlier. But Indian media became aware of his work only after a Berlin Television Team descended in India, not to interview the Prime Minister of India but to capture the movement of a lone and service oriented heart.
Only a decade later as the water crisis had begun to grip the minds with the spectre of water crisis had begun to consume one after the other in Africa and Asia, the leaders are coming to realise the need for its solution. The programmes and schemes for cleansing of the North Indian Rivers have been going on for decades but without attaining any objective. The river cleansing projects are treated more for polluting minds with potential of corruption possible. There is no element of driving home into the minds of people the crisis they are creating by dumping every kind of garbage into rivers and using it more as a sewage than as the life giver.
The urban dwellers are not even concerned at the increasing number of farmers’ suicides. Their lack of capacity to pay back their debt emanates from crop failures. Crop failures are mostly for want of sufficient waters. The climatic shifts have taken away rains from Vidarbha as well as from Punjab. So not only farms are affected even wells are as well affected as water was going down or wells are drying up.
Abid Surati had very correctly named his organization Drop Dead. Unless each one of us Indians begin to save every drop of water, the days of many of us dropping dead are not far off. The realization ought to come from the escalated price of purified water. A bottle of purified water now costs Rs. twenty. It was Rs. five a decade earlier. Think what would be cost of it in the next decade?