Aabid Surti: Water is a Gift from Above, how Can it not be Appreciated?

Aabid Surti is an Indian writer and artist, author of numerous novels, plays, poems, paintings, collages, comics. But he is also known as the head of the Drop Dead Foundation. 81-year-old Mr. Surti does everything to make people treat water carefully. He told us about how, why and what he has been personally getting around several apartments in the suburbs of Mumbai for 9 years every Sunday, with a plumber, and repairing leaking taps for free.

In general, most of all I love to write books and paintings. Many people wonder what made me to leave my cozy corner and start a project that requires a lot of efforts, why I decided to come to people and to repair leaking taps.

The answer to this question lies in my childhood, which took place in poor neighborhoods. To fill a bucket with water from a tap common to all, my mother every time was standing in line, that it was necessary to hold early in the morning, and often we had even to fight for water. I remember this every time I see the faulty tap, and my heart sinks.

I have noticed that many of my friends have flowing taps in the house. They said that no plumber would agree to come for such nonsense. And in those areas of Mumbai where poor people live, things are very bad: the plumber visit is at least 100 rupees, and only a few people can afford such expenses.

I have once read a newspaper article which explained that if a tap flows one drop per second, thousands of liters would be wasted per month. I imagined a thousand liter water bottles that you just pour into the sewer. I figured out how to explain to people why it is so important to repair faucets promptly. At that moment the non-profit organization, Drop Dead Foundation, which actually consists of one person – me, was born.

Since then, me and my team consisting of a plumber and a female volunteer, were working on a definite pattern. Every Monday, volunteer visits the selected building, has conversation with the responsible for the housing and receives permission to get around apartments. Then we hang an informational poster with our slogan in the entrance: «Save Every Drop or Drop Dead».

Аабид Сурти (слева) и его водосберегающая команда

On Saturdays we distribute the leaflet, which tells about the goals of our Foundation, through the apartments. And on Sunday morning, we are visiting the residents, and fix the valves, if necessary.

This work is great by the fact that people see me as a good angel, and meet me with love. What I do does not require a lot of time, so I encourage everyone, especially my peers, those who are over 80, to follow my example, to leave the enclosed space of their houses, to forget about the retirement age and to inspire the others. I know it's possible. A real example is in front of you.

Before founding my Fund in 2007, I wondered where to take money? And then I found out that I was awarded the literary prize of 100 000 rupees (about $ 1,500). When you genuinely wish to do something good, the universe supports you. And the Lord himself becomes your fundraiser. As soon as I have had problems with funding, I immediately received funds, which I did not even ask. As it is happening now.

Whenever we needed money, there appeared some kind of corporation, and the funds accounts were replenished. Last year our business was in bad shape, we thought that we would have to stop the activity. And then Amitabh Bachchan, Bollywood superstar, invited me on his TV show. After that, the Fund was struck by a real monetary tsunami. Amitabh himself has donated around 1.1 million rupees (over $ 16,000). Of course, we are also supported by ordinary citizens. Part of the money we get from the sale of my paintings.

Аабид Сурти и его большой поклонник, кинозвезда Амитабх Баччан

Another task is to explain to the Indian students, why it is important to save water. More than 2,000 students are already involved in the campaign and help to bring its ideas to more people.

I'm happy that news about my work spread across India and the whole world with the speed of fire in the jungle. Programs about my fund were filmed and shown by European TV channels.

When I first started to do it, many people thought I was crazy. Friends and family were not surprised, they knew I was queer. When media shows interest to you, when you appear on television, the attitude instantly changes. Relatives, however, are not convinced: they think the whole world's gone crazy, too.

During the first year, we have visited 1666 apartments, repaired 414 cranes and saved approximately 414 000 liters of water. Since then, we have, on average, annually held the bar.

Water shortage is a problem of all the inhabitants of the Earth, and we must all unite to solve it and to save the world from destruction. All religions emphasize the importance of careful attitude to the water. For example, 2500 years ago the prophet Mohammed said: «Even if you're sitting on the banks of the river, you have no right to waste water in vain». Water is a gift from above. How not to appreciate it? Until we change the attitude of the people and explain it to them, no new technology will help. And to change this attitude, we must start with ourselves.

I hope very much that the river Ganges once again will become clean. But it is useless to expect help from the government. They are here to destroy, not to save the world. So everyone should do something for the environment. Hundreds of environmental problems are in front of us and future generations – select any. Plant trees or save birds and animals. We must answer the call for help, a distress signal of the world in which we live.

I read a lot about the legendary mountain lake Manasarovar, which is located on the border of India and China. It is a sacred lake, the cleanest in the country. One day I will get to it, and taste the water from it.

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