The Elixer of Life: My Water Stories

Water is essential for human beings to survive. Water carries nutrients to all cells in our body and oxygen to our brain. allows the body to absorb and assimilate minerals, vitamins, amino acids, glucose, and other substances, flushes out toxins and waste and helps to regulate body temperature. As a general rule of thumb, a human being can survive without water for roughly 72 hours or three days. And many experts have predicted that the next major world crises will be over water and suggest that growing water scarcity will drive violent conflict as access to water dries up for certain communities.

So with all the importance of water, it is certianly an essential part of our lives. In many parts of the world, water can be hard or soft and most water that is piped is usually soft water, which is treated and only has chorine and sodium. I am super finicky about the taste of water and probably because of the water I am used to, both while growing up in Mumbai and now in Singapore, which is treated chrolinated water, I can’t drink or find it hard to drink any other type of water. So here are some water stories from my life.

A representation of the water cooler we used to carry. Source

When we were younger, we used to travel by train during our summer holidays to visit our grandparents, first only to Bengaluru and then to Chennai first and then to Bengaluru. This is way before bottled water flooded the Indian market and on a train travel, the only water you had was either the water you carried with yourself in large cans or coolers or what you were able to refill in stations enroute. So we would carry as much water as we could from home in large five or 10 litre cans and this was common with pretty much everyone doing the same. This water would finish up roughly about halfway into the journey and we would have to fill it up from one of the stations, usually in Andhra Pradesh. The water would usually be hard and have a brackish taste to it and I would stop drinking water. If I was very thirsty, I would badger my mother to buy me a drink or something else to quench my thirst and if nothing was available, then a sip or two would all that I could stomach. Luckily the period of low to no water would not be too long and we would reach Bengaluru soon and as soon as we reached home, I would gulp water from the largest glass available.

In fact in our home in Bengaluru or Bangalore as it used to be called then, we had two sources of water – one from the well in the house which was slightly hard and the second which was piped in by the city from the Kaveri. I always preferred the Kaveri water and would always tell my grandmother to keep that water for drinking. This water would come in once every other day and when it came in, it would be a process to ensure it was pumped up to the holding tanks so it could be used for cooking eating and drinking while the well water was used for other needs. In fact, on our most recent trip to Bengaluru, my aunt’s house also had some kind of semi-hard water and I just could not bring myself to drink it. This trip was a very short one and we spent a fair amount of time outside visiting family in the city, so I didn’t have to drink it a lot, but the relief I felt when coming back to Bombay and drinking normal water was so immense that everyone who saw me rush to the kitchen to drink water as soon as we reached home had a hearty laugh at my expense.


My maternal grandparents house in Chennai was another matter and there was no source of any soft water. So holidays there used to be a torture for me because there was no alternative source of water I could use. I soon learnt that if the water was ice cold, the taste could be masked and I could drink it, so that’s exactly what I did. Now, I am someone who normally does not drink cold water, but when in Chennai, I would ensure that there was sufficient cold water available so I could use that cold water for drinking and for even brushing my teeth! Our trip to Chennai used to be for a week, after which we would travel to Bangalore for the rest of the holiday, so it was not too bad.

Another story, similar to the above comes from the time when I was around 15. We were on a school trip to the beach town of Bordi which lies almost at the border between the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The whole class X cohort was on the trip, and was a combined Girl Guides and Social Services service trip. In Bordi the water was so bad that pretty much none of us drank the water. And this was the late eightees, so we didn’t have much in terms of pocket money and would restrict ourselves to one bottle of a soft drink a day which we would empty into our water bottles. Girls with a larger amount of pocket money would have purchased more than one and all of us were so glad to be back in Bombay where we could drink water to our heart’s content. This three day trip has been in my memories for more than three decades now because I can still remember the feeling of thirst and now being able to drink water because it was so bad. Like what I used to do in Chennai, when the thirst got too much to bear, we would drink a couple of sips of the hard water and then stop.


So these were my water stories. Water is the true elixir of life, with over 71% of our planet and up to 60% of our bodies made up of water. Without water, life will cease to exist and for this reason, we must learn to preserve it for the future generations.

School Stories: Memories and an Alternate Reality


As you now I studied in JB Vachha High School. What you don’t know was that my paternal grandparents were strictly against me and then my sister attending this school. They wanted me to attend the nearby South Indian school which was my father, his siblings and all his cousins alma mater. But my mother stood strong and in the face of intense opposition, went ahead and got me enrolled into my school. Amma, my mother, used to see my neighbours and other girls in our neighbourhood wear the blue and white uniform on their way to school and insisted her daughters also should be in the same school.

The biggest objection my grandparents had was that my father’s alma mater offered Tamil as the mother tongue language and this was not offered in my school, which offered French as the second language. They worried, and probably rightly, that if we didn’t learn the language of our ancestors, we would no longer be good Tamil girls. But amma had her way and we started school in the school of her choice.

The other day, I was thinking what if amma did not get her way and me and my sister ended up in the school of my grandparents choice? Actually I don’t have to look too far to see this, as I did have friends in the building and in the neighbourhood who did go to the school. I would say, we would be fluent in Tamil, which today, we can only speak, but can’t read or write. And this in turn, would have made me get BB & GG to take Tamil as their mother tongue language instead of Hindi which they took.

It’s quite likely that we would be slightly more conservative and not have too many friends from other community groups. In our school, we developed a more liberal mindset and because our classmates came from not only different strata of society, but also from different communities, we learnt to be able to have a live and let live attitude.

And the most important thing, according to me is our school is a girls school while the other school is a co-ed school. And if I think back, with the exception of our physical education teacher, a music teacher and some peons in the school, all our teachers and staff were women. This means that while in school, we had no filter! We spoke what we wanted, especially when teachers were not around and because there were no boys, we spoke about things that may have been either taboo or spoken in a hush-hush way in a co-ed school. Remember, this was the eighties India where the country was still in the throes of socialism and liberalisation was still at least four-five years away. The con, atleast for me was that I was unconfortable with boys, until I entered graduate school because my degree programme also had a higer percentage of girls compared to boys and so I barely interacted with them. Being in a single sex school does allow the school to tailor the teaching style according to the students and my school also offered a whole suite of extra curricular activities which in that day and age, hardly any school offered. Of course, the bulk of these extra curricular activities were geared towards making us good moms and housewives, but still in that India, when we used to speak with our friends and family from other schools, they barely had anything more than a library and physical education period. We used to have music, dance, cookery, laundry, stiching, embroidery, girl guides, social service and typing. I am probably missing some, but in hindsight, all these are things that probably would have made more sense half a century back.

If my amma had not had her way, I would not be the person I am today and because we spent a good portion of our early lives in school, we spent 12 to 13 years in the same school, the school and its ethos and philosophy have moulded us. For this I am so very thankful that amma took a stand and ensured she gave us the opportunities going to this school offered us.

So how did your school mould you? I would love to hear in the comments below.