Archive for July, 2008

Politics of Aid and Poverty

When I was a kid, I was told a story. It went on like this. There was once a man who lost a precious coin and he was searching for it in the garden on a bright sunny day. His friend came along and enquired about his frantic search. He told about the lost coin and said that it had fallen and got lost in one of the dark corners of his house. His puzzled friend asked him about his search for the coin in the garden while it is sure that the coin had fallen inside the house. The man’s immediate response is that the house is dark and therefore difficult to search while it is bright outside and easier to see. Sounds whimsical but isn’t this somewhat true of development activists around the world. Real poverty and needs are hidden somewhere but it is easier to work elsewhere as they are seen, glorified, and perhaps better rewarded!!

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The Many Colours of Water

There is a spotlessly clean room with white floors, glossy walls, and pictures on the walls. In the centre of this room is a pure white tub filled with crystal clear water and the tap still open. A lady draped in a white towel enters and spreads rose petals on the water and adds a “solution” that makes bubbles in the water. For Savitribai, the advertisement that appeared on the colour TV of her neighbour happens in the fantasy world of bollywood. It does not matter if the white floors are of marble, the glossy walls have granite tiles, and the solution is actually bath foam – these are only in the land of “Gods” and “Godesses” and merely fill the blanks in Savitribai’s dreams.

Now, here is the picture of reality.

It is early July and no sign of rains whereas it should have started in early June. Savitribai sits in waiting beside the only hand pump in the village that caters to about 400 households. After 30 minutes of waiting, the hand pump can fill two pots of water – enough for drinking and cooking for a single household. Savitribai’s pots are not the only ones in waiting. She is in the queue and has to wait at least an hour and a half to get to her turn of filling her two pots. Hard to believe but true that she spends four hours each day just to fetch drinking water for the family. Sometimes, she would have to get up at midnight to be in the queue. One may think that after such hardship, it would be clean drinkable water. I wish that this was at least true. However, many a times the water is yellow in colour and sometimes brown. Savitribai does not dream about running water in her house. All that Savitribai wishes is that the hand pump has enough water till the rain arrives. I wish too.

It was quite a touching scene when I took this picture. Since then, I have second thoughts every time I open a tap for water.