Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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Water Woes
As the tick forest is decked with new moist green leaves in mid March, Kali our 19 years old maid is worried. For with March comes the summer in Dhenkanal, a district HQ town of Odisha and with summer begins her ordeal to fetch water from a stand post located downhill.  Kali, in a way is fortunate as she has a stand post half a kilometer away from her home, from where she gets potable water.  Tens of thousands of women in Odisha have to walk between two to five miles to get water from streams or nalas or from hole dug on river bed (called chua). So do millions of women across the country and in many other developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Water.org, an NGO gives some terrifying water facts:
• 3.575 million people die each year from water-related diseases
•  43% of water-related deaths are due to diarrhoea.
•  84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0 – 14.
•  98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world.
•  884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people.
•  The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
•  At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.
•  Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use
The problem is acute in India because of its high population density, space and time variability of rainfall and increasing depletion and contamination of its surface and groundwater resources. Most water resources in India are contaminated by sewage and agricultural run-off. Besides, overuse of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture is the primary cause of groundwater pollution in India. Further, uneven water distribution across the country is another aspect of water problem. A large area of the country is water deficit whereas a small part is bestowed with abundance of water. This has led to inter-state conflicts.
The situation warrants urgent attention both at micro and macro level.
As the World Water Day is being observed on 22 March we must think about water.
Old Age Home
There is an Old Age Home run by a NGO near the small town in which live. I often go there just to be with the inmates. I found two types of people in the old age homes. One, who have come to the home on their own, and two, persons, who have been forced to leave home for different reasons and have been sheltered in the old age home.
I find many old and infirm persons abandoned by their near relations staying here. Some stoically moving on with their lives, reading books or listening to the bhajans or talking to other inmates or simply staring vacantly at the sky. Those who are able, tend the gardens and help the kitchen staff.  Some rue their family members. I have seen old ladies blaming and cursing their daughter in laws, but hardly ever they blame their sons for leaving them at the old age home. Some of them get old age pension. But few spend the money on themselves. They keep the money and give it mostly to their grand children. I am often amazed at the complexity of human relationship.
Nachiketa, a very popular Bengali singer of 1990s had a song on old age home titled Bridhashram.
Presently I chanced upon a story on social media which almost echo the narrative of his song.  Here it is:
After his father’s death, the Son decided to leave his mother at old age home and visited her on and off.
One day he received a call from old age home….Mother very serious ….. please come to visit.
Son went and saw mother in a very critical condition. In fact she was on her death bed.
He asked: Mom what can I do for you?
Mom replied… “Please install fans in the old age home, there are none…. Also put a fridge. The food often gets stale and as a result many times I slept without food”.
Son was surprised and asked: mom, while you were here you never complained, now you have few hours left in your life and you are telling me all this, why?
Mom replied…..”it’s OK dear, I’ve managed with the heat, hunger and pain, but when your children will send you here, I am afraid you will not be able to manage.
Tailpiece 1
I fail to understand why the words on railway e tickets are printed in such small fonts. I find it very difficult to read my coach and seat number.
Can’t the tickets be printed in slightly bigger font? Will somebody carry the message to the Railway Minister, please.
Tailpiece 2
Goa aur Manipur wale trainme congress chadne wale the lekin Amit Shah ne pahle se seat par apna gamchha phenk diya.
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The columnist, a journalist turned media academician lives in Dhenkanal, in Central Odisha. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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