Friends, ladies and gentlemen.
I believe, thoughts are like seeds. We are not sure which thought will germinate into an earth shaking concept or an insignificant idea. Fortunately for me, my drop of a thought turned into a vast ocean- Qatra samandar ban gaya- just like a small seed that turns into a massive banyan tree.
And what was that tiny-winy thought?
Every drop of water is precious. And I am here to share my experiences in saving around 20 million liters of water, single handedly, from going down the drain.
To begin with, let us try to understand water. To understand water is to understand aatman. To understand water is to understand parmaatma, the God. If an atheist dives into the mysteries of water, he is sure to become a believer.
So, what is water?
We all were taught in schools- Water is H2O. Is that all? Once an advocate was asked- What is Ramayana? He replied- Property dispute. Was that just property dispute? Water, just H2O?
My teachers did not have answer. A Japanese thinker, photographer, Dr. Masaru Emoto had. I learnt from his book, “Hidden Messages in Water,” that water can feel, exactly the way you and I feel. Not only that, water can record spoken as well as written words also.
How did he prove it?
In brief, he filled two glasses with water and kept one to his right and the other one to his left. And, every morning, he kept on repeating, “I love you” to the glass which was to his right and “I hate you” to the one which was to his left.
This went on for a month, positive messages to the right and negative
messages to the left. Then he put both the glasses in deep freezer, turned water into crystals and took photographs. The result was amazing.
The photographs of the crystals, of the glass to the right, that received positive messages, were like a bouquet of fresh flowers and the photographs of the crystals, of the glass to the left, that received negative messages, were like dirty water.
Dr. Emoto did not stop with just one test. He experimented with different types of water from different places- like, from wells, streams, waterfalls, rivers etc- and took thousands of photographs. The result was the same. Positive messages to water, you get beautiful designs. Negative messages to water- you get pool of dirt.
A few experiments he made with music also. Again he filled two glasses
with water. To one glass he played soothing, Indian, classical instrumental music, and to the other, loud, western rock music. Again the result was stunning.
The photographs of the crystals, of the glass, that received soothing, Indian music, were like beautiful rangoli patterns and the photographs of the crystals, of the glass, that received loud western music, were like dirty water.
As I said, water can record written text also- to prove it, Dr. Emoto once again used two glasses. On one glass, he stuck a slip of paper with just one positive word written- LOVE. And to the other, one negative word – HATE. As usual, the result was awesome.
Then, like a prophet, Dr. Emoto declared; our body is nearly 70% water and positivity cleanses us from within. If I become positive, my world becomes positive.
We have seen, how a tiny-winy seed, a simple question- What is water? turns into a banyan tree. Similar is my story. A drop of water became more precious than gold for me, because of my childhood years that were spent on the pavement. To get a bucket full of water from the common tap, my mother had to stand in the queue early in the morning and often she had to fight for her right. This childhood memory kept on haunting me whenever I saw a dripping tap.
When I visited friends’ homes, generally I found one or two taps leaking. I requested them to get it repaired. But that never happened. After a few weeks, I visited the same friends again and saw the same taps dripping. When questioned, they would come out with the similar answer- No plumber wants to visit for petty jobs. Then they would invariably advice – Aabid Bhai, why are you getting upset for just a few drops?
I had no answer. It was the legacy of my past, the agony within. How could I explain it to them? In a way, their problem too was genuine. The leakage nuisance in ghettos and lower middle class colonies is worst. A plumber’s visit costs a minimum of Rs.100, which poor households cannot afford.
One day, as I was reading my morning paper, I came across an article on water. It explained- If one drop drips in a second, in a month a thousand liters of water goes down the drain. I imagined a thousand bottles of drinking water poured into the sewage. This magnitude of waste was the fitting answer to those friends who thought I had phobia for drops. Not only that, I got a practical solution too to stop leakages- Just go to friends houses with a plumber and get leaking faucets corrected. This thought was the birth of my One Man NGO or Drop Dead Foundation.
Since then, we, I mean a plumber, a female volunteer and myself, have developed a process which we follow like clockwork. On Mondays, my volunteer visits the targeted building and meets the secretary of the housing society for permission. If the secretary agrees, then she puts up a poster on the housing society’s notice board on the ground floor or near the lift, with our tagline Save Every Drop or Drop Dead.
The bold fonts, Drop Dead, have a great impact on the members. On Saturdays, through the watchman of the building, we send pamphlets to every home, that explains- what Drop Dead Foundation is about. So when we arrive on Sunday morning; we get a warm welcome from the members of the apartment building. Then we go house to house correcting leaky taps.
By working to save water, the pure love you get from door to door is indescribable. People are waiting to see an angel and to them, you are one, if you decide to take up this cause in your neighborhood. The foundation provides poster, sticker, pamphlet, Tee-shirt designs online. You just have to make minor changes in the pamphlet text. Where my cell No is, put yours, where my address is, put yours. And delete my name also to be replaced by your name. It’s your baby, not franchise from the foundation. The cause matters, not the name.
As you know, I’m giving only my Sunday mornings for this initiative. It’s so simple, so easy for anyone to do it. And that is what I want to convey to all, especially to senior citizens: Please come out of the self imposed retirement cocoon; spend a couple of hours inspiring people to do good for the society and that will rejuvenate you also. The living example is in front of you. Just do it. If I can, you can.
Now you must be wondering about the funding of this One Man NGO! Where will money come if someone is inspired to go ahead with it? Before launching in 2007 I too had to seriously contemplate about the same problem of funding and within a couple of weeks I received Lifetime Achievement Award for my Hindi literature, Rs. 1,00,000. When you honestly set out to do good for others, the whole universe is there to back you. Not only that, God becomes your fund raiser. Whenever my finances are about to dwindle, God pokes the right person and I receive a cheque without asking.
In 2013, God lovingly poked Mr. Azim Premji of Wipro who gave the Sparrow Award worth Rs.50,000 to Drop Dead Foundation, followed by philanthropist Rotarians of Mumbai with Rs.1.00.000. Last year, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan came forward and donated Rs.11,000,00. That was a windfall. Please note, so far, I have not approached anyone, anywhere for funding. Of course, contributions from people with no strings attached are always welcome.
When I say No Strings Attached, I mean no underhand wheeling-dealings. I’ll give you one example. In 2010 when my funding was about to get over, a Good Samaritan friend managed to get sanction from Gujarat Government- Rs. 13,00,000. For me, once again, it was manna from heaven. But there was a catch. From 13 Lacks, the foundation was supposed to return 5 Lacks in cash and that was supposed to be the commission of the government official who sanctioned it. Naturally I refused it. My fundraiser, the guy above, was highly pleased and within a week I got a cheque of Rs. 50,000 from Maharashtra State Hindi Academy for my contribution to literature.
Now the next question could be- What are DDF’s accomplishments so far? Well, for that I have kept the record of our first year, February 2007 to February 2008– incidentally 2007 was the International Year of Water also. During that period, we visited 1,666 houses, fixed 414 leaking taps free of charge, and saved about 4.lakh 14 thousand liters of water. Approximately it comes to 10 million liters till date.
The response to Drop Dead Foundation has been unbelievable. It’s picking up fast like jungle fire, not only in India but all over the globe. A television channel from Berlin gave a 10 minutes slot to Drop Dead Foundation, airing it all over Europe too.
Now I am moving one step further. I’ve started motivating school children also. The students of the Cosmopolitan High School as well as The Rawal International school of Mira Road and their staff members are committed to conserve water. Its 2000+ students are my angels who are carrying forward the message to save water by undertaking campaigns and putting up water conservation posters in their buildings.
This year, I’ve introduced a fresh campaign- Save Water Says God. With the help of religion, I am targeting bhaktas to save water. For example, say…if I tell a Muslim gentleman to save water, he will smile and walk away. But if I declare that Prophet Mohammad says not to waste water, then he will be all ears. The message will sink instantly.
So my posters are going to be put up in mosques all over India and beyond borders. Similarly, Ganesha posters for Hindu temples, especially in Maharashtra. Guru Nanak, Jesus, Buddha, Mahavira posters will follow soon.
I am also planning to acquire a small garage space for the office use with a computer, a phone and a bicycle. There, a plumber will be available whole day. If a leakage starts anywhere in my neighborhood, the person has just to ring up the office and like fireman, our plumber will rush to the spot on the bicycle.
Before I close my talk, let me thank the organizers of TEDx program, whose love and respect has pulled me here and also all of you who listened patiently to every word I said.