Traditionally regarded as a chore only for women in rural India, it is a task that is backbreaking, arduous and sometimes even dangerous. In the hostile desert of Rajasthan where the commodity is scarce, it often means tens of miles to the nearest well or the village pump under a torturous blanket of heat, dust and flies.
For these women, every dawn brings with it a long search for the most precious and crucial resource - water. An early start is inevitable as a day's needs for the whole family will mean several trips back and forth the source.
Do you know that in the villages of the desert district of Banaskantha, women spend up to six hours a day bringing water from distant sources to their homes? They carry up to 15 liters on their heads on each trip, often walking barefoot .
It does not matter whether you are young or old or even pregnant, fulfilling this critical household needs means all the womenfolk in the family have to pull their weight. It is therefore not unusual for young girls to drop out of school just to help out with fetching water.
Sadly, there will be no solace at the destination for our women. In a village where a single pump services a community of 700, it will mean a crowd all day, every day.
Another day of standing in a long queue with hundreds of others waiting for their turn. Will it past midnight again today?
I am afraid so for why should today be any different from all the days in the past 20 years?
We all know that without water, nothing will grow, the cattle will perish and eventually so will the family.
"Must the drudgery continue?"
Surprisingly this trip to India, I found only 2 items for my doll's houses. As far as I am concerned, though, they are both precious minis. This water pump is my treasure from Amber Fort , Jaipur , bought from one of the many hawking their wares at the exit of the Fort.
Of course, I was warned by our guide before we got to the Fort AGAINST buying anything from these people because their wares are often not worth the price and that identical ones can be bought for way less in the shops at the city.
All my caution was however, thrown to the winds when I saw this old style water pump. I tried to play it cool and walked away to my girlfriend, whispering to her "OMG! Did you see that? It's perfect for my tribal house!"
Fafa fetching water while I photograph
There must have been something in my eyes that quickly prompted the seller to start pumping (the gadget of course).
When water flowed from the tap, my knees went weak and I knew then that all was lost.
Tell me , the most resolute amongst you, will you be able to resist a working miniature pump that can give you water, is to scale and exactly what your tribal house needs so that your dolls will no longer have to carry their heavy brass pots and walk miles and miles to fetch water ? I don't think so. Even when it cost a whopping INR100 each. That's why my friend decided that she had to get one for her cats as well.
I bashed the water pump right after work today and finished everything in less than an hour so that I could take pictures before sundown. I then went for a run and the idea that I should have iconic pictures of Indian women fetching water came to me during that run. I came home already dark at 8pm but went ahead with the photographs anyway. I then decided to find out more about these women. The idea to focus on their plight came only after I started typing. When I finished, a thought struck me. In many ways, some of us are not so different from these women.
Everything in this post (except the postscript) is based on the material I have found. If you follow through the link provided, it will bring you to the relevant source. You will be heartened to know from those reports that the Banaskantha women had started to do something to better their lives. Defying conventions , these women set up unions to push for changes. They acquired knowledge about maps, measurements and topography so that they could contribute to local water committees. Now more new wells are built and old ones recharged.
I salute these women.