I was travelling by train from Ahmednagar to Nanded in Maharashtra. It was summertime and the temperature was an all time high of 41 °C. I stood near the door of the train and tried to catch some air. My nostrils burned and so did my lungs with the inhalation of dry and arid air. I still had 4 more hours to travel and face this heat before I reached my destination.
I had emptied my cell phone battery and the charger in train was inoperable as is the case most of the time. I was bored and was hoping the train to run more faster. I took few sips of warm water from my half-filled bottle. Alas, my thirst still prevailed. There were no pantry vendors selling cold water bottle touring around anymore. I went back and sat in my seat. There was a scrambled marathi newspaper lying nearby. I started reading it. It had news about farmer suicides and the horrible drought conditions. There were stats like out of 2,00,000 suicides, 1,40,000 were farmers. It’s saddening to know that the person who toils day and night to grow food is the one himself starving to death. I looked out of the window. There were unending dry patches of land extending till the horizon on both sides. Marathwada and Vidarbha regions have seen worst drought since past five years. I was looking at how drought is literally.
I was lost into thoughts. Suddenly there is a strong jerk and lot of screaming noises. The train slows down and comes to a halt. There are not many people in the train, I believe because of summer season. I see a small mob consisting of elderly people, women and children running towards us. They had their hands full with empty buckets and bottles.
The elderly and children climb into the coach and start running through peeping under the seats perhaps looking for water bottles containing a drop or two to spare. The women climb up with their buckets and reach the train toilets and start filling up their buckets with the toilet water. It will be the same water they will use to drink and cook for the day to make their ends meet. Bathing and washing is too far-fetched dream for them.
My seat was near to the train toilets. I was standing there and watching the commotion. One elderly man taps me on the shoulder and asks me if I am going to drink the water in my bottle or throw it. I felt sad and helpless. I gave the bottle to him. He drank the water and blessed me by placing his hand on my head and disappeared into the mob. There was a toddler girl taken in her mother’s arms. She was inquisitively looking at me. I guessed she was thirsty, her eyes said it to me. I went to my berth, took out my bag and gave her the unopened bottle to drink. She held it in her hands as if it is the most expensive thing in the world. I saw the Ticket Checker and Railway Police running towards the toilet. The remaining people started to jump and run away. They had meagerly managed to fill their buckets and bottles, extremely careful that not even a single drop spills.
The Ticket Checker comes near to me and I ask him what had happened. He explains that this has become a daily thing since past few weeks. This being a really badly drought hit area. These guys have made a strategy to steal water from train by stopping it. Few guys climb in previous stations and they pull the chain to stop the train at the planned location and run away and rest of the mob manages to steal water. On being questioned by fellow travelers about strict action, he said all they do is steal water to drink and cook. Nature has been really harsh with them. They do this act to stay alive and the TC said he don’t think this is a big crime to punish them. He had one of his farmer friend commit suicide and he feels the pain of it. So he just lets them go.
The train began with the onward journey. I felt grateful and lucky to live a relatively good life. I felt sad too, because of inequality that prevails. Our State Government sells water from industrial quota to Alcohol Beverage companies. It takes roughly 20 liters of water to make one litre of beer. I hope they can stop it for few months and provide water free of cost to the needy. They will be blessed. No one dies if they do not have a beer, but water is essential to each one of us. Protect every drop.
These below pics send out a strong message. I wonder what would they be asking from God! Blessings to make through this or rain to wash their dry tears away.
I felt thirsty after some time. I did not have any water left. So, I took my empty bottle and filled it with the same toilet water to drink. That made me feel the pain even if for a moment for which these people hustle every single day. May God bless them with strength to bear this.
Credits to – Rahul Kulkarni