Being thirsty in a flood


I remember the first time I presented my business card in a business meeting and saw the puzzled look in the face of the recipient because he saw raised dots on my card. These raised dots were my name in Braille, and I told him that if you can read my name, then feel my name and feel fortunate. While I put my name in Braille on my cards to support the visually impaired, the primary reason I do this is to remind ourselves of not taking anything for granted. We take too much for granted.

We are not aware of our eyes until we get a sty in the eye. We are not aware of our knees until we injure it. Here I mean true awareness. How often do we shovel food into our mouths while watching TV. These days we have to be grateful if we just get to breather clean air.

I speak about not taking things for granted in an elaborate manner when I delver my ‘Cycle of Life’ talk. There are some very powerful examples that I quote in this talk. But recently, I came across some other facts of life that reinforced my belief in the dictum of not taking anything for granted.

This happened when I started tracking rain fall patters in some areas of the world, and then when I read about the situation in Chirapunji. Chirapunji, which receives the highest rain fall in the world, is now facing water shortage! Is this even possible?

In the 29 year period, 1973 to 2001 Chirapunji received 12,054 mm, compared with a 74-year average to 1980 of 11,430 mm. According to Wikipedia, Chirapunji received 26,461 mm of rainfall between 1 August 1860 and 31 July 1861. This is a lot of rainfall for a state came into being in 1972 and was named as ‘Meghalaya’ (The house of the Clouds) because of the weather in the state. In 2015, the rainfall has been so intense that it crossed the monthly average of around 2500 mm in just 10 days into June. According to SkyMet, the rainfall total had reached around 3000 mm and with more than half of the month remaining. This is only the third instance that the 3000 mm mark has been breached in the last decade. The other two instances being in the year 2010 and 2012 where around 3340 mm and 3445 mm of rainfall was recorded respectively. The record breaking rainfall was last observed in 1966 when the city received a whopping 5832 mm of rain.

But after all this rain, it still does not have enough water for its residents. This is because most of the water runs off down the plateau into the plains of Bangladesh and then eventually into the Bay of Bengal, about 250 miles down. Add to this is the fact that the population has grown tenfold to around 70,000 now and with some visible forest degradation, the problems of water add up.

But it seems that there is no silver linings in their dark clouds, as a according to Dr S V Ngachan, Regional Director, ICAR Northeast who said in an interview with InfoChange, "Barapani in Meghalaya alone has recorded a rise in temperature by 2 degrees Celsius in the last decade and rainfall in world-famous Chirapunji has reduced substantially over the years, changing the weather cycle of the region. The rest of the Northeast region has recorded an increase in temperature by 0.08 degrees Celsius in the last decade along with static dispersion of seasonal weather phenomena in the region." So there is the climate change factor also that is building up. Locals report how the rain was much heavier than what it is today.

When on sees water tankers climbing up to supply water to the residents of Chirapunji, it is a sad reminder of how it never focused on rain water harvesting, as there was no need for it at one point in time. But with the weather changing in a manner that very few of us can understand, it is best not to take anything for granted. If the residents of Chirapunji are not taking water for granted, I think there is a lesson in it for all of us too!

The real question for all of us living in urban areas like Bengaluru is this; if there can be water shortage in Chirapunji, imagine what can happen to cities like Bengaluru! It is really about the lessons we learn that is more important.

But the bigger issue for all of us to consider is when will we stop taking things for granted? Our health, our friends, our spouses, the love we get from our siblings, the fact that we have clothes, a home…. I could go on and on.

So here is a starting point that helped me. Every morning as I wake up, I say a prayer of gratitude. Thank you for my life for another day, thank you for my breath this morning, thank you for all the great things that happened yesterday (the trick is to only remember the good stuff!), thank you…thank you…thank you!