Water Wrangler

Today is World Water Day.

Around the world, the scarcity of water is increasing. This is especially evident in India. Two years, ago, I had the opportunity to visit one of my company’s manufacturing facility located in Baddi, an industrial town in the Himachal Pradesh region of India.

“Industrial” conjures up images of, say, Pittsburgh. Baddi is not anything like that. The facilities are nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains.. While there, I got the chance to meet one of my colleagues, Achal.

Achal is plant manager, and one of goals is to help conserve water in the region. He and the rest of his team work hard at harvesting rain water and runoff from the mountains. The facility also sees to it that every drop of treated water is reused for actions like irrigation and toilet flushing.

He wrangles water, basically.

The team’s water conservation efforts also extend beyond this facility. As part of being a good corporate citizen in the region, the the team collaborates with other companies in the region to share best practices. This has proved invaluable to them as well.

It was one thing to hear about what the facility was doing and to see the goals and successes in a Power Point presentation. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how passionate Achal and others were when I spoke to them.

The day I was at the facility, it was October, about 97 degree and humid. The monsoon rains were just a few week past. Me and the rest of the photo team wanted to illustrate the work that Achal does, but it was dry and dusty. The plant itself didn’t really speak to that passion that Achal has for his conservation efforts.

So, we nudged and prodded a little, asking if there’s a lake – even a dry lake – or something like that where we could do the photos, something that speaks to the theme.

Achal said “Sure, I know a place.” So we climbed back into the van and sat though some kidney-aching jolts as he led the driver up and down these narrow rocky roads, through and past villages that had been there for ages.

When we finally disembarked, Achal walked me down a dusty trail to a moving lake at the base of the mountains. The reverence in this voice when he talked about why their water conservation efforts were important was evident. He told me that their goal was to figure out how to harvest all the water that fell during the monsoon season, and then what to do with all the snow melt from the Himalayas.

Then he said something that really surprised me: “The sound of water is like music. You just have to listen to it.”

With that, he rolled up his trouser legs and climbed into the stream for the photo.

“I do this every chance I get,” he said.

“What do you mean,” I asked.

“Water revitalizes the body. It’s peaceful. It’s very important in Indian culture and being in it helps us to become closer to this earth. When I’m standing in the water, I feel my stress leave my body. I feel good,” he said. “You should join me.”

I felt honored by that. So I sat down on a rock, removed my boots and my socks, rolled up my pants legs and stepped in. Despite the heat, the water felt cool and crisp. The fact that it came from the ancient mountains wasn’t lost on me.

This wasn’t just some wadding pool though. This was a main throughway. A highway of sorts, just not for car.

A shepherd woman was near by, moving her cattle through the main part of the lake. area.

In another part of the lake, it was like a pit stop…a car, nay, cow wash…

And in yet another area, some young boys from from the village were using it for another intended purpose..having fun and cooling off.

Attaining peace, transport, fun…everyone using the natural resource for what they need it for.

I’m not trying to get on a soapbox here. I myself can do more conserve this resource. I still, too often, run the water when I’m brushing my teeth. Or I don’t fill the bowl to clean my razor, again cleaning it under a running facet. It’s a waste, I know. Living in the United States, it’s easy to forget how vital it is, since it’s always at our finger tips.

Still, I do think about my conversation with Achal, and the time I and the team spent with him in that lake at the base of the Himalayas. Achal was right. When I got into that lake, I did feel better. I did stop to listen. Maybe that’s why I liked my apartment in San Francisco, when I could see the bay, or why I like getting to the New Jersey beaches as often as I can.

Water frees me. It’s one natural resource that we really can’t live without.

© Mark V. Krajnak 2012 | JerseyStyle Photography | All rights Reserved

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2 thoughts on “Water Wrangler

  1. Fantastic post and story. What a beautiful place that is. The microbiologist in me wants to warn about the potentials of bathing in water used as a cattle bath too though. Anyway, I know how Achal feels about water and its revitalizing and spiritual properties. The end of the article with your thoughts sums it up too. I also cannot be far from water for all these reasons.

  2. Ed…appreciate the thoughts and comment…and believe me…as we were in that lake…after we saw the cattle walking through there…and yes, doing what cattle do…we too sometimes wondered what we were stepping on. But, that’s India. You don’t miss water till you go to India and find you can’t just take a drink of water out of the tap in the middle of the night. We take it for granted. I get your concern, but sometimes you just have to give it up and go with the experience. (Luckily, none of us got sick from anything – water, food, travel) ~ Mark

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