Water of Life

4 in the morning of the 15th of January: I start the pump and let it fill the upper tank for 10 minutes. Then I go to turn the Gate valve down so as to fill the drinking water.
And No water flows!

I turn off the pump and return to bed, and toss and turn as various scenarios occur to me: It must be some cows grazing that have done this; broken the pipe down below. And supreme irony: today is Maatu Pongal. The alternative, which is that the pipe has burst somewhere underground is too horrible to contemplate.Though I do contemplate it. And if the break is under the tar road: ooh!…

6am: At dawn, I go down to find to my horror that there is a (man-made) hole in the pipe down there. Someone has used a knife and neatly made a hole. I return home to tell Varun and Sonati, and Varun goes off to take a photo.


Is it Spite? No. Both Sonati and I are quite certain that it is not. Our neighbours, other people whom we know, we can feel the warmth from, even if there are fights over grazing cows and hacking trees (with the possible exception of the impossible “Rogue” Annamalai and wife; but we haven’t had any run-ins with them recently).

It must be the young boys who came by a couple of days ago “to cut Villeri branches for the temple”, whom I shooed away saying, “I need my Villeri; you can go to the forest and cut what you want.”

Alas! A once common tree is now available only on our land or far away in the forest.


So they have gone ahead and cut Villeri on our bore-well tier, and one of them it must have been, who took a knife to our pipe.
Quite a neat hole too. It must have taken some doing. It would have been much easier to smash the pipes in.

Next: The usual question: How to respond?
I decide to go to Thekambattu and Valagapattu and crib to the Oor Gounders, to the people I know, generally make a noise; Pongal festivities notwithstanding.

When Selvam comes by with the milk, I take him down to show him the damage, and go on his bike to Thekambattu and Valagapattu. After the initial “Paal Pongitha?” I launch into my lament, invoke Aandavan, and make a song and dance about the senselessness of the act. It draws a crowd in Thekambattu, all of whom are sympathetic. Gopal’s wife gives me a cup of tea to warm me up since I am in T-shirt and shorts in a sea of people all huddled in shawls.

Ranganathan says he will find out who has done the deed. And I leave for Valgapattu where Chandran reassures me that he will raise the matter at the Temple today.

Then Selvam drops me home. And despite the call of Maatu Pongal, he very sweetly insists on coming up, to figure out if I have all the things needed to fix the pipe, and to help me fix it. I have everything but the PVC Pipe “solution”. So I am loth to do the repair which is bound to be pointless. But Selvam insists, and we fix a “sleeve” to bridge the (thankfully small) break

10pm: I turn on the pump, leave Sonati to monitor it and go down to get drenched by the spray. As I had expected, the pressure was too much for the fix to work without the “solution”. And so to bed.

Next morning, I travel to Karumandurai to buy some “solution”, but find that Karumandurai is “hungover” from Pongal and that all the hardware shops are shut. Luckily, I think of Pudur Ansar Bai, and on the way home, I manage to get a bottle of “Sulochan” at his shop. I also end up buying two wooden tops and a “Coolest” toothbrush 🙂
Back home, Varun and I fix the pipe break.

5pm: Water comes up and 36 hours of “Water-pressure” ends for us.

Sonati and I were wondering whether this sort of pointless vandalism is going to rise with the number of youngsters “hanging around” with time and a knife on their hands increasing.
This phenomenon of youngsters being neither here nor there has already become a problem in the villages as boys who have studied till Class 10 do not want to do farm work. But they don’t have anything else to do either. Thus delinquents are made.
I suppose we ought to count our blessings: They only have knives to inflict damage with; not guns.


4 Responses to “Water of Life”

  1. Meena Mahajan Says:

    Good to know you’ve got it fixed for now. As for how often in the future such things will happen, who’s to say? Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst … To me, knives are pretty much as scary as guns.

  2. Raj Rajagopalan Says:

    “This phenomenon of youngsters being neither here nor there has already become a problem in the villages as boys who have studied till Class 10 do not want to do farm work.”

    This is the real problem and many countries have faced it in the past and many are facing it now. Our education systems make everyone want to be “babus” i.e. working in an office wearing nice clothes. You would not think it but the US has this problem in a big way too. One part of society here decries and even savages the immigrant population. On the other hand fields remain unharvested because local youngsters who have gone through high school don’t want to do the work because it is physically demanding. Our obsession with universal primary/secondary education as a critical milestone in social development is thus turning out to be half-baked. We need to think about what the educated population will do after they have received the education. By educating them we have altered their mindset and their aspirations, which we need to provide for. I wonder if any society has solved this problem.

  3. Pankaj Says:

    “Not a dull moment” is quite the right way to put it. What a nicely written story, Sunder – maybe you should put it all together and bring out a book – like a travelogue of one place!

  4. Vijay Patankar Says:

    Your write-up reminds me of articles by Vyankatesh Madgulkar. He wrote in the seventies. The story continues… I liked what Raj Rajgopalan wrote above…

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