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The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

05 July 2003

A full circle?

Reading the newspaper, I made an announcement to the family. “DON”T buy any aerated drinks.” And when the last word slipped from my mouth, I froze. Because only a few years ago, I had advised my family, just the opposite. I have come a full circle.

In those days, when we used to travel from Delhi to Madras ( it was not yet Chennai then) I used to warn my sons against drinking water from unclean sources. But filling water from rail station tap was “cool”.

Irrational though, my faith in the “public” water dispensing system, was quite solid. In fact, in my effort to develop immunity in my children’s system, I didn’t encourage the idea of “boiling water” for drinking purposes. My stand was vindicated when I found that they didn’t get “cold” or fever even when they happened to drink water from outside sources wherever they went – as children usually do. I was happy that they were growing up without much fuss and that their immune system was fine and that their antibodies will take care of any health hazard situation. So it was, for major part of their growing up. Drinking water directly from the kitchen tap was the way of life. Bisleri and its clan were actually looked down by us. “Look. People actually sell water. And who would buy this – really? People must be crazy or at least, snobs – to buy bottled water” was our refrain whenever we saw these bottles lining up shop shelves. ( But Ramesh Chauhan and his ilk knew better. The bottled water biz stood at a whopping Rs.1100 crore in 2001:-))

Now back to me and my family, well, somewhere along the way we had to boil water for drinking since the locality we moved into at that time didn’t have potable water on the taps. But we didn’t realize that, it was the onset of a strange disease called “water phobia”.

Later, even when we moved several houses and now to Chennai, I could not “risk” drinking tap water. So we became converts – and like the rest of the populace in this part of the country, we “buy” water - a 20 litre refill @ Rs. 35 – twice a week.

And in those train travels in the past, I used to advise my sons to buy a soda or any aerated drink than to risk unhygienic water. Again, it was the same kind of irrational faith that anything in a sealed container will be “pure” and safe.


For they may contain anything – a dead lizard, pan parag sachet, sour sediments, or a matchstick. True. These are all various “items” found in aerated bottle drinks on various occasions. The latest being the “lizard” in a Chennaiitte’s experience.

What are consumer agencies doing?? Why there is not much of media spot light? When Queen Mary’s faced the threat of demolition the whole media and consumer agencies and the public all went agog.

Perhaps the increasing instances of “foreign items” don’t merit our attention so much?

In any case, I think I am nearing a full circle. I have a feeling that the tap water is a lot safer. No…No… wait a sec.

I think the water coming from a riverbed should be safe? No. It is all open, and what contamination?

Ah… I have one sure strategy. In my period of growing up, we lived in a small town where we used to bring water by digging small springs on the river bed. We used to locate a clean place on the sand, start digging there with our hands and after a certain depth, the shallow place will contain some water, which we used to lift in small scoops and drain it into our container. THAT water, perhaps, will be safe :-)


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