If you have lived through Indian monsoons all your life then you can never imagine that water can ever be in short supply. Sadly, if not harvested in lakes and ponds and stored underground with the support of tree roots, then most of this invaluable resource drains off into the ocean. Yes, desalination is a reality, but why go through that process when water can be harvested in reservoirs of old and new knowledge to contain the downpour of fresh water. Global warming may occasion sudden floods, when water to drink may be scarce. A true case of water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Time to really rethink the way we live and the things that we “want” that produce environmental disasters including water pollution. A simple chemically dyed shirt can add to polluted rivers!
My farm experience
Closer home, ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to be entrusted with a farm that had an open well. The first year that I experienced my little Garden of Eden, the initial learning was that within a week of the first rains in June, my 30-feet well would be overflowing. And within two weeks of the last rains in September, my well would be a quarter full. The need to recharge my well, my land, plant as many trees, and try to contain as much water as possible with each rain became clear. All the water used in the kitchen and bath are returned to the land. The toilet water is returned via a bio-gas unit. The ground water level will get a boost inspite of swimming pools in the area.
Yes, water flowing from other farms into mine with their chemical fertilisers and pesticide residues does adulterate my soil, but little one can do about it other than hope that the consciousness in the area rises for people to switch to organic. Thus far, because I am not a commercial farmer, I am not an example for my neighbours. At the moment I am an eccentric Mumbaiite not burning leaves and waste, not using chemicals, not sweeping the leaves twigs and waste, digging holes, using waste water, allowing nature to take its course.
But rain water harvesting is not the point of this essay. My experience, with the quickness with which my well overflowed and then reduced to seven feet of water which lasted until May of the next year, made me realise how abundant nature is, it is only our failing in being able to live within HER laws and use her resources wisely. Goa is a great example of this abundance, the reservoirs created in this State ensure its green lushness year round.
Water is essential for human life, even if one lives on foods that are water-rich like fruits, the need for water cannot be questioned. Nature totally is in sync with providing smaller fruits in the winter like strawberries and grapes, and water-rich fruits in the summer like water melons and mangoes. The more spicy, salty and chilli foods one eats, the more water you will need to wash it down, allowing your cells to be safe. As in all other nutrition norms, my recommendations would be to “LISTEN TO YOUR BODY”. Those who eat more raw foods, will automatically need less water. So to say that eight glasses or so many litres of water are essential for human body is incorrect. In fact, if too much water is drunk, kidneys could get overwhelmed. Thirst is the best indication that the body gives you to hydrate yourself. Each one’s body is different and metabolises food and water differently.
Conditions are also different. One great way of realising that one needs rest, and is heading for any acute inflammation like a cold or fever, is the body’s increased need for water. And, indeed, it is the best way to deal with the onslaught of an infection and to nip it in the bud. At this point, the body will crave for water which will indeed hasten its recovery.
Drink room temperature water, drink coconut water, drink lemon water with organic sugar-rock salt (good old nimbu pani) which is also the best way to re-hydrate oneself after loss of water due to diarrhea or vomiting, especially when no other food is advisable until the body’s ph balance changes from acid to alkaline. At this time when the body needs rest, only water can do the trick. Often people will try and eat bananas, rice, apples, pomegranate, all good foods when recovering from an upset tummy, but not until the body is given a full break from digestion so as to regain its digestive energy. No medication is necessary if this is done, but the lemon water-raw sugar-rock salt combination or coconut water need to be sipped to ensure that no dehydration occurs.
Our holy ‘tryst’ with water
India has a “holy” tryst with water, the Ganges being considered mother and holy. It is in line with the importance of safe pure water for the human body internally, and for bathing purposes. It pains me to see an unhygienic nation when in fact, Indians were the epitome of cleanliness. The very fabric of our being torn to shreds by those that conquered. A nation that took two baths daily, now has to deal with food poisoning as a common ailment. I believe this has much to do with the fact that people in kitchens do not have proper toilet facilities or even the desire to wash well. I believe that stomach bugs are not caused by ‘bugs’, but by this hygiene issue when your food gets contaminated by hands that have no access to toilets or to clean water to wash up after.
Of course, water from the Ganges is meant to salvage the soul too….we really have so much of our tradition to revert to…to relearn…maybe first just to have faith in.
The filtration story
Filtration of water has become crucial today unless you live in the Himalayas and have the chance of sipping straight from a stream. But with industry producing all kinds of water pollution, and ironically agriculture creating its own via chemicals used for farming, one has to be filtering water. The good old fashioned way with a charcoal filter is great, but this needs to be followed up with storage in a copper vessel which has been found to be the best to reduce bacteria count. If you are aware that the water in your area is particularly bad, then in addition to all this, good old boiling is a good solution. Indian knowledge once again to the rescue!
Many filtration systems take away minerals from the water which is not a good idea. And yet the mineral water that comes in bottles is not the answer either. Ok, once in a while if you are stuck in an outdoor situation and have to resort to it. Filtration is still a mystery and one does not know what is real and what is merely a business. Your gut generally gets used to your daily environment and a particular set of bacteria, you don’t need to worry too much unless you are travelling. I would say when outdoors, stick to cooked food unless you are washing the raw food yourself. Ironical too that water the cleanser can cause water borne diseases when its purity is tampered with or simply neglected.
So here are some pointers for living in our insane world:
There will be wars for water if we do not live with respect for nature. So as in everything be aware of water, be conscious of its purity, of its abundance, its absolute necessity, internally and externally. Then only will this resource be available to us in its original avatar.