A simple act of generosity has gone a long mile, women of the locality no longer have to battle over water, discovers Geetanjali Krishna.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
The season for giving is upon us, a good time to reflect on the transformative power of kindness.
I met a family in Memdi, a village in Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh, whose act of generosity really moved me.
At a time when water was scarcely available to 38-year-old Mamta Kailwa and her family, they chose to share their personal well with the entire neighbourhood.
I had a chance to have tea with the family.
Here's their story.
"This was an old kaccha well about 18-feet deep, in the farthest corner of our fields," said Kailwa, as we hiked up to the well through the sugarcane fields.
The family didn't use it much as the path was long, slushy and snake-infested.
"It was too shallow to have much water anyway," she said.
Eventually, as water became scarcer in Memdi, Kailwa and her mother, like all their neighbours, spent most their day fetching water, especially in the summers.
The family decided to have the well cemented and deepened to 70-feet in 2017.
"To our delight, its water level rose substantially," she said.
The family decided to invest in a 3,000-foot pipe to pump the water to their doorstep.
"It was at this point that we all stopped to think how far we were about to come from the past, when we had often been turned away from privately-owned bore wells when there was no other water source nearby," said Kailwa.
"My father, a devout Hindu and a firm believer in fate, began to wonder if the well had been rejuvenated because of the good fortune of a family member or that of a neighbour."
They bore the expense of the pump and the laying of the long pipeline and brought it to their doorstep -- but not inside their door.
"We felt that water, like air should be shared by all -- who were we to lay claim on it," she said.
"We placed the tap outside the house so that all our neighbours could share the water equally."
Today, the Kailwa family turns on the pump twice a day and their old well services the water needs of dozens of families living around.
The pipe opens into a large tank outside their house and within minutes, it is surrounded by neighbours filling their buckets.
They bear all the maintenance expenses.
"We still remember what it felt like to be turned away in our hour of need," said Kailwa.
"That's why my parents and I now feel that even if our fields don't get sufficient water, every person in our neighbourhood should."
The transformation this simple act of generosity has effected has been immense.
The women of the locality no longer have to battle over water.
The time spent on fetching water can now be spent on daily labour and community work.
Moreover, this family's goodwill has somehow made them all a little more helpful towards one another.
"Perhaps this kind of generosity is contagious," commented a neighbour, there to fill her bucket.
"This family has shown how communities can bond together when they share resources rather than claim them as their own."