Water crusader Aabid Surti's one man mission to save water
Aabid Surti, a resident of Mira Road is the founder of Drop Dead Foundation, an NGO that repairs minor plumbing problems such as leaks in the households of Mumbai for free
We have often heard the phrase 'little drops make the ocean' but we turn a blind eye towards the small droplets that drip from the taps of our homes. One man chooses to fight that. 84-year-old Aabid Surti, a resident of Mira Road is the founder of Drop Dead Foundation, an NGO that repairs minor plumbing problems such as leaks in the households of Mumbai for free. The agenda is simple - every Sunday, along with a plumber and an assistant, he visits houses in and around Mira Road and fixes dripping taps. We spoke to Aabid Surti on being the one man NGO and what drives him
Mission Sundays Tap Drive
As a part of the drive, Aabid Surti and his plumber identify a building a week before they commence. A poster of Drop Dead Foundation is put up on the notice board and on the next day pamphlets, are distributed so that the residents are aware of the cause. Apart from fixing taps, Surti educates people on little things they can do at home to save and conserve water. Aabid Surti insists that it is a social cause and there is no political agenda attached to it. The mission that started in 2007 is going strong after 12 years. Surti says, "The response is phenomenal and positive. We have received tremendous love of people so much so that when we have gone to fix a leaky tap, some residents ask us to wait and have lunch, some offer us soft drinks. The love that we get is mostly in the ghettos."
Is the response always this welcoming, we ask. To which Surti replies, "Initially my plumber and I used to go to houses and seeing two men, women or senior citizens sometimes used to get baffled. I thought about it - why would anyone refuse a free service? After thinking long and hard, I realised that women who run the household may not be comfortable with unknown men coming over. So we introduced a female volunteer and our problem got solved in a jiffy."
Aabid Surti and plumber Dibakar Das. Pic/AFP
Water - a sensitive topic
Water is a sensitive topic for Aabid Surti and that stems from the fact that the octagenarian has spent his life in poverty. "I was raised in poverty and used to sleep on the pavements in Dongri. My grandmother in the village used to travel two miles just to fill a pot of water. In Dongri, I have seen fights for water which is why whenever I see leakages, I used to be disturbed." The idea of fixing taps struck him in 2007 when he noticed the dripping tap in his friend's house and he asked him to fix it. Six months down the line, Surti saw that nothing had changed. When he confronted his friend, the answer he got in return was it's just a drop and no plumber comes for such a small task. This bothered him and caused an epiphany. Surti shares, "Somewhere I read in the newspaper that one drop of water per minute results in 1000 litres water down the drain in a month. Imagine someone throwing 1000 drinking water bottles down the drain. I got very affected by it and I immediately set to work on how I can make a difference."
Aabid Surti started his mission with his own money. Surti says, "The first time, I put in my money, I felt positive about it. So I jotted down finances like Like paying the plumber, auto fare, lunches. I received Rs 1 lakh from Hindi Sahitya Sansthan from Uttar Pradesh. I realised if you are doing something good for society with honesty and transparency, god becomes your fundraiser
Aabid Surti's Foundation has done tie-ups with schools which had around 2000 kids not only volunteering for the cause but also creating awareness for the same. He has many awards to his credit and Surti has also been a part of Amitabh Bachchan's show. Saving water is Aabid Surti's focus but helping the needy comes naturally to him due to his humble background. Aabid Surti says, "When I go to ghettos, I see people don't have anything to eat, youngsters are jobless. So during my evening walks, whenever I see shops or establishments that have a note stuck for hiring, I pass it on to the ones who need it and tell them to decide if that job is suitable for them or not. When it comes to senior citizens, he says, "Wherever I go, I try to motivate senior citizens to involve themselves in some cause. It need not be anything big. If not water, do something for birds. The least you can do is plant a tree and nurture it. I believe that life and nature have given so many things for free, it is also our moral responsibility to give something back to nature." Aabid Surti signs off, "If I can, you can."
Aabid Surti's tips to save water
Every individual in his or her capacity can save water. Here are some tips by Aabid Surti.
- Get the leaking tap in your house soon
- Don't leave basin tap running while shaving, brushing your teeth
- Instruct your house help to not open the tap full while washing clothes or utensils.
- Try to use a bucket of water instead of shower.
- Use a small tumbler. Big ones waste a lot of water
The route to visit Drop Dead Foundation
About Aabid Surti
Born on May 5, 1935, Aabid Surti is a painter, author, cartoonist, journalist, environmentalist, and playwright. He obtained a Diploma in Arts from Sir J. J. Institute of Fine Art in 1960. He published his first novel Tootela Farishta (Fallen Angels) in Gujarati in 1965. Since then, Aabid has written a number of short stories, novels, plays, children’s books, comic books, and travelogues. His comic book character Bahadur published by Indrajaal comics had a cult fan following. In 1993, he won a National Award for his short-story collection Teesri Aankh.
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Rally to make people aware to save water held