‘Cauvery, Cauvery antha badkothare…’

C.B. YASHWANTI writes: First, there were pictures of a National award-winning actress carrying an empty pot on the streets. Next, there were pictures of a State shut down to “make a point”. The headlines cried in unison: “Bandh total”.

It was comforting to read that the State had come together for something, peacefully.

Last week, in the run-up to the bandh, I had overheard a conversation between two women—one a bus conductor and the other a government official—“Nanu raja hakbittidini. Namagu neer bekalla. Naav madadiddre inyaru madthare?

The proprietor of a provisions store in my neighbourhood revealed similar sentiments. “Namgagi madthairodalva bandhu? Gothiddu gotthiddu naav yaak angdi thegibeku,” he said supportively despite having to suffer losses the next day.

So post-bandh, as I walked up to pick up my morning packet of milk, my satisfied smile was flushed away by the annoying noise of water splashing on the street. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes were out there in their nighties indulging in an activity that I thought was appallingly insensitive, especially after the day of abstinence, er, silence.

It seems that no self-respecting kannadathi can begin her day without performing the daily abhisheka of sorts—throwing away a few buckets of water on the road in front of her house.

It is a ritual (a disdainful habit?) that we seemed to have carried from centuries past, when water was plentiful and front yards made of sand to the present days of scarcity, conflict, tarred roads and apartment living.

Don’t even mention overflowing overhead tanks, leaking pipes (there was one on Mysore road that had created a rivulet prompting a motorist to comment, “Cauvery, Cauvery antha badkothare. Lekka illade neer chellodu mathra nilsolla.”)

It is all too well to roll on the roads and hoist pots for a photo-op. But is that all we need to do to save water?

If yes, then we might succeed in saving it from flowing into our neighbour States only to flush it down our dirty sewers. Whether the water situation is really alarming, as the Chief Minister cautions, we will know only when the taps go dry soon.

Will empty sloganeering quench our thirst then?

Think about it the next time you bathe your island of tar or cement.