Every Drop Counts


Every Drop Counts…  

Water buckets of regular size, some in colorful plastic and some galvanized iron made in Howrah were always there full of water outside every room in Nehru Hall.  There were red buckets too around the IIT buildings labeled “Fire”; much to the delight of amused Nehruites as they were full of sand.

No doubt water was a precious commodity. When the sound of the first stream of water came from our bathrooms, all of us in Nehru Hall including the ward boys rushed with the empty buckets to fill them up. Often we used to fight in the queue waiting to fill up the tap water and there were more fights when creative ones amongst ourselves attempted to fill the buckets with water from showers while some were actually taking the shower. The reason for this anger and belligerence was simple as no one knew when the water taps would stop flowing and go dry.

From the time Nehru Hall came into existence in the early nineteen fifties, the problem of short supply of water was always there. At the most, the flow of water from the taps and showers would be there for an hour or two around three times in a day. In all the years we could not really figure out who was the actual person behind turning the flow of water with this on and off strategy and the reason behind it. Clearly if we had any knowledge who he was, we would have sabotaged the water supply operation 24 x 7 for Nehru Hall. There were many famous figures at the time (late sixties). Our infirmary doctor was “jallad”. Our strength of material professor was B.M. “Beam” Pal, and there was “Boka” Nundy, “Shaggy” Sharma and of course “Pop” Mitra. But the identity of the water person was a complete mystery.

You may be wondering why there was a need for water in buckets outside every door. Here is the enlightenment: there are three basic needs for this precious commodity (setting aside the need for drinking water); for taking a bath, for hygienic purposes and for washing clothes. All these three human needs, need water which was fully at the mercy of this mysterious person who controlled the supply of water to just three times and for only an hour or two each day. The buckets were, in the words of Japanese manufacturing, the “Kanban” – or a supply that filled the gaps in the supply chain that delivered water. (Thanks to Prof Mishra’s industrial engineering course).

Of all the three, bathing was the main issue. Imagine lathering up with “Sunlight” or “Lifebuoy” or the soap of choice for the coveted “Lux” – one could tell the Lux users had the best-looking skin and were the most “chickna” ones.  There were incidents of soap spread all over the body and then suddenly the water stops coming down from the shower. After utterances of the “choicest curses” to the unknown water guy and his relatives the next step was to “walk of shame” to get that bucket to at least wash off the soap in the body. We believe that happened to every one of us at some point in time during our stay as a student in Nehru Hall. By the time we reached our fifth and final year, we were much too experienced and most of us had learnt an innovative process of bathing the different parts of the body in phases. These days when we hear that people do some of their best thinking and exceptional creativity while taking a shower, most of the Nehruites of those times feel that we were robbed of this opportunity. Instead of path breaking creative ideas, we were more focussed on getting the job done in a hurry while the water was running.

Our creativity was of a different kind and interesting one like using a mug. No “lota” for us, as we had advanced to plastic mugs. Even after filling the mug there was still a need for a specific technique; we took only one mug. No matter what the splatter, the job had to be done with one mug. After that was the “manual flush”. This involved a specially marked bucket and the tank of water in the bathroom. The protocol was to fill this bucket with the tank water and send the recent deposits on their way. Later in life, using an ATM to make a deposit, pressing the “enter” button is an apt reminder of our youth.

The last usage was homage to the “Dhobi” in us. While we did send our clothes for ironing to the “Dhobis” who had divided the territory amongst them, it was certainly not cheap and many of us would do a one-two-three-dhobi routine; use the dhobi every fourth time. Note that with the humidity, heat and perspiration, changing of clothes were frequent. An easy rinse to save a few paisa. By the way, our mess bill was normally between Rs.60 and 80. The JEE students were not very wealthy and a Dhobi for every wash was the ultimate luxury.

Visiting Nehru Hall after fifty years, it gave us great joy to see that the water problem has been resolved. Although, the students of today take availability of water as granted, they are, however, missing the daily rejoicing and fun that we did when the sound of water reached our ears. Though the water problem has been overcome, it is very sad to see the state of Nehru Hall currently. It is not befitting for a great institution like IIT Kharagpur. The condition has been severely deteriorated due to lack or limited investment to put it bluntly.

With the water problem already resolved, it is now your chance to help out in renovating Nehru Hall. It does not matter to what era you belong to, please extend a helping hand with your monetary assistance for renovation of the rooms of Nehru Hall. About a hundred and more have already been renovated. Our arrangement with IIT is such that we write the cheque from the Alumni Association directly to the contractors and suppliers. 

YOUR monetary support will be utilized to achieve the goal of renovation of all the dorm rooms and common amenities of Nehru Hall.

S. Grewal ’70, D-Top-East

Create a legacy of excellence. Give today.

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