Indian Express Article


1st Sept. 2013

Writer, painter and now a crusader of water conservation


Aabid Surti, a writer and a painter, grew up in a room that he shared with 10 others. Sleeping on the pavement was not unusual for him. Women standing in a queue before a single tap in a ghetto of Dongri and fights breaking out over who would fill up their bucket first was a sight that haunted Surti for years.Surti, now 78, runs an NGO (Non Government Organisation) by the name of Drop Dead. Since February 2007, the Mira Road resident has spent Sundays fixing leaking taps for free to save water. “Every single drop of water was so precious in the ghetto. I had the image fixed in my mind for years,” Surti said.

Surti was once at a friend’s place when he found that a tap was leaking. On his next visit three months later, he found the leaking tap still had not been fixed. This prompted him to conceive the idea of Drop Dead.

“I had read somewhere that if a leaking tap is not repaired for a month, it leads to the wastage of nearly 1,000 litres of water,” Surti said.

“People from the lower-income group may not have the funds to call for a plumber the moment a tap starts leaking,” he said. The Nayanagar area of Mira Road is mostly dominated by people from the lower-income group. Sruti along with plumber Riyaz Ahmed goes from one house to the other in the area to fix leaking taps. One of the women volunteers- either Tejal Shah or Diya Patel- also accompanies him. The leaking taps are fixed free of cost.

Every Monday, Surti visits housing societies in the locality and speaks to the respective secretaries about his NGO. Posters of the NGO are put up on the noticeboard of the societies so that residents are familiar with Surti’s team when they visit their houses on Sunday.

In the first year, Surti says, the group visited 1,666 houses in Mira Road and repaired 414 leaking taps.

While Surti was trying to figure out how the finances will be worked out, he got a cash award of Rs 1 lakh for his writing from an Uttar Pradesh organisation associated with literature. Surti used the entire fund for Drop Dead. By 2010, the funds were exhausted. Unable to see how he would cope with the expenses of his NGO, Surti thought he would have to drop the idea of running Drop Dead. However, help came again. Surti won another cash prize, this time an amount of Rs 50,000 for his writing. He again used the funds for the cause that he believes in.

“When you are doing good work and your intentions are good, help comes,” Surti said. Since then, corporate groups and Rotary Clubs have also extended their support. Once when Surti was sitting outside a house while the plumber was fixing the tap inside, the owner of the house asked him to come in. He asked Sruti if his organisation was the brainchild of a political group and what is it that drop Dead gets in return of the services it renders.

“He was a Muslim. So, I asked him if he offers namaaz. He said yes. When I asked him the reason, he said he does it to please God. I said, exactly the same reason why I run this organisation,” Surti said. “Yeh meri ibaadat hain (This is my worship),” he added.