Friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me confess right in the beginning, I am not here to deliver a speech, because I am not a great orator. I cannot give you any new info on the global water crisis since I am not a professional conservationist. In fact, I do not even know how a tap works. Yet I am here…I am here to share my enthusiasm, my experiences in saving around 10 million liters of water single handedly in my community.

Basically, as an author, I prefer to work sitting on my divan with my legs stretched, or take brushes and paints to create canvasses. So the frequently asked question is: What inspired me to leave my cozy corner and embark on such a trying project, going door to door knocking and correcting leaking faucets?

The answer lies in my childhood years that were spent on the pavement. To get a bucket full of water from the common tap, my mother had to stand in the queue early in the morning and often she had to fight for her right. This childhood memory kept on haunting me whenever I saw a dripping tap.

When I visited friends’ homes, generally I found one or two taps leaking. I requested them to get it repaired. But that never happened. After a few weeks I visited the same friends again and saw the same taps dripping. When questioned, they would come out with the similar answer- No plumber wants to visit for petty jobs. Then they would invariably advice – Aabid, why are you getting upset for just a few drops?

I had no answer. It was the legacy of my past, the agony within. How could I explain it to them? In a way, their problem too was genuine. The leakage nuisance in ghettos and lower middle class colonies is worst. A plumber’s visit costs a minimum of Rs.100, which poor households cannot afford.

One day, as I was reading my morning paper, I came across an article on water. It explained- If one drop drips in a second, in a month a thousand liters of water goes down the drain. I imagined a thousand bottles of drinking water poured into the sewage. This magnitude of waste was the fitting answer to those friends who thought I had phobia for drops. Not only that I got a practical solution too to stop leakages- Just go to friends houses with a plumber and get leaking faucets corrected. This thought was the birth of my One Man NGO or Drop Dead Foundation.

Since then, we, I mean a plumber, a female volunteer and myself, have developed a process which we follow like clockwork. On Mondays, my volunteer visits the targeted building and meets the secretary of the housing society for permission. If the secretary agrees, then she put up a poster on the housing society’s notice board on the ground floor or near the lift, with our tagline Save Every Drop or Drop Dead.

The bold words, Drop Dead, have a great impact on the members. On Saturdays, through the watchman of the building, we send pamphlets that explain what Drop Dead Foundation is about, to every home. So when we arrive on Sunday morning; we get a warm welcome from the members of the apartment building. Then we go house to house correcting leaky taps.

By working to save water, the pure love you get from door to door is indescribable. People are waiting to see an angel and to them, you are one, if you decide to take up this cause in your neighborhood. The foundation provides poster, sticker, pamphlet, Tee-shirt designs online. You just have to make minor changes in the pamphlet text. Where my cell No is, put yours, where my address is, put yours. And delete my name also to be replaced by your name. It’s your baby, not franchise from the foundation. The cause matters, not the name.

As you know, I’m giving only my Sunday mornings for this initiative. It’s so simple, so easy for anyone to do it. And that is what I want to convey to all, especially to senior citizens: Please come out of the self imposed retirement cocoon; spend a couple of hours inspiring people to do good for the society and that will rejuvenate you also. The living example is in front of you. Just do it. If I can, you can.

Now you must be wondering about the financing of this One Man NGO! Where will money come if someone is inspired to go ahead with it? Before launching in 2007 I too had to seriously contemplate about the same problem of funding and within a couple of weeks I received Lifetime Achievement Award for my Hindi literature, Rs. 1,00,000. When you honestly set out to do good for others, the whole universe is there to back you. Not only that, God becomes your fund raiser. Whenever my finances are about to dwindle, God pokes the right person and I receive a check without asking.

This year (2013), God lovingly poked Mr. Azim Premji of Wipro who gave the Sparrow Award worth Rs.50,000 to Drop Dead Foundation, followed by philanthropist Rotarians of Mumbai with Rs.1.00.000. Please note, so far I have not approached anyone for funding. Of course, contributions from people with no strings attached are always welcome.

When I say No Strings Attached, I mean no underhand wheeling-dealings. I’ll give you one example. In 2010 when my funding was about to get over, a Good Samaritan friend managed to get sanction from Gujarat Government- Rs. 13,00,000. For me it was windfall, manna from heaven. But there was a catch. From 13 Lacs, the foundation was supposed to return 5 Lacs in cash and that was supposed to be the commission of the government official who sanctioned it. Naturally I refused it. My fundraiser, the guy above, was highly pleased and within a week I got a cheque of Rs. 50,000 from Maharashtra State Hindi Academy for my contribution to literature.

Now the next question could be- What are DDF’s accomplishments so far? Well, for that I have kept the record of our first year, February 2007 to February 2008– incidentally 2007 was the International Year of Water also. During that period, we visited 1,666 houses, fixed 414 leaking taps free of charge, and saved about 4.lakh 14 thousand liters of water. Approximately it comes to 10 million liters till date.

The response to Drop Dead has been unbelievable. It’s picking up fast like jungle fire, not only in India but all over the globe. A television channel from Berlin gave a 10 minutes slot to Drop Dead Foundation, airing it all over Europe too.

Now I am moving one step further. I’ve started motivating school children also. The students of the Cosmopolitan High School as well as The Rawal International school of Mira Road and their staff members are committed to conserve water. Its 2000+ students are my angels who are carrying forward the message to save water by undertaking campaigns and putting up water conservation posters in their buildings.

I am also planning to acquire a small garage space for the office use with a computer, phone and a bicycle. There, a plumber will be available whole day. If a leakage starts anywhere in Mira Road, the person has just to ring up the office and like fireman, our plumber will rush to the spot on the bicycle.

But this project needs big money. And to get that money I’ve painted 30 canvasses, each one priced at Rs. 1 Lakh. I am keeping my fingers crossed for marketing them. I am sure the guy up there is going to poke quite a few of you also.

Before I close my talk, let me thank the publisher of IPT and my friend, Kamal, whose love and respect has pulled me here and also all of you who listened patiently to every word I said. This has given me confidence too. Yes, I can deliver lecture also. Thanks all.

Aabid Surti
15th November 2013
10th World Plumbing Conference
Hotel: The Grand New Delhi, India