The summer heat has gradually infiltrated and then dominated the city. In the afternoon, the park is deserted, except for goats who relentlessly masticate the dry fallen leaves. The ‘uncle’ who runs the betel shop takes his post-lunch nap under a small tree. Calm has spread across the area. It is too hot for those who generally create a ‘nuisance’ in the park. But in addition to this, people have started using the park as their place of leisure, and have become aware of the need to keep it clean.
The only problem in the peaceful environment is that the drinking water tank is always near-empty. There is never enough water in it to satisfy the constant thirst of people who want to sit under the big banyan tree. There is no other source of public drinking water in Dakshinpuri.
Recently, a colleague remarked that he could no longer find any piaos, the traditional drinking water troughs with taps that one found in the streets of Delhi. Till about eight years ago, people did not carry drinking water; they depended, as they had always done, on the ever-reliable and ever-flowing piaos. Today, these civic structures seem to be near-extinct; the culture of public drinking-water supply has found a new avatar in the omnipresent Bisleri bottle.
Dakshinpuri used to have community municipal water taps on the side of the road or on the corners of lanes. Today, each house has its own taps, and the public taps are defunct and corroded relics. Gone, too, is the community practice of gathering at the tap to socialise while filling vessels. If there is a water shortage, people in their homes have no option but to pray for benevolence on the part of the city water board.
The lone, small, functioning public faucet on the main road outside the park does not attract the residents of Dakshinpuri, who say, “That tap is for slum-dwellers.”