The scorching heat, especially in cities like Delhi, is enough to leave us all yearning for a sip of water. Haven’t we all had that moment when we are strolling about on a hot afternoon, and decide that we cannot move forward without drinking a tall glass of ice-cold water that very instant?
While some of us have the luxury of purchasing a bottle of packaged drinking water if we aren’t carrying our own, there are some who simply cannot afford to do so.
This is where 69-year-old Alagarathanam Natarajan, popularly known as Delhi’s ‘Matka man,’ comes in.
Alag, who used to run a joke and souvenir shop in the streets of London has an inspirational story himself. He was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, battled the disease, and returned to India.
“When I first returned I was working on creating more sturdy and efficient cycle rickshaws. Since then I have offered my skills to an orphanage, to a last-stage cancer hospice, served langar (food) to the homeless in Chandni Chowk and carried out the cremation of destitutes to give them a dignified end. In 2014 in the smothering heat of the Delhi summer, I turned my attention to water. After seeing so many people going thirsty, I began thinking, how can I help them?” wrote Alag on his website.
He began by installing a water cooler outside his home. He soon realised that people would walk a fair amount of distance just to reach it. “Once, I casually asked one of the guards who came to take water from the cooler why he was coming here and not taking water from where he worked. He said they did not provide him water,” Alag informed the Economic Times.
Appalled by what he had just heard, he took it upon himself to install several matkas, or earthen pots, in various parts of South Delhi.
“Delhi is thirsty. I am using matkas to provide drinking water to poor people. I have developed and set up more than 15 matka stands (the total number of matkas, according to latest reports, is 70!) all over my neighbourhood in South Delhi. The stands have a sign with my number, so people can notify me when a matka is empty. They need around 2000 litres of water a day in the summer months, and the water is supplied by a school nearby and two kind souls. The rest I supplement from my own home. I maintain these stands daily with my van,” he says.
Every morning, before the sun rises, Alag starts his van and begins his rounds, refilling matkas with water. Sometimes, the water lasts all day, but there are also times when it gets over by the evening. In such cases, anyone who wants water or is a well-wisher only needs to call and inform him about the situation.
However, the efforts of one man are not enough to quench the Capital’s thirst, and Alag is looking for people who can join him in his mission. Here are more details about what he needs. Click the link and help him to help Delhi!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)