It was in year 2013, Dr. D. Narasimha Reddy the founder of Chetana organization offered me a consultancy for WaterAid project. Through this project, they were creating awareness on the quality of water in the slums of Hyderabad. In May 2009, 14 people in Bholakpur area, Hyderabad died after consuming polluted water. The municipality supplied this water through regular pipe connection. Such incidents happened was due to the mixing of sewage water with the drinking water. The situation in many slum areas and other low-income residential areas is same. Especially the threat is more during the summer and rainy season every year.
I liked this task as it would give me an opportunity to visit some of the poor people living in slums and contribute to their awareness of the quality of water. I visited at least a dozen slums.
I once visited Rasoolpura, it is a big slum close to the old Airport, Near Begumpet. The roads are a maze and very narrow. One should be familiar to get in and get out of this area. I have visited several houses and checked how they are collecting and storing water. Seen the water collecting pits. People make pits, as they get more water due increased potential energy. Mostly the pipes do not have taps so sometimes the excess water leaked or collected in the pits, flows back in the pipes. It is responsible for contamination of the water.
I along with volunteers and staff of Chetana, used to go and meet people and enquire about the water quantity and quality being supplied and their hardships in some areas.
The roads are very narrow, and the drainage system runs in the middle of the road. Manholes are placed on this drainage system at very 30 to 50 meters distance, which is used for cleaning them. Many manholes are also the drainage leakage points, or sometimes water comes out as springs, due to blockage in the downstream. The manhole lids are removed for various reasons. If they are made up of wrought iron, some people steal them and sell it. Therefore nowadays, the manholes are made up of thick concrete blocks. They are removed if there is any blockage or during the rainy season to let the excess flood water to pass through. We have several incidents in Hyderabad, where some people have fallen in them and lost their life or got seriously injured.
On this particular day, a meeting was organized with the women in one particular area of Rasoolpura. I was going to the community hall. As usual, I was more curious to observe the people and various aspects of the slum area. I had a very bad habit of testing things while walking. I step on the manhole lids also to test if they are strong. While walking, I stepped on this particular manhole where something was lying over it. I was not so mindful on that day, as I also need to give a live interview on a TV show, on the water quality in Hyderabad. When I stepped with my left leg over it, it suddenly went in. It bruised against the sides of the manhole and went it. I could not understand what is happening. The staff who were following me came to my rescue. My left leg got stuck, I realized that there was a used pillow, someone placed over the manhole, and it went along with my leg inside. The pillow obstructed me from pulling out my leg. My right leg was on the ground. I got out and saw there was red blood oozing where I got hurt, and my leg and trouser was completely dark with drainage sludge. Never imagined that one day I would also fall in a manhole. Usually, in the comedy scenes, it is shown, someone falls inattentively and we all laugh. So, I also laughed inside, in spite of the pain. A lady from nearby house saw all this, she brought a container full of water and poured over me. I pulled down my pant legs, and I don’t want to see the damage anymore. Went to the meeting with wet pant and created awareness on the water quality. Left to the TV studio (TV9 Telugu) for the live interview on water quality. Returned home and just slept. Went to the hospital in the evening and only then I saw that some part of my bone is also visible. It took about two moths to get cured. This incident taught me that one could be working on serious issues, but could have incidents of comedy. Always watch and walk, and don’t test everything.