One of the worst States to be affected by the rising mercury each summer is Rajasthan, and who would know the value of water better than the citizens of this desert state of India?
But the 58 members of the Rotary Club of Bikaner Marudhara have come out with an initiative that goes beyond thinking of quenching the thirst of human beings in the summer. For the fourth year in a row, this year too, as the summer has set in, the Rotarians have been distributing small terracotta containers, known in Rajasthan as mitti ke palasia to Bikaner’s residents with an appeal. To fill up these containers with fresh water and keep them out in their balconies, verandahs, terraces or gardens, so that birds can quench their thirst from these, as the mercury soars during the summer months.
The Rotarians distribute the palasias at the mosques at the time of iftar in Ramzan because those who are fasting realise much more the importance and value of water.
“We began this project in 2015 by distributing just 400 such containers to different sections of society, and it has really caught on. This year our club has already distributed 4,000 such containers to people,” says Rajesh Baweja, incoming secretary of the club. Being a big animal and bird lover, this project was his brain child to do “something for the bezuban pakshi (voiceless birds) of our city. We commission the local potters to make these terracotta containers, each of which costs around ₹ 20, including the distribution cost, and ensure that while these are being given out in the streets or traffic junctions, we take along with us schoolchildren, including our own children.”
The idea, he says, is not only to “sensitise the younger generation about taking care of birds and animals, but also to instill in them a sense of service. We want them to realise that we should think not only of ourselves, but also the other living beings around us.”
In the last four years, adds Baweja, around 10,000 such containers have been distributed in the city. He is happy that the recipients make good use of these and keep them clean and filled with water. “Some people hang them on the trees to make it easier for the birds to quench their thirst.”
So do all the members of his club keep out these little containers filled with water?
“Of course, it is compulsory for every member to do so.” The other benefit, he adds, is generating a livelihood, however seasonal, for the potters. The Rotarians watch out for every opportunity to distribute the palasias, including at places of worship. “Particularly at the mosques at the time of iftar in Ramzan, because those who are fasting realise much more the importance and value of water,” says Baweja.
The local media has appreciated and publicised this project, and “recently we took along with us the RJ of 92.7 Big FM, and they gave us very good coverage”. The audio clip he sends me has an appealing message to the people of the city — to collect such palasias from the Rotary club and welcome the winged creatures visiting their homes with some water kept in the container, and “get the blessings of the birds”.
For after all, adds the RJ, everybody should remember that it is all about “parindo ki zindagani; thodisi chchav, thodasa pani (Most of all a bird needs some shade… and some water).”