Discussions the Young Writers' Club about water scarcity and survival- Being thankful for the water that flows through the taps even during lockdowns. Not everyone has water in their homes, let alone a tap.
Talking about a lifestyle in which water is hard to come by
At the Young Writers’ Club last week, we read and discussed a narrative essay written by Becky Straw, the Water Project manager for a non profit organisation, Charity: Water. We talked about what it is like for people in Uganda to live with little access to clean water and drew comparisons to what it is like in India. Some of the teens made connections to stories told by their parents and grandparents about the past when access to water meant drawing water from a well or walking to the nearby lake or river and carrying heavy pots of water back home. Interestingly some of them had never heard of such stories. Perhaps, such instances happened a really long time ago or no one felt the need to share those instances with them. Nevertheless it brought an important fact to the forefront. Lives have become substantially better as India has achieved tremendous progress on multiple fronts since independence. True, there are places even in India today where the situation is no different from Uganda. However, the proportion of people having easy access to water in India is likely to be far higher.
How a narrative essay writing style can bring forth facts that otherwise could be a dull and dry read.
Water scarcity and lack of access to water is a worldwide problem that prevails in India too. A search for articles on the water crisis in India would yield multiple articles with statistical facts. But what makes it compelling for a reader to read is a story, preferably one that conveys an emotion and one that is written beautifully.
Narrative style of writing helps bring the stories of people, what they felt like when relief after years of struggle came by, what it felt like to be in a position to deliver that relief and ponder over our blessings which we tend to take for granted. Water is a commodity that we tend to take for granted. “I haven’t thought twice about the water that flows through the tap in my home. This story has taught me to realise that something that I take for granted could be scarce after all,” said one of the teens at the club. The others agreed.
"Water is a commodity that we tend to take for granted. “I haven’t thought twice about the water that flows through the tap in my home. This story has taught me to realise that something that I take for granted could be scarce after all..”
Unusual choice for a title- “I Feel Beautiful for the First Time”
What is the connection between water scarcity and feeling beautiful? This was a question that we all thought about before sharing our perspectives. Some felt it was odd but did make them curious about a possible connection. One of the teens suggested that perhaps the writer felt beautiful, a result of helping someone without expectation and having had a tangible impact in the process. I remembered a friend’s story in which she was told by a guide on a trekking trip that the spring water at a mountain was so pure that it caused the skin to glow. She went ahead and washed her face in the cool and clean water for a natural glow. Whether that occurred ofcourse is a story for another day. Each one of us made our own connections before we found out the real reason behind the title. When we found out that it was a quote from what a happy woman shared with the writer soon after having easy access to water for the first time in her life. She was able to shower regularly, she had more time in her hands to do gardening, ensure her children’s uniforms were washed for school and generally a more fulfilling life than before. She didn’t have to walk for miles with heavy cans of water.
Picture Courtesy : Charity Water
The men vs women divide- discovering new perspectives
We read about how it is predominantly women who walk for water. Underlying assumption there was that men are at work while the women manage the homes and hence are generally the ones who walk for water. The essay mentions an anecdote in which a few men chuckled when a woman said, “I can shower regularly now.” This anecdote raised different reactions from the group. While some of us found the men insensitive and their act inappropriate, we got a chance to think again when a teen pointed out the possibility of them feeling cheerful for the relief of having access to water for a regular bath. His point of view forced the rest of us to step back from seeing the situation only from the woman’s eyes but also from the men’s perspective. Perhaps they weren’t mocking at all but also joining in the cheer. Leaving room for another possibility than what it meets our eye right away or the first thought that occurs in our minds, was an interesting outcome of that group discussion. "While that may be true," said one of the teens towards the end, "the timing of that chuckle suggests that they were indeed mocking her." What is true, we wouldn't know unless we are on the ground and probing deeper. But, we are open to multiple possibilities and not prejudiced by a singular notion.
"While that may be true," said one of the teens towards the end, "the timing of that chuckle suggests that they were indeed mocking her."
From a writing point of view
The essay lent itself to showcasing a writing style that relied heavily on the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ technique and helped us talk about the way the writer had chosen to show us what the roads looked like and how it felt travelling on them in open trucks.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 12-14 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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