Hi, my name is Madhu Reddy, I am a chemical engineer and I have been working at NextDrop from the past two years. I manage utility relations and also build products at NextDrop. Here is my first blog post.
I visited Varanasi with my colleagues Bindu and Bhargav for a business proposal. Varanasi is a sacred and one of the oldest cities of the world located at banks of the holy River Ganga.
Our visit was quite adventurous as Varanasi felt the earthquake waves on our arrival, month after tragic tremor in Nepal, however that did not stop us from pursuing our mission.
One of the first things we saw were two over head tanks near by, eager to learn about the field operations we went to one of the tanks. A old man(pump operator) was giving prayers to God, we inspected the tank till pump operator finished his prayers. we learnt from the pump operator that, the tank is under maintenance, also there are no valveman, this was interesting. We tried to explain to him that we are talking about the men who run the water supply system, we didn’t believe him completely that there were ‘no valvemen’.
We got some insights from Govind, our auto driver on his water supply, he said first five minutes they get dirty water, after that water doesn’t smell. He gets water twice a day, for three hours. Govind was kind enough to show us some valves. Govind bought us tea made of ginger which was served in kulhad(earthen bowl), delicious.
River Ganga is indescribable but in humble words I would say she is majestic, lot of people come here to take a dip in the holy water for “paap vimochan” cleansing of sin. Every day there is the ‘Ganga Aarti’ at Dashashwamedh Ghat which is beautiful.
Ganga aarti is the magnificent event during evening in the Varanasi that one must not miss to see it. It makes us experience the great feelings while Ganga aarti become in process. This beautiful ritual makes every moment of the evening period special and fills with the spiritual thoughts. It is performed by the brass lamps which accompanied with the mantra chant in the presence of the huge crowd.
All the priests who have to perform the aarti, wear same cloth, the dhoti and kurta which is tightly bind with a long towel. First they make preparation of the Ganga aarti by making collection of the five elevated planks, a multi tiered oil lamp, an idol of the Goddess Ganga, flowers, incense sticks, a conch shell, a big and heavy brass lamp having a snake hood at the edge of the River Ganga. A group of boats filled with devotees come around the place of aarti at the bank of River. They are very eager to see the event; some of them take live video, photos as well. Ritual of the Ganga aarti is performed by the students of the Vedas and Upanishads which is lead by the head priest of the Gangotri Seva Samiti. The whole event takes around 45 minutes.”””
Walking along the banks of River Ganga reached Harishchandra Ghat, I was curious to know about the cremation. there was a guy standing and watching the people unload the wood from boats, I smiled at him, I asked him where are these wood brought from, he replied nearby woods. I asked him, how much does he sell in a day, he told me around 1-2 tonne. I asked him what’s the selling price, he replied Rs10 a kilo. How much quantity is required for cremation, he replies around 250-350 kilos of wood. Now coming to my business, I asked him about his water supply he said he gets water once or twice a day. He said quality of water is poor, hence he has installed a filter at home.
He took me to his shop and started talking about dirty politics, how the water is not managed well in the city. I asked him how much time does it take to fix a leak, he said it gets delayed, I asked him if he complains to the water board. He told me no, there is a guy who comes around we complain to him. I told him about what NextDrop does, gave him the missed call number to get registered to our service. He told me before Modi became prime minister he was in the ashram across his shop for 6 months. I told him to call the missed call number, he asked my phone number, I gave it to him and said goodbye.
If you fancy fried food you can get some delicious food along the river banks. I tried some raw mustard oil for the first time with chaat, it had an interesting flavour. the presentation of the food was excellent.
Lassi is very famous in Varanasi, it is so delicious, people stand in queue at the famous lassi joints. Lassi in Varnasi is not like in cities where they whizz up in blenders. Here Lassi-wallah’s macerate the homemade yoghurt using big wooden stick in a steel handi, adding little sugar. Before serving they add the heavenly ‘malai’ cream which forms as a thick layer on the top.
Sun rises very early in Varanasi, by 5:40AM the sun is dancing in the sky. When I went for a walk. I saw people cleaning their porch with water, I asked a guy if it was drinking water, he told me that this water was from his storage tank. I asked him when will he get drinking water, he said, he has drinking water stored inside. On asking about his water timings, he said they get water between 7:30AM – 8:00AM.
On my morning walk I reached water board of Varanasi, which was just a few kilometers away from our guest house. I asked the gatekeeper is this where water gets treated, he said you are not allowed inside without permission. I told him I am just interested in understanding the water supply in Varanasi, I learnt that in Varanasi there are no valveman. Water board is very keen on the water quality in the reservoirs, so they don’t let anyone inside without permission. There was a chemist at the gate who told me that banaras has the best water supply in India and the water quality is good and is treated with chlorine.
Bhargav and I were escorted by Mp Singh an assistant Engineer. Who gave us the field visit. Our field visit comprised of visiting Pump house at the source (the River ganga), overhead tanks, chlorine diffusers, Water Treatment Plant.
First stop was Pump house, five pumps pump water to water treatment plant at badini. River ganga has been the source for varanasi since 11th century, and withdrawal has been increasing decade over decade.
We were eager to learn about supply system, so we went to a over head tank at Sunderpur, only to realise that there are no valveman in Varanasi. There was no one at the over head tank as most of the supply is during morning and evening. I saw the first electric valve in water supply system.
Then we went to Water Treatment Plant to learn about the water treatment process. The process starts with settling section for suspended solids, there are four huge tanks. Clear water from settlers is supplied to filtering. Water is filtered through sand bed, then it is disinfected with chlorine.
Next day, Bhargav and I met executive engineer first thing in the morning, we talked about Bangalore, he told us his son is in Bangalore and he is buying an apartment. He was excited about it and then he arranged a meeting with the junior engineer who took us to field to show complaints.
While waiting for the junior engineer, we looked at the storage house which was 120 years old over head tank made of mud and brick, the thickness of the wall was almost 6ft. The Engineer took us for field visit to see the process of complaints redressal. On one of the sites we saw there were 5 people trying to unblock the sewer system, with the bamboo stick. Engineer told us that, they try to do the job manually, if it is difficult then they get the jetty machine. The contractor was a sweet guy, he bought us the cold drinks, which we couldn’t say no to. We went and interacted with the residents asking them questions about water supply, water quality, how much time does it take to attend complaints. We found out that the citizens were satisfied with water quantity, but not so much with the quality and the complaint redressal was not satisfactory.
We also visited the sites where people had complained about pipe damage. An apartment was under construction, they damaged the pipe while trying to dig the bore well. We tried to ask questions around this neighborhood, we found out that this area gets water 24/7, this is because the area is at lower elevation. Hence whenever someone would plug a pump, water would be drawn in the pipe and people feel that they have access to water 24/7.
Then we met the, GM of water board. He was very down to earth and he asked us, what changes could we suggest to him in making the water supply system more efficient, we told him they have good infrastructure, but maintenance, needs some work. He asked us if we can help the call center to collect data in such way that we can place the residents geospatially and visualise data. We met call center employees and instructed them to follow our steps in collecting data and left.
Adventurous Journey came to an end with banarasi maghai paan which is world famous, It is expensive so, you don’t get in all the paan shops, the taste was delicious and I started talking in bhojpuri.