Aabid Surti who lives in Mira Road, a Mumbai suburb, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from Hindi Sahitya Sanstha by the Uttar Pradesh Government in 2007. He has multiple creative talents. He is a painter, cartoonist, author, playwright and water warrior.
In 2007, Aabid Surti read an article in the newspaper that mentioned how much water was lost for every drop wasted. "1 drop wasted in every second implies a 1000 litres of water being wasted on average. That's quite a count! I grew up in shanties in Mumbai when I came from Gujrat and I know the value of water. That led me to set up Drop Dead Foundation", he told me. The aim of the Foundation is to fix leaky taps and help save water. Every Sunday, Surti goes door to door doing just this.
Tejal Shah, the chief co-ordinator of the Foundation, joined Surti five years ago. She goes door-to-door to various apartment complexes to get permission to enter their premises come Sunday. Many apartments have already called them. "We don't enter the premises without permission. We understand that people are hesitant to open their doors". But getting prior permission doesn't imply that everybody allows them to fix their leaky taps.
The most common problem is that the washer has gone bad. She says, "It costs me Rs.20-35 to just buy the spare part. The expensive component of the repair is the plumber's labor cost and we provide that. But even then, we find people who don't want to fix it". Rather than get bogged down by such responses, they just go and save the next drop. Once they're done with the apartment, they make arrangements for their next visit and also drop off a poster the following Monday.
Plumber Riyaz Ahmed also joined Surti three years ago. He found the painter's work and perspective of saving water drop by drop very interesting. So he offered his services for free. But over time, people have come forward to fund the foundation, so he takes away Rs. 500 every Sunday for his services. These funds come from philanthropists and people who see Surti at various conferences and want to support this simple but effective task.
Together, the trio manage to spread awareness on saving water. Once the leaky pipes are fixed, they stick a small poster right next to the wash basin.
The poster reads: 'Save every drop or drop dead', a message Aabid Surti has carried on. After this poster is stuck, they take the name and address of the person whose pipe they have fixed. Till date, the trio has visited more than 6000 homes in Mira Road. Surti says, "What I am doing is not unachievable. It is simple. You can take up this cause too".
He has inspired a few people. They write to the painter, who promptly sends off his material- the poster- via mail. He says, "One only needs to be determined to continue this. You can join the team on any Sunday. Just call us on 09820184964 and save every drop or drop dead".