In a world racing for perfection, one rarely finds people working to mend neglected imperfections. Mr Aabid Surti, a national award winner with over 80 books to his credit, is one such individual, who started with an idea and now, is well known as the man who almost single-handedly has saved over 20 million litres of water.
Born on 5 May 1935 in Gujarat, Mr Aabid Surti published his first novel Tootela Farishta (Fallen Angels) in Gujarati in 1965. Since then, Aabid Surti has written a number of short stories, novels, plays, children’s books, comic books, and travelogues. In 1993, he won a National Award for his short-story collection Teesri Aankh. Mr Surti has also earned praises for his comics from the likes of Asha Bhosle, Osho, Shah Rukh Khan as well as former Indian Primer Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Having earned global recognition for his work, Mr Surti had a prosperous and satisfactory life. But there was something that bothered him perennially – the thought of Water being wasted.
Coming from a family who had members standing in queues for hours, for a trifle of water, Surti understood the importance of water from the very childhood. Consequently, it piqued him to see even a drop of water being wasted. As he says, the sound of water leakage uses to pique him every time. Meanwhile, he came across a newspaper article which mentioned: If one drop drips in a second, in a month a thousand litres of water goes down the drain. This article hit him like a wall and he decided to make an attempt to save water in whatever little capacity he can. He thought to start simple – Just go to a house, ring the bell, ask if there’s a leaking tap, fix it and get leaking faucets corrected. And this is how the Drop Dead Foundation was born.
When asked about the way the foundation works, Mr Surti tells, “We, I mean a plumber, a female volunteer and myself, have developed a process which we follow like clockwork. On Mondays, my volunteer visits the targeted building and meets the secretary of the housing society for permissions. On Saturdays, through the watchman of the building, we send pamphlets to every home that explains- what Drop Dead Foundation is about so when we arrive on Sunday morning; we get a warm welcome from the members of the apartment building. Then we go house to house correcting leaky taps.” When a person provides free service, it is quite obvious people will initially have doubts. A solution to this says Mr Surti, grinning, that the presence of a lady in a way does relieve suspicions a little.
The foundation primarily checks for leakages in lower-middle-class family households, which can also be called “ghettos”, residents of which are either too poor to pay regularly for plumbing and maintenance or would simply not care. It is here that Surti and his foundation reach with a plumber to fix leakages without any cost at all. In the past 10 years of existence, Drop Dead Foundation has visited more than 10,000 households and has repaired more than 5500 leaking taps saving more than 20 Million litres of water from going down the drains.
Looking at the scale at which the Drop Dead Foundation works, it is nearly impossible to sustain the noble initiate without the support of angels. Mr Surti started the foundation with a meagre amount of ₹ 1,00,000 which he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Hindi Literature. From then on, voluntary contributions have continued flowing from the likes of Azim Premji and Amitabh Bachchan. “When you honestly set out to do good for others, the whole universe is there to back you”, says Mr Surti.
On talking about future prospects, Surti says that he is moving a step forward by motivating school children to conserve water. He has already partnered with two premier schools of Mumbai to propagate the message of water conservation. “Its 2000+ students are my angels who are carrying forward the message to save water by undertaking campaigns and putting up water conservation posters in their buildings”, says Mr Surti. He is also planning to acquire a small garage space for the office use with a computer, a phone and a bicycle, along with an all-time available. “If a leakage starts anywhere in my neighbourhood, the person has just to ring up the office and like a fireman, our plumber will rush to the spot on the bicycle”, says Mr Aabid Surti.
With multiple accolades for his contribution to art and literature, Mr Surti is now also a distinguished face for water conservation. While some people still consider Global Warming a myth, Aabid Surti is humbly contributing in his own way for the environment, inspiring several generations to come.