When you are a young boy on a vacation in Chennai and staying at your grandfather's home, which is not part of a big building co-op, but one of two apartments in a building...you have the opportunity to see a thanni lorry in action, on a regular basis.
As the workers set up, you eagerly look into the tank on the ground, just to see how all the water has been sucked dry by the motor pump, just an hour earlier, and deposited into the overhead tanks, in readiness for the new delivery. And when your mother arrives on the scene, you show it to her as well.
You watch as the man sets up the pipes, connecting one to the other to make it long enough to reach the tank. You watch as he secures them snugly with strips of rubber tubing. Rustic, but effective nonetheless.
You watch in fascination as the water gushes out in this bulging arc, pouring neatly into its designated slot. Water has a rhythmic quality which soothes and entrances. And you let it. Your body goes still as you observe its fluidity.
But it requires patience as well. And waiting, as you shift from foot to foot. But there is nothing that could take you away from there, just then. Nothing.
In the middle of it all, the man asks for some water for his young son who is riding with him that day. You eagerly carry the green plastic bottle, rush up the stairs, so as not to miss even a second more of action than you have to, place your demands to the kitchen, and rush back downstairs with it. While your mother peeps from the balcony above, wondering which 'boy' it is for.
She sees the man pouring the cool water down his son's throat, and she smiles at the simple love of it all.
She comes down to watch for the rest of the time, and even asks for a picture of you with the man and the boy, but you shy away at the last minute.
By this time, the tank is almost full to the brim. Water is frothing as it swirls inside. And with just a flick of the switch, the man cuts the supply, and air is silent. He empties out all the remaining water from the pipes, before disengaging the two and folding them into circles back into the lorry. The rubber strips come off and are tossed carelessly in the back among the pipes and you wonder if it will not fly off in the breeze of the open road.
Payment is made and the transaction is complete. The man waves goodbye and starts the engine. And there goes the lorry, down the road. Bye Bye Metro Water vandi. Thank you for stopping by. We will see you in another 4 days after these 8000 litres!
You go back upstairs, excited to tell your brother everything that you just saw. Your mother's thoughts, however, are all of that little boy and how thrilling it must be for him! To ride with his father on the Eid day off from school, taking to the roads, driving to people's homes to give them a part of their sustenance!! Will these not be the memories he grows up with? Will not some part of his boyhood dreams be coloured with these tinges? Just as the memories of her little boy will be defined by some of these very moments...when he stood on a dusty road, under the swaying breeze of the coconut trees, beneath the azure sky of a bright morning....waiting for the water to come.