"Water" is a book illustrated by renowned Indian folk artist, Subhash Vyam, with translation by Gita Wolf. Published by independent Indian publisher Tara Books, it explores the theme of water and its importance in our lives, from its scarcity to its abundance, and from its beauty to its destructive power. This World Water Day, we reflect on the important environmental and social narratives offered by “Water”, such as scarcity and inequality, as well as the pressing need to conserve and protect our water resources, with this review of the book by our intern, Chloe, a philosophy major.
I was thoroughly bewitched when I first laid eyes on this “children’s” book.
As an artist, I noticed how the cover alone consisted of so many textures; the care taken to fill in the details of lines, waves and dots made my head spin. I ran my fingers across the embossed surface, scared of neglecting even the smallest manifestation of the illustrator’s love. How easily we could overlook the beauty of this book. I would like to believe that was exactly the author’s intention for this sensation to mirror our experiences with water itself – the element, the body that constitutes seventy percent of the earth and our own bodies, the essence of life we cannot live without. We take for granted the water we drink, the puddles after a rainy day, and the garbage we leave for the ocean to swallow and choke.
As a writer, the charisma of the deceptively simple language used builds suspense within one’s own being. This suspense felt unique somehow. Not the kind we would anticipate in a thriller or a mystery novel, but a sense of dread, or a desire to delay the inevitable. This is a tale that forces us to look out of our windows and be reminded that this is not fiction – Vyam is a mouthpiece for countless communities affected by climate change. We are taken on a journey through the eyes of a young folk artist who had moved from the village to the city. Amidst the slow but sure encroachment of urbanisation, he observes how his village evolves with increasing amounts of developments – including the digging of canals, water pumps and electricity. Despite the improvements in quality of life at home, he is reminded of stark inequalities between the city and the village and within the city itself. The story reaches a fever pitch when his community threatens to be torn at the seams; a dam was to be built to supply electricity to the city. In the process, water supply to the village would be cut off. What happens after isn’t hard to imagine.
“Did we take more than our due?”
As a philosopher, Water was a breath of fresh air. I am so used to contrived attempts to outdo one’s contemporaries; the naive approach that the more complicated and jargonistic one’s arguments are, we may successfully intimidate our critics. Water was easy to understand, using language that even children could glean wisdom from. An extremely thought provoking text, with accessible language and brilliant illustrations that contain a certain integrity; Water an earnest tribute to one’s heritage and nature. Wondrously, the book is an earnest plea for us, regardless of background and maturity, to reflect on the ways we perceive nature and our relationship with our environment. Vyam does an excellent job conveying the urgency of the ecological and social questions that plague us today: Why is there unequal access to essential goods? Why do marginalised communities disproportionately bear the consequences of consumerism and climate? When will we be content?
When the Herculean task of saving the earth falls on our shoulders, it is difficult to know what we can do next. While we may not have all the answers now, Vyam proposes the ingenious approach of looking to the past. We can seek inspiration from communities that have had and continue to have symbiotic relationships with nature. Vyam tells the folktale of seven sisters, who were struggling to fetch water from a deep lake. The lake struck a deal with the sisters – it would rise if the sisters gave the most valuable thing they owned. The youngest sister sacrificed her beautiful ring, and the lake rose. However, the youngest sister regretted her decision to exchange her ring for water, and refused to go home. Thereafter, the sisters entered the water one by one to find the ring, and they were eventually swallowed up by the water. A poignant perspective on the repercussions of greed, Vyam warns us against biting the hand of nature that generously feeds us. Just like the sisters, we will be punished for breaking our promises to nature, should we attempt to exceed our limits.
“We need nature– water, sun, air – to survive, but she doesn’t really need us. She is generous to us, but she has some conditions, and we have to respect them.”
The content written in this blogpost represents the views and opinions of our intern, Chloe. Green Nudge is independently-owned and does not claim ownership of the views expressed in the content above. For questions, please email us at email@example.com.
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