Sunday, September 11, 2011

Precious Water

The year I was born saw the first woman in space. The month I was born Astro Boy animation debuted on Japanese TV. The day I was born my mom screamed bloody murder.

She screamed twice actually. Once during my birth and the other during water rationing.

According to her, that year was particularly bad. The government rationed water quite frequently. We had only three reservoirs then and a severe drought that year caused the waterlines to drop and officials to panic. My eldest sister remembers the government trying even to seed clouds to make rain, a novel practice then. But despite all that money spent (some SGD$1 mil) apparently all that fell from that desperate attempt was disappointment and heavy hearts.

In Japan, things were quite the reverse. Very heavy snowfall caused a number of homes and buildings to collapse, killing over 230 people. Perhaps even then, Mother Nature was wreaking her global warming havoc all over the place.

My mom said that although the water rationing was frequent, it did not last long each time. It would be just for a few hours at most. People were also given early notice to prepare. The smarter folks would top up their empty containers first.

My dad, who worked in the heavy plant industry, managed to bring home a small water tank of sorts. I believed it was something formerly used on a ship or barge. He was at the time frequently in Thailand working for a company that supported the American effort in Vietnam. We were living in Changi in a terrace unit not far from where Kembangan MRT station is today.

After getting that tank, my mom wasn't so sure about its origins and its pre-loved use, so she cleaned it out and kept only water for washing in it only. For cooking, we used other saved water instead.

With water rationing so frequent, preparing milk for a new born like me must have meant sacrifices from my other siblings. Luckily, I am not born of twins, else the rationing would have extended to breast feeding too.

As I fortunately grew older, we moved to Geylang. Rationing still happened but with less an intensity than before. I remember the large ceramic urn we had in our bathroom, you know, the ones that could hold an adult or two curled up inside? We used that as a water container. We also had large plastic bins, courtesy again of my father's connected ways.

I remember being told to be careful with the use of water whenever we bathed. Sometimes, we were sent in twos, so as to conserve some water. The toilet was never flushed during water rationing. We scooped water from a pail instead.

As the monsoon rains returned regularly, so did the water rationing stop. In fact, the monsoons frequently caused floods. Along Sims Avenue, the floods were never too bad but still we had to be careful as the drains were not covered and often overflowed. Then, as we walked, we had to look out for road signs that stuck out. These told us where the side of the drains were. At times like these, we often hear of children being swept away playing in monsoon drains and canals. As my school was near a canal, I often worried for the safety of my classmates who lived near them. Fortunately nothing untoward ever happened to any of them. Me and my siblings might go hunt for spiders/climb trees but we never ever loitered in a canal. My mom would have screamed bloody murder.

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