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They are real-life heroes... people who put their life at risk to save others. The Red and White Bravery Awards salutes their valorous spirit.

Menka Shivdasani

This Holi, as you splash coloured water on your friends, spare a thought for those who are working to conserve that precious resource. On March 21, The Lotus Suites ecotel moved a step back from the glitter of the hotel industry and hosted a special event on the eve of World Water Day. The programme, held at the Deendayal Garden near the Portuguese Church, was designed to highlight the need for water harvesting in the city.

The ecotel had organised a huge canvas in the garden, where physically challenged children were encouraged to `paint with pichkaris' having a good time celebrating a green Holi, and spreading the message of water conservation as well.

There were also villagers from Sutar Wadi, several hundred kilometres from Mumbai, who had come to talk about how they rejected the Government-sponsored Shiv Kalin Paani Sathvan Yojana, a scheme that provides each family with Rs 20,000 to construct structures and store rainwater. Instead, they constructed simple structures through their own labour and created a successful rainwater harvesting scheme at the cost of Rs 75 per cubic metre of harvested water.

Some time ago, when her building was being repaired, veteran actress Waheeda Rehman had tried to ask the secretary to introduce a water recycling system. Addressing the Indian Merchants' Chamber a few months ago, she spoke of how the secretary said it would be too expensive. Instead, he offered to provide as many tankers as were required! "I told him that if there was simply no water available, there would be none for the tankers either." The secretary's attitude was not surprising. Rainwater harvesting for all the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) efforts to popularise it has yet to catch on in the city. Though former municipal commissioner K. Srivastava was quite a votary of it, his credibility was somewhat chipped by the fact that BMC's own water tankers were constantly dripping. It is private initiatives like the one organised by Lotus Suites that will finally make the difference though right now, given how careless most of us are, there is much more to be done.

Making a difference

The fact that ordinary people can truly make a difference was underlined by the Godfrey Phillips 13th Red and White Bravery Awards, at a function in Mumbai on March 20.

The winners' stories were heart-warming. When 53-year-old Pradip Bamane jumped 50 ft into a muddy well to save a two-and-a-half year old boy, it was not winning a gold medal that was uppermost on his mind. Then there is Nilesh Chamankar, who swam into the sea during a Ganesh immersion to rescue devotees caught in a val (whirlpool), and won a silver medal for physical bravery; others like Shailendra Mangroriya, a chaat stall owner, who found something smoking in an abandoned bag near his stall and ended up defusing a bomb ... our society is full of stories of quiet heroism by people who do not look for awards or publicity.

There was one celebrity who made it to the award winners' list Vivek Oberoi receiving a special award for the help and support he gave tsunami victims. Oberoi (28) was in Chennai when disaster struck, and was so moved that he assembled six truckloads of relief supplies and also adopted a tsunami-ravaged village in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. This award is certainly worth far more than any film award he can ever win.

Welcome to the club...

Salman Khan is an extremely busy person these days; but when Country Club (I) Ltd announced that it would have 40 clubs in India by 2006 he was there to cheer them on. He will also be performing there soon, joining a long list of celebrities like Shilpa Shetty, Yana Gupta, Koena Mitra, Hema Malini and Malaika Arora Khan, who have also performed there. The company has just launched its 5th club in the 15th year, and going by how hungry Mumbaikars are for club facilities with membership to traditional clubs like CCI and Willingdon almost impossible to get there should be quite a demand.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 25, 2005)
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