Aabid Surti is a real life hero. This 83 years young national award winning writer, painter and cartoonist who has more than 80 books to his credit, also runs a one man NGO called ‘’Drop Dead” he carries on his work of fixing leaking taps with help of a plumber and a volunteer. On every Sunday morning he visits the topmost floor of his apartment complex in Mumbai’s Mira Road district. He rings the doorbells of all 56 apartments in the complex, asking residents a simple question: “Do you have a leaking tap in your home?” If anyone has a leaking tap at home, the plumber gets to work, plugging leaks. Aabid Surti apologises for ringing the doorbell to those who say no. Over the years, Aabid’s efforts have helped save 10 million litres of water besides his work, he has a big fan following.
The octogenarian Aabid Surti says “If I can, you can.” This great man walks around apartment buildings in Mumbai every Sunday, plumber in tow, fixing leaky taps and pipes by saving every drop of water he can. Abid has written seven plays besides over 80 books, he has hosted 16 exhibitions of his paintings, and created much adored comic characters like Dabbuji, Bahadur and many more. In 1993, this resourceful artist also received a National Award for his short story collection, Teesri Aankh.
Aabid cannot bear wastage of water; he lived his childhood on the pavements in Mumbai. As a child, he saw his mother queuing up at 4 am for a bucket of water. He has seen fights for every drop of water on streets. People on pavements fought for every bucket, and that legacy stayed with him forever. Once, when he went to a friend’s place, he saw one of the taps leaking, and it hurt him a lot. Since then, leaking faucet bothered him so much so that Aabid started his fight to save water and that has not stopped till date. In the first year of the Foundation’s existence, in 2007, he had visited 1666 houses on Mira Road, fixed 414 leaking taps free of charge, and saved about 4.14 lakh litres of water! Thus, with a volunteer and a plumber, Aabid is seen saving water in different places around Mumbai every Sunday.
In 2013, his son wrote a blog about his work, “Saving the Planet one drop at a time”, it was selected to be a part of children’s textbooks for 2014 by Pearson Education. Aabid is humble and does not boast or talk too much about his achievements. He says “basically I am an author and painter, so when I get an idea for a story, I just simply sit down and start writing. When the Drop Dead idea came, it was just an idea for me, not a great idea or this and that which people are talking about. For me it was just an idea. So I called the plumber and I started moving around my neighbourhood.”
Save every drop or drop dead. That is all Aabid Surti has to say to each one of us. The octogenarian author and artist works passionately to save water. His work gives him immense satisfaction; he does not expect anything in return.
Aabid believes that when one honestly sets out to do good work, the entire universe conspires to help him achieve his goal. God helps in raising funds. Just days after Aabid Surti decided to set up the foundation, he received news that he had won a Hindi literature award which came with the prize money of Rs 1 lakh. Aabid adds that his costs are low. He pays the plumber and the volunteer Rs 500 each. He spends some money on getting publicity material, so the initial one lakh of amount lasted a couple of years for him to carry on his mission. His sincerity is supported by some likeminded people, whenever he falls short of funds; he gets funds from someone voluntarily. It seems, these days, the plumber and the volunteer refuse to take any money from him because they see his sincere effort and feel for the cause. Aabid is building a splendid human chain that is inspired by him. There are people taking up his example and beginning to help save water in their own cities. All you need is an accompanying plumber to fix the leaking taps in your area.
If we don’t conserve water today, our future generation will have to face the water crisis. Small gestures can make a big difference. Kudos to Aabid Surti!!