Chance Meeting with Amla Ruia, India’s Water Mother and Farmers’ Wonder Mother

Amla Ruia

We met her today. The water mother of India! We were inside the extra chilled guest room of VESIM Literati Festival in Mumbai, debating intensely on movies vs books when she walked in and quietly took her seat. I looked at her briefly before drowning into the meaningful debate. She was around 60 years old, looking beautiful in a beige coloured silk saree and almost had a halo around her. She maintained her smile all the while listening to the discussion of this small group of four members carefully with wide eyes. She was quiet but very observant.


The graceful lady watched us compassionately, listening to the struggles of writers and the challenges of movie directors and kept smiling. The topic slowly diverted into how to market your books! At last she spoke maintaining the same smile when I interrupted the debate and asked her to introduce herself with an intent to make her a part of the debate.


I thought she must be an author too, which would make me the only non author in the group. Acknowledging the topic of this unofficial debate on the challenges of how to lure the readers to pick your book, she softly said “I never knew how much struggle you all do to make your readers happy…”.


“So what do you do to make your readers happy?” asked the movie director cum writer with respect.


Mrs Amla Ruia now spoke with a spark in her eyes “I don’t think I have any readers but I have many children, I harvest water for them. I am lovingly called the water mother of India.”


The next moment was a long and silent one. In the next instant, I was sitting at her feet trying to make most of it by clicking a selfie with her while others actually stood up from their seat in respect. I don’t know what was going through those authors’ minds but for me it was THE MOMENT. I could actually hear few lines of the song from Swades – “Yeh Pal Hai Wohi, Jismein Hain Chhupi, Poori Ek Sadi, Sari Zindagi…”


Mrs Amla Ruia is no ordinary woman. When I read about her wonderful contribution in water harvesting few years back, I was completely overwhelmed. Amla Ruia converted 100 dry villages of Rajasthan into a green zone through adopting simple traditional method of constructing check dams. The project involved the villagers who contributed about 40 percent of the cost of check dam while the remaining was funded by Amlaji’s charitable trust called Aakar.


Amla Ruia helped in constructing 200 cost effective check dams for 100 villages of Rajasthan to harvest rain water and store it for irrigation. This eventually raised the underground water table and helped the villagers get drinking water for a longer period. About 2 lac villagers benefited from this water harvesting technique and earned a combined income of 300 crore each year through farming and animal husbandry. Mrs Amla Ruia at 71 (although she looks in her early 60s) was undoubtedly the wonder women of the event in Mumbai while for those 100 villages in Rajasthan she will always be their Wonder Mother, or as they lovingly call her the “Water Mother”.


For me everything happened so fast that I was transfixed. Meanwhile, Mrs Amla Ruia got engrossed in some long conversation with the Literati Festival organisers before getting ready for her panel discussion. After waiting impatiently for sometime hoping to speak to her and then realising that she will continue to be busy I decided to leave. However as I was stepping out of the room which was now brimming with more authors and organisers, she nodded at me with the same smile.


I got lost in my thoughts momentarily while walking towards the car park and could visualise Mrs Amla Ruia standing with many villagers amidst vast green fields of sandy Rajasthan. There was water stored in a large reservoir alongside the field as the “Water Mother” smiled at me, once again.

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Joydeep Datta

Joydeep Datta is an avid traveler, blogger, and book reviewer. A Nature admirer, he is passionate about Tibetan Mastiffs and trees.
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