Friday, July 16, 2010

41. Know it by any other name

No sooner had I made my selection from a severely restricted veg menu, the waiter at the restaurant in Kensington, London surprised me by quizzing: `still' or `sparkle'? Back home, it now translates into `tap' or `bottled'. Unless one is in a glitzy hotel where a much expensive water menu is on offer, seeking customer's preference for water has become an accepted norm across all kinds of street restaurants and roadside dhabas. And, no one seems to be complaining!

Market economy that thrives on rapid turnover of product diversity have had its impact on consumers' choice for `water' too. Asking `drinking water' is passé, as branded variants of packaged water with varied degrees of quality assurance have filled supermarket shelves. From ordinary to premium and from aerated to flavoured, drinking water has built its own range of products wherein brand draws more value than its contents.

Like ambidextrous master archer Arjuna (pic), who was known by several names, water too has attained an equally evolving nomenclature viz., drinking water, bottled water, aerated water, river water, irrigation water, flood water, polluted water, grey water, brown water, green water, sea water, revenue water and transboundary water. Does each variant not create a distinct liquid relation based on its (water) fast-changing biological and physical attributes?

The elixir of life is facing a crises of `identity', though. Each new name only degenerates its cosmic existence, hinting at the severity of the impending crises.`Blue' has long ceased to be its true colour (though it survives on screensavers)! Instead, it picks on new attributes as it flows. The latest and perhaps the most disturbing name it has acquired in development parlance is sick water, pointing towards a dreadful future!