The last day of school before the summer vacations, stretched endlessly. When the final bell rang, children dragged their tired feet to the school bus.
“I think I’m going to melt,” gasped Payal, emptying last few drops of water from her water bottle into her parched mouth.
“Here, quench your thirst,” Hari offered his water bottle to his friend and next-door neighbour. “I’ll go home and drink lassi.”
Payal licked her lips, and said, “Save some for me.” Hari’s mom made the best lassi in their housing complex.
“I will have tangy aam panna all summer,” added their friend, Khushi, wiping perspiration of her forehead. “Ma says that it keeps the tummy cool. According to the news, since the average global temperature is spiking like never before, it’s going to be a long, hot summer.”
“Another heat wave,” sighed Hari. “My parents will lock me indoors.”
After being forced to stay almost a year indoors due to the pandemic, the children were not looking forward to spending their vacations with gadgets, anymore.
“So boring,” moaned Payal. “I want to do something cool!”
Payal has an idea
The school bus halted at the housing complex where Payal and Hari lived. “Happy holiday,” Khushi waved to them as they got off. Near the gate, a stray dog stood panting in the baking hot sun. There was not a single tree outside the complex gate, where street animals could take shelter.
Since they didn’t have water left in their bottles, when the security guard let them in, Payal requested him to give the dog some water. As soon as the guard placed a bowl of water before the thirsty animal, two mynas appeared out of nowhere. But, each time they tried to take a sip from the corner of the bowl, the dog barked at them, chasing them away.
“Poor, thirsty animals fighting for water,” observed Payal. Quickly, taking off the cap from her water bottle, she filled it with water and set it aside for the mynas. They watched the birds drink, and, each time the birds glanced at Payal, she said, ‘You’re welcome!’
A thirsty squirrel bounded across the street and paused near the mynas, and they were glad to see them share their water with it.
That gave Payal an idea! “I have a cool plan for this vacation,” exclaimed Payal, as Hari rang his doorbell.
“Is it also fun?” asked Hari, rubbing his hair, which was dripping with perspiration.
Payal plopped down onto the sofa in Hari’s living room. “But first, lassi.” She reached for the tall tumbler Hari’s mother handed her. She shut her eyes in delight and licked the thick, creamy lassi off her upper lip.
“How about water stations for stray animals and birds?”
“I’ll join you,” said Hari. “But we must ensure the thirsty animals and birds can quench their thirst without harming each other.”
“That’s easy,” Payal said, leaving Hari frowning.
Ready to start
Next morning, when Hari reached Payal’s home, he was amazed to find pots and bowls in different shapes and sizes. Reaching for a wide-mouthed earthen pot and two terracotta bowls, Payal said, “These keep water cool for long. Let’s go and place them outside the gate for the stray animals.”
Outside the gat,e a kind shopkeeper not only allowed them to set the water bowls in one corner, beneath the awning of his shop so the water stayed cool, he also promised to refill them daily.
“What about the birds?” asked Hari, when they returned for more bowls. He wasn’t sure if she had a proper plan to prevent mayhem among the animals at the water station.
Payal pointed to a large, ceramic bowl. “Let’s put this on the raised platform in our children’s park for the birds.”
Separate water stations sounded like a good idea to keep animals and birds from fighting!
Handing Hari a dozen food containers, she added, “We’re going to distribute these among our society residents who can place them on their windowsills, terraces and balconies, for birds and squirrels to drink and take a dip.”
“Birds and animals need privacy too,” concurred Hari.
“When you hand the bowl over, request them to wash and refill it regularly to ensure animals and birds get clean water,” reminded Payal, as he rang a doorbell.
“Hygiene...point noted!” said Hari.
Spread the word
They were happy to find residents equally eager to help with the endeavour. The children then requested their parents to spread awareness about the need for street animals to quench their thirst on their WhatsApp groups. This prompted more people to set up water stations outside their homes.
When Khushi phoned Payal to find out how her first week of vacation was going, Payal told her about their cool project.
“What a brilliant idea!” exclaimed Khushi. “My friends and I will get together and provide water stations in our housing complex and on the street, outside.”
“Be sure to place them where neither animal nor people get disturbed,” cautioned Payal.
All summer, Hari and Payal were glued to their windows watching bulbuls, sparrows, mynas, sunbirds and magpie robins drink and bathe in the ceramic bowl.
They wrote down what they saw in their diaries, thus discovering the beauty of Nature and the joy of having done something very important to ensure that other creatures too survived the harsh summer!