The book can be accessed on the Sarai Project website link below
Author: Bhagwati Prasad
Illustrator: Bhagwati Prasad
Published: 2011 by The Sarai Programme, CSDS
No. of Pages: 84
Genre: Social Awareness
Subthemes: Water Conservation
Timeline: A specific timeline is not alluded to, but the story bears similarities to the 21st century where water scarcity is rampant, and yet there are no concrete measures being undertaken to conserve water.
The Water Cookbook serves as a wakeup call to the dangers of water pollution through its vivid imagery on the sorry state of India’s growing water crisis. Mocking in his narration, Bhagwati Prasad allows the reader to travel through the daily lives of ordinary town dwellers. The plot is explored through the wide network of municipality water supply pipes. Using the livid sun as a metaphor for the heat and growing greenhouse effect, the very first page introduces you to an image of two young men enjoying a day boating on an artificial lake. This is shown in deep contrast to the long queues of people who are waiting to collect water for their homes.
The angry sun is juxtaposed with the title of the first chapter, I Can Tell by my Own Pot How the Others are Boiling. The next panel opens in a scene where the sun is choking over the smoke produced by tyre burning in factories. The plot then begins its journey through the lives of some of the homes in the area and their personal struggles with water shortages. The ever-increasing demand for electricity makes the situation dire. In each panel, drinking water is highlighted through the colour blue, which differentiates it from the black-and-white surroundings.
The panels that follow not only portray the growing struggle for water, but also how precious water is being wasted through a crack in the pipe that supplies water to the AC coaches of trains. A tragedy happens where a man is mowed down by a train while going to the railway platform to collect water. Meanwhile, the water crisis gets worse and worse. Tube wells are being dug so deep into the ground that Lord Vishnu, who lives in the centre of the earth is having to vacate his abode. The tap becomes even more important than the older gods as the only source of life-giving water. The final scene depicts how the river goddess is giving up and rising while being belatedly guarded from unwanted elements by armed guards, and yet this protection makes no difference to its roiling black insides.
The metaphor of goddess Ganga has been used to depict water in the novel. The story develops on this metaphor in two instances. The first instance shows Ganga emerging from a few drops of water spilling from a bottle that was dropped near a railway platform. The third chapter, Those Who Have No Thirst Have No Business at the Fountain depicts Ganga in her regular form, i.e. as a river goddess. Here she looks pale and weak, subsisting on a diet of industrial effluents and other pollutants.
Ganga is not the only reference to Hindu mythology. The scene in which a long snaking line of people are waiting for water is portrayed in a similar fashion to the devas and asuras churning the cosmic ocean to obtain the elixir of immortality. Later in the book, a tap is framed and garlanded, which also indicates its entry into a respected position, equivalent to the gods.