I went to visit Kamalam at her home in Musiri, about 40 kilometers outside of Trichy, Tamil Nadu. On the way I passed a family of four squeezed onto one motorized two-wheeler, a sight that you have to see to appreciate. Kamalam has two children in the 3rd and 7th standards. Her son in the 3rd standard likes his science classes best, while her daughter in the 7th standard enjoys her Tamil classes. Both children were home from school, and her son was scratching the chicken pox on his arms and legs throughout my visit.
Kamalam’s husband is a carpenter, which was not surprising considering the wooden barn next to their house. It was the only wooden building that I saw in the entire village. Although the brightly painted stone houses lining the streets of Musiri were quite beautiful, the barn had a unique character that distinguished it from the surrounding houses.
In addition to the barn, Kamalam’s property had another distinct feature. They had a massive concrete rectangle imbedded in the ground, which I learned was a septic tank. Originally intended to store human waste, it had been converted into the largest household water tank that I have ever seen. Kamalam’s family had the water connection installed right next to the water tank, so after filling a water vessel they pour the water directly into the septic tank for storage. They use a metal bucket attached to a wire to bring water up.
Before getting the water connection, Kamalam would get water from a street tap about 1 km away, getting 100 liters every other day. When her family couldn’t get enough water, she would walk to a hand pump source a few kilometers away. With her new water connection, she has been able to get more water than she could before, and now never has to use the hand pump. Kamalam’s water tank was very dark, but one drop of the bucket and I knew that it had an ample supply of water.