It’s easy to take water for granted in America, but it can make a big difference in people’s lives in India, as the Maharashtrian women known as water wives can attest.
They live about 150 km from Mumbai in a drought-stricken village called Denganmal, where men have been following an unusual plan to solve their water woes: they’ve been taking on second and third wives whose sole responsibility is to make numerous 3-km treks to a dam to fetch water for the family. They carry the water on their heads in aluminum pots.
As reported in Open magazine recently, these water wives are often widowed or divorced and get no privileges aside from food, shelter, and the dignity that comes from being considered a wife.
No pipeline brings water to the village, but a water tanker visits once in five days. Women stand in long lines to get to the tanker, eager to get a break from the treks to the dam.
“Every time the tanker comes, there are fights that get really scary,” Sakharam Bhagat, a 66-year-old man with three wives, told Open. “Women pull each other’s hair, abuse, and beat each other up. If they miss getting water from the tanker, they have to walk the mandatory 3 km.”
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