Abid Surti Curated

National Award Winner

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This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Abid Surti have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Abid Surti's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming environmentalistss. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • What advice do you have for our readers? How and why should they contribute to solving the water crisis?

    My grandmother used to walk a mile to get one pot of water for the family. Today, if I open the tap, there is Ganga sitting in my home ready to give me water. It is the bane of our society. We do not realise how precious water is. For all the niceties that we have been afforded, what have we given in return? Whether Muslim, Hindu or Christian, nationalist or anti-nationalist, it is our responsibility to contribute, to give back before we leave. Fixing my neighbours’ leaking taps is the least I can do.

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  • You have been doing this for almost 15 years now. How do you cope financially? How difficult is it?

    The first time I did it, it cost me around ₹100-200. On calculating, I found out that I'll have to set apart around ₹5000 if I were to do this every Sunday of the month. And, right when I was thinking about how to generate the funds for this was when I received a cheque worth ₹1 lakh. It was the prize money for the lifetime achievement award I received for my Hindi literature from the Uttar Pradesh Sahitya Sanskar (UPSS).Now, this is the way I think: Why did the people of UPSS gift me this award now and not 10 years ago or 20 years ago? At this age, they thought of me. Why? The answer I got from within was that this money came to me because I had thought of the society and its betterment. if you do something with full honesty and transparency, and you want to help others, God becomes your fundraiser.

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  • How else does Drop Dead Foundation create public awareness?

    I get so many invitations from all over India, all over the globe, for talks on water. I mostly avoid foreign trips as they take at least a week of my time. But when I do give motivational talks, I make sure that there is an audience of at least 500 people. It was during one of these talks that I asked myself the question: Out of the 500 people, how many have I managed to motivate? The answer was 3-4 people or a maximum of 5 people: the ones who come running to me the moment I get off the stage to ask, 'Sir, we want to start this in our area. Can we use your posters and pamphlets?'

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  • How do people react when you show up at their doorstep?

    Before we go from house to house, first, we target a building, and then we get permission from the secretary of the housing society – you can't just go into random apartments right! 99.99% of the time we get permission, after all, we are providing a free service. Once we are granted permission, we stick our posters on the notice boards in the ground floor, near the lift, near the gate, wherever there is visibility. So, from Monday to Friday, our posters which say 'Save every drop or DROP DEAD' are constantly seen and read by everyone who lives there. Then on Saturday, we make sure to drop our pamphlets at the doorstep of every house with the help of the watchmen, informing them about who and what we are.

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  • What was the inspiration to start something like Drop Dead Foundation?

    Whenever I visited my friends’, it didn’t matter where we were seated, my ears would prick up the moment I heard a tap going ‘tapak tapak’ somewhere in the house – kitchen, bathroom or elsewhere. The sound would instantly trigger memories from my childhood, and it would feel like someone was hammering in my ear. I would alert my friends, and they would appease me by saying 'It’ll be ok'. But then, even when I would visit after six months, the tap would still be leaking. This gave me the idea to hire a plumber for a couple of hours and go around to my friends’ houses and get their leaking taps fixed for free.

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  • Talking about your other famous series Dhabbuji, what was the inspiration behind his creation?

    In India Lakshaman's "The common man" is very famous. His common man is just an observer and never interferes with the state of affairs. In some sense it is the true representation of a common helpless man. I thought, why not create an "Uncommon" man. My uncommon man would not be content to observe , but would interfere with everything for better or worse, giving rise to hilarious situations. Thus Dhabbuji was born.

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  • What was the secret of the massive success of Bahadur?

    I think it was simply because people were hungry for native content. The issue we tackled was topical and resonated with the masses. Soon enough, Bahadur was overselling comics like Phantom and Mandrake.

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  • What was your first gig as a comic writer?

    It was with a Guajarati (an Indian language spoken in the state of Gujarat) children's magazine titled Ramakadu (toy) in 1952/53. It consisted of a comic feature of 4 pages in color with three prominent characters – a boy, a girl and a monkey, titled "Rang Lakhudi".

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  • What inspired you to create comics?

    Walt Disney! When I was a kid, around 8 years old (1943) when the Second World War was heading towards its climax, a mini train used to start from the docs of Mumbai to transport white soldiers who had arrived by ship. These soldiers used to throw chocolates, magazines and other things out of the window. We – a group of underprivileged kids, used to run beside that train to pick up those discarded items. Once they threw a comic and all of us thronged towards it like a pack of wolves. I could however only manage to get one page of the comic book which featured Mickey Mouse. I fell in love with that one page and started practicing drawing.

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  • How has your work in water with Drop Dead affected your creative work?

    So far it has not interfered with my work in any way. But it has certainly inspired me to write a novel based on a fictitious river.I'm giving my Sunday mornings for this cause. It's so simple, so easy for anyone to do it. And that is what I want to convey to all, especially to senior citizens: come out of the retirement cocoon, spend a couple of hours, just do it. If I can, you can.

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  • What about financing? How are you able to sustain Drop Dead's activities?

    When you honestly set out to do good for others, the whole universe is there to back you. Not only that, God becomes your fund raiser. When my finances are about to dwindle, God pokes the right person and I receive a check without asking. God poked Wipro which gave the Sparrow Award worth Rs.50, 000 to Drop Dead. Of course, contributions from anyone with no strings attached are always welcome.

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  • What are Drop Dead's accomplishments so far?

    I've kept the record of our first year, February 2007 to February 2008 -- incidentally 2007 was the International Year of Water. During that period, we visited 1,666 houses on Mira Road, fixed 414 leaking taps free of charge, and saved about 4.14 lakh (414,000) liters of water.The response to Drop Dead has been unbelievable. It's picking up fast like jungle fire, not only in India but all over the globe. A television channel from Berlin gave a 10 minutes slot to Drop Dead, airing it in European countries.

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  • How bad is Mumbai's leak problem?

    The leak problem in ghettos and lower middle class areas is worst. A plumber's visit costs a minimum of Rs.100, which poor families cannot afford. Construction companies are also partly responsible for using substandard plumbing.

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  • What inspired you to embark on such a big project as fixing Mumbai's leaks?

    My childhood years were spent in a chawl (a large building divided into many separate tenements, offering cheap, basic accommodation to labourers) and on pavement. To get a bucket full of water from the common tap, my mother had to stand in the queue early in the morning and often she had to fight for her right. This childhood memory kept on haunting me whenever I saw a leaking tap, overflowing building tank, or bursting pipeline.

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  • How did your interest in cartooning germinate?

    When I was a child of about 8 years old, I remember there were British troops who would pass through our area in Bombay port during the Second World War (1943). These troops were transported by a mini-train and the soldiers there would often throw out varied items like chocolates, books and magazines. I, along with many other children; all underprivileged, would run to get those stuff. One day, when one such troop was passing by, someone threw out a comic book from it. I rushed ahead and caught the book along with the other kids; curious to see what it was. All I managed to get hold of was a page and it turned out to be a ‘Mickey Mouse’ comic strip. I looked at it and fell in love with it instantly. It was then that my interest in cartooning took birth.

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  • What are your views on India’s current comic scenario?

    Today, the technology has advanced a lot and some great work is being done. Virgin comics had completely revolutionized the Indian comic scenario with their brilliant concepts. Now, there are several more like them. And I think there are some wonderful comic artists coming up in the country today. I keep visiting comic cons and meet several talented young artists. All this is very heartening to see. Indian comics has a good future. The only problem, though, is that this industry is still not very commercially viable in India for the comic artists. Hence, the talented ones move away to animation as it pays more. I hope something can be done about that.

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  • Coming to your life as a writer; you became an author by chance didn’t you?

    Yes, that was quite an incident really. It all happened because of my break up. I was a young man and it was my first love. The break up was quite violent and left me shattered. In those days, I did not have any friend whom I could confide my feelings in and thus felt very helpless. It was then that I decided to pen those bottled emotions. I took a notebook and began writing; relentlessly pouring all my feelings down. Before I knew it, I had written close to 500 pages. When I finished the book, I felt very relived and relaxed.

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  • You have also been heading the NGO, ‘Drop Dead Foundation’ which is trying to aware people to save water. What has been the general response so far?

    Oh it has been absolutely tremendous. You know, I got this idea when I realized that a lot of water was being wasted unnecessarily from faulty taps. People do not get it repaired for varied reasons and hence it amounts to a massive amount of water wastage. I decided to do something about it and hence ‘Drop Dead’ came into being. I have a plumber with me and every Sunday we visit one locality and give them free plumbing service from my side; also informing them about saving water in the process. People have reacted very positively to this and Drop Dead’s name is now spreading far and wide; in India and across the world. I just hope that more people realize the importance of our cause and pay heed to it.

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  • Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

    Well, in my school days I never had any friend from my own age group. All my friends were senior to me and I respected them a lot. There were three of them – a photographer, a painter and a script-writer – who played a major role in my life. All of the three were good professionals in their fields and guided me very nicely in my teens. I will always be indebted to them for their guidance. They were undoubtedly the biggest influence in my life.

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  • I had read that in your early life, your family had lost seven ships of theirs and had to struggle a lot. Can you share that experience?

    Well, we used to initially stay in a very large mansion in Surat, Gujarat, and had a nice joint family. My family had a shipping business which was doing quite well. However, after the First World War, we lost all our seven ships one after the other. All of them were lost to bizarre and unfortunate circumstances. With everything lost, we couldn’t stay at our place in Surat anymore and then migrated to Mumbai. There, our entire family used to stay in an extremely tiny kholi in the Dongri chawl. Those days were quite tough, but it taught me some real lessons of life. I have shared those experiences in my latest book ‘Sufi’ which is inspired from my own life.

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  • So what do you relate the most with- painting, cartooning or writing?

    Oh, painting absolutely. I was a born painter and it will always be my first love. In fact, I began writing and cartooning because I needed money to get items for painting. I can be a tad laidback while I am writing or making cartoons, but while painting, I never do so. It’s my passion.

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