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Many Indians will know what Matka means. Matka is a clay water pot used by millions of Indians during the summer months to keep drinking water cool. Actually, these pots are used by millions of people in the entire Indian sub-continent. Storing water in these pots is a natural way to cool water. These pots have pores through which water evaporates and the heat of the water in the pot is lost which in turn lowers the temperature of the water. These pots not only cool water, but they also purify it naturally. And since there are no chemicals in the water, it is easy on the stomach. They retain the minerals and nutrients in the water very well thus making it healthy. Also, the water from these pots’ tastes really good. These pots are still used not just in the Indian subcontinent but by millions of people in many other developing countries. Since ancient times, these pots have been used to make drinking water cool. Native Indians in the Americas used Ollas, in Spain Botijos, in Panama Tinaja to name a few. It is quite amazing how cool the water is when stored in it. And the best part is that there is no electricity or coolant used in it making it very ecofriendly. Plus, they are not expensive to buy. And nowadays they come in varied sizes, configurations and colors.

As a child, I had seen these matkas used by many people around me to keep drinking water cool. My parents and grandparents were believers in this traditional way even though they could afford to buy a refrigerator. But I used to think it was an outdated practice and only poor people used it. I like many wanted to have the modern refrigerator. And we did end up getting one. At that time like many we did not look at what it takes to make the refrigerator run – electricity, coolants etc. which are not good for the environment. Keeping the environment in mind was never a thought then – people wanted to just have the convenience of the refrigerator.

My mom recently bought a Matka as the temperatures started to soar in the Summer. I argued with her on why she has to get one when we have a refrigerator. She insisted that the water stays naturally cool and tastes better in the Matka than the fridge. And like before I dismissed it. I was not buying into it and told her she can have the water from the Matka but not me. Then one day I tasted water from it to see what the big deal was. And Voila - I loved it. It tasted really nice and was incredibly cool. It blew my mind that the water was so cool without any electricity or coolant. Now in my fifties and wiser I have now reversed my position about the Matka.

Given the climate change crisis the world is facing, I think the use of Matkas should be encouraged not just by the poor people but also by well to do folks. And developed countries with all the modern conveniences and comforts should adopt this environmentally sound solution. Just imagine if a small fraction of the thousands of fridges gets eliminated by this how much environmental impact it will have. I think it might be time for the world to adopt these types of natural ecofriendly solutions. I guess Back to basics!


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