Kaun Kitne Paani Mein is a story about two villages, Upri and Bairi. Upri is a village nestled in the hills and Bairi is at the base of the Hill Range although close to each other in proximity, are poles apart in every other measure as of water access and economic development.
Upri is a village which had great economic and social status in the past and Bairi was then economically weaker. Upri was economically and class wise powerful in the past due to the land they had and the water fall from the hills as well as the large lake that was naturally created at the edge of Upri. The people of Upri were like royalty and they had used the people of Bairi as their employees. This had made the people of Bairi skilled in their work and also become good farmers. The people of Upri who assumed these good times would remain never planned for a rainy day and lived a rich life splurging on all the resources. But in 1992, as a result of a love quarrel between a young girl from Upri and a young man from Bairi, the villagers of Upri excommunicated the inhabitants of Bairi. The people of Bairi were devastated since they got employment, food and money from working in Upri. But the village survived. The thing that made them survive was the real knowledge they had in terms of farming, harvesting and building wells while they were working for the rich people from Upri.
Few years later an immense drought hit the area where Upri and Bairi are located. Then the equation of power between the two villages completely changed because of WATER. Upri, in its heyday, had never truly worried about water as they had ample workforce from Bairi to get water from far. They had splurged the water they had and also eroded the water table by digging a lot of wells. Bairi, on the other hand, had lived frugally and used water sparingly having realized that it was a critical resource. They had hence planned for water storage, rain harvesting and water table replenishment. After the drought, Bairi had the ability to stock enough water for its needs and Upri, on the other hand, was completely dependent on the Government for Water.
This shortage of water had affected Upri in all aspects from agriculture to living. Upri had no toilets and the lands were all barren. Bairi, on the other hand, had access to safe water, good farming capabilities, and also had toilets in each home. The head of the Upri village had a son Rajesh (Raj) Singh in his mid-20’s who was coming back to the village after his higher education in the nearby city. The people of Upri had pinned all their hopes on Raj and wanted him to sort out the mess of water for them. The head of the Bairi village has one daughter, Janhavi. Janhavi, the heroine of the story, is a girl very rooted to the cause of water and Bairi. She knows very clearly what made Bairi grow and what made Upri what it is. She is a girl who has no problem speaking her mind. She has an opinion and is also the women’s voice in the Panchayat.