Subscribe and track India like never before..

Get full online access to
Civil Society magazine.

Already a subscriber? Login

Delhi’s matka and pump man

  • It is a surprising sight in a city jampacked with cars — An earthen pot and a cycle pump on the pavement outside the Safdarjung Development Area (SDA) market in South Delhi. 

  • And at Panscheel Park in South Delhi— three matkas with water and ladles chained to them. A cycle pump and a can of oil too! 

  • A cyclist puts a little oil in his pedal after filling air. These stations are the only places on Delhi’s roads where a cyclist can get a little service for their machines. 

  • A pedestrian has a drink of water, which is also tough to find on a Delhi street unless you are willing to pay for a bottle. 

  • Alag Natrajan is the good Samaritan behind this matka-and-pump initiative. He is a retired businessman from UK, a cancer survivor. In posh and status conscious South Delhi, he has created facilities for lowly road users like pedestrians and cyclists. Plumbers, gardeners and domestic servants also stop by.

  • Natrajan sets out around 5:30 every morning to visit more than 15 pots and cycle pump stations built by him. His van is fitted with a tank that holds 4,000 litres. 

  • In summer he makes three visits when the demand for water goes up to 10,000 litres a day. “I am being helped by two nearby schools to meet the demand for water but initially getting their help was not easy because they couldn’t figure out the importance of what I wanted to do,” he says.

    Now to tank up he must get to a school before 7 am or after the school closes.

  • "Love wins. Love and sincerity always win” is his message. The van has a lot on it apart from messaging to create awareness. There is an aquarium and there are spare parts used as random art. “People do ask what I am doing? Why I am doing it? They are appreciative and offer help. But out of 100 only one or two actually help”, he says. 

  • Natrajan tries to help anyone who approaches him — like this sweeper who is telling him about his swollen knee.

  • There are fresh fruits and sweets in his van. “If I give sweets to kids, I ask them to say thank you. To make them realise the importance of the two words, thank you. Also to be able to say sorry,” he says.

    He also distribute cycle seats, tiffin boxes and second-hand cycles to anyone in need. “Imagine travelling 20 km daily on a broken seat”.