The water pot of Mkuranga

Sunday October 29 2017

The pot quenches the thirst of passersby. PHOTO

The pot quenches the thirst of passersby. PHOTO | Elizabeth Tungaraza 

By Elizabeth Tungaraza

Today’s world is full of wonders. It is normal for both urban and rural dwellers not to trust each other. Nowadays almost everybody trusts nobody except God. But just some few kilometres from Dar es Salaam, the dwellers trust a pot and the water. Even for passersby, they would go for the precious liquid to quench their thirst.
At Mivule Village in Mkuranga District, Coast Region, about 32km from Dar es Salaam, a big pot made of clay soil finds a home. It usually sits under a big mango tree. For years, the pot has been here. No one has attempted to steal it or discard the water in it. They trust the pot and drink the water inside it.
At a glance, it looks like someone, who was on his/her way home from fetching water, has just put the pot down, with a cup on top of it, to take a quick rest. However, no one come to pick it up and take it to the final destination.
The pot, commonly referred to by the locals as “mtungi wa maji” has been there since 1970s. It was owned by Mzee Ally Sultan Zanduro, and his wife, Khadija Said, who shifted to Mivule Village in the late 1960s. They died years ago but what they started as an act of generosity lives on.
According to his last born son, Adam Zanduro, the old man built a house near the Kilwa main road. He received many guests at his home, not as visitors but as passersby from other villages who would only knock at his door just to ask for drinking water to quench their thirst and cool down their body temperature before continuing with their journey.
“Most of the people, who stopped over for water to drink, were using the main road, to ferry charcoal by bicycles from villages to areas such as Kongowe, Vikindu, Mbagala and other parts of Dar es Salaam, which are not very far from MKuranga District. When they reached this area and see the house they always stop and ask for water to drink,” said Adam.
As the passerby’s frequency to ask for water to drink increased, the old man sat down and planned for something that would not cost him a lot, in terms of money and his time. “Mzee came up with the water pot idea. He then put the pot full of water and a cup on top of it just by the roadside for anyone to drink. This saved him the time he would otherwise spend attending to and serving passersby water to drink,” narrated Adam.
Adam said before his father died, he asked his children to continue offering drinking water to the public. Now Adam, is the one, out of eight children who has been tasked by the family to handle the pot.
“If I’m not mistaken, the current pot is the tenth one since the old man  passed away. Some of them broke up during cleaning. Sometimes, we have to replace an old pot with a new one after a long use,” he added.
“I’m the one who usually take charge of cleaning and refilling it with water. I always clean it and refill water twice or thrice a day, depending on the consumption rate,” said the 25-year-old who is also the  last born.
Adam, who is living at the family house, is working at a factory just across the road. It becomes easy for him to check, clean and refill the pot with water. According to him, consumption rate has decreased in recent years compared to the past. Adam is of the opinion that modern life has changed people’s perception to the extent that they have become reluctant to just drink water from the pot.
“Today, people can buy bottled water which they can carry with them throughout their journey unlike in the past. However, there are still those who cannot afford buying bottled water,” he said.
Adam is grateful to God there is no single case of diarrhoea or any other water-borne related diseases that have been reported after people drink the water from the pot.
“We change the water frequently and we are very concerned about the cleanness of the pot. That is what we do. The rest we leave to the Almighty God,” said Adam.
“During the night, travellers, especially truck drivers, usually stop, drink and sometimes refill their empty bottles with water from the pot so that they can carry it for the rest of  their journey,” he said.
“We have never heard any complaint from anyone regarding the safety of the water. I’m confident that it’s the Almighty God that protects the water and keep it safe throughout the day and night,” he added, saying the only time one cannot find the pot  is during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The Myth
Some people associate the pot with superstition. However, Adam rules out such outdated beliefs, saying what the family has been embracing for all the years are nothing but prayers.
“It is our personal sacrifice. Offering one’s possessions, no matter how small, for the sake of helping those in need, is a blessing that can help in purifying our souls,” he said.
“My father decided to put the pot in order to help those who are thirsty. Even though there are some people who are superstitious. We don’t blame them because the world has changed a lot; we live in the digital era. Some say it is uncivilised for people to share one cup for drinking water while affordable bottled water are plenty. But they forget that there are some people who cannot afford buying bottled water,” he said.
Just near the place where the pot is placed, there are two women Sinawema Maulid and Mwanaisha Awadhi, who have recently opened a small food vending business. The women are new to the area but they heard stories about the pot before they came to Mivule Village.
 According to them, their customers go for drinking water from the pot, despite serving them with drinking water. “I have never tasted the water in the pot. But most of our clients who usually drink it tend to like it. They say the water is cool and tastes good,” said Mwanaisha.
Mwanaisha was so surprised when she heard stories about the pot for the first time. “I was asking myself why the old man decided to put a pot by the roadside. I am selling food here and most of my customers drink that water,” noted the resident of Mwandege Village.
Sinawema said with the water. They are selling food without water because most of their customers prefer water from that pot rather than bottled water. “This shows that they really appreciate and like it,” she noted
According to Adam, helping or putting other people’s needs before yours also makes him feels good and it strengthens his relationships. “Taking time out of your busy life to do something that the community appreciates makes our family feel good. I will not abandon this family tradition. This connects me in one way or another with those whom I serve,” said Adam.
“There are times I refill the water in the evening and find it empty in the morning. In such a situation I know there were truck drivers or other travellers whose vehicles had mechanical fault and they take the water to cool down overheating radiators. When they pass by the area and found me either cleaning or refilling the pot, they come and thank me for rescuing them the other night,” he recalled.
Mohammed Abdalah Ntungata, 81, who shifted to Mivule Village in 2011 from Kurasini in Dar es Salaam, lives near the home of the late Zanduro’s family after buying a plaot from the family in 2009.
According to him, he was surprised the first day he saw the pot. “Zanduro decided to give back to the society in his own way. Our religious beliefs want us to give back to the people,” said Ntungata.
Ntungata, however, said unlike in the past, people who make a stopover to drink the water are few compared to what he used to see. “Today, there are few people who walk long distances on foot. Most of them use vehicles and motorcycles, thus they cannot easily see the pot. Only few passersby and bicycle cyclists use the water,” noted Ntungata.
Kassim Rajab a truck driver, whose vehicle had broken down on the roadside just near the pot, said he was surprised to see the pot under the tree. “It looks like someone has just put it there and left. I stayed here for almost the whole night fixing my truck and I didn’t see anyone coming to pick it up,” said Rajab.
“After sunrise, I saw passersby come, drink the water and go. Despite being thirsty I was hesitant to drink the water in the first place. After some hours, I saw a young man cleaning and refilling the pot with water. He was the one who assured me that there is nothing bad about the pot and the water. Since then, I just get a cup whenever I feel thirsty. The water is so cool and tastes nice,” narrated Rajab.
Adam says they do not add anything to the water to either purify it or make it taste good. “We fetch the water at a nearby house where there is a deep well that produces clean water. We don’t put anything to purify it. The good thing is that whoever drinks it loves it and keeps on drinking,” he explained.
The good hearted Mzee Zanduro had never, during his lifetime, denied anyone water. He continues to do so even after his death. Adam vowed to uphold his father’s legacy and pass it on to his next generation. People around the village and passersby as well, have their trust on what Zanduro started some 45 years ago. Through the pot water tradition that has existed for all those years, it is definite that Zanduro still lives on.