Source: The Times of India

JAIPUR: Laxman Singh, a social worker with Bunker Roy’s Barefoot College at Tilonia, is a sad man after hearing the death of the Nelson Mandela. Singh’s spent a few minutes with the South African strongman and it has been a moment of pride, a memory of which he still cherished.

Laxman Singh, who works closely with Bunker Roy, attended the UN’s Earth Summit in 2011 at Johannesburg in South Africa. The organizers, upon learning about the grand work done by the Barefoot College on rain water harvesting, sent an invitation to the college to set up a stall in an exhibition with the theme on water in Johannesburg.

“September 2, 2011 will always be a special day for me as Nelson Mandela as invitee of the Earth Summit came to see the exhibition on water and visited the stall Barefoot College had put up. The stall was designed by me. In this stall, we had exhibited how rainwater can be conserved and how it could be used for drinking purposes for throughout the year. The technology used for rainwater harvesting was very simple and affordable. Various other countries like Ethiopia and African nations had also put up their stalls and showcased how they conducted the water harvesting too,” reminiscences Singh.

Mandela was then 93 and was wearing an embroidered shirt. Even at that age, he was a bundle of energy and the way he walked cheering the people while taking a stroll at the exhibition ground glancing at every thing that was put on display was an awesome sight, Singh recalls.

“I was there when he came and stopped at the Barefoot College stall keenly observing our exhibit. He was five feet away from the stall, but he came near it and I had the opportunity to shake hands with him. It was a dream come true and I felt like I am shaking hands with Mahatma Gandhi,” Singh says.

Having taken a round of the water stalls, Mandela addressed the gathering and he talked about the problem of drinking water and how each drop should be saved.

“Later on, it was a joyous moment for all of us present as he danced with us and I joined the session. I thought my energy level increased after meeting the grand old man of South Africa. It was a rare moment which is still treasured in my memory. Bunker saheb was not there a he was addressing a conference at the Earth Summit nearby and when I told him that Nelson Mandela had seen our stall he was very happy,” Singh adds.