Cool Water, Warm Hearts: How Radha Mehta Makes Lucknow Summers Bearable

Radha Mehta has been setting up a drinking water station in Lucknow every summer for the last 14 years. From May 1 to June 30, she serves about 5 lakh people each year.

Tanya Savkoor
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Radha Mehta (Centre) with her volunteers

Like many others, Radha Mehta starts her day with the usual household chores. By 11 am, she sets out with a purpose that has defined her summers over the last 14 years– setting up a drinking water station in Lucknow. Her mission has transformed the lives of countless residents in the city where the unforgiving heat can be debilitating. On some days, she also offers buttermilk, juice, or meals to further support the people in need. Mehta, a septuagenarian single woman, has dedicated herself to this cause with unwavering commitment and compassion.


How It Started

Mehta is a social worker, mother of two and grandmother to four. She finished her schooling at Lawrence School, Sanwar, and college in Miranda House, New Delhi. She has called Lucknow her home for over five decades and has been living alone since 2022, after her husband, Vijay Krishan Mehta, passed away. 

For the last 14 years, Radha Mehta has been offering respite from the heat by setting up a water station called Piao. What started as a solo mission funded by her savings has now had the support of about a dozen volunteers who serve at the station daily from morning to evening, bearing scorching temperatures.

Speaking to SheThePeople, Mehta expressed, "I started this initiative on my son's birthday, April 23, because I just wanted to provide water to people in the hot weather. It started off small, with the installation of a cold water dispenser, but that did not satisfy me. I wanted to do more for the people so I started the Piao station. Now, we serve refreshments to over 5 lakh people in Lucknow every summer."
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People line up to get a glass of water | Image: Radha Mehta

Mehta is also conscious about sustaining an eco-friendly approach in her initiative. Instead of using disposable cups and plates, she encourages the use of trusty steel utensils. Moreover, she plans on starting a tree plantation drive in Lucknow during the monsoon, underscoring her holistic approach to community welfare.


The Piao Family

Mehta's mission is backed by friends and supporters who help her with clean water and food. She has been able to acquire ice slabs for free from an ice factory owner, Ranjeet Singh, who has been supporting her efforts for years. For buttermilk, she trusts another friend who offers about 30 litres a day.

Appreciating the support and volunteers, Mehta said, "My volunteers have been tirelessly working with me, sometimes in temperatures that reach up to 48°C. My domestic help, who had been with me for the last 52 years, comes to volunteer even if he is retired now. They have all been with me throughout the journey and they're so involved in it, it's amazing!"

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Image: Radha Mehta

Mehta's daughter works in Singapore while her son is in Gurgaon. Despite the physical distance, both children and their friends wholeheartedly support her initiative with generous donations. Their enthusiasm and contributions have been instrumental in sustaining and expanding Mehta's network.

Dedication To Community Service


The piao is not the only kind of social work that Mehta engages in. From committing to enhance the Uttar Pradesh capital's green coverage to collecting money to help the underprivileged get free cataract treatments, she has diversified her efforts to address various community needs.

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Image: Radha Mehta

"Since I started the piao initiative, I am so much in peace with myself," said Mehta. "It is a form of seva (service) and seeing the relief on people's faces when they get water is very soothing to the heart. I like to help in whatever small way I can. We have taken so much from society, we need to give back to society."

Social Entrepreneurs Radha Mehta