Water Strategies

(The minute I declared a hiatus, my fingers began to itch for the keyboard. Let's see...)

An article in the paper recently urged people to emulate the Jains, who apparently (if they are orthodox) get by on one or two buckets of water a day – because they believe that using water kills the organisms in the water. Their extreme non-violence requires them to try to minimize the damage that they do. (It’s interesting that the majority of Jains today live in Gujarat and Rajasthan, both very arid areas where water conservation is a necessity.)

I went to the pumping station, to get our address added to the list of those who can fill buckets from the water tanker, which comes to our street every other day. The procedure for getting a full tanker load is ridiculously complicated, but once you’re on the bucket list, things seem to be automatic. BUT – you must have your buckets ready when the tanker comes; you can only fill each bucket once, at least in theory, and you have to give baksheesh to the driver (Rs. 5). And someone has to be available without notice when the tanker comes. I’m going out today to buy larger buckets – we’ve already dug out every receptacle in the house, including some large pots and pans.

At the pumping station: I walked into the small office, where one desk and a wooden table were crammed in with two wooden benches for supplicants. One man, the in-charge, wore a shirt and trousers and sat behind the desk, talking on the phone. Another man, clearly of lower rank – he wore shorts, a lower-class marker (unless you are very westernized, or are taking your morning consititutional, or playing tennis – and I’m talking about men – women NEVER wear shorts) -- stood up and invited me to sit on the bench. In this culture, this was correct behaviour. Then another shorts-wearer came in, took off his shirt in front of me, and lolled on the bench beside me. In this culture, this was disrespectful, and it made me uncomfortable. It was an assertion of power, I think: You need water, and I have it. I shifted away, pointedly, and waited for the in-charge to get off the phone. Which he did, eventually, and agreed, after reading my letter, to add us to the list. It was easier than I had expected – usually everything takes much more time and effort.

We’re again buying 25-litre carboys of drinking water (Rs. 65 per carboy). It tastes delicious, after our salty well-water.

No such thing as a free lunch department: Because we got some much-needed rain last week, cholera broke out in parts of the city. It mainly affects the poor, who can’t afford to boil their drinking water. The city has been handing out chlorine tablets and monitoring the affected areas; the number of new cases has begun to subside.

Something good: The monsoon has officially arrived, two weeks early. It rained hard for about 40 minutes yesterday afternoon. I stood on the front doorstep watching it, and listening to its roar. It was wonderful.

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