When I was a kid, I remember a huge tin drum standing right next to our kitchen sink. It was taller than I was and was used to store water. Water, precious water, worth everything in summer.
Do I exaggerate? I was around 5 or 6 then. Old enough to feel the shortage, too young to do anything about it since I couldn’t even lift a full bucket by myself. Moreover a thick pall of gloom lay over the household. Mum, harried at the thought of having to fit cooking, cleaning, drinking water and the household’s other needs within a limited water budget. Dad, brooding over the questions of plumbing, drainage, borewell fittings and tankers, not to mention having to rush to work.
Everyone woke up early to catch the running water before it ran out. Vessels were scrimped on to avoid washing. Clothes were doled out as per strict hygiene requirements to save on laundry water. I also remember tempers flying high and getting scolded for a lot of things that never otherwise bothered the adults. Water-shortage time was always a period of suffocating, dark, depressing gloom.
What a sweet, unparalleled relief it was, the day the water shortage ceased and we were back to having 24-hour water supply! In the years to come, the water supply and plumbing systems evolved.
Water shortages were less common. Except on my vacations in Delhi and Chennai where the water-rationing seemed to be the severest, especially stretched over a gaggle of kids. I marvelled at how lucky we were in Mumbai and despite their bigger houses, I felt richer than my cousins.
In the past few years, we’ve faced water shortages again. Despite having overhead tanks and new bores being drilled, the needs of the city have also grown. And ours. The feeling is exactly the same. That thin veil of tension that could snap any minute. Annoyance over trivial issues heightened by the sweltering heat and the thought that cool water – the panacea for all heat evils – must be conserved.
Showers became a part of my daily routine a good number of years ago. But my earliest memories are of a bucket of water and the accompanying mug hung over the side. Old habits die hard and to this day, despite all of us having moved to showers, a bucket and mug are permanant fixtures in our bathrooms.
Gaurav’s project examines what we consume and what we need and it also sets us thinking about how dependent we are on consumption for our happiness. I realised just recently how much more water one uses in a single shower than a normal bath. There are parts in the world where people walk for miles to get water. There are places where the average consumption is one bucket a day per person. One bucket! Cooking, personal hygiene, drinking, household cleaning…and all of it in a single bucket of water. In a bid to conserve, I’ve gone back to the bucket-and-mug routine.
This morning, during my bath, I turned the tap on, letting it run into the bucket while I scrubbed my face. It was then that I realised that I had a precise tangible feeling associated with that moment. Eyes closed, the sound of water gushing out of the tap, one ear cocked in its direction to guage when the bucket would be full by the sound the water made hitting the surface, I felt…bountiful. Prosperous. Able to have all the running water that I wanted and choosing to be prudent in its use.
Feeling wealthy isn’t just about having money. It is that exact feeling of knowing that you have enough and more, of that which brings you peace of mind.