21 January 2009

Water, or lack thereof

News stories in Delhi tell of well-off neighborhoods purchasing water from private companies in order to have any on hand at all; the guest house where I'm staying has at least 6 huge storage units for water (two below in the rear, two in the central basement area, and two on the roof). Water is a huge problem in Delhi and in the world more generally; we just take it for granted in the US.

Obviously you don't drink the water that comes from the tap in India--this is the one way I've gotten sick thus far (knock on wood). But you also are advised to be careful with the water you use for washing, both in terms of ingesting it accidentally and in terms of simply using too much.

So how little water can you use for bathing? This is sort of a challenge--I've managed to get clean with about 2 gallons of warm water, and then brushed my teeth with about a half a cup of bottled water. Bathrooms in India include a bucket and a small plastic pitcher so that you can bathe fairly easily and thoroughly in this manner.

I completely understand the luxury of the long hot shower and I certainly get the luxury of the hot tub or bath--but are we headed for a time when everyone will have to assess their impact on the planet through water consumption? Maybe this would be a good thing.

The other thing that strikes me as odd is the way in which we become socialized/disciplined into particular bathing rituals at an early age, and then these develop and continue over time. But I do get a sense that we all have a "proper" way of bathing and to do something different, even in the privacy of your own bathtub, is odd and radical and weird. No one's looking, right? Why not bathe in 2 gallons with a bucket? What's stopping you? (Aside from needing to get a bucket into the bathroom, which I admit is a small hurdle.) It strikes me as remarkable that we (I?) remain societally and behaviorally disciplined even in this arena.

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