During my trips to India, I stay in a small town in northern Punjab. Visiting my grandparents abroad is one of the highlights of my life; however, every time I travel there, I experience water limitations.
The main experience that stands out during my India trips are the bucket showers — bucket showers in the middle of winter in a home without a central heating system.
I will never forget my experience in 2004, at my grandfather’s house. The shower room, separate from the bathroom, is located outside the main house. In the wintertime, it is impossible to take showers once the sun has set because it gets too cold. I remember having to switch on the hot water plug and waiting almost 30 minutes for the water to heat up. I only had two buckets for my shower, which, then, seemed so little to me.
Once I got in the shower room and pulled the string to switch on the lights, I wished I hadn’t. Mosquitos, or some kind of similar insect, lined the walls. I tiptoed to the water buckets. I thought, “Perhaps if I don’t make too much noise, they won’t bother me.”
The creatures didn’t bother me for the most part of my bucket shower. However, there were times I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and inadvertently screamed. My cousins found this quite amusing. They stood outside the door, laughing every time I made a noise.
It was an experience I will never forget… nor will my cousins.
When I went to India as a young child, I never thought about water as a human right. I simply dreaded the “bucket showers.” As soon as I got back to the states, I would take an extra long hot shower.
This time, however, I thought about it. I realized how much water I use daily in America and just how often I take it for granted.
In India, water doesn’t come pouring endlessly from shower-heads. The water is limited and, many times, contaminated. According to a New York Times article, half of the water supply in rural areas of India is “routinely contaminated with toxic bacteria.”
The bucket showers taught me to conserve water. I don’t need to leave the shower running for 30 minutes to get clean. I can do it in five, using one-third of the water.
When I returned to America, I started turning off the shower while shampooing and applying soap. Furthermore, I don’t think I could ever take hour-long, hot water baths knowing entire villages could use that amount of water to shower.
My visits to India always teach me valuable lessons about water. They teach me to appreciate and value water, something I took for granted for a very long time.
Saba Naseem studied journalism, Middle East Studies, Arabic, and French at the University of Arkansas. She has traveled to India, Morocco, and Jordan to visit family and as part of study abroad programs.
This is part of a DigDeep series following people who have firsthand experiences dealing with the human right to clean, accessible water.