Throughout our trip to India I heard again and again about the shortage of water. We were told not to drink the tap water even in the Western hotels. The water was safe, we were told, but the pipes were decaying and the water contained all kinds of “minerals” that would be unhealthy. In other words, the infrastructure of even the modernized areas of the large cities is getting old.
Water cisterns on top of buildings get regular deliveries of trucked in water. The city of Fatephur Sikri where the new center of government had to be abandoned after only ten years because of the lack of water gets its water trucked in. Water tables are falling, making farming resort back to dry methods; the Green Revolution was not the answer to feed the nation because of the lack of available water.
Meanwhile, the elections for the new government are now over and we wait for the count. The nation is clamoring for a change, hoping replacing the longtime Ghandi leadership will result in wonderful improvements.
I think back to our own experience when Barack Obama offered the concept of change and won handily. We were all so hopeful, and look what has been happening here in our own country over the past six years. We seem to be more divisive, more argumentative, more angry over everything.
There was a sense of calm in India. It could be as a short time visitor I was insulated and did not truly understand any unrest I may have witnessed, but I got the impression that the religious practices there give the people a feeling about life that is different than what we have. With the Hindu and Buddhist concepts of reincarnation, there is a surety that this lifetime is only one of many. Perhaps this provides a sense of calm facing what we would consider considerable frustration.
My visit to the Muslim family in Agra also provided some insight. As we left and headed back to the market area I asked our guides where that family was in the spectrum of lower and middle class. For sure it would be poverty here in the US. He said it was lower middle class. I’ve reconsidered all I saw in their home that day. Despite the lack of personal space, no television or computer or other toys typically found in our homes, the tiny kitchen space, they appeared to be clean, well fed and all had places to sleep. The fact that an extended family was living together in what we would consider a small space is a cultural difference not really related to economic status.
We Americans are used to so much more. Out attachment to television and movies shows us products and lifestyles of the rich and famous, causing us to want more, to expect more, to demand more. We want what we want and we want it now. Deferred gratification is something that has been forgotten.
Perhaps the Indians know better that to acquire more they must work. Because they do work. Oh sure, we saw some people with their hands out. But we saw more, many many more people hawking their wares. Annoying bunch of people. But they were working. So were the people who were sweeping the pavement. The people cutting the grass. All the many many people doing what we consider menial labor so they could earn a living.
So, I started writing this blog thinking that if the new Indian government does not make some improvements there will be trouble. Particularly, I am concerned about water shortages in India.
But now, as I wind this short essay down, I am more concerned about us here in the US. We have so much and we do not know how to live with less. And yet, that day is coming. We all feel it.