Shailja Patel. patterned sari border
 About/Press KitWorkMigritudeBlogNews/AwardsCalendar ShopContact Shailja
decorative pattern

Be a part of Migritude's journey.
No contribution is too small - or too large. $2 buys coffee for a volunteer. $15 rents a rehearsal studio for an hour. $100 covers 2 hours of lighting / tech / set design. $500 helps fly Shailja to international festivals!!

You can also make a tax-deductible donation by check. Please email for details.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Water. Hot.

The secret location where I am currently holed up completing my manuscript is a gift from the gods. A writers' grotto, courtesy of fairy godmother LX, who absorbed early in life the vital importance of A Room Of One's Own.

The one thing it lacks is hot water. It has cold running water in abundance. So to bathe, I fill the kettle and soup tureen and put them on two burners of the small electric cooker. When they are humming and steaming, I pick them up gingerly, with oven gloves, carry them carefully to the bathroom, and drop them into a large round washtub already half-filled with cold water.

The addition of close-to-boiling water plus immersion of hot metal containers gives me just enough water, at just the right temperature, for a bucket bath. The water cools quickly. So I squat, soap at high speed, scoop water over myself with a tumbler, towel down and dress before too many goosebumps rise on my flesh.

And I think how most of the world's women walk miles each day to fetch water. Then heat it on precious wood fires for basic needs. How four thousand children across the world die daily for lack of clean drinking water. How most of Kenya's population can only dream of a constant reliable supply of electricity, of heat, of the luxury of bathing in privacy.

I think too about all the Americans have never experienced life without hot showers. I recall an American friend who panicked when the water heater in his house broke down on a Friday. The prospect of a weekend without hot water on demand was so new, so terrifying, he didn't know what to do. He tried, bizarrely, to bathe his baby daughter in a tub of ice-cold water. The idea of heating up water up on a stove, sponging her down, never crossed his mind.

Naturally, she screamed blue murder.

This man has a PhD, has taught third-world literatures, is a dedicated community activist. Can discuss globalization, poverty, Marxism, with great fluency and insight. But he couldn't think his way through the challenge of how to clean an infant if he couldn't turn on a tap for an unlimited flow of hot water.


Blogger Olin1984 said...

If you don't use certain parts of your brain...

Just reading the book "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" about cultural gap and miscommunication between Hmong refugees and US medical people. Both groups regard the other as ignorant and potentially dangerous. Partly because they have acquired entirely different sets of cultural adaptations for survival and partly because of the language/literacy difference.

11/27/2009 10:07 PM  
Anonymous Tony said...

All too true for the suburbanites we all know and love. Keep up the great work Shailja, and stay warm!

-Tony C. Yang

11/28/2009 1:22 AM  
Blogger deamer said...

ah the simple pleasures!

11/29/2009 10:51 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Shailja Patel. patterned sari border
©Shailja Patel